Countdown to Bliss

091106 article engagments Countdown to BlissMichelle Castro and Loren Douglass

Met: March 2003

Engaged: February 2006

Projected Wedding Date: Sept. 29, 2006

Roll out the drinks cart over at the Time Life Building! Michelle Castro, 34, the national ad sales manager at Sports Illustrated Latino, is marrying Loren Douglass, 43, a handsome V.P. at Merrill Lynch with a football player’s physique.

The mustachioed, bespectacled Mr. Douglass was heading out the door one chilly night at Angelo and Maxie’s on Park Avenue South when Ms. Castro, a gorgeous brunette with caramel-colored skin, ambled in with a friend. He took one look at her million-dollar smile and told his driver to stay put.

They drank wine and examined a reproduction of the Mona Lisa hanging over one of the booths. “It looks like the original,” said Mr. Douglass, who loves Paris. “Yeah, but it’s a little bit smaller,” Ms. Castro said dryly.

They exchanged business cards, and a week later he sent her a text message saying how happy he was to have made her acquaintance. “I couldn’t let it go,” Ms. Castro recalled. “I said to myself, ‘I have to see him again …. I have to.’”

And so she did: first at 5757 at the Four Seasons, where Mr. Douglass arrived 20 minutes late and failed to recognize her, dressed to the nines; then at the Rainbow Room—ah, New York!—in the midst of a snowstorm.

“They felt like dates, but we always call them ‘getting-to-know-yous,’” Ms. Castro said. “And our getting-to-know-yous morphed into this incredible love affair.”

But first she had to pass muster with Mr. Douglass’ family back in Baltimore. “They’re a tough bunch,” he said, “If you can get past the sisters-in-law, you have something.” Then there was his 5-year old daughter, Kyra Lauren (from a previous marriage), with whom Ms. Castro luckily shares a love of fashion and jewelry. “I call them my girls,” Mr. Douglass said proudly.

One morning, waking up in his Jersey City apartment, Ms. Castro felt herself being prodded—to go to the gym, or so she thought; the type-A couple is usually there by 6 a.m. “Can we please relax this once?” she groaned.

“I want to tell you how much you mean to me,” Mr. Douglass said. “You’ve made such a difference in my life. You’ve made me a better man.” Suddenly, he disappeared into his walk-in closet (one advantage of living in Jersey, folks).

“What are you doing in there?” Ms. Castro called suspiciously.

Mr. Douglass emerged with his hands clenched around a mysterious object, and she began jumping up and down on the bed, whereupon he plunged one knee and unveiled a stunning brilliant-cut, platinum-set diamond flanked by additional stones, for a quarterback-sized total of 5.5 carats.

“I couldn’t get it big enough,” the groom-to-be said. “The diamond sparkles just like her smile.”

ruleLong Countdown to Bliss

Kate Dworkoski and Peter Scudese

Met: 1999

Engaged: Sept. 30, 2005

Projected Wedding Date: June 29, 2007

Kate Dworkoski, 26, an administrator at the Upper West Side private school St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s, is engaged to Peter Scudese, 28, an associate producer for Arnold Worldwide, an advertising firm. Their ceremony and reception are being organized at the Manhattan Penthouse on 14th Street by Xochitl Gonzalez, a private wedding planner.

The couple met in Anthropology 101 at American University in Washington, D.C. She was an anxious freshman sweating over her G.P.A.; he, a jaded junior filling a social-science requirement. One afternoon, the robustly blond and beautiful Ms. Dworkoski gave a presentation on the modern manifestations of tribes, using the sorority she was pledging as an example.

“You’re just a follower—sheep!” a female student in the front row rudely blurted out, bleating for emphasis.

“That’s it!” Mr. Scudese thundered, and then he stood up. “Who here is in Greek life?” he asked the class. Several students raised their hands. “You have a fully informed opinion,” he said: “You’ve had life with it and life without it. You”—he continued, addressing the girl—“have no experience whatsoever with it. You have blinders on, and you’re baa-ing at people. Why should I take your opinion as valid?” There was tumultuous applause.

The next day, Mr. Scudese dropped a note on Ms. Dworkoski’s desk. I’d like to take you out to coffee sometime, it read. Will you go with me? “Very juvenile,” he acknowledged. As he left class (early), she passed him a note of her own, containing her dorm-room number. He showed up at 9 p.m., and they talked until 3 in the morning. There was also a kiss on the terrace. “It was cute,” Ms. Dworkoski said. “Awkward, but sweet.”

“Exactly what a first kiss should be,” Mr. Scudese said.

Later that week, they witnessed a marriage proposal at a restaurant in Georgetown. Fellow diners cheered as the woman tried on the ring, but soon quieted as she put the bauble back in the box and returned it to her gentleman friend.

“Don’t look,” Mr. Scudese whispered as the man approached their table.

“Will you marry me?” he said to Ms. Dworkoski.

“It was definitely scarring,” she said.

In time, Mr. Scudese graduated and moved to New York; Ms. Dworkoski took a semester in Rome, and they drifted apart. “We never talked about it,” he said, adding cryptically, “It was our bodies telling us we couldn’t do it.”

But when Ms. Dworkoski graduated, she too decided to move to New York, and landed a P.R. gig for GCI Group. One day, Ms. Dworkoski and Mr. Scudese ran into one another, as old lovers will in New York, on Third Avenue. Phone numbers were exchanged. They went to a couple of movies.

“Admit it, you’re dating,” her friends said.

“We’re not!” Ms. Dworkoski insisted. “Did you know we’re dating?” she asked him.