Rob and Tony Domenico might have taken a while to find each other, but the journey has made the destination that much sweeter. Rob (an account executive for a Fortune 500 company) and Tony (a Doctor of Physical Therapy) met unconventionally (Facebook of all places) which led to a stunning wedding (featuring drag entertainer Sassy Devine as Best Woman) and pictureresque honeymoon in Belize. Currently, Rob & Tony are renovating a 50’s style ranch home and adopted a Mexican hairless dog they’ve named Nunzio. As part of Instinct’s ongoing series on couples, The Domenico’s are the perfect pair to feature on Valentine’s Day as they discussed love, quarantine, and how they took two different lives and crafted them into one.
Michael Cook: Tell me about how you and Tony met…
Rob Domenico: Thanks to the Facebook Algorithm God’s, Tony appeared in my “People You May Know” suggestions. One look at his kind eyes and infectious smile, I knew I had to do everything in my power to get him to notice me. I was maxed out at 5k friends, so I had to make a swift decision to drop someone and take a chance. As luck would have it, someone posted an extremely negative post, and the rest is history! We dated long distance for seven months before I convinced him to leave everything he ever knew in Metamora, Ohio to start a life with me in Orlando, FL. That also entailed relocating his rabbitry of 30 rabbits across country. Tony has been proudly breeding and showing Rex Rabbits since he was 11, so it was something we both felt would need to continue in our joint lives.
MC: When did you know that the relationship had shifted from simply dating to something very serious?
Tony Domenico: The energy of our connection was strong right from the start. Given our distance, we talked for about a month before Rob came to see me up North. The connection only grew from there! Rob said he knew he loved me even before he met me. Deep down I felt strongly too, but also knew there were several obstacles to overcome first and I didn’t want to hurt him. But with time, countless calls and texts and visits every two weeks, it wasn’t long until I, too was head over heels and no obstacle could keep me from him. We followed our hearts, I leaped, and he caught me. And now, our love continues to grow and strengthen, in new ways, everyday.
MC: Tell me about your engagement/wedding…
RD: I proposed to Tony in a hot air balloon ride over Orlando at sunrise. I got on one knee and popped the question in front of 10 strangers, who I let in on my plans in advance. He was totally surprised. We both love the movie Up and their love story, so balloons are very symbolic for us. In addition, we have always used to line “up, up, and away” for our love/relationship, so the hot air balloon proposal was perfect.
We got married November 9, 2019 on Treasure Island Beach at sunset. We are fortunate to have a large support system of family and friends, who came together from all over the country, to help us celebrate our love. Tony’s sister volunteered to officiate our ceremony. We wrote our own meaningful vows, and our first dance was a choreographed piece to “I’ll Always Remember Us This Way” by Lady Gaga (I’m an OG Little Monster) that you can find on YouTube! DJ Twisted Dee, world renowned Circuit DJ, turned up the heat and had everyone on the dance floor till the end. It truly was the best day of our lives.
MC: What have you each learned about the other during quarantine?
TD: Just how much we actually like one another! We dislike being apart normally, but being quarantined has amplified that and we are all for it. We have fun together and have made great use of our time together. We learned how to bake together during quarantine and designed a pool, which we are in the final stages of construction. Quarantine has taught us both to have patience and be appreciative of what we have. It’s actually been an extended honeymoon for us, so no complaints!
MC: Orlando, FL’s LGBT scene is known to be large and diverse. You are the home to Pulse and the legacy that they left and the former Parliament House. What is it like being a part of the Orlando scene? How does what happened at Pulse impact both of you as community members?
RD: I’ve spent the past 2 decades in Orlando as a community leader and advocate of equality. From being the Chairman of black-tie events to serving on the Executive Board of Directors at the LGBT Center of Central FL, our community is everything to me. On that horrific morning of the Pulse massacre, I went to the LGBT Center to lend a helping hand, however needed. Nobody could ever prepare for such a heart breaking event, but we also saw beauty in a mourning community, scared, yet motivated. I was asked to manage the hundreds of media interviews and was one of the faces seen across the globe, representing our community. Rather than focus on the murderer, I shifted the conversations to that of remarkable unity and respect for the victims and their loved ones.
I will forever remember answering the phone to speak with a frantic mother, asking if we knew if her son was ok. Ultimately, he was one of the 49 victims. I still have nightmares about the pain in her voice and not being able to give her the answer she so desperately wanted.
MC: You have an interesting Pussycat Dolls connection; tell me about that…
RD: Jessica Marquart of the The Pussycat Dolls, is my chosen daughter. Over a decade ago, I was the Chairman of The Headress Ball, a charity event to raise funds for HIV/AIDS in Orlando. Jess was our main entertainer, as she had just stepped away from the PCD’s and was kicking off her solo career. Years later, I hosted and event, which was meant to bring our community back to the dance floor after the Pulse massacre. I called Jess, and without hesitation, she agreed to headline the event. Since then, we have become extremely close and she adores Tony. She calls us her Dads and we could not be more proud. We were among her close friends and family at her intimate Malibu wedding last September and then she flew to Treasure Island to be one of my Grooms-maids in November.
MC: What have you both learned the most about each other during your relationship/marriage? Any thought on possibly expanding your family?
RD: I’ve learned to always take time to slow dance in the kitchen with my husband. Tony always says his job is to make me smile and feel appreciated everyday. No matter what life throws our way, we can always press up against one another and reconnect with what really matters.
As for building a family of our own, we are taking serious steps toward this and are beyond excited to one day soon be daddies! It takes a village, and we are blessed with the love and support of our friends and families to do so.
MC: Your relationship is probably an example to some of the people in your community; what is that like to be looked at as something to aspire to?
RD: Everyone deserves to know, in their hearts, that someone out there will value them and love them without hesitation. We want everyone out there to experience what we share, which is why we don’t shy away from being open about our love for one another and show our affection, whenever we choose. Often, in our community, we spend far too much time looking for someone to complete us rather than truly loving ourselves. It has to start internally. Before Tony came along, I let a failed marriage and health set backs diminish my self-worth and opinion of myself. He has reminded me I deserve all the love he has for me, and in turn, I do the same for him.
MC: What is the mantra you each live your life by?
RD: As a survivor of Cardiomyopathy and Congestive Heart Failure, divorce and countless visits to “rock bottom,” I live by the mantra of gratitude. I treat every day as if it’s my last and make sure those who love me know exactly how important they are to me. What they say is true…you only DIE ONCE. If you’re lucky, you will live a life full of love and leave behind beautiful memories in the hearts of those you shared it with!
TD: Life is too short to be anything but happy. Have fun in life and enjoy new experiences! Be grateful, be kind, and always cherish the little things.
All Photos Courtesy of Rob & Tony Domenico