It was during the memorial mass for Tom Shea’s mother in February 2018 that Dan Elliott realized he was falling in love.
The two met via OkCupid in April 2017 and dated on and off, as Mr. Shea lived in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., While Mr. Elliott was then residing in Paoli, Pa.
But when Mr. Elliott, who had lost a 38-year-old partner a few years earlier, sat in a church in Egg Harbor Township, NJ, and heard Mr. Shea speak about his mother’s faith, he was moved. .
“He knew how to talk about faith and belief, and it wasn’t sentimental,” said Mr. Elliott, whose commitment to Roman Catholicism had been shared by his late partner. “I think that’s what struck me the most. We hadn’t talked much about religion before, but it helped me understand that he had no problem accepting someone to be godly.
He may not be “as pious” as Mr. Elliott, Mr. Shea said, “but I was an altar boy all my childhood.” (He snorted at Mr. Elliott’s characterization of him as an “Easter and Christmas Catholic.”)
Shortly after the memorial service, the two agreed to be exclusive. They found that they got along extraordinarily well.
“We’re both easy going with each other and I’m not easy going with a lot of people,” said Mr. Shea, 55, senior advisor at New Paradigm Agency, a communications consultancy firm. and public affairs in Washington. He has spent most of his professional life working on political campaigns and on the staff of politicians. He graduated from Trenton State College, now known as the College of New Jersey.
“The most special thing about Dan is that he’s smarter than you, but he never makes you feel like he’s smarter,” Mr. Shea said. “He’s nicer, but he never makes you feel like he’s nicer.” He is more godly but he never makes you feel that he is more godly. Dan is probably the only person I know who has been to Harvard and I have never heard from anyone that he has been to Harvard.
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Mr Elliott, 71, retired as director of the library and archives at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and has spent most of his career specializing in rare books and library administration. He graduated and earned a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of California at Berkeley. He also obtained a master’s degree in classical philology from Harvard.
He appreciated both the more subtle and more apparent qualities of Mr. Shea. “What struck me the most was his integrity, his honesty, his kindness,” he said. “He’s very articulate and he’s a really nice man. And he is also very beautiful.
Over time, Mr. Elliott began to come to terms with the fact that he would have to give up his hope of a union blessed by his church (the reason he never married his late partner was that they couldn’t get married). He and Mr Shea, who now share a primary residence in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, have decided to exchange their vows on the European island of Malta, a country where gay rights are advancing.
After postponing their original date of April 2021 due to travel difficulties at the time, they finally got married on September 17 at Palazzo Falson, a house museum in Mdina, Malta. They had 12 guests, most from the United States but several from Europe. All guests have been fully vaccinated, as Malta requires that of international visitors. Roberta Gatt, a Maltese registrar, officiated.
Mr Elliott reflected on how he had grappled with the fact that it would not be a Catholic ceremony. “I was pretty sure the church wasn’t going to make any changes,” he said. He recalled the advice of a priest friend of the church who “accepted my previous relationship with my partner very well”.
“He just said, ‘Look, you’ve got to play the cards that were dealt to you in life.’ And I think that’s what allowed me to do that.