Countdown to Bliss

Adam Balkin and Susan Jhun

Met: July 1999

Engaged: Nov. 2, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 9. 2003

All news, all the time … forever! Adam Balkin, 28, NY1 News’ long-lashed technology reporter, is marrying Susan Jhun, 31, the channel’s consumer investigative reporter. They’re planning a nondenominational ceremony for a small group of family and friends (plus a few lucky donkeys) in Santorini, Greece, with a Jewish ceremony to follow shortly thereafter at Mr. Balkin’s childhood home in Livingston, N.J. The two correspondents inhabit an Upper East Side studio not much bigger than their common desk in NY1’s Chelsea Market newsroom, where they also share a computer. “Our boss is a jokester, and he thought it’d be funny to put us together,” Ms. Jhun said. “Now we’re a stop on office tours.”

Mr. Balkin, who started out at the station as a writer, was appointed to the tech beat when his boss saw him making airline reservations online, something of a novelty in 1998. Ms. Jhun started shortly afterwards, following a stint as a producer for Fox. When the green-eyed, half-Korean, half-WASPnewsnymph breezed into work, Mr. Balkin quickly developed a Maury-Conniefantasy. And he wasn’t the only one. “She’s the perfect combination of cute and gorgeous,andshetotally knows how to use it,” he said. “I hardly spoke to her the first two weeks, because I was intimidated.” (He did tell her that a segment she shot on a factory in Red Hook was “hot”-but in broadcast terms, that just means “poorly lit.”)

Oneday,Ms.Jhun asked him to get her a slice of pizza from downstairs, but Mr. Balkin balked. “I’m like, ‘You know, this girl has probably had guys do things for her her entire life,'” he said. “‘And I’m not going to be one of those guys.'” Uh-huh! That’s right!

Ms. Jhun was baffled-“I couldn’t believe he said no to me,” she said-and intrigued. She began joining him for dinner after his 3 to 11 p.m. shift, even though hers began at 9 a.m. He was impressed when she devoured a grilled-cheese sandwich with a side of extra fries during their first meal at the West Side Diner. “I was expecting her to have, like, a small salad with dressing on the side,” he said. “I remember him saying, ‘It’s so cool that you’re eating like a pig in front of me!'” Ms. Jhun said.

Mr. Balkin suddenly found himself assuming the romantic aplomb of that old pro, Peter Jennings. “Everything that came out of my mouth felt smooth,” he said. “I was like, ‘Hey, she’s laughing at my jokes!’ It just felt very comfortable.'”

The two rapidly developed a playful, devoted relationship, signing up for tae kwon do lessons, referring to each other as “Monkey” (ever the technology whiz, he programmed his cell phone so that a simian caricature pops up when she calls). “The people I’d dated before had always been very intense and ambitious,” Ms. Jhun said, “but Adam was different. I just had so much fun around him.”

Yet she was nonplused when her reporter Romeo presented her with a 1.5-carat round diamond, in a six-prong platinum setting, by a waterfall while they were vacationing at an inn in Vermont. “I was shocked,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting it-honestly. I thought he couldn’t afford to buy a ring.”

Ashley M. Blackwood and Anthony J. Russo

Met: May 1999

Engaged: Dec. 21, 2002

Projected Wedding: May 15, 2004

In 1997, Ashley Blackwood ditched her desk job as a copywriter at Penguin to become a New York City police officer. “I wanted to be Jodie Foster from Silence of the Lambs ,” said Ms. Blackwood, 28, a direct descendant of the Durham family (as in Durham, N.C.). She had originally moved here to pursue a dancing career. “But the idea of a coke habit, anorexia and a breast job was not appealing,” she said, “because I love to eat.”

Fellow recruit Anthony Russo spotted the 5-foot-7, slender strawberry-blonde stationed on a street corner in Bed-Stuy, munching on some Laffy Taffy, and immediately asked her to “do a vertical” with him. (Relax, that’s “cop talk.”) They spent four hours flirting on the rooftop of a public-housing complex. “I loved her accent,” he said. “The sun was setting over the projects, and we were sitting there in the middle of this bad neighborhood, and it was completely beautiful ,” Ms. Blackwood said.

She was less impressed with the lanky, dark-haired Mr. Russo’s tales of his numerous sexual conquests. “He was a dog,” she said. “Very self-involved.” And she deflected a subsequent pass. “I wanted to kiss him so badly and have that Casablanca moment, but it wasn’t right,” she said.

Assigned to the same squad car a year later, the Staten Island stud and the demure Southerner began taking fishing trips together, watching Sunday football and courting, cop style. “He’d break into my house, check on my dogs and wait for me,” said Ms. Blackwood, owner of a boxer and a pit bull. “He would be dating seven girls at one time, but he couldn’t keep them straight. I was like his partner in crime.”

Gradually it began to dawn on her that she might like Mr. Russo, 29, to be her partner in something else as well, if you know what we mean. “It was like a Journey song,” she said. One night, they bought her a transparent teddy at the Staten Island Mall, repaired to a local alehouse for several rounds and wound up at his place, where she scooted into the bathroom and donned her purchase. “I was stunned,” said the lucky fellow.

But before they could ride their Segways together into the sunset, Mr. Russo had to extract himself from his other entanglements. He brought another date to the 79th Precinct’s Christmas dinner as Ms. Blackwood, her curly hair straightened for the occasion, watched forlornly from across the table. “I didn’t want to make a scene, so I just drank and drank and drank,” he said. He made amends later that evening, showing up alone on his lady cop’s doorstep and declaring, “I just have to be with you forever.”

Two years later, parked outside the Black Bear pub, he gave Ms. Blackwood a box containing her late grandmother’s 1.25-carat diamond, which he’d had reset in white gold with two smaller half-carat round-cut stones (bringing the total carat count to 2.25).

They’ll be married at the Port Armor Country Club in Greensboro, Ga., where the bride, who’s wearing strapless satin duchesse Carolina Herrera, will ensure there’s plenty to eat. “We’re having Southern fusion food,” she said. “But I don’t know what it’s fused with.”

-Ronda Kaysen

Kevin Burns and Kimberly Ferstler

Met: February 1997

Engaged: Nov. 28, 2002

Projected Wedding Date: Sept. 7, 2003

Kimberly Ferstler is 34, and her reluctant fiancé, Kevin Burns, is 52-a child of the era when marriage wasn’t the groovy thing. “I’m from the 60’s, where we just shacked up,” said Mr. Burns, a generously proportioned man with white hair and a burgeoning suspender collection. “We didn’t have these ‘commitments’ and ‘marriages’ and ‘ceremonies’ and institutional, formality kinds of things.” That might’ve been O.K. once, but then again, so were leisure suits. Ms. Ferstler wasn’t hep to his jive. “She certainly wasn’t happy,” Mr. Burns allowed.

Their romance began at Muze, a company in Soho that compiles and sells abstracts and biographies covering music, books and film. The curly-haired, bespectacled Ms. Ferstler has been there for a decade, rising to the position of manager of the classical-music department. Mr. Burns is an editor in nonfiction literature. He was there for two years before a colleague introduced them. “I’m a closed, quiet kind of guy,” he said.

E-mails led to lunches, then suppers. Mr. Burns hadn’t dated since the 80’s, but reached deep and pulled out a wit he shyly compares to Robin Williams or Jonathan Winters (um, a little before our time, thanks). “He has a very creative mind-running storylines in his head that he’d worked on for years, like stories about espionage that were really cool,” Ms. Ferstler said. “They weren’t ha-ha funny, but they were amusing.”

The couple figured out that he’d been a student teacher at LaGuardia when she was in high school there-kinky, eh?-and that they both dug earthy hippie shit like cooking classes, yoga and gardening, not to mention her five cats: Brendan, George, Billy Bob, Twinkle Toes and Mickey. Mr. Burns dispelled that old myth about multiple cats repulsing men when he gruffly relinquished his Upper East Side rent-stabilized apartment and packed 40 boxes of books to “shack up” with Ms. Ferstler for good in her large purple farmhouse in Glendale, Queens. “I wouldn’t say he’s Prince Charming,” Ms. Ferstler said, “but he is the most sweet and loving and supportive man.”

Still, the marriage issue continued to rankle. Mr. Burns finally fell to his knees-“Yes, both knees,” said Ms. Ferstler-after a lengthy Thanksgiving dinner à deux . “He put his head in my lap and he seemed really embarrassed, and then he said something along the lines of, ‘I guess maybe we should get married,'” she said. “But he had his face down, so I couldn’t really understand what he was saying. I kept saying, ‘What? What did you say?'”

She then did the dishes (so much for that progressive 60’s ethos). Later in the week, Ms. Ferstler picked up $200 worth of bridal magazines, and the pair skipped to the Clay Pot-the Tiffany of Park Slope-where she selected a dainty diamond in a white-gold bezel setting. “He paid,” Ms. Ferstler said.

Their hard-won ceremony will be held in a Forest Hills park, with a reception to follow at a nearby Thai restaurant that will feature a red-velvet cake by Elisa Strauss of Confetti Cakes (upon which the five cats will be depicted in great detail). Music will bridge the generational divide! “She’ll tolerate Dylan,” Mr. Burns said, “and I’ll listen to her Cranberries and Liz Phair.”

Countdown to Bliss