By TAMMY La GORCE
Michael Moeller is movie-star handsome and always impeccably dressed, and has designed rooms for fashion icons, TV shows and magazines. But his affinity for what looks best didn’t stop him from falling for a man who showed up on his East Village doorstep one night dressed as the country singer Reba McEntire.
Mr. Moeller had been on two dates with Tobin Summers in fall 2010 when Mr. Summers, fresh from a Halloween party, rang his East Village doorbell late at night.
“I opened the door and there he was, dressed as Reba,” Mr. Moeller said. “I said, ‘How about you change?’ He said, ‘Is that how you greet a country music legend?’ To this day he makes me laugh hysterically.”
If a sense of humor was essential in bringing together Mr. Moeller, 37, and Mr. Summers, 32, a shared sense of what the future should look like has kept them together. That and maybe some duct tape, drywall adhesive and the sort of patience that comes with renovating a very old house.
Mr. Moeller, the director of creative services at Ralph Lauren, and Mr. Summers, who works as visual events manager at David Yurman, met at a party in Brooklyn about a month before Mr. Summers seemed poised to break into a twangy rendition of “Consider Me Gone” at his front door.
Mr. Summers made the first move. “I was making eyes at Michael across the bar, and Michael averted his eyes,” he said. But Mr. Summers, a boyishly handsome Texan, was not easily discouraged: “I came up to him and asked him if I could buy him a drink.”
“Why?” Mr. Moeller responded.
That “why” represented a wariness that had built up over the last few years from a series of one-off dates and a few long-term, but ultimately unsatisfying, relationships.
“You know, I had just turned 30, and I had spent all of my 20s in New York working in different jobs and living in different places with roommates,” said Mr. Moeller, who grew up in a large family in Westtown, N.Y. But now, “I had a good job and was in my own apartment, without roommates, and I was really happy with myself,” he said. “I was done trying so hard at dating. I wanted to do things my way.”
Still, the drink, a perfect manhattan, was accepted, and the two talked about their shared interest in design. Before Mr. Summers started his job at David Yurman in 2015, he had worked as an assistant buyer at Gucci and an account executive at Tom Ford.
Mr. Moeller and Mr. Summers eventually left the party together, and they agreed to meet for a first date at a West Village restaurant a few days later.
It went terribly.
“He proceeded to talk business the whole time, and specifically mentioned some companies he’d love to work for that I had worked for in the past,” Mr. Moeller said. That caused him to worry that Mr. Summers was just interested in making use of his design-world connections.
Before he became something of an aesthetic visionary behind the staging of Ralph Lauren’s events in 2011, Mr. Moeller had opened his own design studio in 2008, and had worked for two design houses before that. A few months before that first date, he had finished in second place on HGTV’s “Design Star.”
“I was convinced this guy was all about networking,” Mr. Moeller said, “so we left with a cordial, ‘Maybe I’ll see you around.’”
The next day, Mr. Moeller left with a friend for what he called “a big gay cruise” around Mexico. “I forgot all about Tobin on that cruise,” he said. When he returned, Mr. Summers’s Facebook friend request awaited him.
He suddenly realized that, before the awful first date and the party in Brooklyn, he had internet-stalked Mr. Summers after reading his profile on social media. “I remember thinking, ‘This is the kind of guy I need to date,” Mr. Moeller said. “He had a good job, a nice family, and he seemed really normal.”
Mr. Moeller accepted the friend request and agreed to a second date, which did not go terribly.
“I quickly called him out on how my connections to the places he would love to work for were long gone,” Mr. Moeller said. “He laughed at me, told me he’d never seen ‘Design Star,’ and that he was sorry he came across the way he did. I felt like a narcissistic ass. But we brushed it off, and it turned into a romantic, sweet, getting-to-know-each-other night.”
Then came Reba. Nine months after that, Mr. Summers, who was then living with a roommate in Chelsea, again showed up unannounced on Mr. Moeller’s doorstep, this time with a bunch of boxes and an ultimatum.
“Either I’m moving in with you or I’m breaking up with you,” Mr. Summers said.
They have lived together ever since, first in Mr. Moeller’s East Village studio and then in a one-bedroom in Hell’s Kitchen. In 2015, Mr. Summers proposed to Mr. Moeller during a Paris vacation, and about a year ago, the two began to consider purchasing an 1800s farmhouse just outside Hudson, N.Y., about two hours north of New York City.
But the demands of an old house conflicted with their plans for a lavish September 2016 wedding at a resort in Beacon, N.Y. — which they had already told their friends and relatives about. Mr. Moeller concluded that they could afford the lavish wedding or the renovated house, but not both. Six months before their initial wedding date, he raised the issue on a walk with Mr. Summers.
“I remember him sitting me down,” Mr. Summers said, “and saying he didn’t want to go forward. I thought it was over, that he didn’t want to get married. I was devastated.”
Mr. Moeller quickly explained that they could cut costs by making use of their own design skills, both with the house renovations and wedding.
Mr. Summers was reassured: “I trust him so much and know that he makes everything he touches beautiful. So we made the decision.”
They closed on the house in August 2016, and drove from Manhattan to Hudson many weekends to work on a variety of projects, not limited to removing old linoleum and wallpaper and applying fresh coats of paint.
Just before Mr. Summers’s parents, Mary and Ed Summers, were expected to arrive from Houston for the holidays last year, the pipes froze and a leak sprouted in the kitchen ceiling.
The couple took days off work, found a friend who could drywall the ceiling and regrouped. By the time Mr. Summers pulled up to the house with his parents and their suitcases, a Christmas tree was in place and Mr. Moeller was freshly showered after a rapid-fire cleanup job. “I was wearing a towel and holding a Swiffer in my hand when they walked in,” he said.
A new wedding date was set for April 29 at the Greenpoint Loft in Brooklyn, a former rope factory with exposed pipes and brick walls.
When Mr. Moeller called his mother, Cathie Lane, who lives in Milford, Pa., he told her that they now planned a do-it-yourself wedding. She took a deep breath and asked, “Are you sure?”
“Michael and Tobin are so stubborn,” Ms. Lane said. “They have to have everything just perfect. And I liked the idea of them being able to just write a check at the end of their wedding instead of having to figure out every tiny detail themselves.”
The couple welcomed 154 guests to the wedding and reception, having made all the arrangements themselves: from the flowers and garland to the chairs and tables that friends had helped them haul up to the space. As a finishing touch, they put a white sheet over the altar, attaching it to the factory’s original pulleys. After the ceremony, the sheet was lifted to reveal a sweeping view of Manhattan at dusk.
Instead of the traditional ceremony first, party after, friends and family mingled over a cocktail reception before the service, officiated by Julia Lange-Kessler, a friend of the couple.
Their vows touched on their year of renovations.
“This past year renovating our house together was a crazy bonding experience,” Mr. Summers said. “To me, it symbolizes a key lesson of marriage: There will always be something to work on!”
“Mama He’s Crazy,” by the Judds, was chosen for the mother-son dance. “Both of our mothers liked them growing up, and the song is so sweet,” Mr. Summers said.
But during the entire reception, nary a note by Reba McEntire was heard.
Mr. Summers did his best to defend the omission. “Growing up in Texas as a big country music fan,” he said, “Reba is one of my favorite legends. But none of her songs are very happy!”