Give up the cheese plate to forge a connection
Brian Ellner was evaluating the cheese spread at a party in Bellport, NY, in April 2018, when Jarrett Olivo walked through the door. Mr Ellner said he practically jumped over the couch to say hello.
“It’s rare that I leave a cheese board, but when I saw Jarrett I knew he was someone I needed to meet,” said Mr Ellner, 51, executive vice president. of growth and marketing at the communications agency Burson Cohn. & Wolfe. “I felt drawn to him.”
Mr. Olivo, 30, global marketing director for Tiffany & Company, felt the same instant attraction. âI don’t believe in love at first sight, but I do believe that you can meet someone and realize that they will have a huge impact on your life,â he said. âBrian had energy and presence. I knew my life was going to change.
Before leaving the party, Mr. Olivo asked Mr. Ellner for his number. A text message immediately followed and the two chose a day to meet over a drink the following week. Then Mr. Olivo caught the flu. A new day has been chosen. Still feeling bad, Mr. Olivo canceled for the second time.
âI was like, ‘Well, this is it,’ Mr. Ellner said. âTen days was a long time to be sick. I thought that maybe the spark that did exist was not that great.
As it turned out, the spark was big enough that a third day was ignited – and preserved. More than two weeks after starting texting, the two met for drinks at El Quinto Pino, a wine bar on West 24th Street. A second meeting followed. Then a third.
But as they continued to see each other, Mr Olivo said he kept some emotional distance. âFor three months, I didn’t take us seriously because there were obstacles: he needed to meet my crazy Jewish family, there was a 20-year age difference, and he was more settled and established, âOlivo said. “I was nervous about losing myself in the relationship.”
Mr. Ellner, a graduate with Distinction from Dartmouth College, received a law degree from Harvard. A former senior strategist in the Human Rights Campaign’s effort to achieve marriage equality in New York City, he said he had always been passionate about equal rights, but not marriage for himself.
âMy parents had a lousy divorce when I was 10,â Mr. Ellner said. “It created a fear of issues with commitment and abandonment, which made it difficult to consider a lifelong commitment to someone.”
Mr Olivo, a Johns Hopkins University graduate with a double degree in art history and political science, said his doubts about their relationship were actually what made him grow up. âWith such a small chance that it would work, I have become my real weird and crazy self,â he said. âBecause of this, our bond has become strong and real. “
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In April 2019, a year after their first meeting, Mr Ellner relinquished the lease on his apartment in Chelsea’s London Terrace Gardens, where he had lived for 20 years, so the couple could move in together to a new flat in the Flatiron district.
A proposal came in on December 22, 2019, when Mr Ellner knelt in the couple’s living room. A romantic dinner at Augustine’s followed. The next day, they flew to Boca Raton, Florida to celebrate with Mr. Olivo’s family and friends.
An engagement party scheduled for May 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic, which also led the couple to postpone their first wedding date of June 26, 2021.
They tied the knot on October 2 at the Manhattan home of their friends Josh Schulman and Jim Conley. Maneesh Goyal, the host of the feast where Mr. Ellner and Mr. Olivo met, officiated after being ordained by the Church of Universal Life. Their 80 guests were invited to show proof of vaccination and an after-party was held at Jimmy, a rooftop cocktail bar at the ModernHaus hotel in SoHo.
âBrian has helped me figure out what I want out of my life and how to organize it,â Olivo said. âHe’s my oracle. Meeting Mr. Olivo, Mr. Ellner said, was like finding a âmissing piece of the puzzle. Jarrett broke a protective shell that I created. It took a lot of research, but it allowed me to be completely vulnerable and engaged. “
Regarding Mr. Ellner, Mr. Olivo added, âHe needed someone to show him true, unconditional love. I’ll give him just that.