The night Emily Kate Dobies and Sal Steiner shared their first kiss in 2016, Ms. Dobies had been trying to orchestrate a match between Mr. Steiner and a mutual friend. The friend was in a troubled relationship, and Ms. Dobies thought that Mr. Steiner, with his warmth and honesty, could remind her that good dating prospects still existed.
“I was like, ‘Sal’s perfect — for everyone,’” Ms. Dobies said with a laugh.
She and Mr. Steiner first met in 2012 at Coffee Bar, a cafe in San Francisco, where they both worked. Ms. Dobies had long harbored a crush on her dimpled fellow barista. But it never occurred to her that Mr. Steiner could share her feelings — that is, until the foggy spring night four years later when he decided he didn’t want to date their friend. The person he wanted was Ms. Dobies.
After they left a bar in San Francisco where the matchmaking attempt took place, Ms. Dobies lamented the failure of her effort. “You’re the most attractive, magical person I’ve ever met,” she told Mr. Steiner.
He turned to face her and said, “Wait, do you want to make out with me?” She rushed to say yes and added, “Ever since I met you.”
And so began their adventure as a couple.
In the seven years since, they have celebrated Christmas with his family in Omaha, and birthdays and Mother’s Day with hers in upstate New York. They adopted a gray and white rescue kitten, Puroshki, and got matching tattoos of a pizza slice topped with hearts being pulled in two. When the pizza lovers position their arms side by side, the halves form a gooey whole.
They often take road trips across the country — from Texas to Georgia, Colorado to Rhode Island — and seek out gay bars for every new destination.
“I am queer. Sal is queer. Sal is trans,” Ms. Dobies, 36, said. “We love to represent this kind of love when we go out, to say, ‘This is what queer love looks like, too.’”
Ms. Dobies, who has a bachelor’s degree in acting from N.Y.U., now manages the San Francisco office of Stitch Fix, the online personal styling service. Before falling for Mr. Steiner, a 42-year-old artist and caregiver for an older adult, she had almost exclusively dated women. But when she met Mr. Steiner, who had then recently started taking testosterone, she instantly felt drawn to him.
In the fall of 2019, Ms. Dobies moved into Mr. Steiner’s apartment in the Castro district of San Francisco. Soon afterward, Mr. Steiner proposed at his parents’ house with a homemade fortune cookie containing a handwritten question: “Wanna get hitched?”
A few months earlier, one particular moment had solidified his desire to wed Ms. Dobies.
It happened after Ms. Dobies’s only sibling, Daniel Dobies, married his husband, Marty Sigal. During the wedding reception, Mr. Dobies and his mother performed a choreographed clog dance to “Callin’ Baton Rouge” by Garth Brooks. “Wow, this is what I want my family to be,” Mr. Steiner recalled thinking at the time. His own parents, whom he describes as sweet and generous, have struggled at times to accept his sexuality and gender identity, he said. The dance captured a “completeness,” Mr. Steiner said. “It was like home.”
Ms. Dobies and Mr. Steiner wed on July 29 in front of around 300 guests at the Monte Rio Beach along Russian River in Northern California. The bride’s brother, who was ordained by the Universal Life Church in 2011, officiated.
As Led Zeppelin blared and guests cheered, two friends paddled Ms. Dobies across the river in a rainbow unicorn float, with the long skirt of her fluffy white ball gown tucked inside to keep it dry. Mr. Steiner was waiting on the shore in a cowboy hat, white pants and a floral mesh shirt.
In lieu of rings, the pair exchanged crowns festooned with roses, baby’s breath and their favorite flower, purple irises. They also traded declarations of love, their voices halting with emotion.
“You help me see that the things that are hard for me are good for me, and that I am strong enough to achieve them,” Ms. Dobies told Mr. Steiner. And Mr. Steiner said: “You are so kindhearted. You support everything about me.”
The couple opted to not call their event a wedding. Instead, they labeled it “Big Gay Barbecue” to celebrate the L.G.B.T.Q. communities that have been so integral to their lives.
“Each and every one of you,” Ms. Dobies told the guests, “has been a major steppingstone on our journey here.”