Countdown to Bliss

Douglas Frankel and Kimberly Vale

Met: February 2002

Engaged: Oct. 24, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 23, 2004

Diagnosis: euphoria! Kimberly Vale, 28, a forensic psychologist, plans to marry financial analyst Douglas Frankel, 27, at the Tarrytown House in Westchester, clad in a cap-sleeved, Victorian-style, beaded A-line gown. He calls her Vernon; she calls him Pepe. (God knows why.) “We’ll go through an entire weekend and not have any contact with the outside world and have the best time,” she said. “He’s just someone I want to spend my time with all the time.” Sounds healthy ….

They met at Sugar, a dimly lit lounge in Tribeca, celebrating a mutual friend’s birthday. The tall, dark and handsome Mr. Frankel is color-blind, so he couldn’t appreciate Ms. Vale’s golden-green eyes, but he was captivated by her spiral curls, smile and sarcastic wit. “My ears kind of shot up,” he said.

They danced all night, powered by some potent martinis, and then shared a taxi back to their respective Upper East Side abodes. Mr. Frankel then announced that he was competing in a triathalon a few hours later—which didn’t have the desired effect. “I just thought he was really crazy,” Ms. Vale said. “I thought it was really irresponsible to be out. I don’t ever stay out that late, and it seemed like it was his M.O. I thought he was a player.”

She softened, however, after finding a yarmulke in his jacket, which he accidentally (or so he claims) left in the cab. “I had been dating a lot,” she said, but “I hadn’t found a good Jewish guy.”

Mr. Frankel used the party Evite to find her e-mail address, and they arranged for dinner at Canyon Road, Ms. Vale’s favorite Mexican restaurant. After a few Coronas, he watched, slightly aghast, as she slipped off to the men’s room, too impatient to wait for the ladies’. “It was a little freaky,” he said. Meanwhile, she was a bit concerned about his lack of appetite. “I was like, ‘Can I have some?’” Ms. Vale said.

Perhaps Mr. Frankel was just nervous about the imminent life change before him. “I knew from that night that this was the person to stay,” he said. Sure enough, by the following January, she’d moved into his one-bedroom duplex co-op on East 92nd Street, adding curtains, a coffee table, a TV stand—those little luxuries that bachelors just don’t understand. Ms. Vale had by now realized that he wasn’t a player but “a sweet, nerdy guy.”

One day, they were strolling by Tiffany and saw a vacuum cleaner standing idle in the window.

“Why don’t we go check out the ‘vacuum cleaners’?” Mr. Frankel suggested. (He wound up buying her ring, a 1.6-carat round diamond set in platinum with pavé trim along the side, from a dealer in the diamond district.)

About a month later, he decorated their apartment with red sheets and roses and served a memorable meal featuring chicken with artichokes, shiitake and tomatoes. “Of course, he didn’t eat,” Ms. Vale said. Minutes after he proposed, members of her family knocked on the window and entered the apartment to help celebrate.

“Everyone kind of stood around and cried and laughed,” Ms. Vale said. “All the women spent the whole night having to clean up the kitchen.”

Melissa Opper and William Terrence Murray III

Met: Dec. 7, 2002

Engaged: March 13, 2004

Wedding Date: April 23, 2005

Investment banker William (Tripp) Murray, 30, has his share of dating war stories—like the time he received an e-mail from a young lady he’d been courting, intended for a friend of hers. It suggested that the two correspondents go out with Mr. Murray in order to milk him for free drinks, then described how the young lady’s existing boyfriend had fallen asleep during sex.

Mr. Murray, a sporting lad, forwarded the e-mail to a couple of friends, and they sent it to their friends, and so on, and so on …. The next thing he knew, it had been posted on Web sites and was reaching elementary-school classmates as far as Japan. Not to mention corporate-affairs associate Melissa Opper, who recognized Mr. Murray’s name when she met him at a mutual friend’s birthday party. “I felt like I was meeting a B-level celebrity,” said Ms. Opper, 31. And a very handsome one, at that: curly hair, green eyes …. “I think I had an instant crush on him,” she said.

Mr. Murray was equally smitten with the tall, bespectacled, sandy-haired blonde, who had arrived with a colorful scarf fluttering around her neck. He approached her at the bar after dinner. “We did sixth-grader flirting,” he said. “I think I stole her glasses.”

“It was completely juvenile behavior,” Ms. Opper agreed.

Shee-mailed Mr. Murray the following Monday(who says feminism is dead?), pretending to misfire a message intended for “a friend.” The two arranged for dinner at Vanderbilt Station and were pretty much inseparable from then on.

“For the world’s biggest cynic, it was hard to believe,” Ms. Opper said. “It was like he had read a manual on how to be the world’s best boyfriend.”

“Right away, there was something different about Wubba,” said Mr. Murray, using Ms. Opper’s childhood nickname. “It’s an intangible thing, and it was something I hadn’t ever experienced before.”

A year and a half later, the couple could be found standing in front of a “wishing rock” near the house owned by Mr. Murray’s family in Cape Cod.

Ms. Opper was sitting on a boulder, jabbering away about something inconsequential, when she turned around and saw her beloved on bended knee, clutching three “wishing stones” and stammering over three questions: Would she grow old with him? Would she love him forever? Would she marry him? (He had already taken care to secure permission from her brother-in-law, her stepfather and her actual father.)

Ms. Opper’s reaction? “I tackled him from the boulder and knocked him flat,” she said. Ooof.

The ring is a platinum-set sapphire flanked with diamonds; Mr. Murray was so worried about losing it in the crashing surf that he jammed it on his pinkie finger.

A couple of weeks after the engagement, Ms. Opper moved into Mr. Murray’s one-bedroom apartment in Gramercy. They’ll marry at the same Gramercy Park church where his parents wed 35 years ago, with a reception to follow at the National Arts Club.

The groom-to-be took a moment from his demanding day job to share some sage advice on e-mail etiquette. “Never write anything you wouldn’t want your mother to read,” he said. Countdown to Bliss