Countdown to Bliss

Brant Stead and Katrina Szish

Met: Summer 1999 Engaged: Sept. 5, 2002 Projected Wedding Date: February 2004

Katrina Szish’s whole life seems, well, swish -quite literally snatched from the pages of a glossy magazine. She’s a willowy, flaxen-haired Harvard graduate and former model who has made appearances in GQ , where she’s a senior editor, and Vogue , where she was a fashion writer during the Lauren Weisberger era. She lives in a terraced Lower East Side duplex with an Italian greyhound, Audrey (has worn Burberry in Vogue ), and two cats, Topher and Tabitha (have both posed for YM ). And she’s marrying a skateboarding dude named Brant Stead, whose pouty lips and chin-length chestnut hair you might recognize from the J. Crew catalog.

She met him one night at the Corner Bistro. A couple of her friends brought along this Wilhelmina “model boy” who had gone to Dartmouth, lived in Greece and sometimes crashed on their couch. “It had always been my policy not to date models,” said Ms. Szish, 31, told the Love Beat over a hard cider at the Heartland Brewery near the Condé Nast tower-her long legs wrapped in Christian Dior jeans and crossed, her white-polished toes wriggling. “Inevitably, models are flaky.”

Mr. Stead, 29, was reached on his cell phone in Miami, where he’s working as an art director on André Balazs’ new hotel, the Raleigh. “I was never that strict with who I dated,” he said. “If I were, I wouldn’t have dated editors !”

He didn’t get her number till their second meeting, at a friend’s Christmas party in the West Village. “I told him, ‘Listen, I don’t date models. No ,'” she said. “I said, ‘Just to prove that models are flaky, I will give you my number, because I know I’ll never see or hear from you anyway.'”

When she walked into work that Monday, there was a message: “Hi, this is not-flaky model boy …. “

They went for drinks at the Four Seasons. “It was pouring rain, and I was wearing these ridiculous high heels we’d all wear as Vogue girls,” she said. “I was slipping, and he took my arm. It was all very gallant.”

At this point, Mr. Stead had left the European high-fashion scene and was living with his parents in Vermont. He would woo Ms. Szish whenever he came to town, once wandering into the Condé Nast lobby unannounced with an incongruous gift of freshly baked cookies, wearing an ill-fitting suit. “It was wrinkled and had these awful pleated pants and was too big for him,” Ms. Szish said. “It was so bad.” It’s a wonder security didn’t have him removed.

At times, the courtship seemed positively Eisenhower era. “There were these evenings where, at the end of the night, I’d walk her home and she wouldn’t even take me up to her apartment,” Mr. Stead said. “We’d just sit outside and talk. I thought it was hilarious.” Eventually they did lock lips, at Veruka on Broome Street. He moved to Williamsburg in the spring of 2001 and gave her a white-gold engagement ring from Moss in Soho while they were vacationing on Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. With its 28-carat aquamarine stone, it’s about as big as S.I. Newhouse.

Nothing against André, but they’ve elected to marry at a lodge in Skytop, Penn., near where Ms. Szish grew up. “We decided that, graphically, winter was the best time for a wedding,” said Mr. Stead, who’ll wear a white tie and tails.

The bride will wait to see another round of designer shows before settling on a gown. “She looked great in last season’s Balenciaga; it was a really good collection for her,” said Mr. Stead, who often “edits” his beloved’s outfits before she leaves the house.

“It’s great that we’re both into style and fashion,” Ms. Szish said. “He appreciates what I do …. It’s funny: He is flaky-in a very innocent, kind, sensitive way where you realize he’s just very boyish.”

Lori Baur and Fredi Meli

Met: Jan. 17. 2001 Engaged: July 21, 2002 Projected Wedding Date: Aug. 9, 2003

Before Lori Baur was Fredi Meli’s fiancée, she was sort of his groupie. Mr. Meli, a black-haired, dimpled bassist and bass teacher from Switzerland who moved here in 1995, was performing regularly in a jazz trio at C-Note on Avenue C. Ms. Baur, a music therapist, gazed up at him plucking away and became entranced. A mutual friend made the introduction, and she phoned to see if he’d go with her to see Requiem for a Dream . “He never called me back,” she said.

“Impossible,” said Mr. Meli.

“He was kind of shy,” explained the cherubic, fair Ms. Baur.

She began instant-messaging him in German (which she learned in high school). This led to cautious canoodling at the Musical Box downtown. “He was a little more cautious than I was, I guess,” said Ms. Baur, 33. “I was like, ‘I know what I like at this point and let’s just get together.’ I didn’t want to wait.”

“For me, it took a little while,” said Mr. Meli, also 33. “I like to get to know a person. For me, it wasn’t love at first sight-but there was definitely chemistry. We got along well, and in a pretty short time, we fell in love.”

Then, last year, Ms. Baur was doing a routine breast self-examination and discovered a lump bigger than a centimeter in her right armpit. When the doctor told her it was malignant, Mr. Meli was by her side. “It felt like a death sentence,” he said softly.

“It didn’t seem like something a couple just starting out should have to go through,” Ms. Baur said. “It didn’t seem fair.” A sense of carpe diem seized her during the somber ride in their Mazda back from the doctor’s office. “I said something like ‘We should get married,’ and I meant like now , because I thought what if I die and we weren’t married?” she recalled.

Ms. Baur had a lumpectomy. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Meli went onto the Internet and bought a dainty round diamond with a six-prong setting in a white-gold ring from Ice.com. On a sweltering summer evening, he put on the tuxedo he wears to perform at weddings and stood, sweat-drenched, in the living room of their small East Village apartment (the air-conditioning was broken), holding the bauble and a birthday cake.

Ms. Baur had just finished her first round of chemotherapy and was relaxing in front of a computer role-playing game in the bedroom.

“Come here,” he yelled to her. “I need your help!”

“I just put toilet paper in there!” she yelled back.

The wedding, in a Swiss valley near Mr. Meli’s hometown southeast of Zurich, will be modest: Ms. Baur was let go from a job at a downtown special-ed preschool shortly after her diagnosis and is currently working as a medical transcriber and part-time music therapist at a Westchester school. She got her bridal gown off the rack from Macy’s. “It’s hard because American weddings are so big, and there is so much pressure to spend money,” she said. “But we don’t have the money, so I’m very budget-conscious.”

She smiled widely when she mentioned that one of her future in-laws will blow an Alpine horn-à la the Ricola commercials-to begin the event.

“We’re always laughing,” she said. “Most days I’m crying at one point or another, so it’s good that Fredi can just make me forget and just laugh.”

Elyssa Cohen and Bryan Gaffin

Met: December 2001 Engaged: April 15, 2003 Projected Wedding Date: September 2003

We hope Bryan Gaffin’s bubbe isn’t reading, because we’re about to reveal the bawdy details of his profile on JDate.com (Nerve personals for Jews). On himself: “I’m a 5’9″ piece of dynamite with a nine-inch fuse.” On his perfect date: “Cheap drinks, gratuitous sex, I never call you again.” And his ideal mate: “Good at oral sex, doesn’t talk much.”

“He wrote it when he was drunk,” said Elyssa Cohen, 26, who is marrying Mr. Gaffin at a yet-to-be determined location. “And lots of women had written him and said, ‘You’re such a pig! You’re disgusting!’ And I wrote him and was like, ‘You’re soooo funny!'”

Mr. Gaffin, 31, a senior art director, had been J-dating for a year before he was contacted by Ms. Cohen, a program officer for the nonprofit Foundation for Jewish Camping and online-personals neophyte. Under “Dislikes” in her profile, she had written: “Jesus and pleather.”

“This is the best rapport I’ve had with anyone,” Mr. Gaffin told her over the phone. “I hope you’re not ugly.” They met at MoMA on a frigid afternoon. He saw her sloe eyes and thick, dark hair and shrieked, “You’re adorable!”

They took a stroll around Rockefeller Center and quickly dispensed with their first kiss on the corner of 50th Street and Madison. “I know this is going to sound crazy, but I think you could be the one,” he said to her over dinner that night at Coppola’s.

“I know this sounds weird, but a lot of guys have said that to me,” she said.

Then Mr. Gaffin announced that he had to leave dinner, because he had another J-Date that evening, with a former Playboy model. “Well, I can’t stop you,” Ms. Cohen said.

“I can’t imagine she’ll be any better than you,” he said.

“I can’t either,” she said. That’s right, sister girlfriend!

Ms. Cohen’s confidence proved well founded: The very next night, Mr. Gaffin arrived at her Carroll Gardens apartment and called all his other J-dates to tell them he’d met someone else. While broken-hearted women cried citywide, the victor went to nap, and Mr. Gaffin amused himself by painting her roommate’s nails.

After six months, she moved into his Gramercy Park one-bedroom and began referring to him as “the Gaff.” “We have these very passionate fights,” she said. “I love to yell.”

One day, Ms. Cohen’s boss told her to go up to a room at the Plaza and pick up a package from some guy named Paul.

“I felt like a high-class call girl,” she said.

She arrived at the room-a $3,000 suite-and found rose petals floating in a bubble bath, candles burning and “the Gaff” proudly proffering a round, brilliant-cut, nearly two-carat diamond set in a filigreed platinum band. “He said he couldn’t believe it took an online dating service to find me,” Ms. Cohen said. “And then he said I was the love of his life. And then I tackled him.” Ooph !

They went on a hansom-cab ride in Central Park, dined at One C.P.S., then snuggled together in front of American Idol .

“He’s just the sweetest, most thoughtful man,” Ms. Cohen said.

And he’s got a nine-inch “fuse” to boot!

Countdown to Bliss