Countdown to Bliss

Edward Gerard DeBonis and Vincent Maniscalco Met: August 1994 Engaged: May 2002 Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 19, 2002 Edward DeBonis

Edward Gerard DeBonis and Vincent Maniscalco

Met: August 1994

Engaged: May 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 19, 2002

Edward DeBonis had recently moved to Manhattan from Atlanta, after divorcing a woman in the aerospace industry. A managing partner in the legal industry, Mr. DeBonis had questioned his sexuality before-and definitely during -the five-year marriage, but only now had he really decided that he wanted to be with men exclusively. He noticed Vincent Maniscalco, a wiry, nimble fellow with a well-trimmed dark beard and long eyelashes, across a pool table at one of the many gay-friendly bars on Christopher Street.

“He was amazingly handsome, and he just has very sort-of-honest eyes,” said Mr. DeBonis, 49. “And I thought he was amazingly left-handed, which I love …. Over the years, I’ve found that the people I’ve been attracted to have all been left-handed. Don’t ask me why!” We won’t!

Mr. Maniscalco, 41, works in the office of the New York State Senate’s Democratic minority leader. He grew up Catholic in Little Italy, and needless to say, the church wasn’t entirely psyched about him coming out. In 1991 he joined Dignity, a national support network for gay Catholics that administers Masses in friendly Protestant churches.

The two began worshipping together. “My spirituality became rekindled,” said Mr. DeBonis, who is tall and comely, with big hands, rectangular glasses and a square jaw.

“There was a warmth about him that I hadn’t felt in other people,” Mr. Maniscalco said. “He’s the most compassionate and loving person.”

They share a lovely Greenwich Village one-bedroom with deep red walls and a large flower-filled garden, and enjoy listening to Marianne Faithfull and the Smiths. Mr. DeBonis makes a mean tiramisu. “Vinny has an inherent sense of what’s fair and what isn’t fair,” he said. “He’s given me a totally new insight into how gay people are treated as second-class citizens.”

In 1998, the couple registered with the city as domestic partners, and last year they exchanged gold wedding bands made by an Italian designer. Now they want to make their union official with the members of their faith. Well, good luck ! Mr. DeBonis said he approached seven-count ’em , seven -local Catholic churches. “The conversations were very positive and exciting-until we got to the bride’s name,” he said.

So they threw up their hands and scheduled the ceremony at St. Peter’s, an Episcopal church in Chelsea, with a reception to follow at the refectory of the General Theological Seminary. They’re planning to wear lavender shirts (“It’s a very important color in the gay community,” Mr. DeBonis explained, somewhat unnecessarily) under matching navy blue Armani suits from Woodbury Commons. A gay Catholic priest from Dignity will conduct the ceremony. The hip and gay cake designer Ron Ben Israel is baking a chocolate confection lavished with blackberry and mocha cream, decorated with tulips, orchids and roses. Mr. DeBonis is going to read a poem.

“We’ve been through our ups and downs,” he said. “But mostly ups .”

Kim Heller and Gene Pritsker

Met: Spring 2000

Engaged: Nov. 3, 2001

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 13, 2002

Gene Pritsker, 31, is a Russian-born composer currently working on his magnum opus: the music to accompany his wedding to Kim Heller, a 32-year-old English tutor, at a castle in Purchase, N.Y. There will be a “Best Men Ensemble”-five guys in ties-and a “Bridesmaid Chorus” of nine.

We’re not talking corny von Trapp movie-musical stuff here: Mr. Pritsker, who has long hair and a goatee, said his influences are Igor Stravinsky and Frank Zappa. (He raps, too.) “The whole wedding is going to be like a theatrical chamber opera,” he said. “It will be tonal but nondiatonic and in the Western classical tradition,” he said. Sounds trippy!

At the ceremony, the bridesmaids and best men, accompanied by guitars and a cello, will warble musings of the Roman philosopher Boethius that Mr. Pritsker has set to his own music. At the reception, the groom’s father, a saxophonist and clarinetist, will have his own 20-piece Russian big band play klezmer music, plus some of his son’s original compositions. Guests will leave with a CD burned with music from the wedding, which will then lie gathering dust near their stereos for years to come.

Ms. Heller, a petite brunette with a penchant for correcting her fiancé’s grammar, isn’t really a musical type, but she’s just going with it. “When I see him writing music,” she said, “I feel like he’s full of passion.” She gamely agreed to perform with him on a duet he wrote called “Hitched,” which they recorded and sent out with their wedding invitations.

Sample lyric:

The guests will soon all arrive,

We’re so alive and so in love

All the other loves we ditched

Happy ever after

We’re getting hitched .

“Kim’s shy about her voice, but it’s very pretty,” Mr. Pritsker said.

The couple met among mutual friends near the blaring jukebox at the Underground Lounge on West 107th Street. He’d had quite a bit of vodka, and his antics amused her. “He’s entertaining and goofy,” she said. “He’s sort of like a comedian 24-7.”

After several months of hanging out as friends, she called him and said, point-blank, “Can’t you see I’m interested in you?”

They live in a three-bedroom apartment near Columbia University. One of the bedrooms is devoted to storing his recording equipment. As you might imagine, his proposal-during dinner at Bottino in Chelsea-involved a CD player and two sets of headphones.

The song he’d recorded for the occasion was called “First and Last Love.” On the CD case was written “I love you more than words can say.” He backed this up with two sapphires and a round diamond in a 1930’s platinum Miracle setting.

Mindy Greene and Joseph Schmidt

Met: Dec. 7, 1998

Engaged: July 11, 2001

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 14, 2002

Joe Schmidt, a jocund computer programmer at Bloomberg L.P., had done the personal-ad thing for years . The low point was when a free Jewish dating service set him up with a woman who was allergic to soap and asked him not to shower for a few days before they met. “She had problems,” he said.

His best friend suggested that he try Drip, an Upper West Side café with a concept that now seems so quaint, so 1990’s: Single people come in and pore over binders filled with profiles of other lonelyhearts, and when they see something they like, the proprietors set up a coffee date. Mr. Schmidt (whole milk, Sweet’N Low) went on a handful of Drip dates, all of which went nowhere.

But then he met Mindy Greene (skim milk, no sugar), a traffic manager at the ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding, who’d recently split with her husband of seven years, a TV news producer. This was her first Drip date.

“I was very nervous!” said Ms. Greene, a zaftig , doe-eyed 38. “I think my first words were, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this!'”

“She seemed to be laid-back, despite being nervous,” said Mr. Schmidt, who is 40 and has glasses and big, meaty lips.

They went to Jackson Hole for some burgers, and Ms. Greene insisted on paying the check. She’d gotten used to dating “dorky little Jewish boys,” so she found the 6-foot-3, burly Mr. Schmidt a nice change of pace.

Perhaps because of the three cups of coffee she downs daily, she walks very fast. “He was the first person that could ever keep up with me,” she said.

He thought her “cute … not overdone … very natural-looking.” After they moved into a one-bedroom on the Upper East Side together, he discovered that this takes a lot of work. “She spends a lot of time in the bathroom,” he said.

He gave her a platinum ring containing a one-carat diamond flanked by sapphires-which will wake a girl up better than any cup of joe.

They’ll be married at the Sephardic Temple in Cedarhurst, Long Island, with fake “coffee-cup stains” inside the program. Ms. Greene tried to arrange for chocolate-covered coffee beans to be served with dessert, but unfortunately they’re not kosher. Countdown to Bliss