Countdown to Bliss

Tish Durkin and Sean O’Sullivan

Met: April 10, 2003

Engaged: April 8, 2004

Projected Wedding Date: Dec. 31, 2004

A farewell to arms? Tish Durkin, 37, The Observer ‘s war correspondent, is marrying Sean O’Sullivan, a humanitarian-aid manager and fellow Irish Catholic two years her senior. “It’s like my mother ordered him out of a catalog,” she said.

They met in the hotel in Amman, Jordan, the day after the fall of Baghdad, and bonded while sharing a 14-hour cab ride to the Iraqi capital. Ms. Durkin, “hysterically suicidal for having become the war correspondent who missed the war,” as she put it, was chattering nonstop, nervous because she hadn’t received the proper visa from the Jordanian authorities.

They stopped at a grocery store at around 3 a.m., and Ms. Durkin purchased four cans of Spam. “That’s when I really started to like her,” wrote Mr. O’Sullivan, who is also a filmmaker, in an e-mail from Jordan. “Anyone who can be so optimistic in the face of impossible odds is O.K. in my book.”

Miraculously, they made it through all the checkpoints-Mr. O’Sullivan gallantly helping Ms. Durkin into her flak jacket-and checked in at the journalist-flooded El Fanar hotel. A makeshift courtship soon developed over cans of tuna fish, M.R.E.’s (meals ready to eat) bummed from the brave men and women of the U.S. military, and a Lady and the Tramp –esque plate of cold, sopping-wet spaghetti at the Palestine Hotel. Mr. O’Sullivan contends this last meal was their first official date. “As much as I love Iraq and the Iraqi people,” responded Ms. Durkin, “I promulgated then, and remain firmly committed now, to a rule that nothing that occurs within Iraqi borders can remotely be construed as a date.”

After Mr. O’Sullivan went to Cannes to staff a booth for the University of Southern California, where he attended film school, Ms. Durkin joined him for an invigorating two-week jaunt through Italy. “She’s so damn smart and quick-witted,” he wrote. “I also like how she can change her mind when presented with new information. But I love her most because she has this unstoppable enthusiasm; she bubbles over with playfulness and joy.

“It doesn’t hurt that she’s beautiful,” he added.

Months later in Iraq, on a day when the fighting had picked up, Mr. O’Sullivan was supposed to leave on a long-scheduled trip to Los Angeles to attend the premiere of a documentary he had directed. Ms. Durkin had received an interesting assignment and decided not to come. So he impulsively got down on bended knee in her apartment and asked her for her hand. “Obviously there wasn’t a ring or anything,” Ms. Durkin wrote. “But that didn’t keep me from turning instantly into a paragon of raging bridalism! It was quite enjoyably ridiculous: Falluja under siege …. Najaf under threat …. Tish on the Net, booking a band.”

The couple plans to leave Iraq in October, perhaps settling in Barcelona. Their wedding will be at a small church in New Jersey, near Ms. Durkin’s hometown Caldwell, N.J.

Mr. O’Sullivan is thoroughly delighted with his brave bride-to-be. “The only place you could meet someone who’s crazy enough to be in a war zone is in a war zone,” he said. “You’re not going to meet them in a bar on 79th Street.”

Matthew DeSilva and Gina Pedone

Met: September 2003

Engaged: December 2003

Projected Wedding Date: Nov. 20, 2004

Drunken dial, millennium style! One night, totally wasted, Matt DeSilva returned to his studio on Avenue B and posted a personal ad on craigslist.org-a cyberhowl at the Manhattan moon. “Is there anyone out there who isn’t completely self-centered?” wrote Mr. DeSilva, a blue-eyed bassist.

“It was actually rather embarrassing,” he explained later. “It was some rambling weird ad that I didn’t really remember writing the next morning.”

But in the morning, two responses awaited him. “I know what you mean,” read one. It came from Gina Pedone, a receptionist at Completely Bare, the Upper East Side hair-removal spa.

“The other person was crazy,” said Mr. DeSilva, 34, who by day is the guitar-department manager at Manny’s Music.

The two began e-mailing back and forth, and met up a few days later for heavy hipster fare at Odessa. “I could tell he liked me,” said the sassy, brunette Ms. Pedone, 25, “because I was talking about yoga and he was pretending to be interested.”

She had pulled the book-a-plan-for-after-your-date-in-case-it’s-a-bust move, which Mr. DeSilva countered by walking her 10 blocks to the Union Square subway stop. “A lot of people I’ve met in New York will not open themselves up to other people, and she’s not like that,” he said.

They met again later that week for drinks at 2A, and have been inseparable ever since. “I love you,” she whispered to him one night in bed.

“I love you more,” he said.

“I love you more.”

“Well, I want to marry you,” Mr. DeSilva said, ending that little tug of war. They hugged-“I think I was so drunk at that point that it was much easier to handle the conversation,” Ms. Pedone said-then zonked out.

The couple took a little time to let the news sink in, announced it to their parents and only then moved Ms. Pedone from the West Village to the East, displaying a certain traditionalism beneath their indie veneer. “We’re bad Catholics,” she said. Soon after, Mr. DeSilva went to the diamond district and picked up a modern, matte white-gold band with a small bezel-set rock.

Ms. Pedone had been working on opening her own Orchard Street bridal boutique, Adrienne, a funkier outpost of a store her mom owns on Long Island. Isn’t that convenient? For their wedding at St. Francis Xavier (a church on 15th Street that is liberal about lapsed Catholics), she’ll wear an A-line, corset-backed dress of her own design, in light rose-pink satin. “I knew that I didn’t want to wear white,” she said, “because I’d seen so much of it, I was sick of it.”

The reception will be at Capitale, with Adam Roth of Adam Roth and the Jaded Six heading up the wedding band-much to the bafflement of the couple’s parents. “They can’t understand why we don’t want a harp and violin,” Ms. Pedone said.

Meanwhile, Mr. DeSilva’s single buddies have begun musing that hey, maybe they should put out an ad too. “Look,” he tells them. “The chances are remote.”

Rondi Bergendoff and Dave Sewelson

Met: Jan. 4, 2003

Engaged: Feb. 2, 2004

Projected Wedding Date: April 17, 2005

Mushy in middle age! Dave Sewelson, 52, an electronic data-gathering, analysis and retrieval specialist at the law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, is planning to wed Rondi Bergendoff, 46, a drama therapist, in what will be the second marriage for each. “I was scared it wouldn’t happen,” Ms. Bergendoff said.

Set up the old-fashioned way-by a mutual friend-the couple met at Mancora, a Peruvian restaurant on Smith Street in Brooklyn. (Mr. Sewelson had asked someone’s teenage son where all the whippersnappers were flocking these days.) “We kept looking at each other’s eyes,’ he said. “There seemed to be excessive eye contact for the first date.” He was turned on by her blond hair and “mellifluous” laugh. “She’s got a Gracie Allen thing going,” he said.

“Can I reserve you for next weekend?” he asked after walking her home. Ms. Bergendoff thought that was sweet. “I just thought he was really cute and serious and sexy,” she said.

And musical, it turned out. Mr. Sewelson, a saxophonist who cultivates the aging-rocker look with a salt-and-pepper goatee, invited her to see him play at a tap-dance show in Soho about six weeks later. It was all smooth grooves from then on. “I kind of knew I wanted to marry her, but I wanted to wait a year,” he said.

When the time came, he casually asked Ms. Bergendoff for her ring size-as if one could do such a thing casually-then contacted a jeweler he knew at Harry Winston for a .20-carat sparkler in a white-gold pronged setting.

Bauble and bunch of roses in hand, sporting a new green corduroy shirt, he buzzed her Brooklyn Heights apartment.

Ms. Bergendoff was furiously primping before the bathroom mirror. “You’re ready,” she whispered to herself.

Granted admittance, Mr. Sewelson plunked his girlfriend on the couch, passed her the posies and announced: “Oh, baby, I need you, I love you-will you marry me?”

The person most overjoyed at the news might be his landlord; Mr. Sewelson has lived in a rent-stabilized apartment on Avenue A since the dark ages of 1978. The couple is now looking for a new place together, as well as an outdoor location for their nuptials (the honeymoon is set for Hawaii).

“Better late than never,” Ms. Bergendoff said.

“I don’t like it when you say that,” Mr. Sewelson said. “I think it was right on time.”

Countdown to Bliss