Countdown to Bliss

Michael Hughes and Audra Kahn

Met: September 2001

Engaged: Nov. 5, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Fall 2003

Michael Hughes and his fiancée, Audra Kahn, are both “pescatarians”-vegetarians who aren’t averse to a little striped bass now and then. “I’ve been an organic-food fanatic for years, ” said Ms. Kahn, 30, a senior director of product marketing at Columbia Records. Mr. Hughes, a shaggy 32, owns Commodities Natural Market on First Avenue and 10th Street. “Organic food is a passion of mine,” he said.

They met at the T.G.I. Friday’s of their generation: the downtown branch of the Equinox health club, where Ms. Kahn, a petite, blue-eyed brunette, could often be found mincing about in striped leggings. “She just seemed like someone I would like to get to know,” Mr. Hughes said. “She was really pretty-and really focused on her workout.”

One day they were spread-eagled on adjacent Versa-climbers. Ms. Kahn’s ponytail bounced as she grooved to a stack of CD’S (Pearl Jam, System of a Down, Pat Benatar) before her. “Hey, um, I like your CD collection,” said her admirer.

They learned they had the same personal trainer. The next week they bumped into each other near the locker room and wound up talking for what seemed like hours amid the Nautilus. “I thought, ‘Wow! I think this is the perfect girl for me,'” Mr. Hughes said. “And I hadn’t even seen her in street clothes!”

After he plied her for months with herbal teas, waxy Burt’s Bees cosmetics and dairy-free chocolate, they moved into an East Village two-bedroom lair, where they enjoy smearing one another with Bilberry & C cosmetic masks from Bliss. “I need to exfoliate from time to time,” Mr. Hughes said.

He glued his proposal to a cardboard Scrabble board, which he unveiled one stormy night in the apartment. After she said, “Of course, silly,” they ordered in a meat-free rustic Italian meal and began plotting their wedding in the Hudson Valley.

After a complicated search process, Ms. Kahn is now wearing a 1.75-carat round diamond ring set in platinum from a dealer on 47th Street, which nicely complements her sparkling nose stud. “We can openly talk about absolutely anything,” she said. “If anything, he’s overly sensitive to my feelings. ”


Stuart Gayle and Rachel Hayes

Met: March 1998

Engaged: Aug. 17, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Fall 2003

“The Cosmo girl wants it all and can have it all and that’s what I strive for,” said Rachel Hayes, 30, the well-indoctrinated beauty director of Cosmopolitan magazine. She is engaged to marry Stuart Gayle, 36, an actor who also does marketing for Pierce Allen, an interior-design firm. Currently, he can be seen on cable channels in commercials for Equinox, the health club (we told you it’s the T.G.I. Friday’s of this generation), rolling around in bed and then panting with a woman, as if to suggest that working out increases sexual stamina.

This is one of those tall, blond, blue-eyed, fearsomely fit couples often found promenading the Upper East Side-where, sure enough, they own a prewar two-bedroom co-op. Mr. Gayle likes to belt out songs from Sesame Street in the shower. “He has broad shoulders and a really sweet southern twang,” said Ms. Hayes, who refers to her lover as “Schmoops.” “He’s your all-American cute guy.”

She grew up in the city but has ties to France, where her mother moved after divorcing her father, and where she attended the Sorbonne. Schmoops proposed while they were visiting family members near Provence, giving her a 1.5-carat emerald-cut diamond set in platinum as they cuddled in a guest bed. (“We were totally giddy laughing,” Ms. Hayes said.) They’re planning a low-key ceremony in Paris. “Not to put down anyone else’s wedding, but we’re sort of over the whole prom thing,” said the bride. ” Meaning is more important to me then matching napkins.”

“I could never imagine being without her,” Mr.Gayle said. “I don’t even have a choice. I couldn’t live without her.”

The match took place over drinks with a mutual friend at the now-defunct Coconut Grill on Second Avenue. Mr. Gayle had come north from his hometown of New Orleans to work on his acting career. Ms. Hayes was charmed by his vast knowledge of country music. “He was just such a breath of fresh air,” she said. “Such a real gentleman.”

Mr. Gayle admired her “friendly glow” and called two days later. “I just couldn’t help myself,” he said.

“We’ve spent every night together since then,” Ms. Hayes said. Tell it to Helen Gurley Brown, honey! And just how does she keep her man happy in bed? “I take advice from Cosmo ,” she said loyally.


Patricia Hardina and Patrick Wells

Met: Dec. 1, 2001

Engaged: June 8, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Nov. 29, 2002

There’s a special quality to same-named couples, isn’t there? Meet the Alexander and Alexandra Von Furstenberg of Columbus Avenue: Patrick Wells, a 41-year-old patent lawyer, and Patricia Hardina, 37, a director of institutional equity sales at Salomon Smith Barney. (A fan of the food writer Patricia Wells, she plans to go ahead and take her fiancé’s surname.)

She calls him Pat. He calls her Patty. Their weekend wedding extravaganza will commence with a Thanksgiving-eve turkey feast for 105 guests at the Yale Club and finish up at Pier 60 on Friday with a big, cozy, coppery-colored wedding bash organized by Fête, a local wedding planner. Mr. Wells likes to do magic tricks and wanted to do some at the wedding, but his fiancée wouldn’t let him. “My best trick would be making the bill disappear,” he said.

The pair met at the International Toy Center’s annual holiday charity bash. The Billy Lawlor Band was bleating “Sweet Caroline.” Mr. Wells-who was living in D.C. at the time and had come to visit friends- caught sight of Ms. Hardina, with her blond pageboy and slinky red evening gown, and thought, Hubba hubba .

“I thought he was cute, but he asked me where I went to school, and that seemed sort of snobby, like he was quizzing me,” said Ms. Hardina, who attended the University of Dayton in Ohio.

The following day found them brunching at Isabella’s on the Upper West Side, after which Mr. Wells-a graduate of Marquette University-escorted Ms. Hardina and her tan pug Lucy on a stroll through Central Park. “He was so funny!” Ms. Hardina said. “I think I laughed more that day than I laughed in the three years before that put together.” (She’d just ended a long-term relationship with a dentist.)

The relationship moved forward with lightning speed: Mr. Wells announced that he was leaving his job and would move to Manhattan. He began working at a law firm in Connecticut, set up camp in Ms. Hardina’s two-bedroom apartment, and soon proposed at her beach house in New Jersey, handing over a round 2-carat diamond surrounded by two smaller pear-shaped stones. “He got all choked up talking to his mom,” Ms. Hardina said. “I had to take the phone from him.” Countdown to Bliss