Countdown to Bliss

Laurie Hefner and Hector Romero

Met: July 1998 Engaged: December 1998 Projected Wedding Date: Dec. 16, 2004

Hector Romero, a painter, was working to pay the bills at the dear departed Hacker Art Books on West 57th Street when he spotted a lovely auburn-haired potential subject browsing the stacks. She paid for her purchases with a credit card, and Mr. Romero scribbled down her name: Laurie Hefner. “I just wanted to have a mental note,” he said. “Not in the stalker sense-I was very intrigued.”

This being New York, it turned out the pair had a friend in common: Mr. Romero’s roommate. Alerted to the connection, Ms. Hefner, a hairdresser, promptly took another little detour to the store to check out her starving artist. The couple’s memories diverge there (he remembers exchanging numbers after Ms. Hefner bought an Italian book about Surrealism; she claims he got her number from his roommate), but whatever-somehow they managed to wind up sitting in a group together at a Knitting Factory concert, then next to each other for dinner at the Odeon. “He’s quite cute … but I didn’t really think he was cute until about our second or third date,” confessed Ms. Hefner, 43, a self-described “Mexicophile.”

A few days after the first one, it was she who called him up and asked: “Do you want to go out? … Tomorrow?” Mr. Romero picked her up at the salon where she was working in Park Slope (she now owns one, called Pomona) bearing a big yellow sunflower. “So cute,” recalled Ms. Hefner. “but then I had to walk around the [Brooklyn] museum holding it. I felt like a pageant person.”

By date No. 3 or 4, Mr. Romero was saying things like “I don’t need to look anymore.” “I couldn’t get what he was talking about-but he was talking about me,” Ms. Hefner said. A few months later, when she started bawling at the thought of him leaving town for the holidays, Mr. Romero sent a clearer message: “Honey, don’t cry,” he said. “You’re the girl I want to marry.”

Ms. Hefner wasn’t counting on anything-but she had seen a really nice Victorian-looking platinum ring with a round-cut diamond from a Seventh Avenue jeweler in Park Slope. “If you don’t want to marry me but want to get me a really nice Christmas gift, that’s what I want,” she suggested brightly. The night before he left to see his family in El Paso, he presented her with the ring. “Does this mean we’re engaged?” he asked.

“I don’t know-I thought you were going to decide,” Ms. Hefner said casually. “I wasn’t too concerned,” she told the Love Beat. “I knew I was with him.”

Four years later, the couple settled-marital status still unresolved-into a two-bedroom apartment in Cobble Hill (this was before it was completely overrun by gourmet bread shops). Two more years passed. Ms. Hefner had let her health insurance lapse, and her family was getting on her case. Mr. Romero, 39, who has a day job managing a bookstore whose name he didn’t want printed, said she could get it through his job- if they were married.

“Should we get married?” Ms. Hefner asked. And that was it.

They’ll wed at City Hall, among a few friends and family. In April, Ms. Hefner’s older sister will host a celebratory garden party at her house in Dumbo, to which Ms. Hefner will wear a cocktail dress she bought at Neda in Park Slope (“It’s something Marilyn Monroe might wear,” she hedged, not wanting to ruin the surprise), plus the requisite “expensive shoes.”

We’re kind of laid-back,” Mr. Romero said. “We do things our way.”

Jamie May and John Rinaldi

Met: January 2001 Engaged: May 1, 2004 Projected: Sept. 16, 2005

Jamie May, 32, a segment producer for VH1’s The Fabulous Life, is marrying John Rinaldi, 35, a photographer who also works for his family’s fire-alarm installation business.

It was a chilly Saturday night when they began chatting at the Other Room, the cozy wine bar on Perry Street. “She totally picked me up,” Mr. Rinaldi joked. “But I had already noticed her. She was one of the tallest girls in the bar-and definitely the prettiest.” Ms. May, a 5-foot, 8 1¼2-inch, brown-eyed brunette, was a neighborhood local who had a rare Saturday night off from her then job as coordinating film producer for Saturday Night Live. “John is literally tall, dark and handsome,” she said. “I was in the West Village, and here was this gorgeous, well-dressed guy, so I figured odds are he’s not straight. So I had no problem starting to talk to him.”

The pair discovered that they shared the same ethnic makeup: half-Italian, half-Scottish-Irish-English. “It basically means we like to eat and drink,” Ms. May said with a laugh. “We hit it off right away,” Mr. Rinaldi said. “I think we knew we wanted to start dating within five minutes.” Ms. May said that she “quickly figured out that John was straight, ’cause he was ridiculously sexy. But I was shocked because he was so incredibly nice.”

The night went so well, in fact, that it carried over to the next morning. “Yeah-you can say we liked each other right away,” Ms. May said with another laugh.

About six months later, she moved into Mr. Rinaldi’s one-bedroom apartment in Battery Park City-“a tremendous step for me,” he said. When the Sept. 11 terrorist attack left them temporarily homeless, they moved in with his parents in Queens. “His mother took me shopping, because I literally didn’t have any clothes,” Ms. May said. “We went to Victoria’s Secret in this mall, and she told the salesgirl that she was helping out her future daughter-in-law.”

But was she? “John’s always been incredibly devoted and loving, but wasn’t sure if marriage was for him,” Ms. May said. “I knew that he was the guy for me, and I had come to the conclusion that I would rather be with this person whom I adored then let that go for an idea of some ‘traditional’ marriage.”

“I knew she was the right girl,” Mr. Rinaldi said, clarifying. “But we were patient and were careful about making the next step.”

A couple of years later, they were grooving to Santana’s “Smooth” on the dance floor at a benefit in Newport for Mr. Rinaldi’s alma mater, the University of Rhode Island-two of only about 10 people under the age of 60. “I had gone to Century 21 and bought this kick-ass red dress,” Ms. May said.

Apparently, it worked.

“What would you think if I asked you to marry me?” Mr. Rinaldi asked, looking into her eyes.

“Are you kidding me?” she said. ” Are you kidding me?”

Those dancing fools just kept on dancing. “I’m so glad that he didn’t get down on one knee,” Ms. May said.

After returning to New York, they chose a two-plus-carat diamond in a platinum tension setting from T. Gluck and Company and began planning a wedding at the Tribeca Rooftop, to which Ms. May plans to wear a “very Sarah Jessica Parker” dress with a full tulle skirt.

“We’re both silly people; we don’t take life too seriously,” said her groom-to-be. “We goof around and make each other laugh.”

Countdown to Bliss