There’s coming out the regular way—and then there’s coming out by getting married in secret and announcing that to the world.
While most of us LGBTQ2S+ folks have done the former, the latter certainly has a specific flair to it. I for one, could not fathom keeping the love of my life secret, let alone a wedding. But, some high-profile couples have managed it, as demonstrated this week when two international pageant queens announced their secret nuptials.
Miss Argentina, Mariana Varela, and the former Miss Puerto Rico, Fabiola Valentín, shared a joint post to their Instagram accounts Sunday announcing the knot-tying in what was the first public indication they were even dating.
“After deciding to keep our relationship private, we opened the doors on a special day,” they wrote.
The pair met in March 2020 as competitors in the Miss Grand International beauty pageant in Thailand, where they both placed in the top 10, joining a storied history of women falling in love in the midst of pretty traditionally heterosexual institutions (shout-out to the two couples who met and got together on The Bachelor Vietnam and The Bachelor Australia, respectively). And while Varela and Valentín have appeared in social media posts and at events together, neither has spoken out about a relationship or being openly queer, so the wedding came as a delightful surprise to the world.
But the pageant queens are far from the first public figures to skip over the whole coming out before getting married thing. The gold standard for “you all thought I was straight, but surprise, I’m married!” is definitely Niecy Nash’s surprise coming out by marrying singer Jessica Betts In 2020. Though Nash herself shies away from describing it as a “coming out” at all.
“[My marriage] has absolutely nothing to do with gender and it has everything to do with her soul,” Nash told People following the wedding. “She is the most beautiful soul I have ever met in my life.”
Much like the pageant queens above, the pair announced their wedding on Instagram, with Nash sharing a photo from the wedding with the caption “Mrs. Carol Denise Betts 💍.”
The pair first met in 2015 when Nash was still married to then-husband Jay Tucker. Nash and Tucker announced their separation in October 2019.
While actor Lee Pace didn’t come out by getting married (the actor confirmed he was a “member of the queer community” in 2018, and was outed by Lord of the Rings co-star Ian McKellen years earlier), his reveal of being married to Thom Browne exec Matthew Foley earlier this year struck a similar chord.
“What I’ll say about being married, it was once described to me as an endless sleepover with your weirdest friend. In our experience, that is absolutely true. If you’ve found one person you can be weird around, hold on tight,” Pace told GQ.
Though she was already out, Lena Waithe had a secret wedding in 2019. And comedian Wanda Sykes memorably married wife Alex Niedbalski a month ahead of coming out publicly in 2008.
The “secret gay wedding” isn’t just for big celebrities either (though if recent Try Guys drama is any indication, if you were a millennial on the internet in the mid ’10s, the personalities of BuzzFeed felt like huge celebrities). Chantel Houston and Ashly Perez, who both featured heavily in the media site’s popular YouTube channel in the mid-’10s, got married in August of this year after quietly dating for six years.
There are plenty of reasons couples choose to stay on the down-low: family pressures, wanting privacy and not being ready to label their sexuality among them. But when they do decide to go public through a wedding, the result is pure joy and celebration.
What Miss Argentina and Miss Puerto Rico (and Nash and Pace and others before them) show is the true power of “love is love” is getting to choose when you share that with the world. And besides, a coming out plus a wedding means twice the joy to celebrate!