Countdown to Bliss

112805 article engage Countdown to BlissSarah Barack and Christopher Berend

Met: Fall 1998

Engaged: August 2005

Projected Wedding Date: Sept. 3, 2006

Sarah Barack, 31, a brunette, porcelain-skinned art conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will marry Christopher Berend, 30, a stylishly shaggy senior associate editor at Esquire, at Ms. Barack’s parents’ house in Chicago.

They met through a co-worker of Ms. Barack’s and would often go out for drinks in a group. “I always thought Chris was really standoffish,” Ms. Barack said. “We’d all be hanging out, then he’d get a phone call and leave.” But Mr. Berend was just shy. “I was kind of semi-terrified of her—not through any fault of her own,” he said. “I just thought she was too pretty and too smart and she’d see right through my bullshit.”

One night, though, at the Local 138 bar on the Lower East Side, Mr. Berend plopped himself down beside her, emboldened by a potent mix of booze and cough medicine. “I discovered there wasn’t that much to be afraid of,” he said.

Their first real date was at Bowlmor Lanes, where Ms. Barack impressed Mr. Berend by—uncharacteristically, she insists—scoring over 100. Their second date was a screening of Dancer in the Dark, starring Björk. Bjig mistake. “Probably the most depressing movie of the last decade,” Mr. Berend said. Afterwards, they played video games for an hour to clear their heads.

A couple of dates later, Ms. Barack invited her suitor to drinks at the now-defunct Halcyon cafe, which was near her one-bedroom in Boerum Hill. “It’s a sleepover, guaranteed,” Mr. Berend told his friends gleefully. After bringing him back to her apartment, Ms. Barack made a trip to the bathroom, emerging to find Mr. Berend stripped down to his boxers.

“What are you doing?” she said.

They wound up laughing about it and, as predicted, Mr. Berend didn’t make it back to his West Village studio that night.

After they had dated steadily for two years, Ms. Barack moved to Baltimore to finish a nine-month internship at the Walters Art Museum, followed by a year-long fellowship at Chicago’s Oriental Institute Museum. “It was no fun,” Mr. Berend said. “It’s one thing to do long-distance when you’re in college and you’re younger, but when you get older, you kind of just want to get on with it.”

They took a break, until Ms. Barack landed her job at the Met and moved into Mr. Berend’s 10-foot-by-10-foot studio—a squeeze that drove them back to Boerum Hill after a month. “It was definitely a change for me,” said Mr. Berend. As an only child reared in Austin, Tex., he said, “you get used to having your privacy, and your own time.”

One day, Ms. Barack received a cell-phone message from her mother: “I’m so excited for the two of you!” Somewhat bemused, the conservator cutie called one of her best friends, Katie. “I think I’m engaged,” she said. Katie then called Mr. Berend, who was waiting at home with a trinket ring and a bouquet of flowers, to congratulate him.

“Um, I haven’t done anything yet,” he said.

When Ms. Barack walked through the door, she started laughing. “Should I still say it?” Mr. Berend asked.

The trinket ring was eventually replaced with an Art Deco, basket-set number created by Goldin Jewelers in Chicago, using a round-cut diamond that had belonged to Ms. Barack’s maternal great-grandmother.

The groom-to-be said it was hard to keep the idea of matrimony separate from real-estate pressures (the couple is now closing on a two-bedroom in Park Slope). “It became a situation where it was on the table for so long that we had to struggle to see it for only itself,” he said, “and not related to anything else that was going on.”

ruleLong Countdown to Bliss

Jeffrey Kaye and Traci Provizer

Met: 1998

Engaged: June 5, 2005

Projected Wedding Date: Aug. 20, 2006

Jeff Kaye used to spend long nights dancing Cliff Huxtable–style at the clubs, after which he’d get flak from his friends over beers. “Why don’t you go out with Traci?” they’d ask, referring to Traci Provizer, a fashion designer in their circle who works for Raven, a contemporary sportswear company. “She’s a goody-two-shoes!” was the consistent refrain of Mr. Kaye, a marketing director at Kemado Records with crystal-blue eyes and a mischievous giggle.

Meanwhile, the dark and crinkly-haired Ms. Provizer was going on bad blind date after bad blind date. “Give it up—you know you’re going to date Jeff,” her roommates in Fort Greene would rib her.

“I think they just both knew us as individuals better than we knew each other as individuals,” Mr. Kaye, 35, told the Love Beat over drinks at Passerby, a hectic hipster bar in the meatpacking district.

One day, his friendship with Ms. Provizer took a quantum leap when they shared a cab from a concert at Pianos over the Manhattan Bridge. Soon afterwards, she left a show at Irving Plaza to meet him (coming from another show at the Bowery Ballroom) at a place called Fuel (now Phebe’s) on the Lower East Side. After they found a cozy corner in the near-empty bar, Mr. Kaye leaned in and kissed her.

“Let’s not go too fast,” Ms. Provizer told him.

Seven months later, she moved into his rent-stabilized railroad apartment in Boerum Hill. “Of all the relationships that I’d been in, I’d never felt so strongly about anyone so quickly once it became initiated,” Mr. Kaye said. They didn’t abandon their edgy city lifestyles for domestic bliss, no sirree. But “when I want to do something, I want to do it with Jeff,” said Ms. Provizer, who is 30. “When he’s not there, I kind of feel like he’s missing, or part of me is missing.”

They spent the second anniversary of their romance in Hudson, N.Y.—“not quite like being in the Catskills,” Ms. Provizer commented. “It’s more like being at home with the window open.” Alas, she developed flu-like symptoms over dinner and wine one night at Swoon (fine dining upstate!), and Mr. Kaye had to cart her pallid self back to their bed-and-breakfast.

At 4 a.m. that morning, he nervously nudged her awake, turned on the light and jumped on top of her. “I hope you’re feeling better,” he said. “I just wanted to say I’ve never met anyone in my life that’s made me feel as good as you make me feel, and I’ve never met anyone that would ever make my life more complete than you do.”

“I had no idea why he was being gushy and romantic,” Ms. Provizer said. “All I wanted him to do was go to sleep.” Out popped a new single-carat, brilliant-cut diamond in a 1920’s setting that had belonged to his maternal great-grandmother. Sweet dreams, honey!

“Wha—what’s going on?” she asked. (Mr. Kaye had secured her mother’s permission during Passover in Detroit, over surreptitious cigarettes in the kitchen.).

The couple will wed at the Onteora Mountain House in Boiceville, N.Y. “I don’t think there was any question in our minds that it was inevitable,” Mr. Kaye said. In their married life, they plan to keep kosher. “It’s a little bit scary,” said the groom-to-be. “Because I really enjoy bacon.”