Somersaulting Manta Rays Capped Off Their Engagement
On Memorial Day weekend in 2015, Tim Wildin and two friends arrived at the Equinox gym in the Flatiron district of Manhattan only to discover that their beloved high-intensity interval-training class was being replaced that day by another workout, led by Christopher Vo.
“Wow, who is this person,” Mr. Wildin, 41, recalled thinking when he saw Mr. Vo, 36, for the first time.
Soon Mr. Wildin started going out of his way to take more classes with Mr. Vo, a lead fitness instructor at Equinox locations around the city, and a founding trainer at Liteboxer, a digital fitness program. Mr. Wildin, then living in the West Village, rode his bicycle as far as West 92nd Street to work out with Mr. Vo.
“He has such a beautiful light to his personality, and a most beautiful smile,” Mr. Wildin said of Mr. Vo, who graduated with a B.F.A. in dance from Juilliard and has appeared in several Broadway shows, including his role as King Simon of Legree during the 2015 to 2016 revival of “The King and I.”
Ninety-second Street was “very far for a downtown boy like me,” said Mr. Wildin, who graduated from N.Y.U. with bachelor’s degrees in theater and sociology and is now the chief executive and co-founder of Vertage, a plant-based cheese company.
In class, Mr. Wildin got Mr. Vo’s attention, too. “He carried the heaviest weights, and wore a tank top that showed off his muscles,” said Mr. Vo, who asked Mr. Wildin if he would like to grab coffee sometime after a class at the Equinox near Lincoln Center in early September 2015.
A few days later they met at Joe Coffee Company in the West Village, where they bonded over fitness, food and music — and shared a first kiss.
“My friends mandated I be single,” said Mr. Wildin, who was then in the final months of a long-term relationship. “But, here comes Chris Vo and I don’t want to spend time with anyone else.”
Later in September, Mr. Wildin, who was born in Bangkok, took his mother, who is Thai and now lives on the Caribbean island Bonaire, to see “The King and I.” There, they were treated to a backstage tour by Mr. Vo, who was raised in Dallas and whose parents are Vietnamese and came to this country as refugees.
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By January 2016, they had officially become a couple. A favorite memory of those early days, Mr. Wildin said, was when Mr. Vo made him a breakfast omelet with fish sauce that blew him away.
In his family, Mr. Wildin said, “fish sauce is the way we season things.”
That March, Mr. Vo moved into the NoMad apartment where Mr. Wildin had been living since December 2015, and brought with him a 50-gallon coral reef tank for salt water fish.
“You have to see the real deal under the sea,” said Mr. Wildin, an avid scuba diver, who later gave Mr. Vo scuba diving lessons as a gift. (Their passion for diving would take them to Bonaire, where Mr. Vo was certified, and as far as Raja Ampat in Indonesia.)
In July 2016, they adopted a Havanese puppy, Kobi, and a year later they bought a condo in an old factory building in Hudson Yards.
Mr. Wildin proposed to Mr. Vo in November 2019, after the couple went snorkeling and spotted two octopuses linking tentacles while on a trip to the Maldives. They then headed to an atoll by speedboat to swim with a school of somersaulting manta rays.
The somersaulting was “an expression so jubilant and celebratory,” said Mr. Vo, that he likened it to “confetti.”
They wed on Feb. 5 at Avalon Palm Springs, a hotel in Palm Springs, Calif. Charles Santos, a mentor of Mr. Vo who was ordained by Open Ministries for the occasion, officiated before 86 vaccinated guests.
The reception that followed featured a first dance Mr. Vo choreographed with several disco-inspired dips and hip bumps to Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know,” Mr. Wildin’s favorite song growing up. Their guests, who before the event received a video of four easy steps to rehearse, were encouraged to participate.
“It culminated,” said Mr. Vo, “in a glorious flash mob.”