Peter Derek Walters never thought a swarm of bees would get in the way of his proposal to Ray Aaron Quintero on Fire Island in New York.
“I hid two Cartier rings under leaves and branches,” said Mr. Walters, 48, who had secretly and painstakingly set up a picnic overlooking the Great South Bay for the special moment in June 2020. He had also dropped off Champagne and wrote “Marry Me” in the sand.
But, a few hours later while en route with Mr. Quintero, 43, who has been deathly afraid of bees since he was a child, it was all ruined. As soon as Mr. Quintero spotted the swarm he bolted.
Mr. Walters, not a happy camper, walked another 30 minutes by himself to gather everything up, and later resorted to Plan B.
The two met one Sunday afternoon in September 2018 when friends gathered at Boxers, a gay bar in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. Their connection was a mutual friend, whom, coincidentally, each casually dated.
“Hey, g’day, I’m Peter, you must be Ray,” said Mr. Walters, who recognized him from a Facebook photo taken with that friend in Mykonos, Greece.
Mr. Walters, an identical twin, from Elong Elong, a small village in New South Wales, Australia, grew up in a house abutting his family’s cattle and grain ranch where feral pigs, emus, kangaroos and goannas wandered in from the bush. (He considered bees the most important insect in the ecosystem.) His family also ran a ranch supplies business in the village.
Mr. Walters, the chief executive of the Americas at Inquisitive, an Australian-based education publishing company, graduated from the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, from which he received an M.B.A.
“Is that tall strapping Australian talking to me?,” Mr. Quintero, originally from Tucson, Ariz., recalled thinking. He graduated from the University of Arizona, and is now a managing partner of Healthsperien, a Washington-based health care policy and business strategy consultancy.
Later on, during their first meeting, the group barhopped to Rise Bar nearby. The two chatted on the sidelines and swapped phone numbers.
“It was the spark of a friendship,” Mr. Walters said, and soon they began hanging out two or three days a week, and even more as the Christmas season revved up.
When Mr. Quintero, who had been working remotely from New York for a year, moved back to Washington over the holidays, their friendship continued.
Like a good friend, three weeks later, Mr. Quintero showed up for Mr. Walters at his birthday/Australia Day open house in January where about 80 guests snacked on Vegemite, Tim Tams and assorted Aussie lollies at Mr. Walter’s Chelsea apartment decked out with Australian flags.
“I normally have a small group of friends for dinner before the rest of the party arrives,” Mr. Walters said. “I invited Ray to this.”
Later, on their way to a bar with guests, the two lagged behind, and twirled around into a kiss.
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“We were giddy, and holding hands,” Mr. Walters said, and the next evening they had tapas on their first official date at Salinas in West Chelsea, which became their favorite restaurant.
They soon took turns seeing each other every weekend via Amtrak Acela, and in March took a trip to St. Barths, which they both described as the “magical acknowledgment of each other.”
By May, to slow things down, they took what they called an “intermission.” Six weeks later when Mr. Quintero flew into New York in June after celebrating world gay pride in Tel Aviv, they reunited at a fund-raiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
“Maybe we’re ready for Act Two,” Mr. Quintero said “We’re going to make this act the one that lasts.”
That summer they went to Fire Island several times and in September they vacationed in Spain.
In March 2020, when the pandemic hit, they quarantined with friends on Fire Island for a month, and then rented their own place along the water for another three months.
“We had never cooked and leaned into our recipes,” said Mr. Walters, “and made lasagna and enchiladas.”
“Our friends named us the chefettes,” he added, and soon they proudly donned black aprons with “chefettes” printed in teal.
On a whim, in June, Mr. Walters got down on one knee for a pre-proposal before the two identical platinum bands he had ordered online arrived. Two days later, with rings in hand, his real proposal was thwarted by the bees. But that evening came success. Mr. Walters got down on one knee on their balcony as the moon rose over the ocean. After Mr. Walters proposed, Mr. Quintero got the other ring from where Mr. Walters had hidden it. Then he got down on one knee and proposed.
“I have since embraced bees,” said Mr. Quintero, who from that day overcame his phobia, and in November 2022 they celebrated their engagement on St. Barths, where they also planned to celebrate their union.
On April 21, Madeline Plasencia, on the city clerk’s staff, officiated at their civil ceremony at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau, with their mutual friend, who introduced them, as their witness.
Then, on May 6, they planned to exchange vows at the Le Sereno hotel on St. Barths, before 64 guests. “It’s not only empowering to overcome the fear of bees,” Mr. Quintero said, “but also to choose to get married in the place we fell in love and bring together friends and family closest to us.”