Countdown to Bliss

Isabel Gonzalez and Lang Whitaker

Met: Spring 1999

Engaged: May 21, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: June 28, 2003

These two started their torrid affair in the Atlanta media world. (Bet you didn’t even know Atlanta had a media world.) Isabel Gonzalez was the editor of something called Atlanta City Mag . Lang Whitaker had a regular column in Creative Loafing , an alternative weekly. “Kind of like a young Neal Travis column,” he said.

They both were invited to a party for hotshot journalists at the local Palm steakhouse. The doe-eyed Ms. Gonzalez had her long dark hair parted down the middle, and was looking sleek in an all-black outfit. “I remember coming up the escalator in that restaurant and seeing her standing there,” said Mr. Whitaker, 28, who is tall and burly, with a scruffy, light-brown beard, “and thinking how incredible she looked and how I could spend my life with her-and I didn’t know who she was!” (The two had, in fact, attended the same high school, but he is three years older.)

Ms. Gonzalez, however, was in “networking” mode. “I was always on the look-out for young writers who were eager-all too eager to write 2,000-word profile pieces for 500 bucks,” she said. Mr. Whitaker was all too eager. Within days, he’d turned in what she called an “amazing” piece on Chuck D. of Public Enemy. “He brought coolness to City Mag ,” Ms. Gonzalez enthused.

After several months working together, they started to hang out a bit more than an editor and a writer probably should. “I didn’t want to do anything, because she was my editor ,” said Mr. Whitaker. “I didn’t want to be the one to mess it up.” But hey, it worked for Lillian Ross and William Shawn ….

Not even a year after their working relationship went romantic, Ms. Gonzalez got the call from New York: Teen People wanted a “trend-spotting” editor! She was psyched ! But what about her man?

“I was falling madly in love with this person who was really good to me and really kind, and we shared so many mutual interests,” she said. “But I felt like the career possibilities for me in Atlanta were pretty limited.”

Undaunted, Mr. Whitaker called the editor of Slam , a Manhattan-based basketball monthly for which he had occasionally freelanced, and scored a position as editor of the magazine’s online content.

“It took me two years to get a job in New York, and it took him two minutes!” said Ms. Gonzalez incredulously.

They filled an Upper East Side walk-up with ‘N Sync CD’s, a signed Britney Spears poster and lots of basketball memorabilia. They would hole up in this “cocoon” frequently, watching N.B.A. games. One night Ms. Gonzalez announced that she was turning in at halftime.

“She lay down in bed, and I said, ‘Do you feel that?'” said Mr. Whitaker. “And she said, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘It feels weird!'” He reached under the mattress and pulled out his grandmother’s Art Deco diamond ring. (Lillian Ross never had it so good.)

“I just didn’t see the need to wait any longer,” he said.

The wedding will take place in Atlanta. Ms. Gonzalez, who is Cuban-American, will wear the traditional mantilla veil and orange flower blossom in her hair.

“I love that we’re in the same field,” she said. “I think I’m an O.K. editor and I think he’s a really good writer, and I enjoy the collaborative process.”

Peter Juhas and Katherine McCabe

Met: July 1998

Engaged: Jan. 18, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Sept. 21, 2002

When they were spending summers as young teens in East Hampton, Katie McCabe and her identical twin sister, Christina (your basic Sweet Valley High nightmare: lithe, golden-haired, bronzed limbs, light smattering of freckles), would always hear about this local tennis legend, Peter Juhas. “At one point, he was pretty much the No. 1 guy,” said Katie McCabe. “I thought he was sooo good-looking.”

“I’d seen them around the tennis courts a few times,” said Mr. Juhas (green-eyed, sexy) of the McCabe babes, but he was more interested in smashing serves with the pros then playing off-court round robin, if you know what we mean.

He went on to Harvard and Harvard Law. Meanwhile, the Mlles. McCabe matriculated at Georgetown. The summer before their sophomore year, they went to a Boys Harbor charity event in East Hampton and ran into Mr. Juhas during the fireworks. It was Katie who piqued his interest. “I thought she was beautiful … well, at first I had trouble telling her and her sister apart,” he said, flushing. “I guess I thought they were both beautiful.”

They made a date to play tennis the next week, but he was late and she left in a huff. But after that little foot fault, the relationship developed smoothly-like a Ralph Lauren ad, in fact. When she went to study art in Florence, he followed. She stood by him when he made that difficult switch from law to investment banking. They feathered a two-bedroom love nest on the Upper East Side.

“He’s been my only love,” said Ms. McCabe, 23.

“I just think you kind of know when you meet the right person,” said Mr. Juhas, 31.

One night they were dining near the fireplace at that upscale proposal factory, One If By Land, Two If By Sea, and their waiter brought over a silver platter, which he uncovered to reveal a round-cut diamond in a platinum Tiffany setting nestled atop orange and pink rose petals. “The ring was just staring at me,” said Ms. McCabe. “Everything just fell away, and I was in total shock and total happiness.”

They’re registered at Scully & Scully, where she’s an interior designer. “I love it when Peter comes shopping with me, because he has fabulous taste,” she said. “He loves color, and I think that’s really important.” She’s wearing Vera Wang to the wedding in Bryn Mawr, Penn., and swathing her twin sister-who will be maid of honor-in purple satin organza.

Maria Zukin and John Shkolnik

Met: 1996

Engaged: Nov. 20, 2001

Projected Wedding Date: Aug. 10, 2003

Maria Zukin was in coach class on a United Airlines flight to San Francisco, Calif., for Thanksgiving, uncomfortably sandwiched between her parents and her dark-haired, goateed boyfriend, John Shkolnik. They had finished breakfast and were passing over Ohio when a flight attendant’s voice came on over the loudspeaker: “Ladies and gentleman, we have a very special passenger on board today.”

Ms. Zukin perked up. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, there’s a celebrity!'” she said.

“Will Maria Zukin please stand up?” said the voice.

Nonplussed, the dark-haired, delicate-boned Ms. Zukin tried to rise without removing her seatbelt. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, maybe I sat in a special seat and won a promotional offer!'” she said.

“Maria,” blared the loudspeaker, “will you do John the honor of being his wife?”

She looked down to see an astonished Mom, a beaming Dad, and Mr. Shkolnik bearing a tremulous grin and a white-gold ring embedded with 11 small diamonds. (He was still buckled in.)

“I wanted to be original,” he said, “and since Sept. 11, I figured so many bad things were happening regarding planes, I would do something good.”

The bar was set high for this proposal: Ms. Zukin, a 23-year-old Barnard grad, is an editorial assistant and contributing writer at Bridal Guide magazine, so one can imagine the attendant pressure on Mr. Shkolnik, 27, a genius who went to Stuyvesant, skipped college and became a consultant for Dell Computers. “She’d drop hints like, ‘I can get a great deal on a dress!” he said. “It was overwhelming.”

The couple, who each grew up in Brooklyn, met at the now-defunct Limelight as starry-eyed underage clubgoers. “He was smarter and less of a goofball than other guys,” said Ms. Zukin. “He was more mature and very charismatic. He didn’t use, like, brawn or material things to draw me to him. He just had this incredible self-confidence.” When they began sharing a three-bedroom on Coney Island, however, she discovered his geeky side. “He’s into Dungeons and Dragons –kind of things,” she said. “It takes up a lot of his free time. He’s just short of dressing up like a Trekkie.”

“The fact that she’s willing to put up with me to a large extent makes her the right one for me,” said Mr. Shkolnik.

They’ll be married at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and honeymoon in Greece. And Ms. Zukin did get a great deal on her dress: She paid $250 for beaded Badgley Mischka at a warehouse sale in Chelsea.

You can reach the Love Beat via email at Countdown to Bliss