Countdown to Bliss

Jessica Stanford and Russell Tucker

Met: June 26, 2005

Engaged: Feb. 11, 2006

Projected Wedding Date: Aug. 26, 2006

Young at heart, meet Jung at heart! Russell Tucker, 31, a puppeteer and founder of the company Highly Flammable Toys, which produces customized action figures, plans to marry Jessica Stanford, 26, a psychology student, under a huppah at St. Paul the Apostle Church near her hometown of Del City, Okla. (the groom is Jewish, the bride Catholic).

When the sweet and curvaceous Ms. Stanford first moved from the Midwest to Bensonhurst two years ago to attend Long Island University, where she’s a candidate for a master’s degree, she expected her boyfriend of five years, a musician, to follow her. But he didn’t.

“It just sucks when you’re with a man for that long and it ends up he’s commitment-phobic,” she moaned to her mother over a glass of wine. “Every man in New York is 10 times worse—how am I ever going to find someone?”

“Don’t worry,” Mama said soothingly. “The next time you meet a man, he’s going to be the one, and it’s going to be fireworks.”

Ms. Stanford had found her apartment on Craigslist, and now she turned to the personal ads there. “It was partly for voyeuristic reasons, like to find out what creeps are on there,” she told the Love Beat. But Mr. Tucker’s listing was immediately endearing. “I like: iced coffee, dark chocolate, and concrete,” it read. “I don’t like: Nazis or shrimp.” He also posed a series of creative-writing questions. (Sample: “If the magical wish gremlin dropped $100,000 in your bank account, what would you do with it?”) Ms. Stanford sent back her replies (“Stare at the $100,000 while shouting, ‘Oh my God! Magical gremlins exist!’”), along with a digital photograph of herself in a hot-pink tank top.

“She wrote a lot, and some really great stuff,” said Mr. Tucker, “and she asked questions on top of that—a rarity in today’s world. People don’t ask enough questions and aren’t curious, and it just shows a lack of caring.” He invited her to see War of the Worlds, which Ms. Stanford watched with her head buried in his shoulder. “Which was the best,” he said. “I felt like Superman.”

After the movie, they had dinner at a Chipotle, followed by drinks at some medieval-themed bar in Union Square and a smooch on the Q train. “Get a hotel!” someone yelled.

On date No. 2, Mr. Tucker schlepped to Bensonhurst to watch Ms. Stanford’s favorite show, The West Wing (her two Shih Tzus are named Toby and Leo, after characters).

Date No. 3 was a July 4th celebration on the Brooklyn Promenade. And just as Ms. Stanford’s mother had predicted, there were fireworks.

“I love you,” Mr. Tucker declared.

“I love you too,” Ms. Stanford said. “Are we going to get married?”

“All right,” he said.

Ah, 21st-century romance!

By then, she had moved into a one-bedroom in Williamsburg, and he joined her soon afterward. But they didn’t declare themselves officially engaged until the day before the great blizzard of ’06, when Mr. Tucker gathered a large group of friends for karaoke at Duet Karaoke in midtown, followed by the great unveiling of a save-the-date wedding announcement in the form of a large “movie” poster, with pictures from their original Craiglist exchange. “Russ Tucker as ‘the luckiest man in the world,’” it read. “Jessica Stanford as ‘the reason why.’”

He then presented Ms. Stanford with a single-carat, brilliant-cut diamond from Natalia and Alex on 47th Street, set in three white-gold bands encrusted with additional pavé stones, as the crowd pelted them with rose petals.

Anouche Wise and Eric Zuehlke

Met: Winter 2001

Engaged: Dec. 17, 2005

Projected Wedding Date: July 29, 2006

It was a slushy night, and Anouche Wise was dancing with a girlfriend at Don Hills in Soho when they noticed a couple of mesmerized young hipsters. “Are you going to keep staring or actually talk to us?” her pal said to the cuter guy, an Asian-American wearing a fitted plaid shirt with the collar up under a jean jacket. “Very early Strokes,” said Ms. Wise, who was a producer for Hearst’s Lucky rip-off GirlShop at the time.

His name was Eric Zuehlke, and he was a consultant for UNICEF and a regular at the club’s “Tiswas” nights (celebrations of British pop music named for a now-defunct Saturday-morning children’s TV show). He and the blond, mellow Ms. Wise bounced around for a while in a retro haze and then exchanged phone numbers. A week later, they went Christmas shopping together, stopping afterward for a messy corn-and-mayonnaise dish at Café Habana in Nolita.

They dated for two months, and then Mr. Zuehlke abruptly said sayonara during a noisy noodle slurp at Sapporo in midtown. “He took me to a public place so that I wouldn’t cry,” Ms. Wise told the Love Beat, sitting in John’s Diner.

“Hey, I bought you lunch,” said Mr. Zuehlke, 27.

But they remained close friends after the breakup, meeting as frequently as four times a week to watch DVD’s. “We had a blast,” said Ms. Wise, 31. “We had just clicked. He was always the person I called to hang out.”

One night, they hung out at a concert given by the Doves, the Manchester rock trio … along with Ms. Wise’s new boyfriend, an advertising executive. The evening ended with Mr. Zuehlke drunkenly lamenting his boneheaded breakup decision to his buddies.

“I have a date,” he told Ms. Wise petulantly the next time she invited him over for TV dinners.

“I went into some kind of shock,” she remembered. “I was like, ‘ I date—that doesn’t mean you can date other people.’”

The tension was thankfully resolved at her New Year’s party, when he was the last guest to leave.

A year later, he moved a few possessions from his place on the Upper West Side to her one-bedroom on the Lower East, without giving up his lease. “We thought if things felt awkward, we could move back into our own places without any hard feelings, and without breaking up,” Mr. Zuehlke said. Shortly thereafter, he was offered a five-month gig in Geneva, Switzerland. Ms. Wise promptly quit her job to go “freelance.”

“I was not going to pass up the opportunity to travel around Europe,” she said.

Smart gal: Mr. Zuehlke proposed while the couple was swimming under snow flurries in the hot springs of Yverdon-les-Bains, giving Ms. Wise a hematite ring (a placeholder for the one-carat, brilliant-cut, platinum-set diamond, flanked between two sapphires, that was awaiting shipment from California).

They will be married at her parents’ farm in Red Hook, N.Y.—many mental miles from the sticky floors of the debauched boîte where they met.

Countdown to Bliss