Matt Conner & Stephen Gregory Smith
Married on May 31, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
Matt Conner, 44, from Stephens City, Va., and Stephen Gregory Smith, 36, from Connellsville, Pa. Both perform various roles at Signature Theatre in Shirlington. Matt is a composer, actor and piano teacher, and plays piano in the lobby before shows. Stephen is an actor, writer, director, teaching artist and bartender, as well as a dog walker on the side. They live in Fairlington.
How they met
While attending Shenandoah University in the fall of 1996, both were cast in Pippin: The Musical. They were best friends for years before becoming romantically involved.
A private legal ceremony on a friend’s yacht on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., on May 31, 2013, followed by a much larger, celebratory ceremony and reception at Signature Theatre on June 10.
Dinner and a show. Stephen cooked for Matt (Cornish game hens with rice) before they headed to the National Theatre in D.C. to see Chicago.
Stephen popped the question outside the couple’s first home in Fairlington. “I was feeling very lucky to experience that moment, and also just lots of mixed emotions,” Matt says. “I knew what proposing and being together and vowing each other’s love to one another meant, but to be gay and do that publicly—well, what are we going to do?”
Number of guests
The Signature Theatre affair welcomed 275 guests.
At the time, gay marriage wasn’t legal in Virginia, so they had a lawful ceremony in D.C., with a Presbyterian minister presiding. During the second ceremony in Shirlington, they recited personal vows (written by Stephen), with their pug, Buddha, serving as ring-bearer. Matt surprised Stephen by singing a song, “I Will Be,” that he had composed especially for the occasion.
The carnival-themed reception featured mime and juggler performances; an ice sculpture of an elephant; a “House of Horrors” tent filled with kegs of beer and drinking games; a kissing booth; a midnight sack race; and a lobby decorated like a midway. Together, the couple wrote a song, “Share Love” (now available on iTunes), that premiered in the theater’s lobby. Proceeds from downloads benefited Equality Virginia.
Guests received red tickets for prizes, and were invited to partake in a “grab bag” filled with a variety of treats, including candy, toys, bubble gum, money and mini-jars of strawberry jam. Clear sandwich bags filled with goldfish crackers and blue strips of construction paper (to look like water) were tied with ribbons and a Chinese proverb. “Goldfish bring good luck in the form of tranquility, wisdom and long life,” Matt explains. “They are one of the eight sacred symbols of the Buddha. They represent harmony with the flow of life. Ancient Greeks believed goldfish enhanced good luck in marriage and relationships.”
“We Belong” by Pat Benatar.
Outer Banks, N.C.
The unity candle was accidentally blown out during the ceremony, but performing mimes ran back onstage to re-light it.
For Matt, it was the point when his older brother—the only member of his family in attendance—stood in as his “mom” for the mother-son dance. Stephen remembers feeling immensely touched when guests were officially welcomed to the wedding. “It felt like a validation of our life,” he says.
Matt found his outfit on Etsy. Stephen’s attire came courtesy of a costume designer friend who transformed an already-owned tuxedo with paint and a little bit of creativity.
“Weddings have a tendency to become about other things or other people’s influences. Always be true to you,” they say.
Michelle Kinney, Weslie Woodley and Chris Mueller.
The Ociana Group
Gabe Mangiante and Jen Cartney on the piano, Aron Rider on cello, Jeff Thurston on violin, David Quick on viola, Steven Walker on guitar, and 15 vocalists from D.C. Community Theatre
Busboys and Poets, Luna Grille & Diner, Capitol City Brewing Co., Starbucks, Caribou Coffee, Bungalow Billiards & Brew, Cheesetique, The Curious Grape and Ramparts Tavern & Grill