Peter Derek Walters didn't think a swarming of bees could stop him from proposing to Ray Aaron Quintero in New York on Fire Island.
Walters, 48 years old, said, 'I secretly hid two Cartier ring under leaves and branches'. He had painstakingly and secretly prepared a picnic overlooking Great South Bay in June 2020 for this special moment. He also left Champagne and wrote "Marry Me" in the sand.
It was all ruined a few hours after, while on the road with Mr. Quintero (43), who has had a deathly fear of bees ever since he was young. Mr. Quintero fled as soon as he spotted the bee swarm.
Mr. Walters was not happy and walked for another 30 minutes to collect everything. He then resorted later to Plan B.
They met on a Sunday afternoon in September 2018, when friends gathered in Boxers, an gay bar in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen. They were connected by a mutual friend whom they both casually dated.
"Hey, good morning, I'm Peter and you must be Ray," said Walters. He recognized the friend from a photo on Facebook taken in Mykonos.
Mr. Walters is an identical twin from Elong Elong in New South Wales. He grew up on a cattle and grain farm where feral pigs roamed freely. He considered bees to be the most important insects in the ecosystem. In the village, his family ran a ranch supply business.
Mr. Walters is the Chief Executive of Americas for Inquisitive Education Publishing, an Australian company. He graduated from the University of Southern Queensland, Australia, where he earned a M.B.A.
Quintero, who is originally from Tucson, Ariz. thought, "Is that tall, strapping Australian speaking to me?" Quintero graduated from the University of Arizona and is now a partner at Healthsperien in Washington, which specializes in health care strategy and policy.
The group went to Rise Bar in the neighborhood for their second meeting. They chatted and exchanged phone numbers on the sidelines.
It was the beginning of a friendship. Mr. Walters said. They began to hang out together two or three times a week and more during the Christmas season.
Their friendship continued when Mr. Quintero moved to Washington during the holidays after working remotely for an entire year from New York.
Three weeks later, like a good friend Mr. Quintero was there for Mr. Walters in his open house on Australia Day/Mr. Walters' birthday, where 80 guests munched on Vegemite and Tim Tams, assorted Aussie lollies, at Mr. Walters' Chelsea apartment, which had been decorated with Australian flags.
Walters explained that he usually invites a few friends to dinner before inviting the rest of his party. I invited Ray to the party.
The two twirled into a kiss later, as they walked to a bar.
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The next night, they went on their first date and had tapas at Salinas, a restaurant in West Chelsea that became their favorite.
The two began to alternate seeing each other via Amtrak Acela every weekend. In March, they took a trip together to St. Barths which was described by both as a'magical acknowledgement' of one another.
To slow down the pace, in May they decided to take an "intermission". In June, six weeks after Mr. Quintero had flown into New York from Tel Aviv to celebrate world gay pride, the two reunited for a Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fund-raiser.
Quintero replied, 'We are going to make sure that this act is the last one.'
In September, they spent a vacation in Spain.
When the pandemic struck in March 2020, they quarantined on Fire Island with friends for a whole month and then rented a place by the water for three more months.
Mr. Walters said, "We never cooked before and we leaned on our recipes and made lasagna and Enchiladas."
He added that his friends had named them the Chefettes. Soon, they were proudly wearing black aprons printed with "chefettes" in teal.
In June, on a whim Mr. Walters proposed to his girlfriend before he received the two identical platinum rings he ordered online. The bees thwarted his real proposal two days later. Then, that evening, success came. Mr. Walters got on his knees on their balcony, as the moon rose above the ocean. Quintero found the second ring that Mr. Walters had hidden after he proposed. He then got down on his knees and proposed.
In November 2022, they will celebrate their wedding on St. Barths.
Madeline Plasencia of the Manhattan Marriage Bureau's city clerk staff officiated their civil ceremony on April 21. Their mutual friend who introduced them was their witness.
They planned to exchange vows on St. Barths on May 6 in front of 64 guests at the Le Sereno Hotel. Quintero stated that it was not only an accomplishment to conquer the bee fear, but also to marry in the location where they fell in love.