Countdown to Bliss

Erin Billings and Sonesh Suresh Chainani

Met: June 1998 Engaged: Feb. 13, 2004 Projected Wedding Date: June 4, 2005

It was a cold and gray night in Montreal-heck, when is it ever not a cold and gray night in Montreal?-and inside a local pub, Sonesh Suresh Chainani was suffering from both a head cold and the anxiety of carrying an engagement ring for his girlfriend, Erin Billings, in his pants pocket. “It was freezing out,” said Mr. Chainani, 27, who will graduate from Columbia Law School this spring. “I hadn’t thought about how cold Montreal might be in February.”

“I didn’t start to think something was up until I realized Sonesh hadn’t finished his drink,” said Ms. Billings, 28, a graduate student in costume design at Yale Drama School. “That’s never happened before.”

As they made their way down a quiet, brownstone-lined street toward a restaurant, Mr. Chainani suddenly pulled Ms. Billings into a doorway. “Do you want …,” he started to say. Then: “Oh, shit!” He dropped, belatedly, to his knees and presented her with a princess-cut diamond. The gem had been brought from his family’s native India by his father and set in platinum. “He was crying, “Ms. Billings said. “It was really sweet.” And here we thought she was the drama queen!

“By morning, my cold had turned into a full-blown fever, “Mr. Chainani said. “But we still managed to have a great weekend.”

The couple first met as undergraduates at Harvard, on moving day of her sophomore year. “I was sweating and disgusting,” Ms. Billings said. Then she saw the tall, dark-haired Mr. Chainani walk up. “Who is that?” she asked a friend. “He’s so cute.”

“That’s the guy I’ve been planning to set you up with,” the friend said.

“I thought Erin was really pretty,” said Mr. Chainani, remembering his first glimpse of Ms. Billings, a fresh-faced Minnesotan. “She had this long, blond hair and this bandanna on. She just seemed like a free spirit and completely unpretentious.”

They arranged for drinks and dinner in Cambridge at the Rhythm and Spice Caribbean Grill, followed by a few racks of bowling at Lanes and Games. “We clicked right away,” Mr. Chainani said. “Everything was really easy right from the start,” Ms. Billings agreed.

Even when it got a little harder-he graduated first but spent a year in Boston before they both relocated to New York; she was determined to attend the prestigious program in New Haven, while he set up shop in Park Slope-they made it work with frequent weekend visits. “Maybe it’s an Indian thing,” Mr. Chainani said. “My grandfather didn’t see one of my aunts until she was almost 4, because he was working.”

Once, Ms. Billings tried to make a break. “I think it barely lasted for two weeks,” she said. “I realized that I was totally miserable without him. He makes me laugh like no one else. And he thinks I’m hilarious! Believe me, no one else thinks I’m funny at all.”

The couple recently moved into a two-bedroom in Brooklyn Heights. But their wedding will take place in Bombay, with a traditional Indian ceremony: five-odd days filled with events and parties. Vera Wang, we won’t be needing your services. “My outfits are unbelievable,” enthused the bride-to-be. “I have four of them, and each one is more colorful and sparkly than the next.”

But they’re jettisoning at least one custom. “I’m refusing to ride in on a horse,” Mr. Chainani said. “It’s going to be June in Bombay-either me or the horse would die of heat stroke.”

Mike Costabile and Helen Medvedovsky

Met: October 1999 Engaged: Dec. 22, 2004 Projected Wedding Date: Dec. 3, 2005

“F ire!” thought Helen Medvedovsky in a panic, glimpsing light through the peephole of her Upper East Side one-bedroom, where she’d returned from dinner out with a friend. Her live-in lover, Mike Costabile, was supposed to be away on a business trip.

But actually he was inside, kneeling uncomfortably in their living room, surrounded by red roses and flickering candles and holding an approximately two-carat, emerald-cut diamond set in platinum and flanked by baguettes. Smokin’, indeed …

The couple, both 29-year-old publicists, are planning a wedding at the Biddle Mansion in Tarrytown, N.Y., with the bride in a gown cut close to the skin. “I’m not into pouf,” she declared.

They met as co-workers at the firm of Stanton Crenshaw Communications on Park Avenue South, where they were caught doing a little public-relating of their own, if you know what we mean, in Ms. Medvedovsky’s cubicle. “We denied it for a long time,” said the handsome, Roman-nosed Mr. Costabile-after all, they’re publicists-“but finally the cat was out of the bag.”

He graduated from Boston College and she from Boston University; their romance had started a month earlier, during the Beanpot hockey tournament, when they bet a night of drinks on their respective alma maters (his prevailed). “It was an excuse for us to get out together,” said Mr. Costabile, who’d been admiring the energetic, icily blue-eyed brunette when they went out to lunch together. “The way I looked at it, either way was a win.”

Ms. Medvedovsky took him to 119, a dive bar near their office. God, this guy is downing his drinks, she thought. But by the end of a very long evening, she was looking at her colleague in a different way. “He has a great sense of humor, and he’s completely nonjudgmental,” she said.

A few weeks later, she invited him over for wine and cheese. “It was a big night for us,” Mr. Costabile said, adding, “You can probably read between the lines on that one.”

Ms. Medvedovsky was already sensing a shared future. “I just liked how naturally he fit into my life,” she said.

Two and a half years later, he ditched a roommate and a York Avenue apartment and moved in. Their friends predicted that living, commuting, working and lunching together might be a tad claustrophobic, but Mr. Costabile said, “I never felt like we were seeing too much of each other. I think we just love being around each other so much.”

They had a state-of-the-relationship talk while visiting Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. “Look, I want to do this,” Ms. Medvedovsky said. “I want it to happen.” You tell him, sister!

“I knew what I was getting,” Mr. Costabile said. “I knew her as a whole, and I loved that whole.”

But their little P.R. partnership, alas, has fallen to pieces. He now works as an account supervisor at Alan Taylor Communications, a firm that specializes in sports marketing. Ms. Medvedovsky, meanwhile, is currently employed by the restaurant publicity firm KB Network News. “It was a little-not sad, but upsetting, to go a whole day without seeing each other,” Mr. Costabile said without apparent irony. “But then we realized that 99 percent of the couples in the world have to do this, and if they could do it, so could we.” Countdown to Bliss