Countdown to Bliss

Brooke Baxter and Charles Wood Chatham Jr.

Met: Fall 1996 Engaged: Jan. 1, 2005 Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 8, 2005

Grrr! Brooke Baxter and Wood Chatham, Princeton University sweethearts who first met at an autumn tailgate party for their beloved Tigers, will marry at the Bryant Park Grill.

He was a sophomore, a 6-foot-2 public-policy major with bright brown eyes; she was a 5-foot-7 freshman with dirty blond hair planning to major in English. The mutual attraction was instant, but they somehow failed to “hook up,” as we understand all the college kids are doing these days. Then, a few months after the football game, Ms. Baxter snuck into a party at Cottage, Mr. Chatham’s eating club. He grabbed her by the waist as he was swooping up the stairs and swung her around the dance floor in a sort of swing-dancing/waltz hybrid.

Their first official date was on Valentine’s Day. Ms. Baxter showed up at Mr. Chatham’s dormitory with a hand-painted card and sugar cookies studded with M and M’s to find that he had converted his “common room” into a romantic den, with candles on the coffee table and pillows on the floor. They sat there for a long time eating Chinese food. “It was so direct and close and comfortable and funny and romantic,” said Ms. Baxter, now 27. “He’s always thinking outside the box.”

That summer, Mr. Chatham immersed himself in a foreign-language program in Seville, Spain. “Mom, you’re always going to be a very special woman in my life,” he wrote in one letter home-he’s an only child-“but I wanted to explain to you that I’ve found somebody else special.” ¡Olé!

Upon graduation, Mr. Chatham moved for a year to Charlotte, N.C. (he grew up in Winston-Salem). But when Ms. Baxter enrolled in the M.F.A. program at N.Y.U., he decided to join her up north, eventually landing a job as a senior analyst at Maverick Capital, a hedge fund. The big city proved something of an adjustment for this Southern mama’s boy, now 28. “The part of New York that was hard was the amount of patience you have to have to get from point A to point B,” he said. “She taught me to look beyond that.”

Ms. Baxter, a native New Yorker who attended Spence, had moved into a pied-à-terre owned by her father on East 93rd Street. About a year and a half afterward, Mr. Chatham joined her. “We knew we were always going to be together,” she said. “It was just a matter of the pace.”

Last summer, they adopted a four-year-old yellow Labrador, from the pound, dubbing her Belle. “This whole long, loving process of rehabilitating her and getting her healthy really brought us together in a new way-a way we hadn’t expected,” Ms. Baxter said. We’re a family now, she thought to herself.

Luckily, Mr. Chatham was thinking along the same lines. He proposed during a hike up Kaaterskill (after Belle barked at some German tourists, shooing them away), dropping to one knee and offering a choice of two rings to Ms. Baxter: his paternal grandmother’s and his mother’s. After wearing both for a while, she went with the latter, a European-cut diamond (won by his great-great-great-great uncle in a card game on a boat in the Mississippi River), which the couple had reset in a pavé setting by Brazilian jeweler Ara Vartanian. It should nicely complement her lace-bustiered Monique L’Huillier bridal gown, which features a blush-colored satin skirt.

As Ms. Baxter plans the wedding, she is also trying to sell her first novel, Driftwood, about three generations of women from New England. “I really do think it’s a great classic meeting of left brain/right brain,” Mr. Chatham said. “She’s so creative and I’m so pragmatic. She gives me unconventional ways to think about things that I do; I give her structure and method for the things she does.”

Susan Baida and John Mills

Met: April 2002 Engaged: July 21, 2004 Projected Wedding Date: May 15, 2005

After Sept. 11, 2001, half-Korean, half-Ecuadorean, Queens-bred Susan Baida was inspired to do two things: to realize her lifelong dream of being a Manhattan resident and to become more involved with the issues facing the city. By the beginning of that October, she had moved to a one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side. By the following April, she had joined Community Board 5, one of the infamously contentious local government groups. “I didn’t consider myself interested in politics,” said Ms. Baida, 36, the 5-foot-9, dark-haired regional director for Clinique’s Asia Pacific marketing, “but I’ve always been interested in social issues.”

It was at her community-board orientation that Ms. Baida first met Manhattan native John Mills, a man she described as looking “handsome and warm-hearted,” his blond hair touched with gray. “I remember her coming into the room,” said Mr. Mills, 41, director of product development for H.I.P. Healthplans (a job title that didn’t immediately excite Ms. Baida).

When the meeting adjourned, the pair walked out, discovered they both lived on the Upper East Side (Board 8) and hopped on the No. 6 train together. “There was chemistry right away,” Mr. Mills said. But he was dating someone else at his workplace, so they kept this and many subsequent subway rides chaste, if companionable. Meanwhile, Ms. Baida discovered shared values. “I really liked that he was a Democrat,” she said. “I loved that he’s a Mets fan.”

After almost a year of double MetroCard swiping, Ms. Baida invited Mr. Mills out with her and a girlfriend to a Chinese New Year celebration in Chinatown. “I think my friend realized that John would be great for me, so she started sort of interviewing him,” said Ms. Baida. “I loved hearing about the work he did for his public-policy master’s from Georgetown, how he and his father go to baseball games …. I think I fell in love with him that night.”

Fortunately, Mr. Mills was by this time free of entanglements. On Feb. 15-“I know better than to ask a woman out for a first date on Valentine’s Day,” he laughed (tell that to couple No. 1 this week!)-he took Ms. Baida to see Adaptation, followed by pizza at the Upper East Side Patsy’s. The relationship progressed with an ease and agreeability that would confuse most community-board members.

When Ms. Baida took a business trip to Seattle, she realized that she missed Mr. Mills terribly. “An incredible feeling,” she said. He moved into her apartment 10 months later, and when she took another business trip, to Asia, she suggested that he meet her in Hawaii-not ring-baiting, she swore. “I wasn’t expecting a proposal,” she said. “My birthday is in August, and I thought maybe then.”

But after dinner on their second night together on the Big Island, Mr. Mills suggested a walk on the beach under the full moon, during which he crumpled to one knee and uncorked an Asscher-cut diamond set in a Lucida-like platinum setting. “I was dying to see it, but it was too dark,” said Ms. Baida, whose vision was also obscured by tears.

The couple will marry at Marble Collegiate Church on 29th Street, with a reception to follow at the restaurant Metrazur in Grand Central. “I’m the head of transportation for the community board,” Mr. Mills explained. “Besides, we wanted to make sure we got married in our district.”

Countdown to Bliss