Countdown to Bliss

Keith Miller and Christine Pala

Met: 1997

Engaged: Aug. 1, 2004

Projected Wedding Date: Nov. 12, 2005

Keith Miller, an ad-sales employee at Disney with big brown eyes and long lashes, is marrying Christine Pala, a slender blond account executive at the high-end publicity firm Paul Wilmot Communications. We sure hope Uncle Walt approves ….

The bride will wear a dress designed by a client, Monique Lhuillier, to her reception at the New York Botanical Gardens, following a ceremony at Fordham University, where the couple, both 27, got their bachelors’ degrees. “We always ran in the same group,” Mr. Miller said. “We now always joke about her having a crush on me, but I think, really, I always had a crush on her.”

“Keith was extremely good-looking,” Ms. Pala said. “I think my version of flirting was to call him Sugar Ray, ’cause he looked like [lead singer/current Access Hollywood host] Mark McGrath.” Now that’s a compliment!

The mutual admiration remained unspoken, and after graduation the two went their separate ways, he to his native stomping grounds of Bay Ridge, she to the Upper East Side. In the spring of 2001, fate brought them both to McFadden’s, a saloon in midtown (“the scene of many a crime,” said Mr. Miller, a bit ruefully). “There was some heavy flirting,” Ms. Pala said.

He drove her home at the end of the evening (guys from Bay Ridge have cars), but fumbled a bit on the follow-up. “I didn’t really even notice it when the phone calls stopped,” Ms. Pala said.

A little over two years later, Mr. Miller found himself a bit thirsty while spending the Fourth of July at his uncle’s house in Sag Harbor. He wandered into a back-street tavern called Murph’s, and there was you-know-who, sitting with a few friends. “I was stunned when he walked in,” said Ms. Pala. “He came over right away, and we started talking and talking and talking some more.”

He gave her a ride back to the city a couple of days later and took her to dinner at Bistro le Steak, where they finally discovered their similar family backgrounds (Irish and Italian) and rapidly hurtled forth into total commitment.

“It just felt normal and right almost immediately,” Ms. Pala said.

To secure permission to wed from her Pop, Mr. Miller staged a barbecue at his house in Bay Ridge. “I was sweating and running around like a maniac,” he said. “He was acting a bit strange,” said Ms. Pala. “I mean, it was really hot, but he was still acting a bit funny.”

Afterwards, they repaired to her pad in Manhattan, where she hopped into the shower, emerging to find the place ablaze with candlelight. “Have you been lighting something on fire?” she asked reasonably.

“You saw how hard I worked today at the barbecue for our family and friends,” Mr. Miller said, dropping to one knee and whipping out a brilliant round diamond set on a six-pronged platinum band. “That’s how hard I plan to work for you every day if you become my wife.” Excuse us while we bum some Kleenex ….

“I remember he was saying something about working hard,” said Ms. Pala. “But when I saw the candles, I think my brain stopped working.”

Diane Stockwell and Christopher Lima

Met: Dec. 6, 2001

Engaged: July 15, 2004

Projected Wedding Date: Feb. 26, 2004

Christopher Lima had reached his mid-30’s and just about given up on love. “I got to the point where I felt I was never going to get married,” said Mr. Lima, now 37, a medical researcher at Sloan-Kettering. “Not in the cynical sense, but I just decided: ‘I don’t need it.'”

It was in this spirit that he walked-unshaven-into 9C, a now-defunct bar in the East Village, to listen to honky-tonk with a buddy. In college, Mr. Lima had played horn in a ska-punk deal, but the band broke up after the bass player decided to pursue orthopedic surgery.

Playing fiddle in the Hank Williams’ Lonesome Cheatin’ Hearts Club Band that night was Diane Stockwell, a boisterous brunette who had also reached a certain point of jadedness in her dating life. “Men would often make comments about the music,” said Ms. Stockwell, 37, by day the founder and president of her own publishing company, Globo Libros, “though this led much less often than you might guess to an offer of a date. In fact, it never, ever did.”

Mr. Lima’s friend brokered an introduction at the bar, and at the end of the night, the two agreed to share a cab. With beer coursing through his system, Mr. Lima lurched out of the taxi as it neared the corner of his Upper East Side apartment building, throwing a wad of money at the driver and instructing him to “make sure she gets home O.K.” Miraculously, Ms. Stockwell-a resident of Sunnyside, Queens-found this charming.

Over Christmas vacation, she Google-stalked him, procuring an e-mail address that she used to inform him of upcoming shows. A few weeks later, he showed up to watch her play at Rodeo Bar, officially asking her out soon after. The pressure-filled rendezvous took place at Aqua Grill on Sixth Avenue. “The solution to nervousness after dinner is usually: ‘Well, see you around.’ But that didn’t happen,” Mr. Lima said.

“The first date was the best first date I ever had,” Ms. Stockwell said, “Here was someone who was smart, but also not a total geek.”

She sensed it was getting serious when he took her scuba-diving a few months later on the Cayman Islands (alas, Ms. Stockwell prefers snorkeling). Another high-water mark: meeting his sixtysomething parents on a small island off the coast of Venezuela. But Mr. Lima proposed spontaneously on dry land, in front of a 10th-century fortress near Salzburg, Austria, in the middle of a lecture series he was giving in Europe. “Totally unplanned,” he said. “I didn’t even have a ring.” Ah, who needs it?

They’ll be married at the Alger House in the West Village. Ms. Stockwell, who has joined her swain on the Upper East Side, is sweating a bit over the choice of bridal gown. “I just feel that white makes me look too pasty,” she complained. “I tried to find a dress in a color that suits me, but I think I’ll just tan instead.”

The groom-to-be, meanwhile, is aglow with a new understanding of what love means. “I can come home in the crappiest of moods,” he said, “and she’ll help me get through that.”

-Daisy Carrington Countdown to Bliss