Countdown to Bliss

Jim McNally and Cathy Simpson

Met: Sept. 10, 2001

Engaged: Aug. 27, 2005

Projected Wedding Date: Sept. 9, 2006

It was just another vacuous Fashion Week party at Lotus in the meatpacking district when Cathy Simpson, a slender actress who appeared in the HBO version of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, first spotted Jim McNally, a graphic designer and co-owner of Lifesize, a foreign-film distribution company. “He had this ridiculous look,” said the chocolate-complected Ms. Simpson, 38, mimicking his slack-jawed expression.

“I made the stuff they’re playing,” he told her, nodding toward the video installation. Ms. Simpson was showing off her best assets that night in a tight-fitting pair of jeans and a beige ruffled top, and the normally quite shy Mr. McNally was emboldened by a potent combination of drink and lack of sleep.

“He was very sweet and very sincere,” Ms. Simpson said. They talked for a while, and then he tried to give her his cell-phone digits. “You have to give me your home number,” she insisted.

Then the day after dawned: Sept. 11, 2001. Ms. Simpson’s first thought was of the charming, blue-eyed man from the night before; she remembered him saying something about an upcoming flight to Toronto, so she called to check up on him. Both Brooklyn residents, they made a date for the following evening.

In the spirit of carpe diem, Ms. Simpson tried to get Mr. McNally to take her to the new Park Slope branch of Blue Ribbon, but he resisted. “They had a long wait,” he said, “and I felt like I was getting trapped into going to an expensive restaurant.” They settled on a Mexican place instead.

Over the next two weeks, the couple saw each other every night, with evenings often ending rather tepidly in Ms. Simpson’s bedroom. “She’d have this thing where she’d say, ‘You can sleep over, but … don’t touch me!” Mr. McNally said. “Nothing happened the first week,” Ms. Simpson said. “We just cuddled.”

After their third (or was it their fourth?) date, though, sitting in the back garden of Cucina di Pesce in the East Village, she suddenly announced to him: “You know, we’re going to get married.” At the time, Mr. McNally was utterly opposed to the institution. “I felt that marriage created expectations that weren’t realistic,” he said. “I was against the classic American ideal—how everybody believes things change in an instant instead of focusing on themselves.”

“I had a knife at his back,” Ms. Simpson said.

After a little over a year, he officially moved into her one-bedroom in the Slope; the couple now shares a one-bedroom at the South Street Seaport, overlooking the Hudson. During a long conversation, Mr. McNally agreed to reconsider his stance against wedlock. “I was imposing on the relationship in some way,” he said. “I knew that if I got past all my own preconceptions and problems, if I actually said, ‘For all intents and purposes, this is a marriage …. ’ Ultimately, this will be better for Cathy, because it will make her feel more secure.”

Ms. Simpson began littering their apartment with wedding magazines.

They were sipping wine and watching the sunset during their yearly summer vacation at Island Beach State Park in southern New Jersey when he dropped to one knee and presented her with a glittering ring.

“Is it real?” Ms. Simpson asked.

Well, er, no—but since then, a 1.8-carat emerald-cut diamond sandwiched between two 0.62-carat trapezoids and set in platinum has arrived from Boston Jewelers, and Ms. Simpson is busily planning a big bash at the Prospect Park Boathouse. Nice job!

“His mother said the same thing,” recalled the bride-to-be with satisfaction.

David Lidsky and Carol Vinzant

Met: Dec. 6, 2003

Engaged: June 5, 2005

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 22, 2005

David Lidsky, 36, senior editor at Fast Company magazine, is marrying Carol Vinzant, also 36, a freelance business writer about to publish her first book: Lawyers, Guns, and Money: One Man’s Battle with the Gun Industry, about a victim of Colin Ferguson’s 1993 Long Island Railroad rampage.

“Totally different than any other guy I’ve dated in New York” is how the auburn-haired Ms. Vinzant described her focused fiancé. “Early on, David began laying out the groundwork,” she said. “He almost gave me a PowerPoint five-year plan.”

“There was no PowerPoint!” the baby-faced Mr. Lidsky protested in his somewhat high-pitched twang (he’s from Georgia).

The couple met in a Bedford-Stuyvesant mansion during a blizzard, at the housewarming party of a mutual friend that featured flamenco dancers in the parlor. Ms. Vinzant tried valiantly to strike up a conversation, but Mr. Lidsky had his mind on a football game he was missing. Then he gave himself a good mental whack in the butt. You know, there’s this beautiful woman talking, he thought. Maybe you can ratchet up the enthusiasm just a little bit?

Fearful of turning into pumpkins as midnight drew near, they took the subway together to the East Village, where Ms. Vinzant was living in a two-bedroom, and where Mr. Lidsky (then a resident of Forest Hills) had another party to attend, at the now-defunct boîte Global 33.

On Monday, Mr. Lidsky told a co-worker that he had a crush. “It was just like ninth grade,” he said.

The relationship progressed quickly: tapas restaurants, long hikes. When Mr. Lidsky first brought Ms. Vinzant to meet his parents in Atlanta, he was “slightly mortified” when Mama Lidsky brought forward a delicate 1920’s ring, a platinum-set square of 14 little diamonds surrounding a bigger round-cut one. “Not because I wasn’t going to ask her,” he said, “just that it wasn’t necessarily what I would have done.”

Nor was a trip to see Machu Picchu the opportune moment. “It just seemed like it was going to be very difficult to get the ring into Peru without it being noticed,” Mr. Lidsky said.

He finally busted out the family jewels during a hike to an abandoned mine at Bear Mountain, while Ms. Vinzant’s 11-year-old German shepherd mix Jolly was frolicking in the background with Shadow, a pal from the dog run. “Carol basically kissed me hard, like she’d never kissed me before,” he said, “which pretty much made me think the answer was yes.” The mine would prove too chilly and dark to explore.

Mr. Lidsky has moved into Ms. Vinzant’s East Village two-bedroom, and they will wed at the Oaks, a healing center in New Rochelle. “It’s set next to these total wedding-o-matic, fake-waterfall, awful places,” said the bride-to-be, “but this place is good.” Their registry includes a night-vision scope and a headlamp, for future mining adventures and between-the-sheets fun. Countdown to Bliss