Actor and singer Frankie Grande and actor Hale Leon Grande tied the knot on May 4, 2022, in a small ceremony at Frankie's family home in Boca Raton, Florida. Brides senior editor Shelby Wax chatted with the couple a few weeks after their wedding to discuss their love story, why they changed their original wedding venue from Disney World in light of the "Don't Say Gay" bill, and what it means to be a queer married person in America today.
Shelby Wax: We can get started with the fun stuff! Can you tell me your love story? How did you first meet?
Hale Grande: There's a place called Oil Can Harry's. It's a super well-known gay line dance bar in Studio City in Los Angeles. It was my favorite thing and the one thing that I would do. I don't drink or do drugs. I never have, never will. I never went to WeHo clubs or anything. That was my regular place and I'd go with my friends all the time. After two years of going myself, Frankie decided to go there.
Frankie Grande: Yeah, so I was WeHo bar hopping, but everything was the same and every person was the same. I'm coming up on five years sober on June 16, so it was hard for me to meet someone at a bar when I was sober. I met a nice couple, and I was sharing my concerns with them, and they invited me to Oil Can Harry's.
We went there on Tuesday night, and it was super dead, but I loved it. I was like, "Oh my god, it's the best place I've ever been. I'm gonna bring everyone I've ever known in my life on Friday with me, and we're going to take over this bar."
HG: I ended up going that Friday with some friends, and I was like, "Why is this bar so packed?" When you line dance, you want room, because you want to traverse and just enjoy yourself. I was mad. I was like, "Why is so packed today? I can't dance."
I didn't even know that Frankie and his squad were there. Because I didn't know who Frankie was. I ended up going on the stage to dance to one of the songs I liked to get out of the way and just have a bit more room. At the end of the song, I went to the bathroom to fix my hair.
FG: I had seen him on the dance floor, and every time I went to go talk to him, he disappeared. So after that song, I saw him running to the bathroom, so I followed him and said, "Hello, I'm Frankie."
HG: No, no. I'm quiet and much more introverted. So, how I remember it, how Frankie came up to me was like, "Hi!!! I'm Frankie!!!" So, I was like, "Oh, hi."
FG: I said, "Are you a professional dancer?!" He said, "No, I'm not at all." I said, "Okay, cool. Do you want to dance with me?" He said, "What? No. I'm a nerd. I don't dance with people." And I said, "I'm a nerd, too!"
He did not believe me, so I had to prove my nerdiness to him. I showed them all my tattoos—my Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, and all that. Hale said, "Okay, maybe you are a nerd. Do you like games?" I said, "Yeah, I play Nintendo Switch and Super Smash Brothers." He asked, "What's your main?" And I said, "Zelda!" and he said "I love Zelda." After that, Hale said, "I'll dance with you."
HG: I get nervous, so when he wanted to dance with me, that's so out of my comfort zone. At the end of the night, we ended up heading to his car.
FG: Basically, when we sat in my car, I plugged in my phone and it picked up where it left off, which was the theme song from Star Wars. It was so loud and and I got so embarrassed. I offered to turn it off but he said, "No, you can leave it on." I thought, "Ah, you're the one."
HG: So, we had a make-out session to Star Wars, which is actually incredibly ironic. I didn't actually piece it together that when we got married, the theme was Star Wars. That's actually a full 360.
FG: I said that in my vows!
SW: How did your relationship progress? Who said I love you first and is there a story behind it?
HG: We had a nice first date, but right after he went on a trip to Spain for two weeks. During the time, we were texting and keeping up.
FG: When I came back, I took him on another another date and met his aunt, which was really, really lovely. That was the night that I asked him to be my boyfriend. I love this story. We went to his place and I'm starting to understand his insane OCD. Everything has to be in its place. He has these very crisp, white sheets.
I laid down on his bed and put my head on his pillow when I realized that I have a full face of makeup on. When I got up, I knew it would be imprinted on his beautiful white sheets. So, I look at him and said, "Do you want to be my boyfriend?" And he said, "What? Yes, I do." And I said, "Good, because you're gonna hate me when you see what I did to your pillow." That's how I asked him to be my boyfriend. I love you came really soon after. I just blurted it out of my mouth.
I love you came really soon after. I just blurted it out of my mouth.
HG: I think it was over a two-month period. It was a very easy, organic relationship. It's bizarre to think about even now.
SW: Easy is what people say works! When did you know that you guys want to get married? Did you have discussions about this before you got engaged?
HG: I think we were two years in and I was throwing it out there.
FG: You started asking, "When are we getting married?" I knew I wanted to propose to him in virtual reality because that was one our early dates. When COVID restrictions lifted, we had been together for another year. After we quarantined together and survived, I thought, "This is the real deal. This is the man for me."
HG: Everyone says it was such a test, but I think it was so defining and so easy. I got to spend so much time with him and he didn't have to work. I was happy.
FG: When I did propose, he was completely blown away. It was the happiest I've ever seen him.
SW: Hale, did you ever think about proposing?
HG: It's interesting to decide who is going to propose based on tradition and whatnot. I said I would, but Frankie emphasized that he would do it. I think that's how it would be in any sort of queer relationship. Anyone can do it.
FG: It's more personality roles than gender roles.
HG: He is more outgoing and more of the romantic, so it felt more appropriate.
FG: Everything is so fraught with heterosexual tradition. Gays have only been allowed to get married for the past nine years, so it's not as recorded and documented as straight marriage has been. It was really interesting for us to navigate this and get through it. I think we did a great job. I think that we could write the book now.
SW: How did you decide to take the last name Grande, Hale? Was that something you always talked about?
HG: I told him I wanted to have the same last name. That was important to me because I've always enjoyed that tradition of having that unification. It feels like the final step. Grande is a beautiful name and my last name had much less meaning, so it was an easy decision for me.
FG: It's his chosen last name. For me, it's so deeply connected to my family and my heritage. My full name is Frank James Michael Grande Marchione, so adding another name to that seemed insane. When Hale said, "I would take your name," that was beautiful to me and I was so excited.
He had a long conversation with my mom about what it means to be a Grande and what it was going to be like to take our family name. She told him about my grandfather and the amazing values that he instilled in his two daughters. It was a really beautiful conversation. Grandpa, who's no longer with us, would have been really happy about our union. I think it was really beautiful that we got to honor him in that way, by having this conversation about the name being passed to Hale.
SW: Tell me about your original plan to get married at Disney. What was it supposed to be like? When did it change?
FG: Our original wedding was going to be in space at Epcot with around 100 guests. It was themed around space and Disney. It was very exciting because I love Disney so much. When the "Don't Say Gay" bill and all the controversy around Bob Chapek happened, it was a difficult time for us and the community. Disney, a company I have idolized my entire life, felt silence would be more financially beneficial to them than taking action against these bills. That was so hard to digest.
I know that Bob Chapek realizes he made mistakes and is trying to reverse that, but that initial reaction to stay silent, which was so incorrect, and their meager efforts in the beginning to rectify that reaction made it impossible for us to get married there.
And, as a high-profile LGBTQIA+ couple, us getting married at Disney would be a huge win for them. Almost like they could say, "See, everything's fine." Also, we would be channeling our money directly into Disney and we didn't know which side of the bills their dollars were going. It was such a complicated time. So, we ended up pulling the wedding from Disney.
We did go to Disney after our wedding. We celebrated with a small group and we went on our mini-moon at the Star Wars Hotel. I'm fine with continuing to support Disney because they are making efforts to change and do good things. But it was that stamp of our wedding being at Disney that I didn't want. I don't want our wedding to be weaponized in any way, shape, or form. And I do feel like had we gotten married there, our wedding would have been weaponized.
I don't want our wedding to be weaponized in any way, shape, or form.
HG: It was a rough and devastating time for us. We were a month away from getting married. We were fully done with the planning. I mean, it's a lot of work to plan a wedding.
FG: We had to plan another wedding within a month.
HG: I remember being on an emotional rollercoaster with Frankie, wondering whether or not we can get married there or if they would do the right thing.
FG: Ultimately, I do think that the right thing happened. Everything happens for a reason. My mom said, "Do you want to push the wedding six months, and then you can just get married at Disney still?"
HG: I said no to that. I wanted to be married. We were planning for the date and you don't want to have to push it off again. That's devastating.
FG: So, reduced our guest list and filled our house to the brim. There wasn't a seat left in our home. It was such a wonderful fun day.
SW You went all in on the Star Wars theme. Did you want to recreate the wedding you were originally planning, but make it a bit more intimate with family?
FG: That's exactly it. Hale's idea actually was to make it a "May the Fourth Be With You" day, which was an awesome idea. We also got all the vendors that we wanted because it was a Wednesday wedding. No one was available on the weekends for anything.
HG: Obviously, the most important thing was to have our wedding and to get married. So, we focused on that and created a beautiful atmosphere.
FG: It was absolutely perfect. Getting married in my home was really cool. I wasn't nearly as nervous as I think I would have been. I was very chill, standing in my bedroom of 20 years and waiting to walk with my Nonna down the aisle. It was really, really special. It felt very intimate, beautiful, and focused on us.
SW: What were your vows like?
HG: I poured my soul into those vows. I'm exhausted even thinking about them.
FG: Everyone was sobbing. Ugly sobbing like Jennifer Hudson in Cats.
SW: Did you have a wedding party?
FG: We had bridal party. Ariana was my maid of honor. Rachel was Hale's maid of honor. I always refer to myself as the bride and him as the groom just because of the way we dressed, honestly. I was in white and he was in black. I always call myself the bride. My pronouns fluctuate between he and she all the time, so bride never freaked me out in any way, shape, or form.
SW: Did the wedding party join you for the bachelor party?
FG: We had our small bridal party come to our bachelor party right after the wedding. It was our way of still incorporating theme parks. We ended up doing Extreme Action Adventure in South Florida and Extreme Action Park. Then, we did Boomers and Universal Studios.
HG: We also had a game night. We wanted to incorporate our love of games. We captured that through a week of events. It was the most fun I've ever had in my entire life.
SW: Did you follow any traditions on the wedding day?
FG: We wanted a few traditional things. We had my three best gay friends who are my sober buddies come up and do a performance art speech as the Muses from Hercules. They came out and said, "We are the Muses!" Then, they went in and replaced the words with things that about our lives together. It was so beautiful. We also had readings, but we did it in a very untraditional way. As for the ceremony, Hale walked first down the aisle, and waited for me. Then, I walked last.
HG: That's the thing that I want to emphasize about a gay relationship: There are no rules. You can literally do it how you want. Of course, if you do get legally married, that's still a step. But aside from that, you have to just do what feels exactly right for your relationship.
That's the thing that I want to emphasize about a gay relationship: There are no rules.
FG: We didn't have a wedding planner that had done gay weddings many times or anything like that. So, it was basically us just being like, what feels right to us?
SW Did you make sure you had vendors that were really LGBTQIA+ friendly?
FG: Yes, 100 percent. We were originally going to get married in a castle in Pennsylvania. Every vendor that came in was like, "No, we've never seen a gay wedding before." Then I thought, "This feels wrong." When we were thinking about hiring another person, I was just like, "Will you make sure that the vendors are LGBTQIA+ friendly?" Our wedding planner knew how important it was for us. In Boca, we had no issues whatsoever.
I do think for people planning their own weddings, it's a really important conversation to have. Ask, "Have you done a gay wedding before? And are you down with that?" You can ask people's political affiliations when it comes to your wedding, because you don't want any of that to come into play.
HG: Living in LA and New York, we have the luxury of not worrying as much as other people who are getting married now. That's something we didn't really have to process as much as other couples have to. We're very fortunate. I can imagine that would be scary for someone to have talk about.
FG: I know there are vendors turning away queer couples. They are that anti-gay that they won't even do your wedding. I kind of felt that with Disney a little bit. It was horrible to feel like the place where we wanted to have our wedding didn't want us there, so I'm sending a lot of love to queer couples. We are not in the clear yet as a gay community. We are under fire, especially with our trans brothers and sisters and thems and theys. They are really under fire. That is part of our community and we're standing shoulder to shoulder with them.
SW: Back when we grew up, gay marriage was not legal. When did you recognize that you were gay, and did you ever think, "Will I be able to get married?"
HG: In terms of accepting oneself, that was a long and arduous journey for me. It was really hard. I was out of the closet when I finally escaped to Los Angeles. Growing up on Long Island, being gay was seen as wrong. It was such a taboo. I was just isolated. I ran to LA and figured out there's so many more people like me. I came out and started to enjoy myself, but I actually went back in the closet two years later. There was always an overriding Catholicism that was pressuring me and had me feeling like it was not right.
I had a long journey with years of self discovery. Once I finally figured it all out, it was at the time that gay marriage was legal. While my journey was hard, so many people had it much harder.
FG: I'm 10 years older than Hale, so I was there when we were fighting for gay marriage. I was at rallies and marched on the White House with Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS. At my sister's concerts, we had a rainbow flag in the middle of Texas. People said, "You're crazy for doing that," but Ariana said, "It would be crazy not to do that." Our family has always been on the frontlines of this battle.
Our family has always been on the frontlines of this battle.
Interestingly, I never thought that marriage was on my plate. I thought that I was having those battles for other people. Marriage may or may not be in my cards, but that's not what it's about; it's about the fact that I need gay people to have equal rights.
This relationship was the first time I even thought about marriage, and I'm very grateful that it was legal. But with the way Supreme Court is talking about Roe vs. Wade, it's possible that gay marriage will become illegal again, which is just incredible. We might be, as a gay married couple, fighting this battle again for the world and for the rest of the country. And, if this battle comes back up, we're gonna fight it. We're gonna be on the frontlines.
I'm very grateful that the world was so supportive of our union. The messages of love and support were just unbelievable. It was nice that our love was shared on such a big stage and that we can be kind of ambassadors for gay married couples.
SW: How does it feel to know that young people are looking to you, seeing your marriage, and recognizing that you're able to be out, happy, and shout it from the rooftops?
FG: To me, it means a lot. When I was on Big Brother, I was able to change so many people's minds who believed homosexuality was wrong. They saw me on TV and said, "You know what, maybe that Frankie kid is okay. And if he's okay, then maybe all gay people are okay." I've had that interaction with many people and fans in my life.
To know that I'm married to this man—this amazing human who was raised very, very traditionally—I think it's something that will give people hope, and will also change some people's minds. I really hope they think, "You know what, maybe gay love is beautiful because their love is beautiful." And inspiring kids? This generation is awesome. I don't even know if I could take any credit. They inspire me. All we're doing is living our truth.
HG: There's no specific definition of what defines a queer person anymore. I'm a calm video gamer. Frankie is so boisterous and flamboyant, which I love. Our relationship can exemplify that being gay is such a tiny facet of everything else that we are as humans. That's what I want people to take from our marriage. A queer person can literally be anybody, be with anyone, and do anything. It's that simple now, and there's no need for these crazy assumptions.
Our relationship can exemplify that being gay is such a tiny facet of everything else that we are as humans.
SW: So, how has it been to be married?
FG: Hearing people scream "Congratulations!" on the street has been so much fun.
HG: It hasn't been incredibly different. We were living together, fully monogamous, and fully invested in each other, so nothing changed in that sense. To have that title of "husband" and "husband" is such a solidifying thing and that means a lot to me.
SW: One final question. Do you have any advice for other queer couples getting married? What kept you grounded throughout the planning process?
HG: I have words of advice: There are going to be people who really enjoy the planning process and people who don't. It's important to communicate and understand that people have specific roles they want to play, and those feelings should be respected.
FG: That's the best advice because that was our biggest problem. My mother always said, "Where's Frankie? He should should be here more." I was not able to sit there for six hours and plan a wedding. They loved it so much. And I said, "You love it, so you should do it. It's not my thing. It stresses me out. It gives me anxiety. I'll say yes, that's great. I'm so easy."
HG: Different humans come with different opinions. It's that simple. So, while you're going through this process, remember why you're doing this and why you want to get married. It's because of the love between you. Talk things out.
FG: And, as queer people, do whatever you want. Feel free to break the mold a million different times in your celebration. It's all about you, so it should represent you and your love, whatever that is. Even if it means having a wedding on May the Fourth be with you.