Countdown to Bliss

021207 article lovebeat Countdown to BlissInna Barmash and Lev (Ljova) Zhurbin

Met: March 1, 2004

Engaged: Jan. 14, 2005

Projected Wedding Date: August 2007

Mash-up marriage! Inna Barmash, lead singer of Romashka, a Gypsy band, plans to wed Lev (Ljova) Zhurbin, a classically trained violist and composer, at a yet-to-be disclosed location. Both are 28.

They met after the dark, pixie-ish Ms. Barmash got a fan e-mail from Mr. Zhurbin, who’d discovered her music when a friend of his joined Romashka for a two-week stint on bass. “I was convinced he was a middle-aged poseur,” she said. Google to the rescue!

The two musicians met to hear some orchestral rock at Pianos on the Lower East Side. “It was really innocent,” said Mr. Zhurbin, who is tall, bespectacled and baby-faced. “It’s not like I wanted to date her. I thought she would be a good business contact.” (Indeed, Ms. Barmash would later find that she was classified as a “Gypsy music contractor” in his address book.)

After the show ended at 11, Ms. Barmash suggested that they go check out a klezmer band at Café Moto in Williamsburg. “Isn’t it a little late?” protested Mr. Zhurbin. But he wound up getting onstage with his viola and jamming along, with her encouragement. “It was a new thing for me,” he recalled excitedly. “And she was so wonderful.”

Ms. Barmash began to notice Mr. Zhurbin in the audience at her shows; he even brought his mother to one, at Maia, a Turkish restaurant on the Lower East Side. “I was 100 percent convinced that he was completely in love with me,” she said. “I just had to figure the level at which I had to play hard to get.”

Next stop: Carnegie Hall, where Yo-Yo Ma was performing some of Mr. Zhurbin’s arrangements.

After unsuccessfully trying to get an invitation to the after-party, Ms. Barmash decided to leave. “I was trying to talk to him, and I was assuming he was trying to talk to me, but he was surrounded by people the whole time,” she said. Mr. Zhurbin abandoned his fans to chase her to the subway, and they wound up strolling around the city for two hours, after which he tried to give her a hug.

“I’m not good with hugs,” Ms. Barmash said petulantly, dashing away.

“That’s when I realized this is maybe more than a business contact,” Mr. Zhurbin said.

They began dating, interrupted by Ms. Barmash’s month-long sojourn to Oxford University to study, somewhat randomly, media law. But they kept in touch, “thanks to the magic of Skype,” she said. Then they traveled to Moscow together for the 60th birthday of Mr. Zhurbin’s father, Alexander Zhurbin, himself a renowned composer best known for writing Orpheus and Eurydice (A Rock Opera).

“It was a real test for her,” the younger Zhurbin said, “but she was a really brilliant person and could handle everyone I once knew and forgot.”

After they returned, he moved from his studio on the Upper West Side to Ms. Barmash’s two-bedroom apartment in the East Village. And at the stroke of midnight after her raucous birthday celebration at Maia, which fell on Friday the 13th, Mr. Zhurbin performed a new song that ended with him dropping to one knee and proffering a 1.25-carat princess-cut, white-gold-set diamond ring flanked by smaller trapezoidal stones.

“You see it in movies, but you have no idea what you’re supposed to do,” Ms. Barmash said. “Time started moving really slowly. I was very conscious and methodical, thinking like, ‘What is the protocol right now?’”

Finally figuring it out, she cried, “Yes!” And the crowd went wild.

ruleLong Countdown to Bliss

Sarah Lee and Jack O’Brien

Met: Sept. 1999

Engaged: Dec. 30, 2006

Projected Wedding Date: Spring 2008

As freshmen at Georgetown, Jack O’Brien and Sarah Lee, who lived in neighboring dorm rooms, had a running flirtation. “It’s like that show, My So-Called Life,” the ravishing, silky-tressed Ms. Lee told a friend at a campus bar one night. And indeed, Mr. O’Brien, with his dark hair and piercing brown eyes, does bear a slight resemblance to the young Jared Leto.

Though they spent many a drunken night discussing philosophy (his major) and neuroscience (hers), they never exchanged so much as a kiss. After graduation, Mr. O’Brien became an editor at Cracked, the humor magazine, and Ms. Lee volunteered at hospitals in Thailand. When she returned, she bumped into Mr. O’Brien in the West Village, and they reconvened at Plan B, where she shook her groove thing and he watched. “Sarah’s a really good dancer, and I’m … not,” he said. “I remember trying lamely, which I never do.”

They spent many more late nights … just talking. “About left-hand theory, stuff like that,” Mr. O’Brien said (both are left-handed, and 26). “Neither of us ever wanted to go home.”

After she departed for a month in India to study alternative medicine, Mr. O’Brien realized his true feelings, and when Ms. Lee got back, he took her to the Nolita Irish pub Puck Fair and, after a few pints, took her down to the dank basement. “I’m completely in love with you,” he confessed.

“I’m in love with you, too,” Ms. Lee said. After aligning Mr. O’Brien’s chakras, she moved briefly into his two-bedroom in the West Village before leaving for medical school at the University of Missouri. The week she matriculated, her sister Becky, one of the final three contestants on the last season of Survivor, demanded that she join her on the Cook Islands. Mr. O’Brien then met the two Lee ladies in L.A. for the wrap party.

Upon returning to New York, Mr. O’Brien went to the Aaron Farber Gallery to buy an engagement ring with his Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Miles, in tow. Registering a brilliant-cut, platinum-set solitaire diamond, he heard the security guard mutter tsk, tsk and then: “Now he’s gone and done it!”

“I ended up cleaning up dog poo for an hour and a half,” Mr. O’Brien said. “I was like, ‘This is an awful omen.’”

Still, he proposed a few months later back in the orchid-decorated basement of Puck Fair, enticing Ms. Lee to return there by claiming that he had left a credit card at the bar. Their wedding will take place at Georgetown’s Dahlgren Chapel.