(Photo by Joseph Gay)
It wasn’t easy meeting new people at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the world was in lockdown with people stuck in their homes.
Byron and Elliott Green-Calisch, both living in St. Petersburg, connected quickly when they met online in April 2020 and decided to take a walk along the downtown waterfront by the Vinoy hotel.
“There wasn’t anything else to do. Everything was closed up tight,” Byron says. “I joke that it’s like Rihanna. ‘We found love in a hopeless place.’”
The two talked for hours — then met up for another walk, then another.
“We’ve been inseparable ever since,” Byron says.
When his roommate at the time had a friend who was traveling stay at their apartment, he became nervous about possibly getting sick. So he stayed with Elliott.
“We joke that I came over to avoid COVID and I never really left,” he muses.
The new couple had a lot in common — “just weird, random things,” Elliott notes — and also enough differences to keep things interesting.
“The things about Byron that interested me were things I normally wouldn’t have been interested in on my own,” he explains.
They both discovered early on they had a shared interest in museums after walking by the Museum of Fine Arts on their first date. Or as Byron says, “he likes to nerd out on things I also like to nerd out on. And then we went back and got married there.”
Their engagement was a mutual decision that they talked through together. Knowing Byron isn’t a fan of jewelry, they had one designed to his tastes.
“So, he knew the proposal was coming,” Elliott says.
The jeweler told them the ring would be ready in about a month. When they called Elliott to let him know it was done earlier — the day of his parents’ anniversary, April 26, 2022 — Byron says “it was a little bit of kismet and the stars aligning.”
Elliott picked up the ring but rather than plan an elaborate proposal, he just went home and proposed.
“The same day. I’m not one of those people who can hold onto a present,” he says. “It just turned out to be great timing. The day was beautiful. I picked up champagne. I go home and say, ‘Hey, guess what?’”
It was a stressful time to be planning a wedding with so many other life changes. They had just bought a new home that they were renovating, and both had been promoted at work.
“And I was never the one that dreamed of a wedding,” Byron says.
Elliott adds, “Same here.”
They nearly eloped, but decided, first, to see if the Museum of Fine Arts was available for their very specific date — Nov. 20, 2022. To their surprise, it was. So, they got to work planning.
“I just wanted people to have good food and a good time,” Byron says.
They kept things as simple as possible, only inviting people who already knew both of them, with some exceptions for family who hadn’t been able to travel due to the pandemic.
“We didn’t want to do the big hoopla,” Elliott explains. “We didn’t want to spend a lot on this while doing the house and everything else. We kept it in budget. We kept it simple. We didn’t even do flowers or anything. The museum was the setting, which was already decorated.”
Byron adds, “I think we threw the traditional views about a wedding out early on, as well. If we were going to do this, we were going to do this our way.”
They held their reception the night before the wedding ceremony in their home’s backyard — complete with a drag show.
“Because what would a gay wedding be without a drag show?” Byron says.
At the ceremony, State Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby served as their officiant.
“She was able to pull together all of the things that were not overly religious but still very much us,” Byron says. “She spoke to our love in a way that was really impactful for both us and our guests.”
Engagement date: April 26, 2022
Wedding date: Nov. 20, 2022
Wedding venue: Museum of Fine Arts, St. Pete
Florist: Personal Arrangement
Officiant: State Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby
Cake Flavors: Chocolate, Fun Fetti and Vanilla
Photographer: Joseph Gay