When friends of Nigel Ratburn learned whom he was dating, they knew immediately that wedding bells would eventually be in the couple’s future. Mr. Ratburn, a third grade teacher at Lakewood Elementary School, is almost as famous among his students for his sweet tooth and boundless appetite for cake as he is for his pop quizzes. And Patrick NoLastName is the owner of Elwood City’s premier chocolate shop, Patrick’s Chocolates.
Established in 1963 by Patrick’s father, presumably also named Patrick NoLastName, the store has distinguished itself from nearby hangout The Sugar Bowl and the local ice cream parlor with its unusual flavors, like the Frida Kahlo: semidark organic Mexican chocolate, hazelnut-flavored caramel, and a hint of orange zest. Though the appeal of the shop for Mr. Ratburn began with the display cases, he soon found himself equally interested in the person behind the counter. “I’m a big believer in chocolate,” said Patrick. “But I’m not sure it can make people fall in love.”
Whether the chocolate is responsible or not, fall in love the couple did. Both of Mr. Ratburn’s sisters were in attendance to see the grooms walk arm-in-arm down the aisle: Rodentia, weeping into a handkerchief in the audience, and Patty, who officiated the ceremony and was heavily involved in the planning. (Mr. Ratburn’s initial suggestion of sunflowers was firmly turned down in favor of all-white floral arrangements.) The pair’s shared enthusiasm for art and literature was on display; Mr. Ratburn quoted the poetry of Pablo Neruda in his wedding vows.
The couple seemed unaware of the momentousness of their union as the town’s only openly gay men; previously, most of the residents of Elwood City only knew of the existence of same-sex couples in Vermont, where one of Mr. Ratburn’s students, Buster Baxter, visited a human girl with two mothers in 2005. (That very brief allusion to a same-sex relationship was enough for then–Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings to denounce the episode.) With their wedding, Patrick and Mr. Ratburn join the small but growing ranks of other canonical same-sex couples in children’s cartoons, including Adventure Time’s Princess Bubblegum and Marceline, The Loud House’s Howard and Harold McBride, and Steven Universe’s Ruby and Sapphire.*
Mr. Ratburn’s entire third grade class, which he described as “like family,” was present for their teacher’s wedding. “It’s a brand new world,” one young guest declared. Another described the cake served at the reception as the best he’d ever had.
Correction, May 14, 2019: This post originally misspelled the title of the TV show Steven Universe.