Countdown to Bliss

Reed Hays and Meredith Phelan

Met: Winter 1999

Engagement: July 28, 2005

Projected Wedding Date: June 10, 2006

Meredith Phelan, 36, a titian-haired, sharp-witted literary agent with green-rimmed hipster eyeglasses, is marrying Reed Hays, 37, a muscular composer whose résumé includes jingles for Fox News. After the ceremony at the Angel Orensanz Foundation, the 150-year-old former synagogue on the Lower East Side, she will move from Carroll Gardens to his one-bedroom in Alphabet City.

Ms. Phelan first spotted Mr. Hays at the now-defunct Gold Bar in the East Village, wearing a fuzzy black sweater. “Don’t go anywhere,” she purred. “You’re really cute.” It turned out he was also a cellist, raised in Alabama. His company, OSI Music, was named after the Six Million Dollar Man’s intelligence agency. “I was a member of the Bionic Woman Fan Club,” Ms. Phelan told The Love Beat over Earl Grey martinis (hic) at the Pegu Club in Soho. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

They continued the night at the 10th Street Lounge, and then he walked her to her apartment a block away. A light snow was falling, peppering her red locks. “Can I touch your hair?” Mr. Hays asked.

“No,” she said. “But you could kiss me.”

“It was amazing,” he said, remembering.

Unable to find a pen, Mr. Hays gave her a copy of his demo CD, which had his e-mail address printed on the back. Ms. Phelan sent him a message the next day from her gig at Linda Chester & Associates Literary Agency. “He waited until after 5 to e-mail me back!” she complained. They went to one of the many Indian restaurants on Sixth Street, where they enjoyed the sweet strains of a sitar and tabla.

“After that, it’s all a blur,” Ms. Phelan said.

Till the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that is. “Some people, it totally pushed together,” she said. “It pulled us apart.” Ms. Phelan was increasingly dissatisfied with her job, while Mr. Hays found himself writing soundtracks for the War on Terror. “I think we were still young enough that it was one of those ‘This is perfect but is this it?’ sort of things,” he said.

They decided to call it quits, and yet …. “I talked about him all the time—that was the thing,” said Ms. Phelan, who now works at the Imprint Agency. “And I would say, ‘There’s no one who’s ever going to be as amazing as Reed.’”

“I was always ready to call her up,” Mr. Hays said. One drunken winter evening three years later, he did exactly that, hanging up when he got her voice mail.

Thank God for caller ID!

They agreed to meet for drinks at the Scratcher, an Irish bar in the East Village. Ms. Phelan anxiously hid behind a tree, not wanting to be the first to show up. When she saw Mr. Hays enter the bar, she followed, the warm burst of air fogging her glasses. When that cleared, so did her head. “It was so comfortable just sitting together and talking,” Mr. Hays said. “It made so much sense.”

They began spending a lot of time at Milk and Honey, the speakeasy on the Lower East Side, which eventually instituted a signature cocktail, the Hays Fizz (gin, lemon juice, soda and simple syrup in a glass rinsed with Pernod), in Mr. Hays’ honor. “Our whole relationship can be traced in bars,” he joked.

On Ms. Phelan’s birthday, after a swell repast at the Gramercy Tavern, they repaired to Milk and Honey for an after-dinner drink. She came out of the restroom to find Mr. Hays perched in front of a silver tray, bearing a bottle of Krug champagne, two crystal flutes and a 2.08-carat brilliant-cut diamond flanked by trillion-cut emeralds that he’d designed himself at Kramer Brothers on Fifth Avenue.

“So this is what it feels like,” she breathed as he slid to one knee.

“Is that a yes?” Mr. Hays asked.

“Oh, hell yes!” she said.

Carrie McLaren and Charles Star

Met: May 4, 2004

Engaged: Labor Day Weekend 2005

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 8, 2006

Carrie McLaren, 36, is the outspoken editor and publisher of an anti-consumerist Brooklyn-based ’zine called Stay Free! and a Web log about her upcoming budget nuptials called She was rather taken aback to find some fans upset that she was converting to Judaism for her fiancé, Charles Star. “The only religion more backward than the Catholics are the Jews, and they never accept conversions from a woman anyway, so why bother!” wrote one critic.

Eventually Ms. McLaren stopped accepting reader comments on that post. “Not that many people were posting, but they were saying really personal, mean-spirited things,” said Mr. Star, 34, an endearingly chubby lawyer for Axiom Legal who moonlights as a stand-up comic.

The couple met at a mutual friend’s party in Windsor Terrace. Ms. McLaren, a thin, sharply featured blonde with thick, black-framed glasses and a chin-length bob, attended in hopes of seeing a crush—some Goldman Sachs finance type. “He was good on paper,” she said.

She posed a question to the party, borrowed from an episode of NPR’s This American Life: “Which superpower would you rather possess: invisibility, or the ability to fly?”

“That depends,” Mr. Star replied, stepping suddenly out of the crowd. “If flying is like floating, fine; but if it’s like swimming—if you’re just dragging yourself through the air—that’s just exhausting. I guess I’d rather be invisible.”

Charmed, Ms. McLaren went over to talk to him while Mr. Goldman Sachs was in the bathroom. When the banker emerged, he sensed Mr. Star encroaching on his hot prospect and decided to pick a political fight. “He decided I didn’t hate Bush enough,” Mr. Star said. “He was getting all alpha-male on me.”

At the end of the evening, Mr. Star offered Ms. McLaren a ride home to Park Slope, not far from his place in Prospect Heights. “Great, can you give me a lift, too?” asked the former crush. “It was classic cock-blocking!” Ms. McLaren said.

They managed to rid themselves of the interloper and proceeded to O’Connor’s Bar. Suddenly, it was feeling awfully like a date. Mr. Star stepped up the banter. “I could tell that he was nervous,” Ms. McLaren said, but that was O.K. “I find it boring to be with people who don’t read widely or have opinions, or talk about politics or society,” she said. “Even from that one night, I felt that I could learn things from Charles.”

Soon afterwards, she attended his first-ever public comedy routine, at the “Funniest Amateur Jewish Comedian Contest” at the Gotham Comedy Club. “I enjoyed it, and was surprised that I did, because it’s not something that I normally migrate to,” Ms. McLaren said. “I sort of abhor comedy clubs.” You ain’t alone, sister ….

Mr. Star’s mother was also there, and a bit nervous about him dating a non-Jew. “I told her she could never mention it. Ever,” Mr. Star said.

After a little over a year of dating, the rent was raised on Ms. McLaren’s share, and she broached the topic of cohabitation with Mr. Star. “I don’t think we should move in together until we’re about to get married. We should at least be engaged,” he said.

“You mean we’re not engaged?” she gasped.

“Um, yes,” he said. “Yes, we are!”

But this is one bride-to-be who refuses to accept a ring. “I kind of hate diamonds and the whole arbitrary value,” said Ms. McLaren, ever the anti-consumerist, “and I don’t like the idea that I’m claimed.

They’ll be married at Gary’s Loft in midtown, a photo studio and event space. “When I was thinking of an expensive wedding, I was thinking $8,000,” said Ms. McLaren. “I had no idea.” Countdown to Bliss