Countdown to Bliss

James Ford and Claire Riccardi

Met: April 2001

Engaged: March 18, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: June 5, 2004

Claire Riccardi, 35, the daughter of academics who stored their black-and-white boob tube in the attic, is marrying James Ford, 37, a news reporter for Fox Channel 5. “It’s not like I look at him and I say, ‘Oh my TV boy,'” she said. “He’s my best friend.”

A brunette with high cheekbones and a dry wit, Ms. Riccardi is mesmerized by the baby-faced Mr. Ford’s broadcasts, which she views nightly from the couple’s Upper West Side one-bedroom. “He looks out at you,” she said. “He never asks questions that he doesn’t want to hear the answer to. He’s genuinely interested. That comes across on the camera.”

The couple met after Ms. Riccardi rushed into the lobby of the Columbia School of Journalism looking for the auditorium where a friend’s documentary was screening. She had the wrong night. Mr. Ford, a Yale grad enrolled in the school’s “mid-career” program, was standing around and helped her sort out the schedule.

They talked for most of the night and began a tentative e-mail relationship, but neither thought the other one was really interested. Eight months later, they ran into one another on the Upper West Side and rekindled their physical chemistry at a Starbucks, where Mr. Ford ordered a hot milk. It turned out Ms. Riccardi had left her position as a public-school teacher to head the high-school education program at the Museum of Television and Radio. “She’s trying to teach people who do watch a lot of TV to view it critically and expect a lot from it,” Mr. Ford said, on the phone while “covering” a Mets game. “She’s a very fast reader and she devours books. She approaches other media in a similar way-that it’s supposed to be as gratifying.”

Their backgrounds are different: Mr. Ford was a military brat whose parents are evangelical Southern Baptists, and Ms. Riccardi was raised in tony Princeton, N.J., by lefty intellectuals. “It’s kind of amazing that we could start with such different templates and come out in such a similar place,” she said.

They shopped for a ring together at the Clay Pot in Park Slope, that Tiffany for “evolved couples.” The one-carat round-cut diamond in a 19th-century style oxidized gold setting is etched with a microscopic polar bear to certify it comes from conflict-free Canada.

Mr. Ford had planned to propose in Washington, D.C., but the matter was given urgency by word that President Bush was about to declare war in Iraq. “It was a bad omen,” he said. “No proposing in wartime, no blood-covered diamonds.” He suggested an impromptu visit to the gardens around the National Cathedral, where Ms. Riccardi, who had been blabbing about her day, looked at her boyfriend and said, “You’re a really good listener.”

“I love you,” he responded, “and I want to show you how much I love you.”

“You want to show me, huh?” Ms. Riccardi teased, ever the women’s-studies major.

The couple is planning a simple ceremony at the Meeting House of the Religious Society of Friends on 15th Street and is asking guests to make donations to charity in lieu of gifts. “She holds me to a higher standard,” Mr. Ford said of his bride-to-be.

Camille Noe and J.P. Pagán

Met: June 2000

Engaged: Dec. 30, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: Sept. 5, 2004

This couple met at that ol’ résumé-burnisher/boozefest, the Radcliffe Publishing Course (now the Columbia Publishing Course), with its regimented 5 p.m. “sherry hour” and challenging female-male ratio of about 9 to 1.

This particular year, J.P. Pagan, an English major from the College of Charleston, was the only heterosexual male to matriculate. And he was devilishly handsome. What an asshole , thought Camille Noe, who’d gotten a degree in English and Native American Studies from the University of Michigan and already worked for Seventeen . “I think I made the mistake of equating good-looking with cocky,” she said.

Immune to, or perhaps intrigued by, the contempt of the “hot brunette-better looking version of Kate Beckinsale,” as he put it, Mr. Pagan tried to chat her up. “I was all ‘Whatever!’ and snotty,” she said. It was her belief that pretty boys should never be given the benefit of the doubt, and at any rate she’d recently ended a relationship.

But faced with her classmates’ envious chorus of ” He’s sooo lovely ,” Ms. Noe’s froideur was melting faster than the ice in their oft-served G&T’s. They ran into each other at a party, left together, and within moments they found themselves compensating for all the lost time, if you know what we mean.

When the summer ended, both of them moved to the molten-hot center of the publishing biz: New York City! But not together. Mr. Pagan settled in the East Village, while Ms. Noe let an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. “We just kept dating and dating and dating ,” she giggled. Eventually they moved to Williamsburg, but still, they kept their distance: Ms. Noe stayed south, in a place she described as “very ghetto,” while Mr. Pagan occupied a more spacious place in the north. But by 2002, the two had buried their fears of “living on top of each other” and found a “big flat” in Greenpoint. “We’re surprisingly domestic,” said Ms. Noe.

Mr. Pagan proposed while the two were vacationing in his homeland of Puerto Rico. His girlfriend had complained, while sitting on the beach sipping “some tropical-drink cliché,” that he wasn’t being romantic enough. The next night, he bashfully suggested a beach stroll. “Is this romantic enough for you?” he asked as they promenaded. “Romantic enough for you to marry me ?” She was dumbstruck as Mr. Pagan produced a ring, his mother’s (the couple having previously decided that new diamonds are unethical and lame), and dropped to one knee. It’s currently being refashioned from a princess-cut bruiser into something a little more demure; the stone will be set alongside two smaller ones in a white-gold band.

“It was all kinda logical, though I never thought I’d be married so young,” said Ms. Noe, 25.

“When we’re together, we’re happy. We make up for each other’s shortcomings,” said Mr. Pagan, 27.

They’ll be married in a casual ceremony in a Peabody, Mass., apple orchard, with a non-towering coconut cake and a modest rehearsal dinner hosted by the aunt and uncle of the bride. “We wanted to avoid all that typical wedding stuff,” said Ms. Noe, whose degree from the Radcliffe Publishing Course has helped her land a choice gig ghostwriting a celebrity wedding-planner’s manual and an editorship at, where she writes about fitness and relationships. Her groom, meanwhile, is toiling in production at The Magazine Antiques .

-Jessica Joffe

Amy Blum and David Cole

First met: December 1999

Engaged: August 8, 2003

Projected wedding date: July 10, 2004

“But you’re gay !” burst out Amy Blum when David Cole asked for her number at the end of a long night at the Broadway hangout Kevin St. James on Eighth Avenue.

“No, I’m not,” said Mr. Cole, a blue-eyed maven of musical theater who works as associate general manager for Niko Companies Limited, a production firm.

“He was who he was,” said Ms. Blum, 26, the daughter of real-estate developer Melvyn Blum who bears some resemblance to Sigourney Weaver. “He wasn’t embarrassed that I would have thought that. But he was very interested in straightening out the issue.” They shared a prolonged hug goodbye. “It was just sort of a magic moment for me,” she said. “I was floating.”

The pair originally met at a holiday party for theater “coffee-getters and phone-answerers”; at the time, Ms. Blum was one. She had mistaken him for another David at his company, and Mr. Cole got pissy about it-but he was much more sanguine about the second misunderstanding.

On their first formal date, they went to see Sofia Coppola’s pre– Lost in Translation movie, The Virgin Suicides. Afterwards, he dished generously about his past relationships. “I don’t know if I can date you,” Ms. Blum told him. “You have too many skeletons.”

Mr. Cole’s parents had divorced when he was 4, and he’d attended Pierce Community College in California. “He’s nice. He’s great,” Ms. Blum confided to a close friend a few weeks later. “But he’s not marriage material.” (A philosophy and psychology major at Columbia University, she now attends its School of Social Work.)

Living in Manhattan can play funny tricks on a woman’s idea of “marriage material,” however, and about a year later the couple moved into a one-bedroom in a modern doorman building in the West 50’s. They enjoy oil painting-Ms. Blum said Mr. Cole gave her the motivation to go out and buy the canvas; Mr. Cole said he would never would have thought of painting without her-and the apartment is decorated with their art, including a portrait of Ms. Blum’s 3-year-old rose-breasted cockatoo, Izzy, who has free rein over the space and a nasty habit of nibbling on visitors’ toes. “It’s an issue,” said Mr. Cole, 29.

But apparently not a deal-breaker. He gave his beloved a 1920’s ring with a small but glistening round-cut diamond on Venice Beach, right before he took her to meet his mother and stepfather.

“In her creativity, she brought out creativity in me,” he said, speaking from his cell phone in New Orleans, during what he promised was a sedate bachelor-party weekend.

Countdown to Bliss