After Years as Roommates, Finally More Than Friends

Matt Vella and Joel Kimling moved into the same apartment in August 2017 when they arrived in Richmond, Virginia, for a nine-month internship with the Virginia Repertory Theater.

Mr. Vella designs stages and lights, and Mr. Kimling acts, sings, and dances. They lived and worked together, but on Sundays they would often go to the Short Pump Town Center, a nearby mall, and then go to a brewery or distillery together.

They became close friends, but each other's dates kept them from seeing each other as more than friends.

Mr. Kimling said, “I wanted to be young, dumb, and crazy, and friendship was more important to me than a relationship.”

In April 2018, Mr. Kimling kissed Mr. Vella out of the blue while he was drunk. By the time Mr. Kimling left in May to work at a theater event in West Virginia for three months, they had both forgotten about it.

Mr. Kimling, who is 28 years old, is now in charge of finances and budgeting at the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond. Mr. Vella, who is 30 years old, works at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond as a packaging expert. These two men both have bachelor's degrees in theater. Mr. Vella went to the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., and Mr. Kimling went to Millikin University in Decatur, Ill.

[Click here to read all about this week's couples at once.]

When Mr. Kimling went back to the repertory theater, where they both became trainees, they kept going out with other people.

But things changed between them in February 2019. His boss had two extra tickets for the traveling Broadway show “Waitress” that she wasn't going to use, so she gave them to him. He took Mr. Vella.

Late that night, Mr. Kimling talked about how they were dating. After living together for a year and a half and meeting, they both finally accepted that they liked each other.

For the weekend in March 2019, they went to New York City. It was Mr. Vella's first time there. After seeing five Broadway shows together, they agreed that they were dating and should make it official on Facebook.

No one was shocked.

They finally shared a bedroom when they moved into a third apartment together in Richmond in October 2019. After two months, they got a pit bull puppy named Kleopuptra, or Kleo for short.

They talked about getting married over the next few months. Before he met Mr. Kimling, Mr. Vella didn't think he was the type to get married.

“When I think about how much I've grown and how much he's added to my life and how much I've added to his, I can't picture being with anyone else,” Mr. Vella said.

He said, “A ruby-throated hummingbird is my spirit animal.” Matt can make me feel better right away, no matter how stressed I am, by putting his hand on my back and telling me to breathe and slow down. That's not something that just anyone can do. “I know I'm a lot, and he's always been okay with that.”

In May 2020, while on a rowboat on Little Round Lake at a party with Mr. Kimling's family in Hudson, Mich., Mr. Vella asked her to marry him. They moved in with Mr. Kimling's parents in Cincinnati in September to save money during the pandemic. They stayed there for nine months.

Tony, short for Bark Antony, a new pit bull puppy, joined their family in January 2022.

They got married on December 8 at the historic Mankin Mansion in Richmond in front of 115 guests. Sara Heifetz, a friend of the couple who was licensed by the Henrico County Circuit Court as a civil celebrant, sang the wedding hymns.

Mr. Kimling is changing his name to Vella, which is the given name of Mr. Vella's mother. Both of them picked Vella from a list of family last names. Mr. Vella had changed his name earlier this year from Banes.

Mr. Vella wore a leather harness and bow tie to the wedding, and Mr. Kimling wore a leather corset with a red velvet tie and a black lace cathedral veil. A reading from the book of Corinthians in the Bible and a Wiccan hand-binding rite were part of their ceremony.

They read their own vows as well. In his, Mr. Vella said, “I'm not sure when I fell in love with you.” We might have gone window shopping at Crate & Barrel for the first time and talked about how much both of our moms would hate that lamp.

They gave each other personalized laurel wreaths from their mothers when they got engaged because they were going to swap rings.

In ancient Greece and Rome, winners were given laurels. Ms. Heifetz said, “Our couple is giving each other the symbol of their promise to face the ups and downs of life together, to strive for greatness and emerge victorious in their journey of love.”


Mr. John A. Barnett is an experienced News Editor at DigitalKarate. He is skilled in the art of building tales that are compelling and in ensuring that reporting is accurate.

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