Over this past Thanksgiving holiday, Timothy Craig Braun and Peter David Arnold broke the news to their 19-year-old fraternal twin daughters: After 25 years together, they were finally getting married.
It was a surprise announcement since the couple, who live in Montclair, N.J., had always told their daughters that they were already married.
“I was overcome with emotion and super happy for them,” said Beatrice Braun-Arnold, who is a sophomore at Denison University in Ohio. She said that the family had some open conversations in the following days, leaving them all feeling better. “It was an eventful Thanksgiving, to say the least,” she said.
Her sister, Liliane Braun-Arnold, a sophomore at Smith College in Massachusetts, said she “had an idea” that her fathers were not married. “They were very adamant about being each other’s partners, not each other’s husbands,” she said. Furthermore, when New York legalized same-sex marriage in 2011, she said, “I overheard my parents talk about if they should get married.”
Indeed, when Mr. Braun, 61, an executive producer who owns Braun Production, a media training and video production agency, and Mr. Arnold, 65, the executive director of the Fashion Scholarship Fund, met in 1998, legal marriage wasn’t even an option for same-sex couples.
Long before crossing paths, they had heard about one another through mutual friends. “They all said we should meet,” Mr. Braun said, “but we didn’t for a couple of years.”
The two finally met in August 1998 at a SoHo art gallery that was hosting an AIDS fund-raiser; Mr. Braun attended with his partner at the time and Mr. Arnold, who was also in a relationship, with a friend. Afterward, the group walked to Balthazar for dinner. “It was this magical three blocks,” Mr. Braun said.
“You know when you walk as a group and somehow you are just paired off — that’s what happened to us,” Mr. Arnold said.
The two were so taken with each other that day they even remembered what they were wearing. “Peter was a partner in a white-shoe firm on Wall Street at the time, and he wore this bespoke pinstriped double-breasted suit,” Mr. Braun said.
“Tim was in this cropped motorcycle jacket,” Mr. Arnold said. “Very George Michael-looking.”
By the following month, they were each single again and ran into each other at a cafe in Sag Harbor, while they were both in town for the weekend.
After dinner, they chatted during a walk and went on their first date a week later when both had returned to the city; Mr. Arnold sent eight orchids to Mr. Braun’s office the next day. The following year, they moved into an apartment together in the West Village.
Marriage still wasn’t an option, but they wanted a way to express their commitment. They bought wedding rings from Tiffany & Company and held a small ceremony, just the two of them, on New Year’s Eve in 2000 at the Lake Placid Lodge, where they spent the holiday.
“At midnight, we gave each other rings on the banks of Lake Placid. I inscribed his, and he inscribed mine,” Mr. Braun said. “We wrote down thoughts for what we each wanted for our relationship, set them on fire, and watched them drift out over the water.”
On July 14, 2004, the couple furthered their commitment to each other and became legal domestic partners in New York. The two then decided they wanted to raise children together. Mr. Braun and Mr. Arnold worked with Growing Generations, a Los Angeles agency that found them a surrogate. “Today, it is so common to do this, but it wasn’t back then,” Mr. Braun said. “California was the only place where you could get a surrogate legally. From the moment we decided we wanted children, it took us four years.”
“It was complicated,” Mr. Arnold said of their journey with egg donation and surrogacy. The girls were born on Sept. 10, 2004, in San Diego.
When the twins turned 2, that journey was turned into a French documentary called “Deux Papas à Manhattan.” “Any boy Beatrice dates, she makes them watch the documentary to see how they react,” Mr. Braun said, laughing.
Same-sex marriage was legalized on a federal level in 2015. But by then, the family of four was wrapped up in their lives. “Life got in the way, and we never really thought about getting married,” Mr. Braun said. “There was school to pay for, great vacations, camp.”
Plus, the couple had always told their daughters that they were married. “We always just said, ‘Yeah, we are married,’” Mr. Arnold said. “We didn’t want them to feel any less secure in their family dynamic.”
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There were some close calls when their story almost unraveled. Mr. Arnold remembers a time when one of the girls asked him if he wore a veil at his wedding. They were driving at the time, and he said, “I almost drove off the Brooklyn Bridge.”
Their sentiments changed in October 2023. With their daughters in college, Mr. Braun and Mr. Arnold were spending a few months in Europe. They were in Italy and wanted to celebrate their 25th anniversary by getting a pastor to bless their union in a church. “I tried to make this happen as a surprise,” Mr. Braun said. However, “no pastor would bless us.” (A couple of months later, on Dec. 17, Pope Francis started allowing blessings for same-sex couples.) He later told Mr. Arnold, who got “upset,” Mr. Braun said.
“Tim and I were both raised Catholic and were altar boys,” Mr. Arnold said. “The fact that there wasn’t one single open-minded minister, priest or pastor who would do this, it made us want to” get married officially.
As soon as they returned to the United States, Mr. Braun registered online for a marriage license at City Hall in Manhattan. “I went downstairs and told Peter, ‘Guess what, we are picking up our marriage license next Friday,’” Mr. Braun said. “He was like, ‘This is your idea of a proposal?’”
Their wedding ceremony took place on Dec. 29 at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem.
They chose the Rev. Mary Foulke, an Episcopal priest who knows their family well, to officiate. A decade ago, they asked Ms. Foulke, who was a pastor at St. Luke in the Fields Church in the West Village at the time, if she would marry them if they decided to have a wedding. “We held her to that 10 years later,” Mr. Arnold said.
“It was lovely for me to connect with a family I had known since the children were preschoolers,” Ms. Foulke said. “It is one of the blessings of the ministry to see families and individuals change and grow over time.”
With a large circle of family and friends, they decided to keep the ceremony small with just the two of them and their daughters. “The small ceremony made it more about them and their love for each other,” Liliane said.
In the church, they recited poems to one another. Mr. Arnold chose words by Maya Angelou. Mr. Braun assembled a collection of meaningful songs into a poem, which he read. “It was everything from ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ to Sondheim,” Liliane said.
“I sobbed the entire service,” Beatrice added. “My dad said he could hear me sniffling behind them.”
Afterward, the four of them had lunch at Lido, an Italian restaurant down the street from the church that’s owned by Serena Bass, a family friend. “She made this beautiful table with flowers and flower petals,” Mr. Arnold said.
The family wondered if anything would change after the wedding, especially since the couple had been together for so long.
“Three days after, there was a lot of arm squeezing and ‘husband’ calling,” Liliane said. “I think the wedding established how strong their bond is even more.”
“I feel a little bit more grounded and more secure and comfortable in a way I wasn’t imagining,” Mr. Arnold said. “It just feels a little nicer and more permanent in the best sense.”
On This Day
When Dec. 29, 2023
Where St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, New York
Personalized Boxers For the wedding, Mr. Arnold’s three best girlfriends sent the couple something old (photos of the twins as babies superimposed on Brooks Brothers Boxers), something new (thin crystal bracelets with letters spelling out the word “groom”), and something borrowed (old sweat socks from their husbands). “We only wore the bracelets,” Mr. Braun said.
A Surprise Late-Night Performance At 7 p.m., after the wedding, the doorbell rang at the family’s home in Montclair. It was 20 high school students from Montclair High School’s a cappella group, “The Passing Notes,” with whom Beatrice, who arranged the performance, had performed during high school. “They were on our front lawn and serenaded us in a four part harmony with ‘In My Life’ by the Beatles,” Mr. Braun said. “Much sobbing ensued.”