Countdown to Bliss

Benjamin Lehmann and Wendy Marston

Met: Dec. 29, 2001

Engaged: Dec. 26, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: September 2003

Wendy Marston grew up in a fundamentalist Christian town in Colorado with a secular Jewish father and an Episcopalian-turned-atheist mother-intellectuals who read Thomas Mann. “We were basically raised nothing, but we were told that we were Jewish,” said Ms. Marston, a lissome, blond 33. But when she went to college at Columbia, she found herself amid hordes of self-proclaimed ” real Jews” and suddenly felt, well, goyish . “Suddenly people were like, ‘Your mother’s not Jewish? You’re not Jewish!'” she said. She was eventually moved to found HalfJew.com, a Web site devoted to “halfies” like herself and her fiancé, Ben Lehmann (also Gwyneth Paltrow and Balthus).

Mr. Lehmann, 35 and sandy-haired, was raised in Paris by expatriate Americans: a Protestant mother and a Reform Jewish father (who wanted to bring France its first water parks, and, alas, succeeded). “I always thought I had this whole Jewish identity, but then I moved to New York,” he said. He found work as a production assistant for Sesame Street and met Ms. Marston, author of The Hypochondriac’s Handbook and a former freelance journalist, at a party thrown by a New York Times Metro reporter. “Everyone there was covering the Pataki campaign,” she said. “It was like the most boring party in the world.”

The two of them got drunk and found themselves locked in an impromptu tango, whereupon Mr. Lehmann told Ms. Marston she had a “really cute butt.”

“I was astounded, but also really gratified,” Ms. Marston said. She had just dumped her boyfriend, a chef, and had planned to revel in her singledom, but found herself Googling Mr. Lehmann soon after the party. “At first I sort of thought he was a computer programmer, and I was so excited,” she said. “In my 20’s, I had the idea that I needed to be dating a résumé. I thought, ‘I’m going to go out with someone who doesn’t have an interesting job! I’m really growing up!'”

But then they went for drinks at the Park Bar near Union Square. “I was like, ‘Oh … he does have a cool job,'” said Ms. Marston, now a pharmaceutical ad copywriter. “But then again, it was Sesame Street -not like MTV.” And the physical pull was strong. “He looks like a Muppet,” she said. “He looks kind of like Grover, if Grover wasn’t blue.”

Six months later, she sublet her single-girl pad in the Village, with its Pepto Bismol–colored walls, and moved to Mr. Lehmann’s apartment in Greenwood, Brooklyn, where she lets him leave his stuffed Cookie Monster on the bed. “She understands human frailty,” he said.

They were sipping coffee with his father at Café Deux Magots on a trip to Paris, and Lehmann père -who made plenty of francs from those water parks-offered some comment about how he’d help the couple if they wanted to move to France.

“We’re going to get married, you know!” Ms. Marston blurted.

Her chéri was a bit taken aback. “She’s always been one step ahead of me,” he said.

He caught up soon enough, giving her a round diamond in a Victorian setting, circa 1900, that had belonged to his great-grandmother.

Their nondenominational wedding will be in New York City at an as-yet-undetermined venue. “We’re thinking of serving shellfish and salami,” Mr. Lehmann said. Oy vey .

Colleen Challenger and David Schropfer Jr.

Met: Spring 1997

Engaged: Nov. 22, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: March 29, 2003

On a recent morning, David Schropfer woke up and spelled “I Love You” in Q-Tips on his bathroom counter. “He’s just an amazing man,” said his golden-haired, clean-eared fiancée, Colleen Challenger. “I’ve never felt so safe and so deeply loved.”

They were colleagues first, in Washington, D.C. He asked her to look at his massive, Dostoyevskian tome of a business plan for his Internet startup (she says it was 200 pages; he swears it was 85, tops). “I was looking to have her dot the I’s and cross the T’s, and she said, ‘No problem,'” said Mr. Schropfer, 35, brown-haired and broad-shouldered. “But then, a couple days later, she called and said, ‘I’m just going to rewrite the whole thing.'” She whittled it down to a few dozen pages, which he found “brave.” He asked her out, but she said no. “Collaborating with someone I barely knew and having him trust me-that was just sooo sexy,” said Ms. Challenger, also 35. “But I just didn’t want to cross that line with someone I was working with.”

When the millennium arrived, she moved to New York City to be vice president of marketing at Site59.com, a travel Web site (it was later bought out, and she now does freelance marketing). A year later, Mr. Schropfer cut his cyberlosses and got a job as a senior vice president at IDT Telecom, a megacommunications company, and a one-bedroom apartment on 13th Street.” When I got settled, I got a phone book, flipped it open and saw she lived a block away,” he said. “I almost fell off my chair.” They began referring to the strip of 13th Street between their apartments as “the hallway.”

“We went through the ‘non-date’ date thing, where we’d say we were just friends hanging out,” Ms. Challenger said. “But then, one night, I sat down next to him on the sofa and he kissed me. We both sort of pulled away, like, ‘Do we really want to go here?’ And 30 seconds later, we decided yeah, we did. The rest is history …. We were talking about marriage within a month of that kiss.”

It was a rainy night when he proposed, with a two-carat emerald-cut diamond set in platinum and flanked by four trillions, cozy inside a white stretch limo parked on-where else?-13th Street. They stopped at Pravda in Soho for martinis and beluga caviar, then took the long way around Central Park back to Union Square Café, where they ate dinner at the special, high-up, secluded “engagement table,” from which the lucky betrothed can gaze down on the poor singletons below.

“We were just giddy,” Ms. Challenger said.

“She’s so perfect,” said Mr. Schropfer. “She changed my definition of what perfect was.”

They’ll be married at the Whitby Castle in Rye, N.Y., and honeymoon in the Caribbean, on an island with no phones or Internet access.

Sandra Gentile and Shi-Chieh (Suchi) Lee

Met: July 1999

Engaged: Dec. 15, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Summer 2003

It’s accountant amour !

Suchi Lee, 42, is an international tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers with a charming, crooked-toothed smile. Sandra Gentile, 35, a budgetary babe in cat’s-eye glasses, used to work there, too. (She’s now a senior audit manager at KPMG.) They met when teamed together on a company golfing trip. “I suck at golf,” Mr. Lee said. “She was very elegant and down-to-earth. I thought, ‘I need to meet somebody like her.'”

Several months later, they ran into each other again at a party thrown by a co-worker, and he mentioned that he was taking Saturday-afternoon swing-dance classes at DanceSport at Columbus Circle. She enrolled the next week, and they began Lindy-hopping over to Central Park together after class. “Six months later,” Ms. Gentile said, “someone informed me that we were dating.”

The couple enjoys collecting and tasting wine, and can often be found lurching around together in the aisles of Zachys, the Westchester wine mecca. She owns a co-op in Hartsdale which she’s trying to sell now that she’s moved into his prewar two-bedroom on West End Avenue with her cat, Kitty. They were hanging out there one afternoon when he asked her to take a look at the winter ’03 issue of his alumni magazine (from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business). Inside, a large photo of Mr. Lee in a spiffy gold tie accompanied a two-page feature on his long career at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “A self-proclaimed workaholic for many years,” the article concluded, “Lee now strives to find balance in his life, something he still finds difficult to achieve. He no longer works long hours all the time and has carved out enough time to bike through Bordeaux, France this summer with his fiancée, Sandra Gentile.”

Ms. Gentile didn’t get it right away. “I thought they just referred to me as the fiancée because probably saying ‘the girlfriend’ would sound corny,” she said.

“I got down on one knee, and she didn’t say anything,” Mr. Lee said. “I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right, so I got down on two knees.”

“I thought, ‘Oh my goodness!'” Ms. Gentile said.

She requested that he not give her a diamond ring-but it’s nothing against De Beers, dears! “I run marathons,” she said, “and a ring would kind of get in the way.” Of course, no diamond meant she could get a swankier dress: a cap-sleeve gown from Vera Wang, size zero. “She called me right after buying it,” Mr. Lee said, “and said, ‘Honey, I’m sooo totally committed to marrying you.'”

Mr. Lee grew up in Taiwan and likes that he’s joining forces with a first-generation Italian-American. “We have the same immigrant-kid values,” he said. “Work hard, keep your nose clean, save money, get ahead, sacrifice today for tomorrow.”

They have yet to sort out their wedding economics, however. He wants an elaborate black-tie affair at Daniel or the Plaza; she’d prefer to do it cheap in Las Vegas, with an Elvis impersonator. And there is some concern over the years of joint tax returns to follow. “We’re horrible at bookkeeping,” Ms. Gentile said.