Countdown to Bliss

Cathy Riva and

Marc Bloomgarden

Met: Spring Break 1997

Engaged: Jan. 1, 2002

Projected Wedding Date:

February 2003


Marc Bloomgarden met his future wife in a Panama City, Fla., hot

tub. She was wearing a pink pleather bikini.

“I believe ‘Wow!’ was my first impression,” said Mr. Bloomgarden,

a 33-year-old Long Island native with long, wavy tresses and a laid-back


The woman in the bikini was Cathy

Riva, a 29-year-old production coordinator for MTV who hails from Mobile, Ala.

Ms. Riva had hired Mr. Bloomgarden’s production team to film the mayhem

of “Spring Break 1997,” a gig which left him with plenty of time for bantering

with his boss.

“He was a big flirt, and I love that because I can reciprocate,”

Ms. Riva said. “And being from the South as I am, I was impressed that a

Northerner could do a shot of Jack Daniels with ease.”

They spent that summer bouncing from beach to beach, shooting

film for MTV and  relaxing in the sun.

Back in New York, Mr. Bloomgarden met Ms. Riva’s girlfriends and

wowed them with a pair of leather pants. “Girls have labels for guys,” she

said. “Marc was ‘Leather Pants Guy’ for a few weeks at least.”

He further impressed her at the club Cheetah, where he danced

solo on a deserted dance floor for three hours.

“I was so impressed by his balls,” she told The Observer .

“That came later,” Mr. Bloomgarden interjected saucily.

” Much later,” she

agreed. “Months later.”

They’d been dating for four

years when a friend’s wedding took them to Hawaii. On New Year’s Day, 2002,

Leather Pants Guy chartered a day trip to a desolate beach on the island of

Kuai-the same patch of sand where Harrison Ford and Anne Heche crashed-landed

in Six Days Seven Nights .

On a bamboo mat, surrounded by a picnic lunch of lobster-tail

sushi, Mr. Bloomgarden pulled out a ring that he-and his family in the jewelry

business-had designed from scratch. It was a radiant-cut stone with two

emerald-cut stones on the side, further flanked by two diamond baguettes. A row

of diamonds lined the platinum band.

Their boat ride back to civilization was cinematic almost to the

point of sappiness, with dolphins leaping in their wake.

“It was like, ‘Cue the sunset, bring in the dolphins!'” Ms. Riva

said. “As a director, he did that very well.”

Gary Lowitt and

Gwen Fernich

Met: Jan. 24, 2000

Engaged: April 21, 2001

Projected Wedding Date:

May 4, 2002


Gary Lowitt was at an Upper West Side speed dating shindig-seven mini blind dates in 49

minutes-and had already plowed through six

women, none of whom had interested him. But on his last “date” of the evening,

he was paired with Gwen Fernich, a woman he’d been eyeing all night.

Mr. Lowitt, 36, a residential real-estate developer for Lincoln

Property, turned out to have much in common with Ms. Fernich, 33, a practicing

veterinarian. They’d both studied at the University of Pennsylvania and they’d

gone to the same summer camps.

“She was thrilled by the coincidences,” Mr. Lowitt said. “I just

thought she was cute and smart and interesting and engaging and seemed like a

nice, normal person.”

He was puzzled, however, by Ms. Fernich’s hair. There was

something about it that looked slightly off.

Ms. Fernich cleared up the mystery on their second date. She was

determined to give Mr. Lowitt an easy out if the truth was too much for him to

handle. She told him she had cancer of the thymus, and chemotherapy had made

her hair fall out. She was wearing a wig. speed dating was Ms. Fernich’s first social foray in almost nine months.

Mr. Lowitt was a bit startled, but he took the revelation in


“Maybe I like bald women,” he told her.

“My point in saying that was that I was not going to disqualify

her based on her cancer,” he told The

Observer .

It was a slow courtship. Ms. Fernich had to undergo several major surgeries, which made intimacy

difficult. “I was always super-concerned about my wig falling off,” she said.

They exchanged I love you ‘s

for the first time while Ms. Fernich lay on a gurney awaiting her last surgery.

And though there are no guarantees that the cancer is gone for good, Mr. Lowitt

isn’t going anywhere.

“I opted in. I knew what I was getting myself into,” he said.

“The way I look at it is, I’ll take as much as I can get for as long as I can


He took her to Hudson Place, a restaurant on Third Avenue, for

her birthday in April 2001. For dessert, he gave her a strawberry shortcake

that read “Will you marry me?”

She had to ask him if he was serious three times before she

finally replied, “Sure.”

She’s now sporting a 1.5-carat princess-cut center stone with

0.68 carats of side stone in a platinum setting. They’ll be wed on May 4 at

Cipriani 42nd Street and honeymoon in Paris and the Seychelles. They’re not

registering anywhere, they say; they already have everything they need.


Kristina Finlay

and Brian Gregory

Met: Sept. 12, 2000

Engaged: Sept. 19, 2001

Projected Wedding Date:

July 20, 2002


Kristina Finlay was at a downtown dot-com launch party when she

spotted Brian Gregory across the proverbial crowded room. He was talking to

some tart named Roxy. Ms. Finlay distracted him by shooting over a rubber band.

Mr. Gregory quickly snapped to attention. “Brian had the whole gun thing down,”

Ms. Finlay said. “He was wrapping it around his finger like a gun and launching it at me.” They shared their

first kiss before the night was out.

Mr. Gregory, 30, is a corporate lawyer at Debevoise &

Plimpton. He’s solidly built with fine, sandy hair and boy-band eyes. Ms.

Finlay, 33, is a publicist for Random House Audio books. She’s got short blond

locks, an athletic frame and is currently hyping the Julia Roberts–narrated

version of The Nanny Diaries .

Mr. Gregory likes that Ms. Finlay is an unabashed,

low-maintenance tomboy who prefers the volleyball court to Scoop. “I don’t have

a lot of tolerance for people who take three hours to get ready to go out,” he


“I know so many women who’ve

got a carat minimum,” added Ms. Finlay. “Well, that’s a shame. I’ve got a fun minimum.”

Mr. Gregory and Ms. Finlay met on Sept. 12, 2000. It had been his

plan to propose on their one-year anniversary-which obviously didn’t happen.

“After 9/11, we sat in shock for the next week, as everyone did,”

he said. “But meanwhile, I had this rock burning a hole in my pocket.”

So he ditched Plan A-a romantic night out on the town-and instead

surprised her by coming home early from work. “I’ve got a few surprises,” he

told her, “one of which won’t keep.”

Said Ms. Finlay, “I’m thinking, ‘O.K., that’s probably cheesecake

or some sort of food that’s rotting.'”

He knelt down and brought out a 1.5-carat, round-cut stone on a

platinum band.

That was fun! They’ll be wed on July 20 in Avon, Conn.

And Ms. Finlay’s parents will finally allow them to sleep in the

same room during visits.

The Love Beat can be

reached by e-mail at Countdown to Bliss