Countdown to Bliss

Brent Bounds and Jenni Frost

Met: Nov. 30, 1999

Engaged: Nov. 30, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: May 24, 2003

They met through … church! Ain’t it quaint?

A bunch of friends in a certain Upper East Side Presbyterian congregation were enjoying Thanksgiving dinner together. Brent Bounds, a 6-foot-2 doctoral candidate in clinical psychology, noticed Jenni Frost, who has the cutesy physical attributes befitting her name (glossy-lipped smile, azure eyes, freckles, and a blonde pixie ‘do), and thought “pass the gravy!” “I’d never dated any girls with short hair before,” said Mr. Bounds, 34, which isn’t surprising since he’s from Texas. “I thought she was spicy.”

Ms. Frost, 30, who occasionally sings at church and is working on becoming an actress-she’s done “a lot of Off-Off,” she said-was not immediately attracted to her burly fellow parishioner, but allowed him to jog behind her on her regular rounds in Central Park. “We got to be really good friends while we were running, but there was no interest on my part at all,” she said. “I felt like he was my brother.”

“She’d always be talking about the guys she was dating, and I’d think, ‘I wish I were that guy!'” said the very earnest Mr. Bounds, who has a kind, round face and brown eyes and counsels children for a living. “I had always loved acting and was fascinated that she was a New York actress. So I told her that I had done some acting in high school and college, and she said, ‘You gotta come to the studio I belong to!'”

He enrolled in a weekly class at the Sande Shurin School of Transformational Acting, itself kind of a religious institution, and began doing scene study and using something called the “Beyond Sense Memory technique”-not that it helped him thaw Ms. Frost. But then they found themselves heading to sunny South Africa with a tight-knit group of church pals. “A friend sat me down and said, ‘Can’t you see how perfect Brent is for you?'” Ms. Frost said. “I started thinking about it and praying about it …. I hadn’t ever dated frivolously, and I knew, at this age, it could be it .”

They had their African Queen moment when he was helping her cross a river barefoot in the pouring rain. “We were both filthy, and I looked down at her and thought, ‘I just love taking care of her! I could take care of her forever!'” he said. “Something totally shifted right then,” Ms. Frost said. “I was like, ‘Wow!'”

Later that week, she confronted him with the good news. “We’ve progressed. I’m totally ready to date you if you’re still interested,” she said.

After over a year of pious dating, he set up a circle of luminaries by the water at her family’s South Carolina beach house, dropped to one knee, uttered the phrase “I love you” for the first time in their relationship, and presented her with a one-carat emerald-cut diamond flanked by baguettes in platinum. Until they exchange wedding bands at Grace Church, they’re wearing matching James Avery silver-cross emblem rings. Mr. Bounds will wait till after the ceremony to move into his beloved paramour’s Upper West Side one-bedroom.

“It’s so cool to be able to go to church and worship together,” he said. “It’s a very, like, transcendental experience.”

Jackie Harris and Robert Hochberg

Met: June 13, 2002

Engaged: Sept. 11, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: April 6, 2003

Robert Hochberg, a Vassar grad and C.E.O. of his own computer software firm, is a good friend of Steven Stolman, designer of toile de Jouy–printed “play clothes” that are popular in Palm Beach and the East End. He’s also an investor in Mr. Stolman’s company. When Mr. Hochberg turned the melancholy age of 40 last year, the sprightly Mr. Stolman announced that he had the perfect gift-just the thing.

That would be Jackie Harris, 35, the daughter of big-time Midwestern investment banker J. Ira Harris, now of Palm Beach. Ms. Harris has thick dark hair, heavily lined brown eyes, a curvy bod that she likes to sheathe in Mr. Stolman’s designs, and degrees in law and business. She works with her family’s charitable foundation.

The two e-mailed each other for a week. “Robert sent me a complete dissertation on his family, his likes, his dislikes,” Ms. Harris said. “It was basically a dossier.”

“I made it funny,” said Mr. Hochberg, who is bald in a handsome way, with a prominent brow. “I told her: ‘My mother is Italian, my father is Jewish, so I celebrate both holidays and am very confused!'”

They met for coffee at La Houppa on the Upper East Side and have been inseparable ever since. “I thought she had a beautiful smile and a very gracious way, and she was interesting, funny, beautiful-everything you could want, ” Mr. Hochberg said. “It all felt surreally comfortable.” But he wanted to make sure she had “good athletic genes,” and so they visited the links.

“I love the way she can hit a golf ball,” he said. “Oh my God-the way she can lay into a golf club!”

“Steven told me he was mother-friendly, and he is,” Ms. Harris said. “He’s just so sweet and kind … and he cooks and cleans!”

They spent the summer at his Southampton spread, where Mr. Hochberg was the very model of a Vassar man, lolling about in his toile-printed slacks.

But he proposed in her hometown of Chicago, in a playground. “I convinced her that I needed to push her on a swing,” said Mr. Hochberg. “And then I got down on my knee.” Out came a large emerald-cut diamond flanked by two baguettes in platinum. “Of course, I waited until the swing slowed down a bit, otherwise she would’ve kicked me in the head,” he added. Indeed.

The wedding will be at the Breakers in Palm Beach, with a honeymoon somewhere “Tahiti-ish.” Mr. Stolman has been assigned the bridesmaids’ dresses, but Ms. Harris’ own frock is designed by Angel Sanchez. She got it off the rack from Bergdorf Goodman.

Len Hirsch and Diane Junker

Met: Nov. 3, 2000

Engaged: Sept. 28, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: May 25, 2003

In her late 30’s, Diane Junker was plowing along quite nicely as an “independent woman,” thank you very much, with business degrees from Wharton and M.I.T. and a fancy-pants job in something called commission management at Bloomberg Tradebook. Think Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat, etc. But this didn’t impress her 8-year-old nephew, Austin, weaned on the groveling women of The Bachelor .

“He was very concerned that I was still single,” said Ms. Junker, 38, in her raspy voice. “I’d call and ask him about school, and he’d only want to talk about whether or not I was going to get married. So I’d say, ‘Well, who should I marry?'”

“Just marry somebody !” said the proto-sexist kid.

Fortunately, Ms. Junker had a beau hanging around: Len Hirsch, also 38, a chief financial officer at a venture-capital group, with blue eyes and an appealingly hairy chest. She met him at Peter’s Bar on Columbus Avenue-it was a friend’s birthday party-and wasn’t super-impressed, but thought “What the hey?” and invited him and his friends to a casual evening at Café Wha? a few months later.

“I thought he was very quiet,” she said.

Mr. Hirsch had divorced his first wife of two years in the early 90’s, and found the lush-lipped Ms. Junker “cute and fun and lively.”

“I didn’t know he was interested in me!” she said. “He’s an observer and a listener. He’s a little shy. He could probably sit on the couch for the rest of his life … whereas I’m always out and about and involved with different things. My mother always says, ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person,’ and I’ve always kind of been like that.”

“I’m a contemplator,” Mr. Hirsch said. “She makes things happen!”

Yet it was he who “actualized” the proposal, over turkey and chicken-salad sandwiches on a mountain top in Vermont (where his family has a country house), proffering a Donna Reed–worthy platinum ring with an emerald-cut diamond and trapezoidal side stones. Then they woke up her anxious nephew with a phone call and got his blessing.

The couple has bought the apartment next to Ms. Junker’s Upper West Side one-bedroom, and they plan to knock down the adjoining wall to create a two-bed, two-bath palace when they move in together this summer. Their wedding will be in Vermont. It was hell finding a rabbi there, but her resourceful mother dug one up online.

Austin will be a ring-bearer. Countdown to Bliss