Countdown to Bliss

Howard Chavis and Laura Stemerman

Met: June 2002

Engaged: May 27, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: Jan. 24, 2003

Laura Stemerman’s late mother was a psychiatric social worker and her mom’s father is Lewis Linn, 89, one of the world’s oldest living practicing psychiatrists. Dr. Linn was honored by colleagues and family last summer at Mount Sinai hospital, and Ms. Stemerman, a giggly 30 with light brown hair, spent the morning of the event practicing affirmations. “I said to myself, ‘I’d like to marry a psychiatrist, and I’d like to meet him today,'” she said. Elektra complex, anyone? “I just feel comfortable with [shrinks],” she said. “They’re both scientific and sensitive.”

After the lunch and lecture, Dr. Linn was approached by Howard Chavis, 56, a bushy-browed, bespectacled assistant professor of psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who practices medical Orgone therapy (the therapy was developed by Austrian physician-scientist Wilhelm Reich and is all about energy and touch). Ms. Stemerman was lurking nearby, and suddenly her Orgones went all aflutter. “It was just his way, his manner,” she said. “He was so personable and exuberant and easy to talk to and attractive. I thought, ‘I could bring this guy places!’ But … I felt sure he was married and had children. And I was hating them.”

In fact, Dr. Chavis was married once, to a poetess, but he divorced her around the time that Ms. Stemerman was born. He grew up in Flatbush, the son of a World War II vet. “And my wife was a housewife,” he said, quickly adding: “I mean my mother-oh, there’s a Freudian slip!” A former party clown under the nom de clown Monsieur Boozoo, Dr. Chavis, a Columbia grad, also enjoys singing (“They called me the Singing Psychiatrist of Mount Sinai”), juggling and flying trapeze. “I consider it a sport, not a hobby,” he said.

Despite being an open-minded Oberlin grad, Ms. Stemerman thought all this “a little strange”-but heck, girls, this is New York! “I thought, ‘Oh, he’s obviously very into me, and if he liked me as much as I liked him, then he’ll call me tonight,'” she said. “But he waited two days! I think he was trying to play it cool.”

And how did that make her feel?

“I felt it was obnoxious,” she said.

But Dr. Chavis-who said he’d “just about given up the idea of meeting someone”-had actually warmed very quickly to Ms. Stemerman. He wasn’t even spooked, as some less therapized men might’ve been, by the fact that she owns her own wedding-planning company, Weddings by Lorelei. Indeed, as their relationship progressed, he began occasionally moonlighting as her “day-of-event” assistant. “He’s the most generous person,” she said.

In time, they moved into his Upper East Side one-bedroom, with its comfy green leather couch and stash of red clown noses. He proposed one morning in bed, backing up the round diamond in a platinum diamond-pavé setting with a big bear hug.

They’ll marry before a bevy of shrinks at the Yale Club. “She has my heart,” Dr. Chavis said, wiping away a tear or two.

“He fits in with my family,” Ms. Stemerman said. “I love that.”

-Anna Jane Grossman

Sean Barry and Pamela Raitt

Met: Dec. 2, 2002

Engaged: Sept. 19, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: Aug. 21, 2004

Sean Barry, 35, is one of the city’s many picky eaters. He won’t eat food that’s cold, or gray. “And there are a lot of gray foods out there: mushrooms, fish …. ” he said, adding: “I don’t like bright yellow foods, either. But bananas don’t count. And corn doesn’t count. I’m a meat-and-potatoes guy.”

Mr. Barry-an interior designer whose résumé includes Nectar, Coda, Eden and a lot of other tersely named nightclubs-made his preferences quickly known during his first date with Pamela Raitt at Moto in Williamsburg. She drank wine; he stuck to Pellegrino. “That made me feel uncomfortable,” said Ms. Raitt (a distant relation of Bonnie’s), 33, a copywriter at the ad agency Cossette Post. “I was very underwhelmed.”

It wasn’t a promising evening. When she said she had a cat, he said he didn’t like them. When she announced she hated tattoos, he unveiled one on his back that read “Rock On.” (Mr. Barry is a part-time drummer and singer.) “I thought it was so garish,” Ms. Raitt said. “I e-mailed my friends the next day and said, ‘He has a tattoo and doesn’t eat gray food. I’m never going to see him again.'”

But she probably was, since they lived on the same block in South Billyburg, so she consented to a second date. They’d met on under profile name salty68, she as sunshinygirl. In her photo, she had a big cowboy hat, “and blue eyes like eyes I’d never seen,” Mr. Barry said.

He took her to Monday-night karaoke at Arlene Grocery, where he did an impressive cover of “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath. A few days later, he braved Ethiopian food, with its many gray areas, on Bleecker Street.

And before long, the pair was strolling hand-in-hand down the aisles of Toys in Babeland, the Lower East Side “sex”-cessory shop-“a good ice-breaking thing to do,” said Ms. Raitt, a typical gal. (Mr. Barry gamely bought some massage oil and a vibrator.)

He reached an emotional turning point after she beat him by 11 points on a pop-culture quiz in Entertainment Weekly. “Like, she knew all the names of the Carrington children from Dynasty ,” he said. “That was the moment I knew I could hang tight with her for the rest of my life.”

He proposed in a Budget rental car en route to his father’s second wedding in Rochester. The ring, a clunky emerald-cut sapphire surrounded by two small diamonds in platinum, is still being set. The pair plan to move to the suburbs after their hippie, slightly Wicca-sounding wedding-there will be a “Goddess of Honor,” etc.-in Big Indian, NY.

We’re not even gonna ask about the catering. But, thankfully, it doesn’t sound like the groom is a finicky Felix behind bedroom doors. “I know it sounds New Age–y, but basically he’s very in touch with himself,” Ms. Raitt said. “I’ve had a lot of experiences with men who are very uncomfortable with parts of themselves and feel like they can’t express a full range of emotions because that’s not being ‘a man.’ Sean isn’t like that. He makes me feel like there’s no part of me that he doesn’t love.”

-Anna Jane Grossman

Jennifer Farrell and Evan Gold

Met: February 2001

Engaged: May 15, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: May 22, 2004

Two techie turtledoves! Jennifer Farrell, 28, a 5-foot-7 Irish-Swedish blond babe, and Evan Gold, 34, a nice Jewish fellow from Canarsie, both worked in systems support. “We’re both computer geeks,” she said. A couple of years ago they were both working at ABN Amro, a fearsome-sounding international-banking firm in midtown when they met.

The six-foot-tall, brown-haired, blue-eyed Mr. Gold, who boasts that he’s been a hacker since age 11, rushed to Ms. Farrell’s aid one dreary afternoon after she requested extra help with a staffer snafu. “I got butterflies,” she said. “I kept thinking about him the whole rest of the day.”

He began barraging her with e-mails suggesting lunch-“I didn’t think I had a chance,” he said, “she was so beautiful and sophisticated”-and soon piloted her maiden voyage to the Carnegie Deli, where she plunged into a mammoth serving of matzoh-ball soup. “You could have gone swimming in that bowl,” she said.

Their most recent lukewarm relationships had left each of them a little tentative. After weeks of dillydallying, Ms. Farrell invited Mr. Gold to a glam party thrown by co–workers from her former employer, MTV. “I wasn’t sure if he really liked me or wanted to be my friend,” she said. “It was really awkward.” A positively Victorian 10 dates later, he finally went in for the kiss at L’Angelo’s on West Houston. “It was the most unbelievable feeling in the world,” Ms. Farrell said. “It was like, ‘That’s it! This is what I’ve been waiting for!'”

A few months later, Mr. Gold-who suffers from Crohn’s disease, a chronic intestinal disorder- found himself awaiting surgery at the N.Y.U. Medical Center, with Ms. Farrell hastily improvising in the Florence Nightingale role. “She was doing so much taking care of me, getting me anything I wanted,” he said. “I realized that we had a really special bond, and I didn’t want to ever be without her.”

They moved to a three-bedroom house in Harrison, N.Y., near the shore, with its bracing sea air. Mr. Gold proposed at the Kittle House in Chappaqua (a few blocks from Casa Clinton), giving Ms. Farrell a two-carat, round-cut brilliant stone in a platinum Tiffany setting, with a one-point chip of blue diamond embedded in the band that conveniently gets the “something blue” requirement out of the way.

The wedding will be in Kaanapali Beach, Maui. “Everything’s in white … everything ,” said Ms. Farrell, who will wear a gown designed by Amy Michelson and clothe her attendants in Vera Wang. The couple is planning an interfaith ceremony, but Mr. Gold retains some hope that his shiksa bride may yet join his tribe. “Whenever she’s sick,” he said, “she has to have matzoh-ball soup.”

-Ronda Kaysen Countdown to Bliss