Countdown to Bliss

Fara Kaplan and Michael Saracino

Met: October 1995

Engaged: Jan. 23, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: Feb. 21, 2004

Bronzed beloveds! Fara Kaplan, 28, and Michael Saracino, 34, met at a tanning salon on Long Island and have maintained a healthy glow ever since. Now they’re planning to grow wrinkled together.

Ms. Kaplan was working at Ultra Tan in Oceanside while on a semester hiatus from Hofstra University. Mr. Saracino was a regular client. “They had real good tans; it was the most expensive and the best,” he said of Ultra Tan. A swarthy mortgage banker who lifts weights twice daily and sometimes wears Gucci nonprescription glasses (just because), he knows the importance of appearance in today’s competitive marketplace. “For business reasons, I think if you have a little color, it helps,” he said.

Approaching the pretty, brown-eyed, brunette receptionist, he commented that the star-emblazoned T-shirt she was wearing suited her because she, too, was a star. “It was cheesy,” he admitted.

“I thought he was cute right away,” she said.

The next time Mr. Saracino pulled up in his silver Beamer, he brought a juicy love offering: a chicken sandwich from the pizza place next-door. “He’s just a big-hearted person,” Ms. Kaplan said. “After that, we were just always together.”

He was her first boyfriend, and there were a few glitches: She’s Jewish, he’s Catholic, and neither wants to convert. But love is the only true religion.” You know when you break up with someone, and your friends are trying to make you feel better because you’re upset, so they talk bad about the other person?” Mr. Saracino said. “Well, my friends would look at me and say, ‘Sorry, man-we can’t say anything bad about Fara.'”

After Ms. Kaplan graduated, she got a job as a guidance counselor at P.S. 276 in Brooklyn, and moved into his Upper East Side one-bedroom, which they share with two miniature poodles: Parker and the aptly named Tanner. Mr. Saracino gave his honey-colored honey a 4.3-carat emerald-cut diamond ring with trapezoidal side stones one day after class, whereupon she burst into happy tears. “It’s my dream ring,” she said.

A rabbi and a priest will preside over their wedding ceremony at that sacred ground, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the hideous new Time Warner complex. The bride will wear rose-colored Reem Acra, the better to complement the golden complexion she’s been cultivating for weeks (Mr. Saracino has switched bronzing-parlor allegiances, to the Yucatan Tanning Salon in Syosset).

“You ever hear that song that goes, ‘Heaven must be missing an angel / Because she’s here with me right now’?” Mr. Saracino said. “It’s hard to explain, but that’s it.”

Marisha Plotnik and Ihor Radysh

Met: July 1995

Engaged: June 5, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: April 3, 2004

Ihor Radysh, 50, an elementary-level teacher at the hippie-dippy Rudolf Steiner school on the Upper East Side, is engaged to Marishna Plotnik, 33, who teaches physics and math in the Steiner high school. Mr. Radysh’s previous marriage to another Steiner disciple ended in 1992 after 15 years and three kids (he’s also grandfather to a 6-year-old).

“For the longest time, I thought I wasn’t ever going to marry again,” he said, cuddled up in stocking feet next to the sinewy, sexily gap-toothed Ms. Plotnik on a vintage pink sofa in their large, gemütlich apartment off Central Park West (books, old teddy bears, foosball, cacti and an 18-year-old deaf-mute cat named Cashew). “I thought, I’m self-sufficient. I know how to cook. I’ve been folding laundry and ironing for years! ” Not to mention scooping deaf-mute kitty poop!

The couple met at a three-week Waldorf-method retreat in Maine. Ms. Plotnik was super-impressed by the nimble gray-haired gent, who specializes in Eurythmy, a form of movement created by Rudolf Steiner which renders speech physically. “He was the guy who’d get everyone up at 4 a.m. to take a hike and watch the sunrise,” she said. “Lively and outgoing, always the ringleader.”

They went dancing a few times at Manny’s Car Wash (now closed), but it was all pretty innocent. As a single parent, Mr. Radysh didn’t have much space and time for a private life. “But my friends all kept saying, ‘She likes you, she likes you!'” he said.

Shopping in the Union Square Greenmarket during winter break that year, he decided on impulse to invite her out for a drink, but the pay phone promptly ate his quarter. “I said, ‘Oh, well, if I have another quarter in my pocket, I’ll try again. If I don’t-oh, well …. ‘” Mr. Radysh said. On such tiny threads, fate hangs. Fortunately, there was another quarter, and another phone, and Ms. Plotnik skedaddled in short order to the Heartland Brewery, where the two engaged in a spirited discussion of the calculus. “He was very passionate-about math,” she said.

The affair was kept secret until all his kids-two of whom were Ms. Plotnik’s pupils-finished high school. Luckily they took it well and she moved in two years ago. “It’s not a family you would find in a book,” she commented, “but it’s very much a family.”

The pair enjoys motoring via 1970 Buick Skylark to their cabin upstate, which has a Scrabble set but no running water or electricity (very Verlyn Klinkenborg).

Ms. Plotnik had her own reasons to be skeptical of wedlock: She’s the daughter of a former nun turned shrink and a Catholic priest who are now divorced-truly, you can’t make this stuff up.

But the two teachers caught the “M” bug while on vacation in the Bahamas, and upon returning to New York, they bought a winding platinum band holding two small diamonds from Stuart Moore downtown.

The bride will wear her grandmother’s pale pink flapper-style wedding gown to their nuptials at the school. Mayor Bloomberg lives in the townhouse next-door to the school and has been invited, but don’t expect the born-again bachelor to join the raucous Eurythmy. “He keeps joking with me about how foolish I am to do it a second time,” Mr. Radysh said.

Rosie Castillo and John Vecchio

Met: Oct. 28, 2002

Engaged: June 19, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: Aug. 21, 2004

It was the moment every modern suitor dreads: Rosie Castillo opened the box containing a princess-cut diamond after a dinner at Downtown Disney and “hated” it.

“It looked so wrong,” she said.

Shushing her inner Material Girl, she gamely went back to the hotel room with her new fiancé to celebrate (if you know what we mean), and has since exchanged the bauble for an oval-cut one-carat stone with four additional diamonds on each side. Sisters are doing it for themselves!

When she first met John Vecchio, he was unemployed and living at his childhood home in Huntington, Long Island. But Ms. Castillo, 26, a caseworker for the Children’s Aid Society, quickly saw the potential. “I don’t date men that live with their moms- hell , no,” she said. “But with him, it was fine. He has the most beautiful smile and the cutest dimples.”

They discovered each other on Mr. Vecchio, 29, had been surfing the online singles world for a month, but this curly-haired cutie was his first catch. “She seemed like everything I was looking for,” he said. Ms. Castillo had just about given up on Internet love, but enjoyed the dark, bear-sized fellow’s little eCards. “I got a good vibe about him,” she said.

He almost blew it, though, showing up for their first meeting in paint-stained clothing-he’d been working on his mom’s house-a whopping three hours late. “I didn’t make a big effort,” he said. But when he offered to help Ms. Castillo shop for her upcoming Halloween party, she let the faux pas go.

For their first real date, they went to see Red Dragon , the widely hyped and quickly forgotten Hannibal Lecter movie. “I was very scared-I would cling to him and stuff,” Ms. Castillo said. But Mr. Vecchio apparently needed additional encouragement. “He’s very shy,” she said. “I had to put the moves on him!”

A few months later, his toothbrush had found a permanent home in her bathroom (she lives in a one-bedroom studio in Richmond Hills, Queens). He’d found a job as a physics teacher at Banana Kelly High School in da Bronx, was paying her cable bill and was learning Spanish-fast: The bilingual Ms. Castillo hails from the Dominican Republic. “I speak to him in Spanish, especially when I’m mad,” she said.

They’re planning a 130-guest wedding at Fort Washington Collegiate Church in Washington Heights, over some static from his mother, who is Irish-Austrian and isn’t particularly psyched about union. “We’ll see if she comes,” said Ms. Castillo. “It’s very sad.”

“I’m my mother’s baby, and she doesn’t want to lose me,” is how Mr. Vecchio explained it.

– Ronda Kaysen Countdown to Bliss