Countdown to Bliss

Simon Cantlon & Roderick Shane Snipes

It was just after midnight in the new millennium, Jan. 1, 2000, and Roderick Shane Snipes and Simon Cantlon were under a giant illuminated electric pineapple in Charleston, N.C., watching the New Year’s fireworks with their mothers.

Suddenly, Mr. Snipes got down on one knee and handed an antique 1950’s pocket watch to Mr. Cantlon. On it was inscribed, in faulty Italian, “Will you be my husband?”

” Yes, yes, yes !” shouted Mr. Cantlon, a self-described “frantic romantic.”

All four shed happy tears.

Messrs. Cantlon and Snipes met in late 1996 through America Online personal ads. “I saw this long ad that stood out from the rest in that it was very passionate,” said Mr. Cantlon. “I immediately responded and poured out my innards.”

Mr. Snipes, a former Fulbright scholar, likes movies, hiking and baseball. Mr. Cantlon loves music, interior decorating and retro pop culture. But they eventually found some common passions: European holidays, exotic foods. On their first date, they ate ostrich burgers at Kiva Han in Charleston, a restaurant on Meeting Street designed to look exactly like the one in Casablanca . Their first kiss took place in a parked car while the radio was playing the 1968 pop classic, “Girl Watcher.”

Within months, the duo were taking road trips together, wearing sunglasses and head scarves à la Thelma and Louise while driving through small Southern towns in a convertible. Mr. Snipes found that he loved having his head scratched by his tall, dark, round-faced beau. Mr. Cantlon found himself at a minor-league baseball game.

They moved to New York in early 2000. Mr. Cantlon, 30, is a Web-site content coordinator for the Showtime series Queer as Folk , and Mr. Snipes, 31, is an aspiring actor when he’s not running the Struggling Artists’ Film Foundation, an organization he helped found in December to help artists get exposure. They share a Park Slope apartment that Mr. Cantlon has decorated with an array of retro kitsch items, including a velvet Elvis over the fireplace, a lava lamp and collages of monkeys by a paraplegic.

They plan to say “I do” under the Brooklyn Bridge on April 27. (Waiting over two years for the wedding “has driven our mothers crazy!” said Mr. Cantlon.) They haven’t yet settled on an officiant, but the rings will have inscriptions in Hindi, and the ceremony will incorporate Indian, Celtic and Chinese traditions. The hundred guests will then hoist Chinese lanterns as they walk three blocks to Padre Mio, a home-style Italian restaurant, for poetry readings, a cabaret act and performances by a juggler, a stand-up comic, an accordion player and an opera singer. Paintings will also be unveiled.

The wedding colors are “the shades of blue and green in a peacock’s feathers,” and the grooms’ suits will be brightly colored and embroidered with a Western flare: “Not really over-the-top Grand Ole Opry style-more like something Chris Isaak would wear,” said Mr. Snipes.

Although the two men already have been granted domestic partnership by New York State, which gives them a handful of legal rights, they want the whole cannoli.

“We deserve it,” said Mr. Cantlon. “What can we do to ruin marriage that heterosexuals haven’t done already?”

– Anna Jane Grossman

Shari Berland & Marcelo Presser

As their Bermuda-bound plane taxied onto the runway, Shari Berland and Marcelo Presser were both visibly nervous. They had been a couple for over four years, and in Ms. Berland’s mind, a surprise trip like this could mean only one thing.

“It just felt like something big was going to happen,” she said.

Mr. Presser, on the other hand, was nervous about the prospect of flying post–Sept. 11.

When Ms. Berland, 31, went to comfort him-as a senior planner at the Federal Emergency Management Agency working on long-term recovery issues at Ground Zero, she’s used to it-something clicked in her head.

“It was like I stepped up and lost all my fear to be there for him,” she said. “I recognized that this was how it was going to be with us. ‘This is my husband!'”

Their first meeting was both ambitious and inauspicious: A weekend-long blind date at a Sarasota, Fla., resort, set up by mutual friends who must have been watching too many episodes of Shipmates, the unruly late-night dating program on Channel 9. Ms. Berland had given Mr. Presser the wrong room number, so he boozed it up a bit waiting for her to show. Mr. Presser is not the most animated fellow to begin with-a 32-year-old advertising finance manager for Time Inc., he looks and talks like Ben Affleck on Xanax-so when he finally located his quarry, he was somewhat slurry.

“He smelled a bit like liquor, and I was like, ‘ Ahhh-haaa !'” said Ms. Berland.

Day 2 went well, however, and that trip was followed by others to Guatemala, Thailand-and now, Bermuda!

After landing safely, the pair decided to take an hourlong walk along the island’s famous talcum-powdery pink beaches. They began to walk up a steep, rocky hill. Ms. Berland, who is normally afraid of heights, said the most uncanny thing happened.

“For the first time in my life, I wasn’t scared at all. It was really bizarre,” she said. “I was up on top of this cliff, and I didn’t care.”

Soon enough, Mr. Presser pulled out an emerald-cut diamond ring.

– Blair Golson

Anaïs De Courson & John von Sothen

When John von Sothen’s animated hip-hop series, Station Zero , was picked up by MTV for 20 episodes, he decided to splurge on a 2,000-square-foot loft in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn. Anaïs de Courson, an aspiring theater actress from Paris, was a waitress at a café beneath his apartment.

When he began to chat up the slender brunette, she was taken aback by the American approach to flirting. “He started asking me all these questions; it was almost like a questionnaire,” she said. “In Paris, you don’t get that personal -you try to charm the girl.”

After his MTV gravy train screeched to a halt in 1999, Mr. von Sothen decided to rent out his DUMBO loft and move into Spanish Harlem. Meanwhile, Ms. de Courson encouraged him to pursue his ambition of doing stand-up comedy. At clubs around the city, Mr. von Sothen is using his apartment situation as fodder for his routines.

“I became the reverse slum lord,” he said. “I’m the guy who lives in a slum but rents out the luxury loft.”

Meanwhile, Ms. de Courson got a gig as the voice of Dannon yogurt in French TV, radio and movie ads.

Though both are fluent in the other’s language, the Franco-American divide lends a bit of mystique to the relationship. “Like the way she calls me her loveur , or mon homme ,” said Mr. von Sothen. Ms. de Courson said it’s an absolute fallacy that French men are better in the bedroom. “That’s just not true,” she said.

Last September- zut alors! -she got unexpectedly pregnant.

“For a lot of my life I’ve run from things, whether it be jobs or relationships,” said Mr. von Sothen. “I didn’t want to jettison this relationship simply because I wasn’t ready in my career, or I didn’t have a good apartment yet. I’m 32, and it’s time to make a stand.”

Just before Christmas, he gave Ms. de Courson a photo album that documented their relationship. On the last page was an engagement ring that had belonged to his grandmother. The text on the page read: “Would you, will you, could you, do you?”

Mais oui!

Ms. de Courson then bought him two gold tooth caps at the Fulton Mall in Brooklyn. Mr. von Sothen calls them his “engagement teeth.”

They’ll be married April 20 in Paris. During the reception, they plan to float down the Seine on a river barge.

“I never thought I’d be with an American man, and I’m with one,” said Ms. de Courson, 33. “I thought I didn’t want to get married, but I am-and I thought I didn’t want children, but now I’m pregnant. It’s bizarre.”

Très bizarre!

– B.G. Countdown to Bliss