Countdown to Bliss

Laurel Holmes Maury and David Robert Lockwood Stewart

Met: August 1994

Engaged: Nov. 22, 2001

Projected Wedding Date: Nov. 5, 2005

David Stewart, 54, a bearded, 6-foot-1 Scottish archaeologist, plans to marry Laurel Maury, 35, an ethereal brunette New Yorker librarian, at Grace Church in Keswick, Va.—where nearly three centuries of Maurys have preached, wed and eventually been buried.

The couple met during a dig on the island of Islay, off Scotland’s west coast. Early dates took them to quarries, ancient stone buildings and abandoned ruins. Ms. Maury was particularly smitten with the pebble beach at Sannaig, where prehistoric stone structures jut out from the dunes. “It was a creepy, beautiful place,” she said.

Mr. Stewart had some competition, though: a Russian tea mushroom she’d named Ethel and carried around in a jar. “I know it sounds mad, but I tried to microwave the disgusting thing,” he said.

Ms. Maury later gave up her archaeological ambitions and enrolled at Columbia to get her master’s degree in poetry. The couple was content with a long-distance relationship until the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “It focused our attentions,” Mr. Stewart said.

Ms. Maury put it more bluntly. “He was scared shitless I was dead,” she said.

Not too long afterwards, they bought a sapphire ring in a white-gold crown setting from a jewelry store while visiting her parents in Maryland. “I don’t like diamonds,” said Ms. Maury, who was responsible for the actual proposal (you go, sister girlfriend!). “They remind me of dead Africans.”

Mr. Stewart is looking for a position in New York, where he’ll be joining his fiancée in her cozy one-bedroom in the Bronx. It took him three years to receive his American visa, a delay that Ms. Maury blames on the U.S. consulate in London. “I hope there’s a small, nasty place reserved for them in hell,” she murmured.

“We can thank Mr. bin Laden for getting married,” Mr. Stewart said, “but he’s not getting an invite.”

Sophia Anastasia and Nicholas Tzavaras

Met: July 2001

Engaged: Sept. 24, 2004

Projected Wedding Date: Dec. 4, 2005

Cellist Nicholas Tzavaras and flutist Sophia Anastasia were playing in two different musical festivals in verdant Vermont when they met at one of those wonky musician after-parties. “She was very, very beautiful,” said the green-eyed, sideburned Mr. Tzavaras, 30, of this slender, tanned, curly-haired Grecian stunner.

Ms. Anastasia, alas, wasn’t quite so impressed. “I remember him coming off as very cocky and arrogant, like, ‘Hey—I’m this cool man,’” she said. Yes, we know the type.

Mr. Tzavaras, who is half-Greek himself, put off calling her until he began a post at Montclair State University, Ms. Anastasia’s alma mater. They had dinner out at Le Monde, a restaurant on Broadway near 113th Street, not far from her studio. “He started talking about taxes,” she said. “I thought, ‘You can’t talk about taxes on a first date!’” She refused a ride home.

But she was touched when Mr. Tzavaras showed up at her next concert, even though he’d just finished a tour in Japan. The next day, they went to Uncle Nick’s, the renowned Greek taverna in midtown. This time, she hopped right into his car.

“She’s a typical New York woman,” Mr. Tzavaras said. “You know, a little bit untrusting at first, but then she warms up fast.” Not too fast, however: Ms. Anastasia waited till Date No. 6 to invite him into her apartment.

A month into their romance, she met his mother, Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras, an East Harlem music teacher and the inspiration for Meryl Streep’s character in Music of the Heart. Along with Mr. Tzavaras and his friends, the two women dined at a Korean barbecue restaurant. “I was so scared,” Ms. Anastasia said. A vegetarian, she timidly ate a salad, worried about the impression she was making.

But she knew she’d been accepted when she joined the family for a Christmas dinner and saw the wide array of vegetarian Greek dishes that Mrs. Guaspari-Tzavaras had prepared.

Mr. Tzavaras proposed to Ms. Anastasia on the occasion of her 30th birthday, after driving her to a new loft he’d bought in an abandoned upholstery factory in West New York and filled with celebratory candles. The ring he offered, a 1.1-carat brilliant-cut diamond set in platinum, brought his sweetheart to tears—though, truth be told, she’d been crying for a solid week beforehand. “I was mourning the loss of my 20’s,” she said.

They will marry at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Clifton, N.J., followed by a reception at the Highlawn Pavilion in West Orange.

Zahava Zuber and Avi Ryzman

Met: March 5, 2003

Engaged: March 29, 2005

Projected Wedding Date: Aug. 24, 2005

Zahava Zuber was only 20 when she met Avi Ryzman on a blind date at the Peninsula Hotel. “I didn’t want a relationship at that point,” said the blond, hazel-eyed Ms. Zuber, now a positively ancient 23. “I just wanted to enjoy myself.”

Mr. Ryzman, a well-dressed real-estate investment banker at Marcus & Millichap, was crushed. “I remember talking with her and thinking, ‘This is a girl I could spend the rest of my life with,’” he said.

A year later, as chair of a fund-raiser for the Jewish charity Ohel, he was schmoozing with a new girlfriend in tow when his eye suddenly fell on Ms. Zuber, a party guest. This time, the attraction was mutual. But “I didn’t want to be that girl,” she said.

Coincidentally or not, Mr. Ryzman’s relationship ended two weeks later. He and Ms. Zuber reconnoitered at an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side, and he told her about his many travels, which included Jordan and Thailand. “When he was about to signal for the check,” she said, “I remember thinking, ‘Why? I don’t want to leave yet!’”

Since she’s the associate marketing director at Louis Glick Diamonds, the dark-haired, bespectacled Mr. Ryzman learned early on that she prefers cushion-cut to diamonds and solitaire over baguettes.

The couple was in a gazebo at the Sheraton Bal Harbour in front of a lox brunch when he pulled out a box containing a 2.3-carat rock obtained from his uncle, a dealer in Israel.

Before a single word could escape his mouth, Ms. Zuber started screaming—which Mr. Ryzman, 27, considered indicative of a job well done.

“I like shebangs,” he said.

They’ll be married at the old New York Bank building. Afterwards, 800 guests from around the world will stream into a lavish reception at Cipriani Wall Street. Countdown to Bliss