Before the Omicron surge caused dozens of people to drop off the wedding guest list of Bryan Terrell Clark and Devario D. Simmons, it shut down â€œThoughts of A Colored Man,â€ the Broadway show that counted Mr. Clark as a star and Mr. Simmons as costume designer. Mr. Clark hated not having the chance to take a final bow with his castmates. But he did have his final bow as a single man to look forward to.
â€œFrom day one, there was never a question in my head that I was supposed to marry this man,â€ he said.
Mr. Clark, 41, met Mr. Simmons, 31, on Dec. 10, 2019. Mr. Clarkâ€™s best friend, Rodrick Covington, may have been responsible. Earlier that month, Mr. Covington had pointed out that Mr. Clark, who at the time was playing George Washington in the Broadway production of â€œHamilton,â€ had become a habitual Tinder-swiper.
â€œHe was like, â€˜What are you looking for?â€™â€ Mr. Clark said. â€œHe asked me to describe the man of my dreams.â€ Then Mr. Covington asked if Mr. Clark had any friends willing to play matchmaker. When Mr. Clark said he did, Mr. Covington advised him to delete his Tinder app right away.
â€œRodrick is a powerful manifester,â€ said Mr. Clark. On Dec. 9, 2019, while Mr. Clark had dinner at Amy Ruthâ€™s in Harlem with the actor Stephen Conrad Moore, Mr. Covingtonâ€™s manifestation began to take shape.
â€œStephen said he knew a great costume designer,â€ said Mr. Clark, who then asked to see a picture and was shown one of Mr. Simmons. He had the physical qualities of Mr. Clarkâ€™s dream man: Mr. Simmons looked fit, â€œlike someone who takes care of his temple,â€ said Mr. Clark, who recalled telling Mr. Moore that, in terms of character, â€œI was looking for someone who was spiritual and a good communicator.â€
That night, Mr. Moore introduced the two men on Instagram, writing, as Mr. Simmons recalled, â€œâ€˜Hey gentlemen, I think youâ€™re both great people and you two should connect.â€™â€ In reply, Mr. Simmons said, â€œThank you. Iâ€™m sure weâ€™ll kick you off soon so we can connect privately.â€
The following night, they met at Hellâ€™s Kitchen, a restaurant in that neighborhood of Manhattan. Mr. Simmons, who at the time was working on costumes for the Off Broadway show â€œTumacho,â€ lived nearby. Mr. Clark, who lived in Los Angeles, was staying on the Upper West Side temporarily for â€œHamilton.â€ A sense of connection quickly came over them.
â€œIt wasnâ€™t necessarily the kind of thing where, as soon as you see the person thereâ€™s fireworks,â€ Mr. Clark said. â€œIt was more like I felt like I knew him already. It was so easy.â€
Both men had experienced formative relationships that were anything but easy. Mr. Clark grew up in Baltimore with a younger brother and sister. He was nearing adolescence when he started to understand that his father, George Clark, a factory worker, had a drug problem. â€œHe was this tumultuous energy in and out of our lives,â€ Mr. Clark said.
His parents divorced in 2002, the same year that George Clark, who still lives in Baltimore, got clean. Father and son reunited soon after. Now, â€œmy father is one of my best friends,â€ said Mr. Clark, who also counts his mother, Tanya Young, a retired elementary school principal and pastor who lives in Decatur, Ill., among his closest confidantes. But coming out to her in his early 20s was hard.
â€œMy father told me what every son wants to hear, which is, â€˜I love you unconditionally,â€™â€ he said. But when Mr. Clark first discussed his sexuality with his mother, a former Sunday school teacher at a nondenominational church, after he graduated from Temple University in 2003, â€œshe said, â€˜Iâ€™m wrestling with my belief system,â€™â€ he recalled. She was still wrestling when he enrolled in Yale School of Drama, where he earned a masterâ€™s degree in acting in 2006, and continued to well after Mr. Clarkâ€™s Broadway career kicked off when he was cast as Marvin Gaye in â€œMotown the Musicalâ€ in 2013.
â€œMy mom didnâ€™t come around to full acceptance until we were married,â€ he said.
Mr. Simmonsâ€™s youth in Greenville, S.C., was marked by the death of his father, Raymond Simmons, in a motorcycle accident when he was 7. â€œIt changed my life in ways I couldnâ€™t imagine,â€ he said. â€œI had to grow up instantly.â€
He and his younger sister and brother were raised by his mother, Kimeco Williams, who owns a local hair salon, and grandmother, Helena C. Williams. Being the oldest left him in a position of authority he often felt unready for. â€œI had to make a lot of choices I wouldnâ€™t have had to make if my father had been there,â€ he said.
The choice to come out at 21 â€” just before he graduated from Clemson University in 2013 â€” was as fraught for Mr. Simmons as it was for Mr. Clark. â€œBeing from that region of the country, I was always taught that being gay was wrong and bad,â€ said Mr. Simmons, who earned a masterâ€™s degree in costume design from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2016. But Helena Williams, who still speaks to her grandson three times a day from her home in Greenville, â€œwas instrumental in me saying my piece,â€ he said.
Mr. Simmons and Mr. Clark both understood the value of honest conversation well before they met. But each had experienced trouble getting there, not just with their parents, but also with previous partners. So when they arrived at the restaurant for their first date, their intentions, separately set, were in alignment.
â€œA lot of people try to hide things on first dates,â€ Mr. Simmons said. â€œI showed up with the attitude of, nothing is taboo.â€ For example, â€œI was fine talking about how I would like to have kids in the future.â€ Mr. Clark was fine with that, too.
He was less fine with the idea of saying goodbye to Mr. Simmons when his six-week run in â€œHamiltonâ€ finished in February 2020, and he was due in Vancouver to shoot a role in the television show â€œSnowpiercer.â€ The couple had become as inseparable as Mr. Clarkâ€™s acting schedule allowed, and â€œSnowpiercer,â€ along with a subsequent speaking tour Mr. Clark had already booked, meant spending weeks apart.
Before long, though, they were back together. In March 2020, as the pandemic gripped the country, Mr. Clark, who by then had returned to his home in Los Angeles, invited Mr. Simmons to quarantine with him. â€œIt could have been a nightmare,â€ Mr. Clark said. â€œI was inviting someone I had only been dating a few months to come stay with me for what we thought would be weeks.â€ Instead, they were holed up together at Mr. Clarkâ€™s house for five months.
One morning in the summer of 2020, Mr. Clark woke up without Mr. Simmons by his side. He found him in the kitchen. â€œDevario had never really cooked in New York, but there he was, making breakfast,â€ he said. â€œHeâ€™s from South Carolina â€” he was making crab cakes and grits. Thatâ€™s the day I started looking for rings.â€
By Dec. 31, 2020, Mr. Clark and Mr. Simmons had both gone back to work. Mr. Clark was in Canada, this time to film a role in the Disney+ movie â€œSneakerella.â€ Mr. Simmons was in Greenville, teaching remotely at Ithaca College, where he was an assistant professor in the theater department. To celebrate New Yearâ€™s Eve, Mr. Clark had arranged party on a boat for a dozen friends in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where he and Mr. Simmons would reunite.
At the stroke of midnight, both had their sea legs and glasses of Champagne. Before Mr. Simmons had a chance to sip from his, Mr. Clark dropped to one knee and proposed. Mr. Simmons gasped, and gave a stunned, ecstatic â€œyes.â€
Their Jan. 1 wedding was held at the Chandelier Room at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. The celebration actually started on Dec. 31, 2021, to mirror their engagement. At 10:30 p.m., their 148 vaccinated guests (down from 175 because of the Omicron surge) began mingling over cocktails and hors dâ€™oeuvres. When it was time to start the countdown to the New Year, they paused as two officiants, the married Broadway actors John Eric Parker and Charles West, both ordained by the Universal Life Church for the occasion, asked guests to extend their hands and say a prayer for the husbands-to-be.
Mr. Simmons and Mr. Clark, in matching tuxedos that Mr. Simmons helped design, stood on a landing holding hands to receive that prayer, before Mr. Parker, as lead officiant, delivered them to the nightâ€™s denouement. The New Year began as a choir filed in, singing Kirk Franklinâ€™s â€œWanna Be Happy?â€ The grooms exchanged rings and were pronounced married, the crowd whooping in appreciation as they embraced and kissed.
On This Day
When Jan. 1, 2022
Where The Chandelier Room at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, Calif.
VIPs Mr. Clark and Mr. Simmons were the stars of the night, but not the only ones in the room. In attendance were several actors, including Angela Bassett, Aisha Hinds, Courtney Vance, John Clarence Stewart and Yvonne Orji (â€œMy bestie,â€ Mr. Clark said).
Crabs Times Two Instead of a sit-down dinner, guests nibbled throughout the evening. Each groom chose a menu passed from two separate serving stations. Mr. Clarkâ€™s included Maryland crab cakes and Parmesan grits. Mr. Simmonsâ€™s had lobster mac-and-cheese and chicken and waffles.
Homeward Bound Mr. Clark and Mr. Simmons did not return to Los Angeles after their honeymoon in Colombia, but to Manhattan, where they started renting an apartment in Hellâ€™s Kitchen in 2021. Both are hoping for a return to normalcy on Broadway, though they will always lament the premature closing of â€œThoughts of a Colored Man,â€ the first show written and directed by Black men with Black men in the lead roles. â€œSaying goodbye to something so groundbreaking was heartbreaking,â€ Mr. Clark said.