COUNTDOWN TO BLISS

On their first real

“date,” Howard Wolfson and

Terri McCullough went to In the Company

of Men -the Neil LaBute movie with the sickeningly misogynistic protagonist

played by Aaron Eckhart.

“It’s like the anti-date movie,” said Mr. Wolfson, 35, former

communications director for both Hillary Clinton’s and Chuck Schumer’s Senate

campaigns, and now the executive director of the Democratic Congressional

Campaign Committee. “But it stimulated a lot of discussion about the

relationship between men and women.”

Indeed.

The couple first met in Washington, D.C., in 1997 while working

for Congresswomen with neighboring offices. Mr. Wolfson’s dedication to his

work impressed Ms. McCullough, 32, who is now the communications director for

PENCIL, a non-profit educational organization that administers the celebrity

“Principal for a Day” program.

“He might have been the only man on the Congressional Caucus on

Women’s Issues,” she said.

Mr. Wolfson’s current post at the DCCC is apparently tantamount

to a permanent campaign. “This job is so stressful; there’s such a combative

edge to it,” he said. “But being at home with Terri is the best possible refuge

from the insanity that is the rest of my life. Every time I walk in the door, I

feel that’s where I belong.”

In August of 2001, the couple went on vacation on a small private

island off the coast of Georgia. They rode bicycles out to the beach and took a

walk on the deserted shoreline. In the middle of their stroll, Mr. Wolfson

began singing Bruce Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind.” Spontaneous

singing wasn’t out of character for him, but when he sang the whole song-about

a couple who falls in love-from start to finish, Ms. McCullough felt a lump

rise in her throat. Sure enough, Mr. Wolfson pulled out the ring-a platinum

Tiffany standard.

“I would like you to be my wife,” Mr. Wolfson said.

Ms. McCullough hesitated. “You have to ask me,” she said. “I want

it in the form of a question.”

He agreed. So did she.

They’ll be wed on June 22 at Wave Hill, a garden in the Bronx.

– Blair Golson

“I’ve

wanted to be married since I was two ,”

said Samantha Kleier, 28, a perky brunette who went to Horace Mann and is now a

publicist for Susan Blond Inc., a firm that represents a lot of pop stars.

She first spotted J.P. Forbes, a 6-foot-2, wavy-haired graphic

designer four years her senior, at a 1996 bash thrown by party promoter Noel

Ashman at the downtown nightclub Metronome. The two hit it off instantly, but

Ms. Kleier is a member of The Rules

generation. “The two girls I was out with said, ‘That guy was so cute who you

were talking to; why did you leave?'” she remembered. “And I said, ‘You know

what? If he wants to find me, he can get my phone number.'”

That’s right, sister!

After a few weeks of dilly-dallying, Mr. Forbes dug up Ms.

Kleier’s phone number in a friend’s old Horace Mann yearbook and asked her to

accompany him to a comp performance of Show

Boat (he’d designed the poster for the show). He was no fan of musicals-“I

thought he was going to ask me to a dinner party or something,” said Ms.

Kleier-but their date was a success, and things steamed along nicely until the

fall of 1999, when Ms. Kleier decided she was ready to get married.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t love Samantha-I love her so much,” said

Mr. Forbes. “It’s just that I wasn’t 100 percent sure.” They split for two

years, then renewed their romance last year.

In October, Mr. Forbes showed up at his patient lady love’s Upper

East Side apartment with a large wrapped box. Ms. Kleier was on the phone with

her mother when she began opening the box, which contained another wrapped box. The young lady screamed and hung up the phone.

Two boxes later, she came face to face with a round diamond ring with tapered

baguettes on the side.

Initially, Ms. Kleier envisioned an “easy-breezy wedding on the

beach … very small, with Magnolia cup cakes.” But soon her inner party-planner

took over, and now the couple expects some 200 guests at the Metropolitan Club

on May 23. Seven bridesmaids will be clad in pale pink Vera Wang gowns. Ms.

Kleier has chosen Peking duck, sushi, steak frites and pasta, a Sylvia

Weinstock cake, and hired the same D.J. that actress Jennifer Lopez used at her wedding. The dress will be designed

by Vicky Tiel, but Ms. Kleier won’t reveal any details. “I’m an old-fashioned

girl,” she said. “I want him to be surprised when he sees me walking down the

aisle.”

– Deborah Netburn

When 28-year-old Benjamin Pergament

was in high school in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Jennifer Mayers was just another one

of his kid sister Erica’s giggly girlfriends from Camp Taconic. “She didn’t

really stand out,” he said. But Jennifer always thought Ben was “kind of cute.”

As Jennifer blossomed into young womanhood, Ben began to think

that maybe the willowy, hip Manhattanite was more than just another kid from

camp. Years passed, and although they only ran into each other on rare

occasions, they kept tabs on one another through Erica. When they did see each

other, Jen would kid around, saying, “You’d make a great husband.”

Summer 2000: He was a year out of law school at Georgetown; she

was a year out of an undergraduate program in early childhood education at the

University of Rhode Island. For Ms. Mayer’s birthday, a group of friends went

to the Jersey Shore. Erica brought along her brown-eyed big brother.

That evening, they had lobster en groupe , then everyone went for drinks at a local bar, the Catch.

Several rounds of martinis later, Jennifer found her childhood crush ushering

her away from the pack for a romantic stroll on the beach.

Later that week, Erica and

Jennifer became roommates in a two-bedroom apartment in Murray Hill, but

Jennifer soon found that she was spending most of her time at Ben’s place in

Hell’s Kitchen. A year later, Ms. Mayer, a master’s candidate in special

education at Hunter College, moved in with Mr. Pergament, by now a litigation

lawyer at Chadbourne & Parke, and they began to talk about marriage. On her

birthday, she proposed to him, but he said he wanted to wait until January or

February before “going down that road.”

On Feb. 13, Jen was tucking into a quick bowl of Life cereal

before starting on her homework. Ben put on Lenny Kravitz’s “Stand By Your

Woman,” knelt and placed a platinum ring with a radiant-cut diamond on her

finger. She washed her cereal down with champagne.

The two are planning an autumn or winter wedding officiated by

Rabbi Daniel Alder of Brotherhood Synagogue on Gramercy Park, who did the

bride’s bat mitzvah, followed by a honeymoon in Hawaii.

– Anna Jane Grossman