Countdown to Bliss

Kenneth Sugarman and Bonnie Winston

Met: Memorial Day weekend, 2001

Engaged: Dec. 13, 2001

Projected Wedding Date: May 11, 2002

By day, Bonnie Winston runs Winston West, a glamorous bicoastal photo agency that represents fashion and celebrity photographers. By night-she’s a yenta !

Everywhere she goes, Ms. Winston, a blond and bubbly 40, keeps a running tab of her friends’ and acquaintances’ vital statistics, scribbling them down in a little red appointment book.

“I talk to everybody ,” she said. Recently, she bragged, she sidled up to Sex and the City actor John Corbett at a bar and hooked him up with a work pal of hers, a fashion model named Krista Cassidy.

Last Memorial Day weekend, a friend of Ms. Winston’s dragged her out to East Hampton, hoping to get a piece of that matchmaking action. They went to a place called the Grill. “My whole theory is, go somewhere that used to be trendy,” said Ms. Winston. She was munching on a cheeseburger and fries when she glanced to her left and noticed an attractive older man in sweat pants and loafers, sipping a white-wine spritzer.

“How about that guy?” she asked her friend.

“Why don’t you like him?” her friend asked.

“He’s a little Robert Blake–ish,” she said, “and my name is Bonnie.”

But she struck up a conversation nonetheless and learned that his name was Kenneth Sugarman, that he was a perfectly respectable general-practice lawyer specializing in civil litigation, and that he was in the Hamptons helping his daughter from a first marriage celebrate her graduation from Manhattan’s Trinity School.

When they met the following Thursday at Balthazar, Ms. Winston was pleasantly surprised.

“He really cleaned up well,” she said. “I thought him more Robert Downey Jr. than Baretta.”

Make that Mike Brady: Mr. Sugarman, who is 51, told her almost immediately that he wanted to remarry and have more kids. Phew .

Months later, the pair was snuggling together in his Noho loft, watching the final round of Jeopardy . The category was U.S. Presidents. “This man,” said Alex Trebek on the TV, “was elected Vice President twice and President twice.”

Naturally, it was at this moment that Mr. Sugarman turned to Ms. Winston and proposed.

Her response: “Yes! Nixon!”

(Hey, she forgot to put it in the form of a question!)

“I never get Final Jeopardy right, so I look at it as a sign,” she said. “I was so excited that I knew the answer that I couldn’t let it go. I’m a really big multi-tasker.”

That same night, she set up two close friends and they all went out on a double date.

– Blair Golson

Ilan Bialer and Tasha Wenger

Met: July 6, 2001

Engaged: Jan. 9, 2002

Projected Wedding Date:

July 28, 2002

Men with receding hairlines, don’t let those passive-aggressive Rogaine ads get to you-just go with it. You might attract a babe like Tasha Wenger, who was visiting Chicago and at a party when she first spotted Ilan Bialer’s bald noggin.

“I noticed a head gleaming in the moonlight,” she said. “It was a particularly beautifully shaped head. Some men can shave their hair and it doesn’t look stupid. Ilan’s got a Yul Brenner thing going on.”

“It doesn’t work on some guys, but it works on me ,” said Mr. Bialer, 45, who is 5-foot-11, with long, spider-like limbs that he likes to wrap around Ms. Wenger-an athletic, exotic-looking 37-year-old who sings jazz and bossa nova for ensembles like Harold Kaye and the Sophisticated Swingers.

Mr. Bialer works hard, running a private equity firm called Youngtree Partners and splitting his time between New York and L.A. But that old saw about bald men being more sensitive proved true in this case.

“He took little tidbits of what I said and a few minutes later worked them into the conversation,” said Ms. Wenger of their sparkly first meeting. “It made my ears perk up that someone was listening to the nuances of what I was saying.” Meanwhile, she impressed him when she ventured that his first name meant “young tree” in Hebrew. They are both “traditional” Jews.

After a first date, Ms. Wenger told a friend that if Mr. Bialer were to propose that day, she would say yes.

Six months later, they were lying in bed in his apartment at 52nd Street and Sutton Place, and Mr. Bialer’s legs started to twitch uncontrollably. He reached back behind the headboard and pulled out a six-carat sapphire diamond with baguettes.

” Nooooooooo ,” sang out Ms. Wenger, suddenly Molly Bloom. “No no no no no I mean yes yes yes yes yes yes!”

– B.G.

Eva Salem and Patrick Kedwell

First Met: October 1991

Engaged: June 6, 2001

Projected Wedding Date:

July 27, 2002

Despite years of feminism, men still are “expected” to suggest marriage, so it makes perfect sense that some women try to micromanage the proposal.

This was the case with Eva Salem, who wanted to make sure her boyfriend, Patrick Kedwell, didn’t pop the question when she was clad in, say, bunny slippers and a Bioré nose strip.

“Don’t propose to me when I don’t look good!” she’d tell him. She also managed to mention in passing, just a few times, that she really liked emerald-cut diamonds, and platinum. Got that?

The two 31-year-olds first met when they were studying at the University of West Ontario in the early 1990’s-he liked the way she’d toss around her mane of long, dark hair.

“It was a game,” he said. “I’d hit on her and she’d rebuff me.”

In late 1998, Ms. Salem landed a marketing job at L’Oreal in Manhattan and threw herself a going-away party. The still-besotted Mr. Kedwell, now working in commercial printing, showed up expecting to be rebuffed yet again -but lo, that night she decided she’d rather have a long-distance boyfriend in Canada than brave the single girl’s life in Manhattan.

“I thought if it were the real thing, we could make it work, and it might be kind of fun,” she said with a Canadian’s typical blithe spirit.

They soon were crossing the border every other weekend.

One afternoon late last spring, Ms. Salem was in her Gramercy Park apartment, primping for a black-tie charity event to which she’d been invited by a mutual friend of the couple. Mr. Kedwell was on the phone from Toronto, giving her advice on what to wear. He suggested a flattering pink crocheted number.

That night her normally punctual pal was late picking her up, and to pass the time Ms. Salem once again called Mr. Kedwell on his cell phone. In the background, she heard the unmistakable sounds of New York City traffic.

“Hey, are you coming to see me?” she asked, suddenly suspicious.

“Of course not!” he said in a cab en route from J.F.K.

Within the hour, the disingenuous fellow was at the door with an emerald-cut solitaire set in platinum.

After strolling around the Gramercy area contemplating their future life together, the couple celebrated with dinner at Ms. Salem’s favorite restaurant, Union Square Cafe.

Following the wedding at the Kedwell family farm, the two will safari in South Africa, and then Ms. Salem will have to suck it up and relinquish some precious Manhattan closet space.

– Anna Jane Grossman

The Love Beat can be contacted at engagements@observer.com. Countdown to Bliss