Countdown to Bliss

Dina Bitran and Dean Grossman

Met: Dec. 31, 2000

Engaged: March 1, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: June 1, 2003

Thank heaven veils are still fashionable in some quarters: Dina Bitran, a curly-haired Upper East Side bride-to-be, had an unfortunate experience at a certain Madison Avenue hair salon recently. She had saved up for months to get one of those Japanese “therapeutic reconditioning” (a.k.a. straightening) processes that Condé Nast girls are so nuts about. Two days after the procedure, “my hair started falling out around my part,” said Ms. Bitran, 24, a language pathologist who works with children who have problems swallowing. “I thought I had leukemia . I’d show up at the salon with baggies full of hair that I’d shed.” The salon, which Ms. Bitran is too gracious to name, hastily forked up for hair-replacement therapy, but the client is still miserable about her “reverse Mohawk”-short in the middle, long on the sides. “I’ve done every part you can imagine,” she said. “I’m hoping the front will be down to my nose by the wedding [at the Drake hotel, in Chicago], but I don’t think it will be.” That’ll teach you to be “straight”-ist, sister!

Ms. Bitran’s problems don’t end there: She’s got a few name issues with her groom, Dean Grossman (no relation to this reporter). “I’ve come from the name Bitran, which sounds like ‘bitch,’ and now I’m going to be ‘gross’?” she said. “Am I taking a step up or down?” And then there are their first names: “Dean and Dina! It’s so queer …. When I met him, I was like ‘Could I call you Eric ?'”

This was at a New Year’s Eve party in Boca Raton, Fla. Ms. Bitran was wearing red leather pants. “I noticed her as soon as she walked in,” said Mr. Grossman, 30, an agent who represents sports professionals who are making the transition into entertainment (his dad, Sandy Grossman, is an Emmy Award–winning director for Fox Sports). Swarthy and comely, Grossman fils was a former gymnast, cheerleader and actor with apparently a bit of a reputation. “I just wanted to stay as far from him as I possibly could, because I’d heard he was a player ,” Ms. Bitran said. (Now she calls him her “Ken doll.”)

“Every guy is a player until he meets the right person,” Mr. Grossman said suavely.

He scored points that night after rescuing Ms. Bitran and a girlfriend from behind a jammed bathroom door, earning a sushi date for the next evening. The following weekend, he took her behind the scenes at a Giants-Eagles game with his dad, where she charmingly asked if Coach John Madden were related to Steve Madden, the shoe designer.

Speaking of shoes, guys, ring sizes do not correspond to shoe sizes-as Mr. Grossman mistakenly believed when he bought a platinum band in a 7.5 for his lady friend with a radiant-cut diamond and trillions (it was too big even for her thumb). He proposed at a carefully set table outside the Boca Raton Resort and Hotel during a 40-mile-per-hour windstorm. “The table was blowing over and napkins were flying,” Ms. Bitran said. “I had just had my hair done, but the wind made it look like an Afro.”

Amy Garcia and Andrew Phillips

Met: Spring 1975

Engaged: April 13, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: May 17, 2003

How many couples can brag that they met in utero?

Their moms bonded while still preggers in an Allentown, Penn., Lamaze class, so after little Amy Garcia and Andrew Phillips were born, they’d often share a playpen. Sticking to their socially prescribed gender roles, he became a map-obsessed Boy Scout with a bowl haircut, collecting G.I. Joes and Matchbox cars. She was a small blond balletomane with pigtails, a lisp and plenty of Barbies.

Li’l Andrew thought Amy looked “girly,” like Drew Barrymore in E.T. , but was more interested in her “athletic” older sister. He and his brother tried, with some futility, to teach the Garcia girls Wiffle ball and football-“Amy was always the slowest runner,” said Mr. Phillips, 27. During sleepovers at the Garcias’ home, the Phillips boys had to sleep downstairs, safely sequestered away from the girls. “My father would sleep on the stairs in the house just to make sure no ‘funny business’ went on,” said Ms. Garcia, also 27.

“I had no idea what he was talking about!” Mr. Phillips said. “I was 8 .”

When Mr. Phillips’ mother died of cancer in 1984, the two families lost touch.

Ms. Garcia grew up to be a ballroom and Latin dance teacher at DanceSport Studio in Manhattan, living with roommates up near Columbia. Mr. Phillips became a graphic-design expert for The New York Times , eventually moving to Teaneck, N.J., and The Newark Star-Ledger .

One day, his father was overcome with the fumes of nostalgia and stopped by the Garcia house. The conniving parents noted which of their kids were still single, and there was a sudden flurry of phone numbers being exchanged.

“You’ll never guess who this is,” Mr. Phillips said when he called. He had lost the bowl cut and was a lanky, bespectacled 6-foot-1. Ms. Garcia was still a cute blonde-and now she had boobs!

The reunion happened at Portfolio, a cozy Italian restaurant in the urban sandbox of Union Square. “I was really nervous about him kissing me,” she said. But “I knew his family and he knew mine.”

“Almost no one else that I know or could end up with actually knew my mother, and that’s very special to me,” Mr. Phillips said.

A few years later, he brought her back to the same spot to propose. Ms. Garcia was complaining that a stone had fallen out of her favorite costume-jewelry ring. “I think you need something that’ll last forever,” he said smoothly, bringing out a Scott Kay one-carat diamond in platinum with two round side stones.

The wedding will be in their hometown, of course. Mr. Phillips is designing some complicated maps to guide guests to the reception at a local hotel ballroom. The bride is choreographing a Broadway-worthy swing number for her attendants, to the tune of They Might Be Giants’ “New York City.” But she’s promised her maladroit groom to keep their first turn on the dance floor simple: It’s a tango to a Tom Petty song with the none-too-promising title “Alright for Now.” (At least they passed up Billy Joel’s grim “Allentown.”)

“I can’t believe I’m marrying little Andrew Phillips!” Ms. Garcia said.

Jason Foster and Kristen Strimlan

Met: Sept. 12, 1998

Engaged: March 14, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: May 24, 2003

Help-it’s yet another Shmoopie attack!

“He’s ‘Shmoopie,’ and I’m ‘Shmoopie Jr.,'” said Kristen Strimlan, 25. She was sipping hot chocolate with whipped cream at Madison Avenue’s Sony Plaza and swinging her feet, which were clad in socks embroidered with tiny Yorkie dogs. Her fiancé, Jason Foster, 28, was close at hand. A second-year student at Columbia Business School with a round baby face, Mr. Foster also has a penchant for loud socks: At their beach-themed wedding in Sarasota, Fla., the six male attendants will wear pink on their left feet and green on their right (along with seersucker pants).

Mr. Foster was a senior when Ms. Strimlan was a sophomore at the University of Virginia, and she had a wee crush. “I remember thinking he was the perfect guy,” she said. “I guess it was just the way he carried himself, his stature. He had this red fleece he’d wear, and he looked great in it.”

But he didn’t notice her till he returned the year after graduation to attend a football game and “check out young women” with his buddies at Kappa Sigma, Bob Dole’s fraternity. Ms. Stripling, a green-eyed beauty, was tossing her honey-colored hair around at a campus BBQ, picking at the offerings with her long, delicate fingers. “I first noticed her smile and her laugh,” Mr. Foster said. “She’s beautiful, but her laugh is her most distinctive quality. It’s unashamed-carefree and elevating. It just made me so happy!”

That evening, they enjoyed their first smooch, which set a precedent for spirited public make-out sessions that continue to this day. “We’re generally really affectionate-maybe more so than other couples,” Ms. Strimlan said. “Our friends make fun of us.” They can often be found holding hands on Central Park’s Great Lawn. “But it’s not like we’re giving tonsil checks!” Mr. Foster insisted.

Ms. Strimlan comes from a happy nuclear family, but Mr. Foster’s parents have racked up a total of six marriages, so he’s spent some time musing about what will make this one last. “Before, I was usually in relationships where I carried more of the load,” he said. “But Kristen is really a 50/50 partner in this relationship. She’s independent and a little bullheaded.” His career gal works in advertising management for a large luxury brand she’d prefer not to name and lives in west midtown with a girlfriend, while he marks time in Columbia’s dorms. “We wanted living together to be something to look forward to after marriage,” she said.

Mr. Foster salvaged two diamonds from the ring his father had given his mother (prior to their failed marriage), threw in a fresh rock for a total of 2.2 carats, set it all in platinum and hid his creation in a shell-shaped Limoges box. He presented it to Ms. Strimlan on the beach of Cayo Costa, an island off Florida. Later that night, he came down with a temperature of 104 and the chills.

“We like to say that he was sick over what he had done,” she said. Countdown to Bliss