Countdown to Bliss

Emma Gray and Christopher Lee

Met: April 1998

Engaged: July 5, 2001

Projected Wedding Date:

Sept. 7, 2002

They met in the Polo Lounge of the big, pink Beverly Hills Hotel.

Emma Gray was a painter from London, on holiday visiting family. Chris Lee, who was working the celebrity beat for People magazine, had been recruited by her stepsister to take them on the town.

“There was plastic surgery everywhere!” said the lanky, brown-eyed Ms. Gray, 31, who had donned a checked gray wool Trilby hat, a fitted blazer and Manolo Blahniks for the occasion.

“I thought she was uniquely stylish,” said Mr. Lee, a tall, 31-year-old hunk. “She kind of peered up at me, half-smiling, from beneath the brim of the hat.”

They piled into her stepsister’s Volkswagen and cruised around, bonding over their shared passion for Muhammad Ali, Norman Mailer and Nikes.

“I felt a lot better about my bachelorhood knowing that cool women like her were in the world,” said Mr. Lee.

When he was assigned to interview the actor Ewan McGregor in London the following year, it was Ms. Gray’s turn to play tour guide: a Jackson Pollock show at the Tate Modern, absinthe at the Chelsea Arts Club …. Before parting, they exchanged one wee, dry kiss.

An intercontinental penpalship ensued. “I’d run to the mailbox every day, and I’d put all my smarts as a writer into writing love letters to her,” said Mr. Lee, now an associate editor for Gear .

By summer, he’d decided to attend the Columbia School of Journalism, and she’d decided she might get truly “fuddy-duddy” if she remained in London any longer. So she got a job at the Anton Kern Gallery, and they moved into a one-bedroom with a little roach problem (Mr. Lee likes to cook) on the Lower East Side.

She’s now wearing two rings: a “ghetto-fabulous” one spelling “Emma” that they got together in a moment of whimsy, and the 1.28-carat platinum-set Tiffany diamond he bought to appease her very proper family.

They’ll be married where Mick and Bianca did it, on Kings Road in London, celebrate beneath fireworks at her aunt’s house near Bath, and honeymoon in Turkey. “Chris and I could just sail off into the universe together and be entirely happy,” said Ms. Gray.

Bridgette Almstead and Bruce Gavioli

Met: July 24, 1999

Engaged: March 9, 2002

Projected Wedding Date:

May or June 2003

Girls, if he loves you first thing in the morning, he’ll love you always .

“I had the weirdest dream last night,” mumbled Bridgette Almstead to her longtime bedmate, Bruce Gavioli, one perfectly ordinary a.m. “What did you dream?”

She was dressed for sleep in a blue-and-white plaid nightgown, contact-less, makeup-less, deep conditioner in her hair. He was wearing boxers.

“I was dreaming about spending my life with you,” said Mr. Gavioli in his Staten Island drawl. “As a matter of fact, would you marry me?” He pulled out a white-gold ring with a round 1.5-carat diamond and baguettes.

That was an eye-opener!

“I looked like Edith Bunker!” complained the blond, beautiful Ms. Almstead, 29, an employment recruiter for a staffing firm in midtown.

Her Archie is a bespectacled 31-year-old senior manager at Deloitte & Touche. She approached him after he walked, unsuspecting, into a bar one frisky girls’ night out on the Jersey Shore.

Their first actual date was also at a bar. And their second. And their third. “There are a lot of bars in this story,” said Mr. Gavioli, who calls himself a simple “beer and pretzels” kind of guy. “Sometimes we go out and there’s a couple sitting at a table next to us, and they’re mute …. But we’re not like that. We laugh. We entertain each other.”

They live in a two-bedroom in Hoboken with sweeping views, right near the PATH.

“I can sit on a couch next to him and have the greatest time,” says Ms. Almstead, who was raised in Oklahoma. “I’m so lucky.”

“She’s not ‘New York City,’” said Mr. Gavioli. “There’s a certain coldness that you develop being in the city, but Bridgette has a kindness about her that people sometimes seem to lose here.”

Coralie Charriol and Dennis I. Paul

Met: Aug. 21, 2000

Engaged: Feb. 15, 2002

Projected Wedding Date:

Winter or spring 2003

Brace yourself: They’re gorgeous and rich.

She is Coralie Charriol, 25, the honey-blond, almond-eyed heiress to the Charriol luxury-brand empire, which is kind of like the Cartier of Southeast Asia. She designs her own eponymous line of handbags, with lots of bright colors. She was born to French parents, raised in Hong Kong, schooled in London-”international,” if you know what we mean. When she’d come to Manhattan, there’d be dinner parties every night of the week.

He is Dennis Paul, 29, tall (6-foot-5), tan, with a dark pompadour and a money-management partnership with Salomon Smith Barney. He walked into Le Bilboquet on East 63rd Street one night-”It’s where we go to look for cute Eurotrash girls,” he said-and saw Ms. Charriol flanked by eight men, like Scarlett O’Hara at the barbecue.

“You were too beautiful to talk to,” he told her later. He sat at another table, trying to make her jealous by chatting up other women. She didn’t notice him.

Later in the week, their paths crossed again at Bond Street, the NoHo sushi restaurant. On a whim, he cornered her and planted a kiss. “It was very take-charge,” she said. “I like that!”

After a steamy weekend together in London a month later, she returned to Geneva, smitten. There, an acquaintance happened to tell her that he’d spent the weekend consoling a heartbroken friend, miserable on account of a certain louse. “Perhaps you know him?” he asked. “His name is Dennis Paul.”

Uh-oh! Ms. Charriol did what any right-thinking heiress would do: ignored Mr. Paul’s phone calls and took off for the South of France to race cars on ice. She won the female division in the Formule France competition ( vr-room! ) … but victory was lonely.

“I don’t know why,” she said, “but I ended up calling Dennis.”

When she arrived in Hong Kong the next day on business, she found champagne, strawberries and a masseuse waiting in her room. By the end of her trip, she decided to hop a plane to New York and surprise him. “In a middle seat in economy class,” she said. “It was all that was left!”

But he wasn’t in his office when she got there. A cooperative building manager called Mr. Paul’s cell phone to tell him he had a “huge package” waiting for him, but he was busy lunching with his identical twin brother (true story).

“Just put it in my office,” Mr. Paul instructed over the cell phone.

“I can’t,” said the building manager. “It’s big, and it’s leaking.”

He left his brother and ran to the office-and there she was, in the corner with her massive suitcases.

“She was like a tornado in my life,” said Mr. Paul. “She’d roar in, rip everything to pieces, then disappear.”

A few Roman holidays together tamed the tornado, though, and the pair began keeping house in a sunny two-bedroom near Central Park.

This winter, they took a ski vacation to Ms. Charriol’s family chalet in Megève, France. On the plane (business class this time), she never noticed the little matchbox stuck in Mr. Paul’s sock, which contained a Graff ring with over five carats’ worth of diamonds in a platinum setting that he’d designed himself.

When he presented the box to her by a babbling brook, she pushed it open and thought she’d found a Kinder surprise -Eurospeak for Cracker Jack prize.

Michael Graber and Audrey Ormsten

Met: March 20, 2000

Engaged: Nov. 4, 2001

Projected Wedding Date:

June 16, 2002

As Michael Graber puffed through his fourth New York City Marathon, he kept patting down a little bulge-no, not that little bulge-stuck into the waist pocket of his very short shorts. Still there? Still there. Still there? Yup. Phew!

Near the 18-mile mark at First Avenue and 81st Street, his girlfriend, Audrey Ormsten, was waiting with friends to cheer him on. When he reached her, he stopped and wobbled a bit as he tried to get down on one knee. “My equilibrium was a little off,” he explained.

“I thought maybe he was having a heart attack!” said Ms. Ormsten.

When he finally achieved the desired position, out came the gold ring embedded with a sapphire and a diamond-a family heirloom that had been sitting in a safety-deposit box for three decades.

The crowd around them roared as Ms. Ormsten agreed to join her swain in the marathon of life. Then she grabbed his hand and they loped together up the avenue to announce the news to his parents, who were waiting eight blocks up.

Mr. Graber then went on to complete the last eight miles, clocking in at 4 hours, 53 minutes.

“I like that he wanted to achieve both goals-proposing and finishing the marathon,” said Ms. Ormsten, a human-resources consultant.

“The whole thing probably made me lose 15 to 20 minutes,” said Mr. Graber, 33.

But think what he’s gained!

The auburn-haired, green-eyed Ms. Ormsten, 32, met this muscular, goateed mensch (he used to work for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and plans to teach public-school math in the fall) at a Purim party hosted by the Manhattan Jewish Experience, a cultural center on the Upper West Side, two years ago. They were both uncostumed in a crowd that included folks dressed as football players, firemen and several Old Testament characters.

“He was towering over all the shorter Jewish men,” said Ms. Ormsten.

They live in Forest Hills and are planning a wedding at the Swan Club in Nassau County, officiated by a lady cousin of Mr. Graber’s who is also a rabbi.