They Were Not Looking For Anything Serious. Surprise!

As Hugh Stephen Baran headed home in April 2015 to the Upper East Side of Manhattan after a Passover Seder with some high school friends in Englewood, N.J., Jacob Ellis Kaplan Rozenberg messaged him on Grindr, a dating app for gay men.

The next day he met Mr. Rozenberg at a bubble tea shop near his apartment, figuring it was “casual and low stakes.”

“I was in my first year of law school and getting my life back together” after a breakup, said Mr. Baran, 35, who grew up in Paramus, N.J.

Mr. Rozenberg, 34, had arrived that January from Vancouver, British Columbia, and lived in a tiny maid’s room owned by his uncle on East End Avenue. (He did his dishes in his bathtub.) “I made a 10-year plan,” said Mr. Rozenberg, who got his hairstyling certificate right out of Vancouver Technical Secondary School. “Move to New York, date a lot of people, and in year five work in fashion and red carpet hairstyling. ”

He is now an editorial and celebrity hairstylist represented by the Wall Group. His clients have included Kate Hudson, Michelle Williams, Dove Cameron and Karlie Kloss.

Mr. Baran, who graduated with distinction in American studies from Yale before receiving a law degree from N.Y.U., is now a lawyer at Kakalec Law, a workers’ rights law firm based in Brooklyn.

“I was impressed that he wanted to go into labor law to help working people, and was not in it for the money,” said Mr. Rozenberg, whose late mother, a social worker, had brought home the Jewish concept of “tikkun olam,” repairing the world.

After Mr. Rozenberg hugged him goodbye, Mr. Baran surprised him with a big kiss on the lips.

But when Mr. Rozenberg called the next day, Mr. Baran wanted to be clear: “I don’t want to waste your time,” he said. “I think you’re looking for something serious.”

Mr. Rozenberg insisted he was not.

“I’d be fine with just being friends with benefits,” he said, and they began seeing each other casually a couple of times a week.

Three months later, that began to change when the Supreme Court made gay marriage legal nationwide and they watched an especially celebratory NYC Pride March together in Greenwich Village.

As they stood on the sidelines, arms around each other, an older gay man marching past them shouted, “You two should get married.”

“We both laughed,” Mr. Baran said, but it got them thinking, and by the following month they agreed they were dating.

In August, Mr. Baran moved to Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and after late-night hairstyling gigs in Manhattan and an hour-and-a-half schlep on the subway, Mr. Rozenberg would lug his 50-pound hairdressing kit — blow dryer, brushes, curling iron, scissors and all the color he was doing — up four flights of stairs to spend the night.

In April 2019, they hosted both Seders and read from a queer, social justice-themed Haggadah that Mr. Baran put together. They also made everything from scratch, including gefilte fish, beet horseradish and matzo ball soup.

During the pandemic Mr. Baran began baking challah each week, and they caught up with family during weekly Zoom Shabbats.

In January 2021 they flew to California to stay with Mr. Rozenberg’s sister who underwent surgery after being diagnosed with the BRCA gene for breast cancer.

“It was a real moment of clarity of how deeply we cared about each other, and each other’s families,” Mr. Baran said.

In August 2021, they proposed during a trip to Italy.

“I want to walk through this world with you shoulder to shoulder,” said Mr. Baran, who got down on one knee under a full moon in Palazzolo Acreide in Sicily.

“Could you repeat that,” said Mr. Rozenberg, a bit miffed that Mr. Baran beat him to a proposal. He then got on one knee later that week on the Ponte Chiodo, a footbridge in Venice, where he was working a Dolce & Gabbana fashion show.

On June 4, Kohenet Yael Tischler, a friend of the couple, who received a one-day officiant certificate from the New York City clerk’s office, led a Jewish ceremony, through a queer lens, before 204 guests at 99 Scott Studio, an events space in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

The grooms walked down the aisle to a keyboard version of “The Golden Girls” TV theme song and Enzo, their 11-month-old merle goldendoodle, was their ring bearer.

“I have found the one my soul loves,” they recited together during the ceremony from the Song of Solomon, and then each stepped on his own glass as the thrum of house music drifted in from a club next door.

“It’s so fitting for us,” said Mr. Rozenberg. “It was like we were at a gay club during the ceremony.”

Later, the grooms were lifted up on chairs during a half-hour-long “epic hora.”

“It was slightly terrifying, fun and joyful,” Mr. Rozenberg said.

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