Nico Santos and Zeke Smith Married in Palm Springs Wedding (Exclusive) – PEOPLE

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Nico Santos and Zeke Smith are married!

The two-time Survivor contestant, 35, and the Superstore actor, 44 — who got engaged during the 2022 GLAAD Media Awards — tied the knot on Nov. 4 during a weekend wedding extravaganza at the Parker Hotel in Palm Springs, Calif.

“For us, we’ve been together for almost six years. We own a home together, have a joint bank account. We’re each other’s emergency contacts. By all sorts of usual metrics we are married,” Smith told PEOPLE in an exclusive interview ahead of the wedding.

“But actually having the ceremony, making it legal, it’s about becoming a family. We’re in it forever. Through thick and thin and easy and hard. We’re going to be the person that’s there for the other one.”

Adds Santos: “Weddings and getting married, I never thought this would be part of my life,” he says, as Smith notes, “[marriage] wasn’t a reality for us until less than 10 years ago. It wasn’t something really, once we understood ourselves to be queer, we thought was part of our timeline.”

Smith continues: “But now that we’ve done all this planning and the meaning and the significance of the day is dawning upon us, I’m just really excited.”

Zeke Smith (left) and Nico Santos tied the knot in Palm Springs, California.

Logan Cole Photography

The couple incorporated bright neon decor throughout their wedding weekend, along with wood elements, rattan, fringe and woven grass. They worked with Nicole Gillis, a wedding planner from Nicole Alexandra Designs and Cobra Lily Florals, to bring their wedding vision to life.

“We come from very different places. [Santos is from Manila, Philippines, and Smith is from Edmond, Oklahoma.] And yet, despite our vastly different upbringings and life stories, we’ve found a home within each other,” says the couple. The pair incorporated natural woven accents that evoked Filipino design aesthetics to reflect Santos’ background. Elements including leather, fringe and Western movie-themed posters are a nod to Smith’s.

When the couple originally chose their wedding venue and date, they didn’t realize their celebration would fall during Pride Weekend in Palm Springs. But after a friend informed them shortly after they had booked, the pair took it as a sign.

“It’s a big gay wedding,” Santos adds. “A lot of our guests are queer as well, so we thought let’s just stick to the date and have it during Pride weekend. So it’ll be extra gay.”

Santos and Smith’s weekend-long celebration kicked off on Friday with an event the couple branded a “Cheeky Tiki Kiki Party.” They rented out a tiki bar and served burgers and tiki cocktails and asked guests to wear Hawaiian shirts or caftans.

“We’re not very serious people,” Santos adds, “which is why we both work in comedy, so we’re calling it our silly bougie wedding.”

Nico Santos (left) and Zeke Smith.
Nico Santos/Instagram

The following day, the ceremony began at 4 p.m. Actor Mark McKinney, from Superstore and The Kids in the Hall, officiated at the altar. Both Santos and Smith had best men standing beside them as they exchanged vows.

During the nuptials, the duo incorporated a reading from Shakespeare, a veil and cord ceremony and nods to each of their cultures. Santos wore a “sassified” version of a traditional Filipino barong, while Smith rocked black lizard cowboy boots. They also had a surprise drag Nicole Kidman appearance, performing the Oscar winner’s AMC Theatres “We Make Movies Better” speech and a reading of iconic lines from romantic comedies.

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On a more meaningful note, “For me, I really wanted to have this churchy moment during the ceremony where everybody stands up and sings ‘The Greatest Love of All’ together,” Smith adds.

Guests included Santos’ fellow cast members from Superstore and Crazy Rich Asians and former Survivor contestants Hannah Shapiro and Bret LaBelle.

While planning their nuptials came with challenges, the pair says it was a beautiful experience. “The wedding has made us grow as a couple,” says Smith. “And in any growth situation, there are going to be speed bumps and it’s going to be hard. But it has really kind of forged us to the next level of intimacy and trust. All that matters is you, me, I do’s and forever.”

After the ceremony, the newlyweds hosted a cocktail hour with signature drinks featuring an old- fashioned called “Zeke’s New Fangled” and the “Drink Your Juice, Nico” vodka cocktail, plus passed apps including crab beignet, lamb lollipops, mini BLTs in baguettes and a chili con queso tortilla trumpet.

Seated dinner included citrus BBQ duck confit, pan seared sea bass, USDA prime New York strip and roasted spaghetti squash. As a sweet treat, the couple served a four-layer mocha cake before everyone headed to the dance hall.

Midway through the reception, the couple wanted to “inject a new wave of energy” so they surprised guests with a special performance. “We’re both big lovers of drag and, considering its Palm Springs Pride, wanted to find a way to incorporate local drag entertainers into our wedding celebration,” the couple explains. Smith enlisted his friend and Season 1 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Ongina for help putting together a “small roster of amazing queens” to perform.

While the wedding is everything they ever wanted, the couple feels most lucky that they get to spend their lives together.

“I love Nico’s toughness, because Nico is all elegance and silks and diamonds on the outside, but really he has this story of impossible odds of coming to the United States, trying to make it in comedy and dealing with lots of health issues — and he never lets it get him down,” Smith says.

“He never lets it stop him. He just keeps going forward. Most people don’t have that resiliency and that inner drive. I think he’s the toughest I’ve ever seen, and that’s why I’m so excited to be his partner,” he adds.

Zeke Smith (left) and Nico Santos attend the 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards.
Stefanie Keenan/Getty

Santos and Smith first met at the GLADD Media Awards almost six years ago. Their plus-ones knew each other and introduced the two at the afterparty. Since then, they’ve been inseparable.

“Early on when we were just sort of getting to know each other, Zeke took me on a magical date in New York City. We saw SpongeBob: The Musical on Broadway. We had this amazing dinner, and then we just walked in Times Square and had a really fun touristy romantic moment,” Santos says.

“Then after that time in New York, we happened to be away from each other for about 10 days,” Santos continues.

“We just longed and pinned for each other then and I think that’s when we really knew that there was something really special here,” Smith adds.

Now with their wedding behind them, Santos and Smith are headed off to Joshua Tree National Park for a mini-moon. In 2024, they plan to travel through Italy – from Rome to the Amalfi Coast to Tuscany – for their true honeymoon adventure together.

Looking forward, they also hope to adopt a bernedoodle and name it Nathan Lane.

“It’s just really great to finally have met your person who is going to hold your hand and will have your back no matter what,” Santos says. “It just makes life a little less scary to chase your dreams and the fear of falling on your face.”

He adds: “It just makes everything a little less scary pursuing that because you know that somebody’s got your back and will catch you.”

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