Countdown to Bliss

Felicia Patinkin and Bill Piersol

Met: Fall 1994

Engaged: Nov. 16, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 18, 2003

G reatest Generation hottie Tom Brokaw blesses this union!

Bill Piersol was one of the anchor’s researchers at NBC. Felicia Patinkin (Mandy’s first cousin once removed-“but I don’t sing,” she said) was working on O.J. Simpson trial coverage for the NBC Specials unit. He noticed her great posture and unruly black curls across a party crowded with co-workers. “I remember thinking, ‘Yow! Who is that?'” said the deep-voiced, “precociously gray” Mr. Piersol, 38, who’s from South Dakota. “She was just tall and elegant and striking.”

They dated a little, but then he applied the brakes. “I was nervous about the whole working-together-going-out-together thing,” he said. “I was 23, so at that point in my life I was just like, ‘Whatever,'” said Ms. Patinkin, now 31, with nails that look bitten to the quick (although she claims she hasn’t chewed them for months).

After four years, Mr. Piersol left the newsroom to work on The Great Game: The Story of Wall Street , a CNBC documentary. “I was like, ‘Things to do after leaving NBC: 1) Reestablish with Felicia Patinkin. 2) Do it fast!'” he said.

A more mature Ms. Patinkin, promoted to producer at NBC Nightly News in May 2000, found herself really digging his cowboy-academic charm. “This is a guy who takes pleasure in reading about the migratory patterns of birds,” she said. “He finds things interesting and then packs the information away and will regurgitate it at another time. He’s like my personal library.”

After a stint behind Now with Bill Moyers on PBS, Mr. Piersol is working on a screenplay, which he shyly describes as being about a family of con artists. He’s a big fan of Antiques Roadshow , which the couple watches in their rent-stabilized one-bedroom in the East 50’s. “I’m like 1-800-Whopping-Geek,” he said. “I love Felicia’s energy. She loves to do things.”

One chilly afternoon, he took her to the Met to see Venus and Cupid , a painting by the obscure Renaissance artist Lorenzo Lotto. He’d envisioned getting down on one knee in front of the masterpiece.

Unfortunately, it was one of those rainy days when every tourist in town suddenly decides to get cerebral. “We get to this gallery, which usually practically has tumbleweeds blowing through it, and suddenly it’s mobbed with people,” Mr. Piersol said. “I’m starting my whole rap based on the painting’s transcendent beauty and the heraldic convention of marriage, but I’m bugging because there are all these people around. I look out of the corner of my eye and there are two big guys in hockey jerseys, and they’re saying, ‘Hey! Where’s the fucking arms and armor?'”

Adding to the romance was Ms. Patinkin’s announcement that she had to pee-so Mr. Piersol steered her to the ladies’ room at the Stanhope hotel across the street, where he’d cleverly booked a champagne-stocked suite upstairs. That was where he gave her a round brilliant diamond, just over one carat, set in platinum. Then the couple stripped, donning hotel bathrobes. “They were really plush,” Ms. Patinkin said.

Their wedding will be at the Twenty Four Fifth Avenue Ballroom, with 100 guests (don’t get excited-no Mandy). They will honeymoon in Italy, pending Mr. Brokaw’s war coverage needs. “This is an unusual business,” Ms. Patinkin said. “There’s a lot of travel, a lot of late nights, a lot of canceled plans. So I think having someone who can be understanding and tolerant of that lifestyle creates a nice support system.”

Mark Mendelis and Lori Neumann

Met: October 1996

Engaged: March 29, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: July 19, 2003

Lori Neumann and Mark Mendelis were both working for Ammirati Puris Lintas, an advertising firm in east midtown. He was a burly fellow with a goatee and a high forehead, writing copy for Compaq computers; she was a silky-haired brunette in “traffic.” And traffic would always come to a screeching, red-faced halt right at his cubicle.

“We were always really attracted to each other,” said Mr. Mendelis, 34. “But I was thinking of her as a friend. She finally just said, ‘Look, why don’t you ask me out?'”

En route to that first date, Ms. Neumann was nervous to the point of nausea. When her M79 bus pulled up to the street corner where he was waiting, it farted exhaust, leaving him covered with soot. “It seemed a bad omen,” he said.

A subsequent dinner, at the now-defunct Circa restaurant, augured better. “The food came,” she said, “and he got the lobster pasta, and they put down the plates, and his had this succulent, beautiful piece of lobster garnishing his food. And without a thought, he just took it and put it on my plate! I thought, ‘Oh my God! He gave me his lobster!’ And I knew he was it .”

Ms. Neumann, who is 31 but could pass for 17 (“Alpha hydroxies!” she said), turned out to be a break-dancing enthusiast. “I usually come back from bars with a little spot on my back from doing the backspin,” she said. “When I first saw her do it,” said Mr. Mendelis, now of Kirshenbaum, Bond & Partners, “I thought to myself, ‘This is a special girl.'” We’ll say! She eventually left the ad biz to become a third-grade teacher at P.S. 2 in Chinatown, where she once moonwalked for her students. “It scared them,” she said. The couple lives in an Upper West Side duplex with slippery hardwood floors. “Sometimes we’ll come home and we’ll move the coffee table, we’ll put on some Run-DMC,” he said-and then, whoa, baby ….

But there will be more line-dancing than breakdancing at their Hudson Hotel nuptials, for which the bride scored a slim-cut, $650 Vera Wang dress from Michael’s, the Madison Avenue consignment shop. The Hampton Wedding group has booked a rendition of “Mambo Italiano” by the tattooed World Famous Pontani Sisters, plus tunes from the rockabilly band Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys, and a make-your-own sundae bar. “You’ll be able to order an ice-cold Pabst Blue Ribbon,” said Mr. Mendelis. “We wanted to add little special touches that show we’re not taking it so seriously.”

Likewise his proposal, which took place in a cocktail lounge at Viva Las Vegas, the annual rockabilly convention out West. At first, Mr. Mendelis goofily tried depositing the platinum band with an Asscher-cut diamond (one-plus carats) in a hole on a miniature golf course; sadly, Ms. Neumann’s game was not up to par that day. Next he thought he might slip her the ring while dropping 160 feet at 45 m.p.h. on the Big Shot, a free-fall ride atop the Stratosphere Hotel. Alas, there was a metal detector at the entrance. “It’s jewelry,” she heard him stage-whisper to the security guards.

“I’m thinking, ‘Fucking bin Laden!” Ms. Neumann said. “He ruined this for me.”

Erinn Bucklan and Oren Giskan

Met: Summer 1999

Engaged: Feb. 14, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: October 2003

“When I was younger, growing up and getting married was not what my peers and I wanted to do,” said Erinn Bucklan, 33, a Manhattan native who moved to Connecticut for high school and then came back to attend Barnard College. “We didn’t like the idea of being a Barbie in a dress.”

Then, it seems, the Stepford robots seized her firmly round the neck: She got a job as a senior editor at Elegant Bride magazine and a fiancé, Oren Giskan, 37-a round-faced, dark-haired lawyer who co-owns Giskan & Solotaroff, a firm in Chelsea that specializes in consumer class-action suits.

“The rules are that there are no rules,” said the doll-eyed, light-brown-haired, pink-cheeked Ms. Bucklan of her wedding plans. “I can do whatever I want.” Currently, that’s 150 guests held captive on a boat chugging down the Hudson River, surrounded by autumnal fruits (in lieu of flowers).

“Erinn compliments me,” Mr. Giskan said. “I’m calm, and she’s a little bit more ‘out there’ and crazy.”

They can’t quite agree on how they met. She said it was at a Bowery barbecue on a mutual friend’s roof. He insisted that it was later, at a different friend’s gathering at the Rum House (the West Indian–themed bar at the Hotel Edison in west midtown). At any rate, “it wasn’t like there was any of that, like, immediate-chemistry stuff,” as Ms. Bucklan put it. “We just became friendly.”

Their first real date was at an East Village bar called Black and White. At first, the evening fell into that gray “friendly” area. “But then he kissed me on the cheek,” she said. “I thought that was a little bold, because it wasn’t a blow kiss or a cheek-to-cheek kind of thing. It was definitely a kiss.”

After two years of mounting intimacy, they moved into a large midtown one-bedroom and got a cat, Gulliver, whom they take to get his nails done at PetCo every weekend.

Mr. Giskan was nervous about proposing under the harsh klieg lights of Elegant Bride .

“I knew I had to come up with something somewhat memorable,” he said. He filled a room at the aforementioned Hotel Edison with roses and candles. The hotel’s room service is somewhat perfunctory, so the couple sipped bourbon and coke in 20-ounce Styrofoam cups from the bar downstairs.

After reaching the bottom of the cup, Ms. Bucklan tipsily spotted an intricately folded pink card on the bed. The message on it ended in four magic words. When she turned around, Mr. Giskan was holding a small velvet box containing a large cubic zirconium set in yellow aluminum. (He was nervous about picking out a diamond for an expert.)

She is wearing the bauble, which she calls her “two-carat C.Z.,” until the jewelers finish setting a platinum ring she picked out from the 1930’s with seven small diamonds. She has subsequently turned her attention to the wedding gown, which she wants to be hand-stitched and made of natural fiber. “I like beautiful things,” she said. “I do like fashion. I can say it.”

Countdown to Bliss