Countdown to Bliss

Cliffton Clarke III and Halle Markle

Met: 1996 Engaged: July 10, 2002 Projected Wedding Date: Nov. 2, 2002

On Valentine’s Day of 2000, Halle Markle, a dancer and Pilates expert, received a special bag delivered to her East Village apartment from Cliff Clarke, a guy she’d been dating in a kind of “nebulous” way for some months. The package contained a fur-lined brown pillbox hat, a brown silk scarf, and instructions for Ms. Markle to meet him that night at the Washington Square arch. It also informed her that the year would be 1957 and that they would be strangers.

Why 1957?

“Why the hell not ?” said Mr. Clarke, who is 39 and rugged, with cultivated stubble.

Ms. Markle, a strawberry blonde with a serene smile, gamely rummaged through her closet for a ’50s look (pumpkin-colored cashmere sweater, wool pants, black cat’s-eye glasses embedded with rhinestones), left the apartment and found her fella at the arch, clad in a vintage leather jacket and chinos.

“Got a light?” she asked, sauntering over with a Lucky Strike in hand. They headed over to Café Reggio, the erstwhile beatnik hangout on Macdougal Street. Ms. Markle, who is actually from upstate New York, pretended she was a dancer from California who had headed east to “make it big.” Mr. Clarke explained away his anachronistic IndiGlo watch by saying his father (an artist and former Army captain) worked for NASA.

It strains credulity, but they managed to pepper their conversation with words like “cool” and “hip” and “swell” for the entire remainder of the evening without cracking up or feeling self-conscious. “It was great ,” said Ms. Markle, 32.

After dinner, Mr. Clarke brought her to a room at the Chelsea Hotel, where they listened to jazz, drank sidecars, applied fake tattoos, and carved their initials and “1957” near the ceiling. (The night took an unexpectedly Gothic turn when they found some dried blood behind the nightstand.)

“It wasn’t our first date, but somehow, from that point on, we were more together,” she said.

Indeed.

Mr. Clarke, a carpenter and bassist from Boston, first met the willowy Ms. Markle in the mid-1990’s, through mutual friends, when she was dating someone else. “When I was 10 years old, I’d fantasize about my type, and it was Halle,” he said.

By ’99 she was single again, and hired Mr. Clarke to build some cabinets at Mongoose Bodyworks, the Soho Pilates studio she owns and runs, which gave him an in to ask her out.

Their bond was strengthened after they crossed the Sahara on camels together, contracting dysentery. “We’re really compatible,” said Ms. Markle. “If I’m in a crummy mood, he knows exactly how to make me laugh and support me and cheer me up.”

Mr. Clarke went along when her dance companytoured Rome this summer, and then the two of them went on to the island of Procida off theAmalfi coast, where he presented her with a delicate and lovely platinum band embedded with 11 small diamonds on the balcony of their hotel room (no dried blood this time).

The wedding will be small and laid-back, at a Soho photography studio. They made the invitationsthemselves. A friend will cater, and an acquaintance will bake the cake (autumnal gingerbread, iced in white and decorated with leaves and acorns).

“Being with her challenges me to try and realize everything I can be,” said Mr. Clarke.

“We’re both sort of equal,” said Ms. Markle, slipping into flawless Pilates-ese. “There’s no power struggle. It just fluctuates back and forth, and that balance just feels so good.”

-Anna Jane Grossman

Jane Billet and Andrew Morgan

Met: Sept. 1, 2001 Engaged: Feb. 14, 2002 Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 27, 2002

This couple is gonna be snuggling up on some nice pillows! Jane Billet, 40, is an interior designer. Andrew Morgan, 45, designs the Morgan Collection, a bold and colorful line of blankets, throws and pillows sold at Saks and Paul Smith. They’re having a lot of fun giving their bedroom a big makeover for married life: all white with cream trim, distressed mirrors and a sturdy iron bed, with a cream honeycomb cotton blanket designed by Mr. Morgan. “Cozy modern,” he said. The mirrored ceilings can come later.

They were fixed up by a therapist- cum -matchmaker that Ms. Billet met at a luncheon in Park Slope. (Mr. Morgan knew the therapist from his temple in Park Slope.) He picked her up for lunch at the Second Avenue Café, took in her short cropped hair and fair skin, and thought, Cute! “She has a nice softness and openness about her,” he said. “She looks like a pre-Raphaelite painting.” Then he decided to skip a few years of art history: “She looks like she could’ve been painted by John Singer Sargent.”

“He had a sweet and gentlemanly manner,” said Ms. Billet of her 6-foot-2, bearded soon-to-be lover. “Very compassionate-and that struck me, because you don’t find that a lot.”

Mr. Morgan worked as a high-end fashion designer for almost two decades. He was engaged once before, two years ago, but his former fiancée died suddenly (he doesn’t want to give details). Soon after his loss, he left Seventh Avenue and plunged himself into the more forgiving frilly-bedding biz. It was hard to find romance in anything but floral sheets till the relationship with Ms. Billet began to develop. “There was a very natural unfolding to it,” he said (no pun intended). “She’s the most loving person I’ve ever met in my entire life-very selfless and affectionate. She’s not afraid to touch; she loves it, and I was so hungry for that. It was a long time in coming.”

He proposed on a Valentine’s Day jaunt to Puerto Rico, in the courtyard of a flower-filled restaurant in Old San Juan, giving her a small sterling-silver decorative pill case hiding a one-and-a-half-carat princess-cut diamond set in a wide platinum band. “I was shocked by the size of it!” she said.

They’ll wed at a hotel in Westchester-he in an Armani suit with a dusty rose necktie, she in something creamy (she wanted to wear a deep-red gown, but this bemused her family). Mr. Morgan likes to wax rhapsodic on the registry, which includes plenty of Baccarat crystal and Wedgwood dishes in a terra cotta paisley motif that he chose specially to complement the Tuscan butterscotch of his-now their-living room.

“We’re both creative people,” said Ms. Billet. “I know there’s this huge culture of women who need to get married before their 30’s, but I’m glad I met him at 40, because I’m not an idiot anymore.”

-AJG

Adam Edelberg and Kim Chernoff

Met: Oct. 31, 1993 Engaged: Memorial Day Weekend, 2002 Projected Wedding Date: Nov. 9, 2002

“I thought he was too tall for me,” said Kim Chernoff, 5-foot-2, of the 6-foot-2 Adam Edelberg, whom she met at a boozy frat party when they were both Boston University freshmen.

The summer before their senior year, Ms. Chernoff, who had become a psychology major, walked out of the elevator of her dorm room and bumped into the big guy. “We smacked right into one another,” she said.

They talked, and she found out that he was studying business and “had matured a little bit. He was less involved in doing stupid fraternity things and partying with the guys. He was more independent.”

They took a sociology class together that year but never really went to it, if you understand our implication. Their other favorite extracurricular activity? Going out to restaurants. “When I first met Adam, I was strictly chicken, veggies, pasta, some fish,” said Ms. Chernoff. “Now I love lobster, I love hamburgers, I love steak!” Burp . “I love introducing her to new foods,” said Mr. Edelberg, who hails from Saddle River, N.J.

They moved to New York together. She began a graduate program in health-care management at N.Y.U. He started working at Xerox in the sales department. Every Tuesday, they’d hook up for sushi at Blue Ribbon. “It was our little ritual,” said Ms. Chernoff.

They separated for a year-“It was a matter of collecting ourselves,” said Mr. Edelberg-but after he got a stockbroker job at MadisonTrading Company, the dinnerinvitations suddenlypickedup again. They ate their way through Angelo and Maxines, Smith and Wollensky, Iso.

But he proposed in Boston. After a stroll on Newbury Street, their bellies filled with wine and pizza from the Armani Café, Mr. Edelberg led his girlfriend over to the Paul Revere statue in the Boston Commons, bent down as if to read the statue’s inscription, then produced a three-diamond emerald-cut showstopper. “He got down on one knee and said, ‘I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you,'” Ms. Chernoff said. She burst into a fit of hysterical laughter and then said yes.

They’ll be married in a formal Jewish ceremony at the Sephardic Temple in her hometown, Cedarhurst, Long Island. He’ll then move from his Central Park West bachelor pad into her flowery place near Gramercy Park. “There are a lot of good restaurants nearby,” he said.

The height difference clearly is no longer an issue. Said Ms. Chernoff: “It only affects me in that he likes to scoop me up and throw me onto the bed!” That must be fun!

– Alex Pasternack

Countdown to Bliss