Their first date was at an Italian restaurant, Santino’s, that once existed in the same building where Jason’s Deli is located at 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue. The couple celebrated their eighth anniversary on March 25.
The first date led to many more and then to a wedding proposal in Central Park in New York. But there were a few snags as they planned their dream wedding.
The wedding magazines, honeymoon ads and tips on how to make a wedding special were all about “he and she” — the couple did not see others like them anywhere. Frustrated with this realization, they hatched an idea for an online wedding magazine to target LGBT couples. But first, they had to get married.
The two married in Georgia on June 13, 2009. Of course, gay marriage is not legal in Georgia.
“It is not illegal to have a gay wedding,” said Kirsten, who changed her last name to Palladino. “The marriage between two people in love is more than just legal documents – it’s about proclaiming that intimate love surrounded by people who love you and sharing the joy with others.”
“The marriage is also about our families and friends and chosen families. Sometimes those who are LGBTQ will have their families turn their backs on them. A marriage is about unity, the coming together and pledging support for the couple,” she added.
After their honeymoon in St. Martin, the duo came back to Atlanta determined and passionate about their new project — EquallyWed.com, described as the nation’s premier online gay wedding magazine. The magazine launched on March 22, 2010. It features a listing of gay-friendly vendors as well as extensive editorial content, including the popular “Real Gay Weddings” stories.
“We love love,” Maria Palladino said about the hard work that goes into EquallyWed.com. “Whether you want a small wedding or a massive wedding, love is love.”
The couple works hard to stay ahead on trends and has tripled the site’s traffic since its launch.
Last month, the online magazine expanded its reach by rolling out its new “Wedding Planning Tools” that can help couples keep track of RSVPs, money spent and every other item on their to-do list. More announcements about the expansion of the magazine will be made in upcoming months.
And thirteen months ago, the Palladinos became the moms to twin boys — Leo and Rocco — making life even busier. The twins, born March 14, 2011, are seven minutes apart with Leo edging out his brother as the oldest.
“They are developing so rapidly, they are incredibly verbal. My heart just melts,” Kirsten Palladino said. “We are ridiculously proud.”
Working around the clock on their magazine while also being moms to twins requires balance.
“We’re a passionate couple and I think that’s what drives us,” Kirsten Palladino said. “We create our own happiness and we are determined to make it all work. We both have a streak of gay activism as I think all gay people should.”
“We’re also growing our team and don’t sleep much,” Maria Palladino added. “It’s a juggling act but we love it.”
When New York legalized gay marriage last year, the Palladinos could not resist holding another wedding in the state where they got engaged — this one much simpler, held Aug. 19 in a chapel in New York City Hall.
“Spiritually and for our relationship and devotion to each other, our wedding in Decatur was more special and valid,” Kirsten Palladino said. “But New York was a chance to have us legally recorded as a valid couple in this country.”
Maria Palladino agreed and said the New York wedding was a gift.
“It’s like a nice big bow on top of a great package,” she said.
Top photo: Kirsten Ott Palladino (right) and her wife, Maria Palladino, are ‘ridiculously proud’ of their twin sons Leo and Rocco. (by Sandra Grose, Through Sandra’s Lens)