Countdown to Bliss

Cully Cody Moore and Matthew Thomas Ryan

Met: Sept. 6, 2002

Engaged: March 2, 2005

Projected Wedding Date: Dec. 17, 2005

“I think I’ve just seen the most handsome man in Manhattan,” Cody Moore gushed to a friend via cell phone, striding through Grand Central Terminal on her way home from her job as an assistant in a children’s clothing company. The object of her admiration: brown-haired, blue-eyed Matthew Ryan, an account executive at the professional staffing firm Kforce, who was standing inside Cipriani Dolci. “Get in the bar—now!” hissed the friend.

Some middle-aged Wall Street types with wedding rings instantly pounced on Ms. Moore, a dead ringer for Gwyneth Paltrow. She allowed them to buy her a drink, “because I am polite,” she said.

“Right there,” Mr. Ryan told his boss, gesturing toward the new arrival. “That’s my type of girl.”

The married guys were about to take off for suburbia. One of them tapped our hero on the shoulder. “Will you take care of our friend here for us?” he asked. “Of course,” Mr. Ryan said, with a broad grin.

Their first real date was an emotionally charged Yankees game on Sept. 11, 2002: There were jets, a soaring eagle and two moments of silence. “Everyone was bawling,” said Ms. Moore, 25, now assistant to the president at Gumley Haft Kleier, the high-end real-estate brokerage. That night, she returned to North Salem in Westchester, where she was still living with her family, and announced to her mother: “I’m going to marry him.”

First, though, she moved to a one-bedroom on the Upper East Side, 13 blocks away from the apartment Mr. Ryan was sharing with two roommates. When his lease expired, he joined her. Last February, they packed up for a condo with a pool in Franklin Park—apparently the Melrose Place of New Jersey—to wait out renovations on a house in North Salem that Ms. Moore’s great-great-grandfather built. Both of them adore the beach, and they often visit the Ryan summer home in Kennebunkport, Me., where family members like to reminisce about George Bush Sr. flying over the shore in a helicopter. Two Shih Tzus, Molly and Rocco (“These are not my picks!” insisted Mr. Ryan, 28), follow the couple everywhere.

They’ll be married in one of those increasingly popular “destination weddings,” at Coyaba Beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Forty out of the resort’s 50 rooms are booked for the assemblage of 70 guests. The bride will wear a strapless mermaid-silhouetted Vera Wang gown made of bright white satin; the groom will be sporting a white and khaki suit with a Carolina blue tie.

Mr. Ryan proposed—where else?—at Cipriani Dolci, planting a poem in the menu with perfectly matched paper and typeface.

“Hey, did you see the poem that was in here?” Ms. Moore said when she unfolded it.

Her sweetie was already on his feet, practically knocking over the champagne bucket. “I kinda spazzed a little bit,” he said. But three carats’ worth of diamonds set in platinum—some drawn from his maternal great-grandmother’s ring—made it safely onto Ms. Moore’s left hand, as captivated diners applauded around them.

“Aren’t I romantic?” Mr. Ryan said.

—Raquel Hecker

James Salerno and Christina Stanley

Met: Fall 1997

Engaged: March 7, 2003

Projected Wedding Date: Sept. 18, 2005

Christina Stanley first met James Salerno at the Spiral Lounge, a dive bar in the East Village. She was a Hunter College freshman, and he was singing in a band called Drywater. Ms. Stanley was immediately struck by the T-shirt-clad rocker, who now sports a scaly dragon tattooed on his left bicep (the right bears a rendition of The Old Guitarist, from Picasso’s Blue Period). She bounced right up to him, her soft brown curls reflecting the club’s dim lighting.

Everybody’s attracted to the singers in bands,” declared Ms. Stanley, now a 26-year-old freelance photographer and an office manager for a Web design company (hey, a girl’s gotta make a living).

It turns out they both hailed from Gravesend, a part of Brooklyn miraculously not yet co-opted by hipsters. Mr. Salerno was waiting tables at L&B Spumoni Gardens when Ms. Stanley walked in with her cousin, who was recuperating from a tongue piercing and in dire need of ice cream. The girls remained to the end of his shift, whereupon he invited them back to his apartment to watch TV (it was innocent … really).

The three of them talked into the early morning, and Mr. Salerno and Ms. Stanley discovered a common love of Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. Soon afterward, he began sneaking her into the clubs where he played. Ms. Stanley was still underage, but was earning $11 per hour interning at an acoustic ceiling company and would take her starving musician out to dinner.

“He’s just so goofy,” she said affectionately. “He always gets the lyrics to songs wrong.”

Eventually, her aunt helped him land a job as an art director at Scholastic. Mr. Salerno, now 29, has since moved to Nickelodeon, the children’s television network. “And you pay for everything now!” beamed Ms. Stanley, who transferred to the School of Visual Arts after two years at Hunter.

They settled in a Gravesend one-bedroom and acquired a Jack Russell terrier, which they named Ziggy Stardust, and an antique pot-bellied stove.

After seeing each other for some time, the couple began cruising the diamond district during lunch breaks. One day, they stumbled into Gold Antique Jewelry Company, a tiny shop where an elderly husband-and-wife team presided over an array of vintage rings. “Oooh, that one’s nice,” Ms. Stanley cooed, pointing to a .55-carat diamond Art Deco ring from the 1920’s.

A couple of months later, during a trip to Rome with their mothers—“both crazy, nutty Italians,” Ms. Stanley said—Mr. Salerno pulled out the ring and slid to his knee. They were all sitting at a café.

“What are you doing?” Ms. Stanley squealed, temporarily blinded by a barrage of maternal flashbulbs.

“Will you marry me?” Mr. Salerno said.

“I was like, ‘Uggh!’” Ms. Stanley said, remembering. When her chocolate mousse arrived at the table, she pushed it away. “I was just very nervous, shocked, overwhelmed,” she said, “I’m not that typical girl who’s like, ‘I’ve been waiting for this my whole life!’”

Countdown to Bliss