Countdown to Bliss

Jennifer Cohen and Michael Oko

Met: Summer 1984

Engaged: July 20, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: June 5, 2004

Jennifer Cohen and Michael Oko grew up living parallel lives on the Upper West Side as the comely brown-haired, prominent-nosed, thin-lipped children of Jewish intellectuals. His family lived on 101st Street; hers on 100th. Both had an older brother named Daniel and a father who was a shrink. Her mother frequented Teachers, the late, lamented family-friendly restaurant; his waited tables there.

The two moms bumped into each other when both families were coincidentally vacationing in Paris. While the parents schmoozed, young Romeo and Juliet took off on a bus and got lost. Mr. Oko used his eighth-grade French to navigate back to the hotel. Years later, Ms. Cohen, a year ahead in school, discovered five pages of tightly single-spaced writing-“bubble letters with hearts and circles dotting the I’s,” she said-documenting his failed attempt at a pass.

Eighteen years passed without another rendezvous. Ms. Cohen attended Tufts and The Columbia School of Journalism and started working in network news and documentary production, which begat a dysfunctional romance with a manic-depressive, suicidal journalist in Moscow. Mr. Oko graduated from Cornell and also went into documentary filmmaking. One project required a week spent in silence at a Tibetan-Buddhist monastery. “I’d talk about it on dates to make me sound intriguing,” he said.

After extracting herself from the situation with the grim journalist (her book about the experience, Lying Together: My Russian Affair , hits the stores in September), Ms. Cohen returned to the forgiving bosom of the Upper West Side and got a job as a producer at CBS’s The Early Show . Seeking a dry spot after a rainy run in the park one afternoon, she ducked under an awning at the 72nd and Columbus flea market and found herself in a tchotchke-filled stall manned by Mr. Oko’s mother. Could she give her son some job advice? Mama Oko asked.

The young people met for drinks in Chelsea. “I remember passing by the bar and seeing her in the window and having a little heart-skipping-a-beat feeling,” Mr. Oko said. “Then it was like, ‘So what’s been going on in the last 18 years?'”

“We talked business, but there was definitely something there-a weird tension,” Ms. Cohen said. “It was like, bam! I was back in Paris.”

“After that, it evolved so naturally,” said Mr. Oko, 33, who has found a new career path studying international relations at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies. “I never felt any angst about it all.”

“Compared to all the other relationships I’d ever had, it was just so easy,” said Ms. Cohen, 34. “When my friends complain about their significant others, I just sit there quietly, because I can’t share.”

One afternoon, they were strolling near her parents’ summer home in the Berkshires, which lacks the amenities of Central Park.

“Why isn’t there a bench here so we can sit?” Mr. Oko wondered, oh so casually, his grandmother’s platinum-set 2.5-carat diamond with two baguettes burning a hole in his pocket.

“Huh? Are you O.K.? Are you sick?” Ms. Cohen said. Her beau began to tremble.

“Oh! Is this a proposal situation?” she said.

They’ll be married at a defunct summer camp in Great Barrington. “It’s the perfect epilogue to my book,” said the bride-to-be. “I run around the world searching for passion and excitement, and here I finally found it literally next-door.”

Nicole-Leslie Bent and Damian Sommerville

Met: Oct. 10, 2001

Engaged: Dec. 9, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: July 11, 2004

Nicole-Leslie Bent was raised in Scarsdale to Jamaican-born parents. After she got a job at Lord and Taylor and became a bona fide Manhattan single girl, the family would often ask her to play tour guide to visitors from their home country. “I’d been to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building more times than any New Yorker should ,” said the 29-year-old fashion executive and designer-a hazel-eyed, beauty with great posture and a wardrobe full of sweater sets, pearls and neckerchiefs.

When her mother asked her to show Damian Sommerville, the son of a friend, around the bright lights of Times Square (“He’s so smart !”), Ms. Bent got particularly bent out of shape. “No way! Nope! Never again!” she declared. No matter that Dr . Sommerville had graduated magna cum laude from Morgan State, liked theater, was in dental school at N.Y.U., had a sister at Harvard, etc. “I was picturing Steve Urkel,” she said.

Dr. Sommerville wasn’t so keen on the fix-up himself. “I thought she was probably one of those stuck-up, high-maintenance girls in the fashion industry,” he said.

Grudgingly, the two young people consented to a dinner date à trois (with her mom) at Cité. When the bearded, bespectacled and dapper Dr. Sommerville walked in, Ms. Bent positively melted. “I saw him and was like, ‘Oh my God! He’s normal! He’s handsome!'” she said.

Favoring the slower island pace, perhaps, he didn’t call the next day-so she phoned him. Then he called every night for the next two weeks. “I was like, ‘Whoa! What did I do?'” Ms. Bent said. They saw each other almost daily for a couple of months. “And he never kissed me,” she said. “My friends are going, ‘Maybe he’s gay?'” (A conclusion encouraged, perhaps, by his penchant for pocket handkerchiefs.) “I just hadn’t had the right opportunity,” said Dr. Sommerville, 28, now a resident at N.Y.U. School of Dentistry. He waited to strike till they were prowling the sofa department of Bloomingdale’s; they both adore furniture. “People my age often don’t like doing the things I like to do-I don’t drink, I like antiques,” Ms. Bent said. “But he’s different. He totally gets me.”

Exactly one year later, they were back in the same spot at Bloomie’s (what about Lord and Taylor loyalty?) when he suddenly produced a vintage diamond-pavé platinum engagement ring. Taken aback, Ms. Bent plopped into the nearest leather couch, a flurry of anxious sales ladies materializing quickly at her side. Dr. Sommerville then spirited her away to the restaurant Jezebel. “If I could [propose] all over again, I’d do it differently,” he said. “She’s not too excited about how I did it.”

The couple live in Midwood and will be married at the St. Regis. Ms. Bent designed their unity candle. The fabric of her ivory satin Monique L’Huillier gown will exactly match Dr. Sommerville’s vest and tie, and the christening outfit of their future children. The cake will be a white buttercream concoction with sugar-sculpted orchids by Ron Ben-Israel, and there will be plenty of Jamaican fare beforehand: jerk chicken, plantains and a groom’s cake soaked with rum. Yes, they’re jammin’!

Robert Gould and Jennifer Machado

Met: 1992

Engaged: Sept. 23, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: April 24, 2004

Personal-injury lawyer Bob Gould, 30, is marrying Jennifer Machado, 24, the babelicious aquatics director at the Paris Health Club on West End Avenue.

“I can be a really big pain in the ass,” said the robust, brown-eyed Mr. Gould loudly, seated near his Esther Williams at a Starbucks. “I’m a slob. I lose my temper about lots of stupid things. I like to argue about everything. I was raised in a house where everyone debated! I’m a lawyer. I’ll argue about, like, which is the better oatmeal -the generic or the Quaker Oats?”

“I just give up-he’s always right,” said the brunette and smiley Ms. Machado, who intends to become a math teacher.

They originally met a dozen years ago through her older cousin Carrie, but memories are vague. “She was just a kid,” Mr. Gould said. Flash-forward to Carrie’s wedding, when they were partnered as usher and bridesmaid. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, who is that beautiful woman?'” he said. “Everyone was forbidden to talk to Cousin Jen except for me.”

Ms. Machado, a swim-team girl studying at the University of New Hampshire, had a less strong impression. “I guess I got drunk,” she said.

“I swept her off her feet,” Mr. Gould said. There was confusion in the hotel, he said, and they had to share a room. “I totally scored.”

“You did not score !” she said.

Whatever, kids.

They had a few visits after that, but then his phone calls abruptly stopped. Mr. Gould was concerned about leading on his friend’s cousin. “I knew she was the woman for me, but I wasn’t emotionally ready,” he said. “Wasn’t ready to commit and be a husband-y kind of guy.”

A year later, he I.M.’d her and they took a joyful reunion hike. “She just couldn’t keep her hands off me,” he said. They moved into an Upper East Side love shack last year, and one morning she found money on the kitchen table, along with a note that read “Go get a manicure.”

When she returned from swim class later that day, she found that her freshly filed red talons perfectly matched the roses her precious had scattered all over the floor. The ring: a radiant-cut square diamond set in a platinum band. The celebratory dinner: Nino’s.

Considering that he already dumped her once before, Cousin Carrie was a bit nervous to hear of the impending nuptials, but Mr. Gould swears he’s a new man. “I’m reformed,” he said. “I’m the sweetest guy she’ll ever meet.”

Ms. Machado has converted to Judaism for the wedding, to be held at a country club outside the groom’s native Boston. Afraid of looking like a linebacker in her dress, she has cut down on swimming, but is dragging Mr. Gould to the gym every morning at 5 a.m. so that they can be in fighting shape to rush the brownie sundae bar they have planned. Countdown to Bliss