Corey Bryant and Justin Higley. (Photo by A. Harris Photography)
In 2015, Corey Bryant’s roommate dared him to create an online dating account. That dare impacted his life trajectory forever, as he met Justin Higley — the love of his life — online just two days later.
“I knew he was ‘the one’ within the first six months,” Justin says. “A lot happened between then and now, but fate always ended up pushing the two of us back together. As a result, it’s made us a stronger, more mature and more resilient couple.”
Corey and Justin got engaged while traveling, which is their favorite activity to do together. The two were on their first European cruise, sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar, and Corey was determined to surprise Justin with the proposal.
Though Corey’s plan was nearly foiled at the Reykjavik airport when security opened his bag with the ring in front of Justin, he managed to pull off the surprise.
“A few days later, we were getting dressed for formal night on the cruise and Justin, after a few final touches in the mirror, turned to me looking stunning in his sequined dinner jacket,” Corey says. “He said, ‘How do I look’ and appeared slightly offended when I told him I thought it was missing something. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the ring box. I barely managed to get down on one knee and open the box before he said ‘Yes!’”
The couple married on Feb. 12, which happened to coincide with Super Bowl Sunday. Corey said once they realized, they “just leaned into it — because who else but a gay couple would book their wedding on Super Bowl Sunday?”
“Our friends even joked that it was a power-gay flex,” Corey added, noting that they got everyone home in time to catch the game if they wanted to.
It was important to the couple to celebrate blood-related and found family at the wedding. One of Corey’s highlights of the day was how ring-bearer Matteo, his two-year-old nephew by way of found family, “absolutely stole the show” by showing off his Lebanese dance moves at the reception.
One of Justin’s close friends even officiated the ceremony.
“She was one of the first people I ever came out to, and she has been an anchor through some of the most difficult points in my life,” Justin says. “It was only fitting that she be the one to marry me to the love of my life.”
The two also spotlighted the LGBTQ community in their wedding, using LGBTQ- and ally-owned businesses for their vendors. They also included a reading from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges during the ceremony.
“We felt that it was only fitting to include [the reading] … acknowledging the work of other LGBTQ+ trailblazers who created a path forward for couples like Corey and I,” Justin says. “We also mailed an honorary invitation to Jim Obergefell, and to our surprise, he responded with a very lovely note.”
Justin and Corey brought their love of travel into the wedding as well. Their three-tier cake highlighted their previous travels and their honeymoon destinations. Corey even used his graphic design skills to make their wedding invitations look like passports.
They also included a personalized crossword and wordsearch on the back of their wedding program.
“Guests really got into it and the competition got pretty heated,” Justin says. “At the reception, they kept asking what they won. We told them a free cocktail!”
The couple also had a bonus cake for guests.
“[As] a lifelong Dolly Parton fanatic, ‘Steel Magnolias’ has always been one of my favorite movies,” Corey says, “so I asked for a red velvet ‘Bleedin’ Armadilla Groom’s Cake,’ which she delivered with an over-the-top raspberry custard filling.”
Overall, it was a day to remember and cherish as they begin their lives as a married couple.
“I always like to say that it’s amazing to be loved, but it’s profound to be understood,” Corey says. “Justin understands me the way no one else ever has and continues to make me a better person through deep breaths, humble moments and an open heart. He’s my best friend.”
Engagement Date: May 4, 2022
Wedding Date: Feb. 12, 2023
Venue: The Historic Winter Park Farmer’s Market
Colors: Navy and Silver
Wedding Song/Artist: “Together You and I” by Dolly Parton and “Who We Love” by Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran
Caterer: John Michael Events
Bakery: Creative Cakes by Dawn
Photographer/Videographer: A. Harris Photography
DJ/Entertainment: DJ Nela