Countdown to Bliss

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Jeffrey Edelson and Jennifer Warren

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Met: October 1999

Engaged: Jan. 17, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: Nov. 1, 2003

They’re cuckoo for turtles! Jennifer Warren and Jeff Edelson are members of the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society, and share an Upper West Side two-bedroom with two four-inch red-eared sliders: Spike (“He’s really sweet, just so good,” Ms. Warren said) and Chaya (“Really a boy, but we pretend he’s a she so that they can be a couple”). Chaya is apparently the feistier of the two. “Jeff says she’s a bitch,” Ms. Warren said.

The creatures inhabit a $1,500 tank and enjoy soil patches and a kiddie pool on the apartment’s sprawling terrace-they live better, in other words, than most Manhattanites of our acquaintance. Indoors, you’ll find a turtle-themed shower curtain, turtle refrigerator magnets and a vast library of turtle literature. “Nobody understands it when we’re like, ‘Oh, we’re cleaning the turtle tank today!'” Mr. Edelson said. “But me and Jen, we get it-you know?” Actually, no, but ….

The feisty, wide-jawed Ms. Warren, 36, is an agent for commercial directors and film editors. “I had some relationships,” she said, “but I was basically die-hard single for like 10 years.” Mr. Edelson, also 36, was one of those notorious serial monogamists, complete with the requisite goatee and glasses. “I mean, I’m not a stud-but I’d been in lots of long relationships and I’d never proposed,” he said in his Kermit the Froggish voice. “And being a Jewish guy on the Upper West Side, I was like the freak of the neighborhood.”

They were set up by one of his cousins, whom Ms. Warren met on a singles trip to Israel. Mr. Edelson, who works in his family’s lace textile manufacturing company (his sweetie calls him a “shmatte-ologist”) immediately found her body “awesome” and her personality “vivacious.” “He has a good heart. What you see is what you get,” said Ms. Warren. “He’s not a player, not a manipulator.” Nevertheless, the relationship hit a lot of speed bumps. “I don’t know how to explain it,” she said. “We’re just not easygoing people.”

It was during one of their many “apart” periods that she acquired Spike and Chaya from a colleague who had bought them on the street in Chinatown. “They transformed my life,” she said. “All of a sudden, I had to take care of these beings .” One night, she drunken-dialed Mr. Edelson to come meet her babies. “He had thought I was kind of cold,” she said. But now: “He saw that I had a maturtle instinct …. maternal . I meant to say maternal .”

Mr. Edelson adopted a rather tortoise-like pace toward the altar, however. “I thought it’d never happen,” Ms. Warren said. Then one day he told her there was something wrong with the mermaid figurine in the turtle tank, and advised her to examine it. Inside a hollow in the tchotchke, she found a platinum ring-purchased from a cousin in the biz-with an emerald-cut diamond and two baguettes, weighing in at two carats. Glug, glug, glug ….

There will be kosher chocolate turtles for each guest at the wedding, which will be an Orthodox Jewish ceremony at the Yale Club. “We want it traditional,” Ms. Warren said. “We get weirded out by corny things.” But she’s not so much a hepcat that she won’t sing her pets a tender lullaby before bedtime.

“It goes, ‘Good night, little turtles, good night,'” Ms. Warren crooned. “‘Sleep tight, little turtles, sleep tight. / Good night, little turtles, good night. / Sleep tight, don’t bite.'” She stopped. “Our friends think we’re nuts.”

Seth Berk and Dana Estin

Met: Oct. 31, 2000

Engaged: Feb. 15, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 25, 2003

It’s not just Burlington Coat Factory that’s “more than great coats”! Dana Estin, a green-eyed Horace Mann alumna and fashionista with wavy blond hair, was standing on the ground floor of the Searle Boutique on Madison Avenue, where her boyfriend, Seth Berk, had taken her to pick out a black shearling number for Valentine’s Day-or so she thought. Instructed to thrust her hand deep into a fleecy pocket, she found a velvet box containing a two-carat round diamond, flanked by two half-carat pear-shaped ones, set in platinum.

“But then I had to give the coat back,” she said.

“I’m sure she’ll get the coat eventually ,” said the dapper, swarthy, 6-foot-1 Mr. Berk, who is a friend of Searle’s owners. “She deserves good things.”

After the squeals subsided, they proceeded to Union Square Café for brunch-“I couldn’t eat,” she said-and then to a friend’s house, where 60 loved ones were waiting to celebrate over catered hors d’oeuvres passed around by hired help. The proposal’s crisp execution was unsurprising, since Mr. Berk is vice president of TechExpo, a company that organizes job fairs and government-agency trade conventions. Meanwhile, as an employee of Cige Productions, an upscale party-planning firm, Ms. Estin should get a few breaks on the wedding, which will be in front of 250 guests at Capitale under a chuppah she’s embroidering herself. “We deal with the same issues, so when we bring work home, we can help each other,” Mr. Berk said. “It’s not like a doctor talking to a lawyer, where they don’t know what the other one is talking about.”

Both 27, they met at a large Halloween bash he had organized at Candela, a restaurant with Gothic décor near Union Square. Ms. Estin was dressed in the Manhattan woman’s standard-issue costume of “sexy cat,” with eyeliner-drawn whiskers, headband ears and a tight black skirt that displayed her shapely legs. The bushy-browed Mr. Berk was a “pimp,” in pleather pants and a purple crushed-velvet jacket with a leopard-print collar.

Their first date was at the Elephant in the East Village. She accidentally threw a fork across the room while she was gesticulating. He forgot his American Express. “Even so, it was wonderful,” Ms. Estin said. “When we walked out, I asked if I could have a kiss. I was gone . I knew he was it.”

This information took a bit longer to dawn on Mr. Berk. “I was very much into the ‘scene’ and having a good time,” he said. “I wasn’t mentally in a place to be quote-unquote dating someone monogamously and consistently.” But after a few too many months of “living evening-to-evening” and in debt, he took a long, hard look at his life. Ms. Estin seemed the brightest thing in it.

The pair enjoys visiting Manhattan boutiques together-Pink and Intermix are favorite stops-and recently had a perfectly gay old time promenading hand-in-hand around Bloomie’s, registering for Calvin Klein cordials and pink Vera Wang china. “He likes to shop just as much as I do,” Ms. Estin said. “I think that’s why we’re best friends. I can go shopping with him just as easily as with a girlfriend.”

Claudia Friedman and George Zuniga

Met: Summer 1997

Engaged: Feb. 23, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: May 2004

“He had that Latin appeal,” said Claudia Friedman, a 25-year-old merchandising supervisor at People , of George Zuniga. She met the coal-haired Colombian-American through SUNY classmates at the First Avenue bar Who’s on First, a place so filled with frisky singles that we like to call it Who’s on Whom. “He was much more attentive than other guys I had dated before-much more of a gentleman,” she said.

“I saw her and I loved her beautiful blue eyes and her spunk,” said Mr. Zuniga, 28. “She had a contagious happiness about her.”

Ms. Friedman explained this “contagious happiness.” “I was drunk!” she said. “His friends kept calling him Jorge, and I couldn’t get it straight. So I kept calling him Julio.”

“I got a kick out of that,” Mr. Zuniga said. “I was always attracted to Jewish girls. Jewish families and Colombian families are a lot alike: very tight, with lots of nagging back and forth.”

But there is next to nada nagging in the Upper East Side studio they share with the copious Curious George paraphernalia that Ms. Friedman buys for her man, an equity trader at Lynx Capital Partners. (Her pet name for him is Mono, Spanish for “monkey.”) Except for one little issue: After this cold winter, Ms. Friedman really, really wanted to go ice-skating. And Mr. Zuniga was balking. “I didn’t really do that kind of thing when I was little,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of ice-skating rinks in South America.”

After brunch at EJ’s Luncheonette one afternoon, the two finally rented blades and went for a tentative spin at Rockefeller Center, toast and eggs still sloshing in their stomachs.

Suddenly, Ms. Friedman realized that all the tourists had been mysteriously Zamboni’d off the rink. Her favorite song, Sade’s “By Your Side,” was playing. And her hot-blooded Latino lover was kneeling awkwardly in skates, offering her a two-carat radiant-cut diamond with tapered baguettes set in platinum, as family and friends applauded from the sidelines. (And you think hot chocolate makes you warm inside …. )

“I had to ask her a few times because she was so mesmerized,” Mr. Zuniga said. “I was so nervous that she might say no.”

“He was so suave,” Ms. Friedman said. “We have the whole thing on DVD.”

After a victory lap around the rink, she triple-Lutzed into wedding-research mode with stacks of those special-issue People s. “Sarah Michelle Gellar’s was beautiful,” she commented.

It will be a mainly Jewish ceremony, but everything else is still T.B.D. “We’ve already gone through so many phases of our lives together, and I’m so excited to live the rest of it with him,” said the bride-to-be. A pause. “But first, we’re going to need a bigger apartment.”

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