Countdown to Bliss

Kristen Anderson and Robert Lopez

Met: Nov. 9. 1999

Engaged: March 19, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 12, 2003

“Ben Brantley is responsible for this impending union,” said Kristen Anderson. Ms. Anderson, 30, is an actress-singer-songwriter currently performing in Along the Way , a Fringe Festival a cappella musical. She is marrying Bobby Lopez, 28, the baby-faced co-creator of Avenue Q , the Broadway hit that’s a raunchy wink at Sesame Street . Mr. Lopez proposed in a yellow cab with a yellow Q-train ring from the Transit Museum Gift Shop, high on life after his show got a positive review from The New York Times .

Later that week, he replaced the plastic trinket with a round diamond in a square setting flanked by two heart-shaped emeralds. ‘Cause that’s showbiz, baby!

The couple met at the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, a three-year-long, rather-torturous-sounding not-for-profit incubator for young composers and lyricists. The curly-haired, moppet-like Ms. Anderson was immediately smitten with Mr. Lopez, a bespectacled pianist who attended Hunter College High School and Yale. “I’d been floundering romantically, and he walked through the door and I was like, ‘That’s what I want! That’s what I want!'” she said. “I swear, it was like thunderbolts.”

And that was before she saw him dancing around in a red yarn wig, performing a song from an early incarnation of Avenue Q that went, “If you were gay, that’d be O.K.”

“I thought he was really talented,” Ms. Anderson said. (And not gay.)

He slipped her a copy of his demo tape, which included songs from an unproduced show he’d written, Kermit, Prince of Denmark , and quickly followed up with an e-mail come-on that she received at her temp job: “Hey ya. I think you’re neat. Would you like to have a coffee or a beverage (with me)?”

She thought that would be O.K., and they went for a few rounds at the Belmont Lounge. A few dates later, he found himself staring at the ceiling of her three-bedroom apartment on 30th Avenue in Queens, which seemed like the height of exotic sophistication compared to his parents’ doorman building in the Village. So he moved in, and together they learned to cook SmartOnes and deal with her below-the-bathtub bug problem. “My life is just so much better with her than it is alone,” he said.

Their professional success blossomed along with their romance. “It’s all about your wrist and your thumb,” Ms. Anderson said, offering a bit of wisdom about puppetry … or maybe handjobs?

Of course, there were several break-ups along the way to the Great White Way, one of which gave rise to the Avenue Q song lyric, “There’s a fine, fine line between love and a waste of time”-but it all worked out in the end, as every musical must. A wedding ceremony is planned for Fort Tryon Park, with a reception to follow at Bette Midler’s New Leaf Café featuring those oh-so-precious Magnolia cupcakes. “Of course, we also have an alternative-universe wacky wedding in mind, where there are puppets and we’re married by Gary Coleman,” Ms. Anderson said. “But that universe only exists in our heads. In this universe, we’re having a peaceful ceremony where we’ll celebrate marrying our best friends.”

And, she added, “not a lot of women get to say that they’re marrying both their best friend and their favorite Broadway composer …. Of course, I’m also a big Sondheim fan.”

Jason Manuel Olazabal and Sunita Param

Met: July 2000

Engaged: Feb. 14, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: Feb. 6, 2004

Jason Olazabal, 29, who played a detective this summer in that thundering Will Smith–Martin Lawrence vehicle Bad Boys 2 (anybody see it?), is making an honest woman of Sunita Param, 32, an actress and former Miss New York State (1995).

They met as unknowns in Astoria, Queens. After Mr. Olazabal noticed the petite Malaysian-American bombshell a couple of times at Gold’s Gym, he approached her at a local bagel shop. “She wanted nothing to do with me,” he said. “She was more interested in her paper.”

Ms. Param was not thrilled to be hit on by a fellow thespian, even one this muscular. “I thought, ‘Oh, God!'” she said. “The last thing I wanted was to be with another actor. But when I found out he was classically trained and working , not just a random person who wasn’t really doing anything, my opinion changed.”

Their first date was at Don’t Tell Mama . “It was one of the worst experiences of my life,” Mr. Olazabal said. “Ninety-nine percent of straight men don’t want to go see cabaret, let alone miserably bad cabaret. And she had a friend with her, as some security blanket.”

“It was pretty downright dismal cabaret,” Ms. Param admitted. “But he was a real champ about it.” Afterwards, she swiftly shed her “security blanket,” and the pair headed to the Omonia Café, where they talked over coffee until 3 in the morning. Two days later, he left for the Berkshires to begin work in a play called Writer’s Block .

The romance “opened” rocky. “I thought he was kind of morbid,” said Ms. Param. “He never smiled, never laughed. It took him about a year to show his funny side. It really bothered me, because I am pretty happy and bubbling. But truly, he is hysterical, and has the most beautiful smile.”

A difficult five-month stint apart (he was filming Bad Boys 2 in Miami; she was appearing in a terribly naughty-sounding play called Privates on Parade in D.C.) helped prod Mr. Olazabel into proposing. He bought a 1.5-carat Ceylonese sapphire, flanked by diamonds and set in platinum, from a store called Ernesto’s and cajoled his honey to Central Park, which was covered in picturesque snow.

“It was about 18 degrees,” he said. “We were holding each other and I’m thinking, ‘God, this is so lovely,’ and I’m just about getting to the point where I’m going to take out the ring, and I’m reaching into my pocket-and her cell phone rings.”

It was Sprint PCS calling with “unpaid bill” issues. “I’m like, ‘Oh, boy-there went that moment!'” Mr. Olazabal said. After appealing to the Method, he somehow found another. “She proceeded to be on the phone for the rest of day,” he said. “I was emotionally exhausted and drained.”

They’ll be married at Tribeca Rooftop, a lofty event space overlooking the Hudson. The Starlight Orchestra (which Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones used for their Plaza weddingstravaganza) will play at the reception. The couple has moved on up to a large one-bedroom in a prewar building on West 86th street that overlooks Central Park. They’ve also switched their gym membership, to New York Sports Club.

-Lauren A. E. Schuker

Luis Donoso and Irene Stamos

Met: 1987

Engaged: May 2001

Projected Wedding Date: Nov. 14, 2003

It’s a big fat reluctant Greek-Ecuadorian wedding! Irene Stamos, a freelance photographer who used to be the photo editor at iVillage, and Luis Donoso, a banker with Citigroup Community Development in Midtown, are first-generation Americans doing the deed with a big, splashy bash-opolous at the Manor in West Orange, N.J., rather than barefoot on the beach, as they’d prefer. Blame her mom. “I think we were guilted into it,” said Ms. Stamos, 32, with a sigh. “This whole thing has been very stressful.”

They attended high school together in Jersey during the height of the big-hair 1980’s. Ms. Stamos had vertical bangs and a collection of Cyndi Lauper albums. Mr. Donoso, one year her senior, had a green car he called his Mazderati. “I could whip around turns at 15 miles an hour,” he said. There was no groping in the back seat. “We both had similar upbringings,” she said. “Very strict.”

In fact, the two young people had a John-Hughes-film-worthy dilemma: He was dating her best friend, she was dating his. “He was off-limits,” said Ms. Stamos, who is hazel-eyed and curvy with sleek, dark hair.

“I thought she was beautiful-her shape, her body, her eyes,” said Mr. Donoso, who has very sexy, plummy lips himself. “But I couldn’t say a word to her.”

After college, they both wound up in Manhattan, as people from Jersey will, and developed a mature “platonic”-ship. “I was always making overtures,” he said. “One year I asked her to marry me, just out of the blue. But she turned me down.”

“He was in a little box labeled ‘friend’ and he wasn’t allowed out,” said the super-loyal Ms. Stamos. “I could never imagine or entertain the thought of him not being off-limits, because he’d been with my friend.”

“Yeah, but we broke up in, like, 1988!” Mr. Donoso yelped.

“Still!” said Ms. Stamos. “It came to the point where I had to tell him there was no way, no how-never, never, never would I feel the same way about him that he felt about me.”

But then the friend married some other dude. Mr. Donoso went to a job fair in Colorado. It suddenly dawned on Ms. Stamos that he might find work there and leave the city for good.

“When he came back, I jumped on him,” she said.

“Literally,” Mr. Donoso said. “She was suspended in midair.”

He proposed for the second time during a vacation in Amsterdam, in a hotel bedroom full of tulips, presenting her with a ring he’d bought while in Singapore on business-a round diamond set in white gold with baguettes. They celebrated by lighting up a big spliff. Just kidding!

“I have so much fun with him,” Ms. Stamos said. “We could just sit home doing absolutely nothing and we’d just laugh and have the best time.”

A useful skill, since they just moved from her East Village studio to a two-family house in Jersey City, which they share with two cats, Nigel and Penelope, and a lot of Madonna CD’s. Don’t expect the Material Matron to get much play at their reception, though. There will be a mariachi band, Greek balo dancing-and plenty of ouzo to get them through the night.

Engaged? Let us know at engagements@observer.com.