Countdown to Bliss

Anthony Caruso and Stella Hiotakis

Met: March 27, 2004

Engaged: Dec. 24, 2004

Projected Wedding Date: June 11, 2006

Stella Hiotakis will never forget the Christmas Eve she got 20—count ’em, 20—presents from her boyfriend Anthony Caruso: a Coach backpack, Restoration Hardware bookends, towels, hand soap, Entenmann’s doughnuts, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (her fave) and a bag filled with wedding-planning books. “Honey, that’s so sweet,” Ms. Hiotakis said. Then she looked up to see Mr. Caruso holding a pear-shaped, platinum-set 1.35-carat diamond flanked by two smaller triangular stones, from Tiffany. “Oh my God!” she screamed.

The couple, who share a rust- and mahogany-themed two-bedroom on the Upper East Side, will wed at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Ms. Hiotakis, 34, a project manager at J.P. Morgan with brown hair and a lovely, toothy grin, is planning to wear a Monique Lhuillier gown. Mr. Caruso, 38, a soft-spoken, shorthaired computer programmer for the financial company Jane Street Capital, will sport Hugo Boss.

They met on the Internet, via a dating site they don’t care to name, exchanging shy phone calls and effusive e-mails before their first date: brunch at the fromage mecca Artisanal. Ms. Hiotakis was 10 minutes late; Mr. Caruso, 20 (he had been agonizing about what to wear). “My first impression was, ‘He’s so much cuter than his picture!’” she said. Her second was that he was kind of nervous; during a meal that stretched to almost four hours, “he kept rearranging the things on the table.”

“I just remember her smile—she had a huge smile,” Mr. Caruso said. “And she was very bright, and cheerful, and fun … and talkative.”

But they took things slow after that: At the time, he was living in ( urp!) Hoboken. “I was really focused on work,” Ms. Hiotakis said. “And he was a stranger, no matter how cute he was.” Mr. Caruso wooed her painstakingly, with nice dinners and thoughtful gifts: homemade CD’s, a leather-bound travel backgammon set (she’s an enthusiast). After two months, he was rewarded with a smooch. “I lunged at him,” Ms. Hiotakis said, laughing heartily. “It was the worst kiss you could possibly have.” How bad was it? Soooo bad that she considered ending the relationship.

“That’s not a good enough reason for you not to see him anymore,” her friends and relatives told her. “It’s just one kiss!”

As it turns out, they were right. Ms. Hiotakis was leaning on Mr. Caruso’s shoulder as they sat in V.I.P. seats at the Cirque du Soleil after a sumptuous repast at Le Cirque when the thought suddenly occurred to her: My God, I love him.

“He did the kind of stuff little girls dream of when they dream of being courted,” she explained.

Peter Labrozzi and Angela Teichholz

Met: April 1999

Engaged: Aug. 9, 2004

Projected Wedding Date: Winter 2007

“A lot of people come up to us and think we’re brother and sister,” said Peter Labrozzi, 23. He was sitting with his fiancée, Angela Teichholz, 22, in a diner near the offices of the McMahon Publishing Group in midtown, where they both work (she in sales, he organizing conferences). Both have sandy hair and rosy complexions, and both had ordered a turkey cheeseburger on pita (hold the fries).

They met at a high-school robotics competition in Orlando, Fla.: Ms. Teichholz, who’d flown in from Dallas, strolled by with a friend while Mr. Labrozzi, of Sag Harbor, Mich., was frolicking in a fountain outside the hotel. “Yes, we’re both nerds,” she said. Their bond developed over AOL Instant Messenger and was enhanced when her dad bought them a pair of computer video cameras. “I’d do my hair and get dressed up,” Ms. Teichholz said. “Like I was having to go on a date every night. It was a weird thing.” Mmm-hmm ….

In between classes, they would rush to the computer labs of their respective schools, exchanging up to five e-mails a day. Mr. Labrozzi started by signing his missives “—Pete,” then graduated to “luv Pete” and finally “Love Pete.” One day, Ms. Teichholz tried out a “XOXO.”

Would you really kiss me? Mr. Labrozzi I.M.’d. I want to be with you forever, but would you really do that?

Eventually, he flew south to visit her. They bought gag “temporary marriage licenses” at a mall (Mr. Labrozzi’s is still in his wallet) and had that long-awaited first kiss at another fountain, in a park near her house. Two months later, she flew up to Long Island to surprise him on his birthday.

They made sure to choose colleges on the same coast: American University for her, Fairleigh Dickinson for him. There, they watched bemusedly as their peers formed and dissolved relationships like so many sand castles. “People around me would say, ‘You need to break up; you need to break up,’” said Ms. Teichholz, a communications major, “but we were just crazy about each other, and so we stayed together.”

Graduating a semester early, she began researching jobs in New York and found a one-bedroom apartment near Lincoln Center to share with her sweetie. “I always wanted to live here,” Ms. Teichholz said. “I basically said to my parents, ‘This is where I want to be; it’s the best city in the world.’” Yes, even though it lacks a Neiman Marcus ….

On their five-year anniversary, Mr. Labrozzi took Ms. Teichholz on a carriage ride through Central Park, during which he plunged to one knee (steady, fella) and offered up his paternal grandmother’s engagement and wedding rings from the 1940’s: three gold bands welded together, the upper and lower band inlayed with pavé diamonds.

“She was just shaking,” he said. “Not that I wasn’t. It was definitely the most nervous moment in my life.” They calmed themselves with dinner at La Cascina in midtown, followed by a performance of Movin’ Out.

As of now, they have not yet finalized their wedding plans.

Countdown to Bliss