Countdown to Bliss

Tara Hughes and Rick Ricciardi Met: February 1996 Engaged: July 2, 2002 Projected Wedding Date: March 1, 2003 Tara Hughes

Tara Hughes and Rick Ricciardi

Met: February 1996

Engaged: July 2, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: March 1, 2003

Tara Hughes and Rick Ricciardi (“I was going to be named Lucy if I was a girl,” he said) had one of those engagements that is more elaborate than many people’s weddings . He treated her to a day at the Frédéric Fekkai spa, gave her a two-carat, princess-cut, platinum-set diamond with baguettes on the roof of the Hudson Hotel, brought her downstairs to the hotel bar for a surprise party with 75 friends, and then whisked her off to the Cayman Islands for a week. They secured a coveted summer-ceremony slot at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and braved the aisles of Kleinfeld’s for her strapless, fitted Duchesse satin dress.

Once everything was in order, they headed to Disney World to relax (seems oxymoronic, we know), whereupon Ms. Hughes suddenly began … puking. And it had nothing to do with Splash Mountain, folks. “I’m like, ‘We didn’t even drink last night! Why are you so sick?'” said the goateed Mr. Ricciardi, who works in computer manufacturing and sales at Unisys.

The two innocents headed back to the hotel where, during a moment of queasy sexual congress, they suddenly had an epiphany, pulled up their drawers and rushed to an Orlando pharmacy for a pregnancy test.

Ms. Hughes, a golden-haired 27 with eyes the color of sea foam, described the couple as “shocked” by the positive result.

“It wasn’t like in the commercials, where they jump up and down when they get the positive result,” said Mr. Ricciardi, 35. “I mean, it was on our agenda as something to do as a couple very shortly …. It’s just that we’d spent so much time planning the wedding!”

Ms. Hughes, who has the enigmatic title of “capabilities architect” at American Express, reluctantly sold her dress and will wear an empire-waisted number at their slightly downscaled ceremony, which they’ve scheduled at Banchet Flowers, a botanical boutique on Washington Street (the Upper Crust event planners are handling the details and hosting the reception at their Horatio Street event space).

The couple met at Minter’s, a now-defunct bar in the financial district. She followed him and his friends to a party in midtown and impressed them by mixing up vodka-Kahlua-Dr. Pepper cocktails called Colorado Bull Dogs. “Tara got high marks with all the men,” Mr. Ricciardi said.

After three years of dating, they bought a house together in scenic Bay Ridge, but Ms. Hughes moved out soon after they finished renovations. She came back, however, after he broke six ribs in a car accident in the South of France. “I think with everything we’ve been through in the years, there are no surprises about each other,” she said. “I appreciate his enthusiasm for life …. He’s very sexy.”

“I think she’s just as beautiful pregnant as she was before, if not more so,” Mr. Ricciardi said.

Just call them the Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones of Bay Ridge.

The baby, a boy, is due on their original wedding date, June 1, and will be welcomed home by two Shetland sheepdogs, Whiskey and Domino. The kid will be named Hudson, after the trendy hotel where his parents got engaged.

They’re registered for crystal highball glasses and a white potty.

Amy Schachner and David Wertheimer

Met: November 2000

Engaged: July 20, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Aug. 23, 2003

Amy Schachner used to be one of those pragmatic New York broads who think the difference between a business meeting and a date is maybe a couple inches of cleavage.

“I was too jaded for love,” said Ms. Schachner, 28, a petite, brunette assistant producer at BBDO, the ad agency. “I was never sappy, never romantic.”

One night, her friend Ilysa invited her to Merchants, an Upper East Side jazz lounge, to meet David Wertheimer, a Web design director at The Economist . Mr. Wertheimer, 29, is pale and black-haired, with rectangular “design director” glasses. Ms. Schachner was underwhelmed. “I thought he was nice,” she said. And we all know how fast that gets a guy laid in Manhattan!

“I left the bar and got in a cab with Ilysa,” Mr. Wertheimer said, “and in the span of 12 blocks it was, ‘What do you think of Amy? You think she’s cute? You want to call her? I think you should call her. Go ahead and give her a call.’ And then, boom-she was out of the cab, and I’m sitting there holding a phone number.”

Since he is, as he puts it, “very accommodating and understanding” (a.k.a. “nice”), he rang up Ms. Schachner and arranged for a date at Merge, a nightclub- cum -restaurant in the West Village. But merge they didn’t. “I went downstairs to meet him because I didn’t want him to see my apartment,” she said, “but then he brought flowers and I was like, ‘Ugh! He brought them so he could see my apartment!'”

Nor were the next two dates promising. He took her to see Unbreakable . “Unbearable,” she said. He took her to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons getting blown up, but they arrived too late. “We just weren’t having fun,” Mr. Wertheimer said, “so I didn’t call after that.”

Ms. Schachner didn’t sweat it. “That’s just what dating in New York is like,” she said.

She threw herself into Super Bowl spots for Cingular, working 80-hour weeks.

Mr. Wertheimer, meanwhile, had only the grim prospect of the Matzah Ball, the notorious Christmas Eve Jewish singles event, to bring cheer to his frigid December. And then January in New York is always bleak. He dug out Ms. Schachner’s phone number again.

And this time, the relationship proceeded with corporate efficiency. Even before he moved into her lavender-painted Union Square one-bedroom, she was pestering him about marriage. “Every day for a month, I’d wake up and tap him on the shoulder and say, ‘David? Are we going to get engaged today?'” she said.

Ever accommodating, he gave her a platinum ring with an oval diamond and two trillions, along with a DVD player (“She’d been bitching that she didn’t have one,” he said), in a daisy-filled suite at a Martha’s Vineyard inn. The couple will be married in front of 225 people at a hotel on Central Park-which one, they’d rather not say. “I’m all about romance now,” said Ms. Schachner. “He’s made me a sap …. When I look at David, I feel grounded. He makes me feel stable. When I look at him, everything is O.K.”

Michelle LoVuolo and John Militello

Met: March 6, 1999

Engaged: Oct. 12, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: May 24, 2003

By day, John Militello, 34, is the creative director at a multimedia production company in Tribeca; by night, he paints canvases that he calls “dark and striking” and likens to the work of Picasso and Kandinsky.

He met his intended at an art show in a midtown warehouse. “It was kind of cool, but some of it was retarded,” he said of the amorphous, gritty work on display there. His bored gaze alighted upon a muscular young woman with thick, brown, wavy hair and a pouty bottom lip. “I noticed her right away,” he said. “Her eyes were sparkling.” Her name was Michelle LoVuolo, and she was one of those left-brain number-crunching types, there trying to show the “real New York” to out-of-town friends. “I was just up for it because it was something different than I would normally do,” said Ms. LoVuolo, 27, who works in finance at ING but likes to let loose by teaching cardio-dance fitness classes at New York Sports Clubs. She thought the scene that night “very strange … very eclectic.”

By the end of the evening, though, these two young Italian-Americans were making out furiously at an artist’s party, in an apartment lit by the glow of the Lincoln Tunnel.

A couple of years later, they were living together in a cozy one-bedroom on the Upper West Side, his easel set up in a corner of the living room, his paintings and their collapsible bikes hanging on the walls. But Ms. LoVuolo’s conservative parents, who live in Smithville, N.J., weren’t exactly thrilled with the cohabitation. “They were like, ‘What are your intentions?'” she said.

Mr. Militello paid heed. One evening, the couple was enjoying a fresh mozzarella pie at Joe’s Pizza on Carmine Street, when he suddenly handed her a black, canvas-bound picture book with a photo of the restaurant on the cover.

“Pizza is good and so are you,” read page 1. “Michelle LoVuolo is even better than a slice of Joe’s pizza pie.”

On page 2: “This is a story about a guy who likes pizza, and … ”

On page 3: ” … a gal that loves nothing but clams.”

Let’s just skip ahead to page 19, shall we, where the words, “Pleazzzzzzzze say YES!!!” appeared under a picture of the suitor, his brow furrowed, his corkscrew curls messed, his gap-teeth bared in a pleading grin.

“It just wrote itself,” Mr. Militello said triumphantly.

“I was bawling by the second page,” said Ms. LoVuolo, now sporting a chunky round diamond set in platinum from Stuart Moore.

They hope to arrive at their wedding reception, which will be at the Central Park Boathouse, by gondola. Mr. Militello is agonizing over how best to incorporate the image or concept of “pizza” into the design of the wedding invitation.

“His mind works like an artist,” said Ms. LoVuolo, whose lone personal concession to creativity is tooling around town in a silver Volkswagen Beetle. “I think I see stuff that other people don’t see in him, and that’s what I like.”

“Michelle finds happiness in things, and that’s really refreshing,” Mr. Militello said. “I’ll get really depressed for no reason. I’m artistic and stuff.”

Countdown to Bliss