Watermark’s Wedding Bells: William Constantinou and Francisco Lopez

William Constantinou came out later in life. He was around 30 years old and from the get-go, told himself he would never date someone significantly younger than him.
“I didn’t want to go through any of that childish stuff,” he says.

The New York native had been living in Philadelphia for more than a decade and began frequenting the city’s LGBTQ clubs. One night he crossed paths with Francisco “Frankie” Lopez – a Philly native known by many in the Tampa Bay area by his drag persona Monique Love.

Lopez was just 22 at the time. He’d brought a date to the club and was also initially flirting with one of Constantinou’s friends when the two first met. It was everything Constantinou didn’t think he wanted in a boyfriend.

But there was an undeniable, immediate attraction between the two, Constantinou says. Even after making snarky comments to Lopez, they couldn’t get enough of one another.
Even in such a large club – it had five dance clubs across three floors – they kept crossing paths. By the end of the night, Lopez asked him if he had a boyfriend.

When Constantinou replied, “No,” Lopez quickly asked, “You want one?”

They spent the entire day on the phone and made plans to meet the following Sunday. They lived on opposite sides of Philly – Constantinou on the north side, Lopez on the south side – so whenever they met up, they hung out in Center City.

“The gayborhood,” Constantinou says.

During their first few years together, the happy couple had spent some time visiting Tampa Bay, where Constantinou’s brother and partner lived. His mother and grandmother eventually moved here as well.

Three years after they started dating, when Constantinou was laid off when his employer downsized, they decided it was a good time to join them. They moved to St. Petersburg in 2003.

“I thought, ‘why don’t we just move away?’” Lopez says. “It was something different, a change, ‘let’s just get up and go.’”

They got rid of anything they couldn’t fit in their car and moved in with Constantinou’s brother. This gave them time to find work and establish themselves in the area. Before long, they found an apartment around the corner from the Chattaway, the popular restaurant in in St. Petersburg.

Lopez found work at the Suncoast Resort Hotel, a former LGBTQ staple, and also worked at Chattaway. Working at Suncoast, he met many of the area’s drag performers. In Philly, he’d won several competitions and he looked up to his new friends – especially Alicia Markstone and Esme Russell – who encouraged him to begin performing locally.

“It just took off from there,” he says. He began building a name for himself as Monique Love, performing just about everywhere in the area. Currently, he performs primarily at Punky’s Bar & Grill.

He and Constantinou built a home for themselves. They’d talked about getting married, especially after marriage equality, but they weren’t eager to rush.

“We knew were committed to each other,” Constantinou says. “We weren’t going anywhere. For us, that commitment was more important.”

Then, two years ago, a friend asked Lopez why the two weren’t married. Lopez jokingly responded, “I don’t know. He’s never asked me.”

With their 20th anniversary approaching in 2020, Constantinou decided to surprise Lopez with a proposal. They normally host a big Christmas Eve party, so he decided he would pop the question then.

But he needed to plan. Every holiday, Lopez gifts a crystal angel figurine to one or two people in his life who need it that year. In 2020, Constantinou told him to order an extra angel, but wouldn’t tell him why.

He also needed their friends on board, while keeping the secret. He consulted them on his engagement ring and proposal plan. While they were helpful, they also posed another problem.

“Everybody in town knows Frankie,” Constantinou says. “To keep a secret from him is hard.”

That year, more people RSVP’d yes to their Christmas party than normal. “They all wanted to see me propose,” Constantinou explains.

There were more people at their party than had ever attended before – and they were used to big parties, he adds. “There were so many people between our Christmas lights, so many people covering our front lawn. So, we did it on the front stoop in front of everybody.”

After Lopez gave out his first angel figurine, Constantinou pulled out another angel and the ring box. “I said, ‘It’s been 20 years,’” he recalls. “‘Will you marry me?’ And he called me an ‘a**hole.’ Then he said yes, and everybody cheered.”

They planned to get married in May 2020, but their plans were pushed back because of the pandemic. Still, they wanted to get married before the end of the year to mark their 20th. That led them to organize an event at Chattaway in October.

“We said whatever happens, happens,” Constantinou says. “It was simple. It was everything we wanted and more, and we were glad we waited.”

Engagement Date: Dec. 24, 2019

Wedding Date: Oct. 3, 2020

Officiant: The couple’s two best friends, Cheryl Magee and LA King

Wedding Venue: Chattaway

Catering: Chattaway

Wedding Song: “All of Me”

Photographer: Tristan King and James King, Jr.

Music: DJ Hoof

Colors: Burgundy and navy blue

Wedding Cake: Dee Workman

Flowers: Purchased from Artistic Flowers; arranged by Chattaway staff.

Do you have an interesting wedding or engagement story you’d like to share with Watermark readers? If so, email the details to Editor@WatermarkOnline.com for consideration as a future feature. 

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