Countdown to Bliss

Kelly Bare and Jonathan Cohen

Met: 1998

Engaged: April 2, 2005

Projected Wedding Date: May 20, 2006

Billboard music critic Jonathan Cohen was unaware that it was April Fool’s Day when he called the father of his girlfriend, Kelly Bare, to request permission for her hand.

“Is this a joke?” asked Papa Bare.

It was not.

The next morning, the shaggy, soft-spoken Mr. Cohen woke up in his studio on Orchard Street, washed his face, brushed his teeth and returned to bed, where Ms. Bare was waiting, her corn-husk blond hair splayed on the pillow. “From my perspective, it was like we were just talking about our relationship, in a way that we tended to do,” said Ms. Bare, 29, executive editor of Tango, a magazine about—irony of ironies—women and relationships. “You know: I’m so happy, I’m so lucky, la la la. I was very engaged in the conversation, but I had no sense of where it was going.”

That is, until Mr. Cohen turned over and grabbed a ring box from the pocket of his pants, which were hanging on a nearby dresser. “It’s so wonderful to wake up next to you every morning,” he told her. “I want to be able to do that every day from now on.” Inside the box, to Ms. Bare’s delight, was a funky Burmese ruby set in a white-gold band, purchased from the Lower East Side boutique Pippin.

Mr. Cohen then jokingly put “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee Gees on the stereo, and the couple readied themselves for an impending brunch date.

They met through a mutual friend, a chum of Mr. Cohen’s from Indiana University who worked with Ms. Bare at University Wire, an undergraduate news service in Chicago.

After a messy breakup with a graphic designer, Ms. Bare took a share in an apartment in Gowanus, and asked Mr. Cohen to a rice-and-beans party she was hosting with her roommate. He declined this gassy gathering, but eventually asked her to dinner at his place: fresh tuna with mango salsa, spicy shrimp salad and gelato (now that’s good eatin’!). This was followed by drinks at the Magician. Ms. Bare had such a wonderful time, she promptly scrapped a half-serious plan to date 10 men before getting into another serious relationship (Mr. Cohen was No. 6).

Their wedding will take place at the Lied Conference Center in Ms. Bare’s native Nebraska, which has a barn.

“It will be a good downhill country wedding,” said the bride, whose book The “F” Word: A Fiancée’s Journey from “I Will” to “I Do” is due from Citadel Press next February. “Marriage just seemed like this monumental undertaking,” she said, explaining the project. “I wondered if this institution is still valid, and with marriages falling apart right and left, what is the real benefit?”

And how does Mr. Cohen, also 29, feel about Ms. Bare laying their lives, well, bare?

“He’s been a really good sport,” she said.

Hilary Levey and Alexander Nyren

Met: January 2001

Engaged: Oct. 28, 2005

Projected Wedding Date: Feb 18, 2007

Harvard hotties Alexander Nyren and Hilary Levey, both 25, are planning to marry at Cipriani Downtown. The short, hair gel-favoring Mr. Nyren pursued the slender, brunette Ms. Levey by e-mail early in their collegiate career, but she rejected his overtures because she was in a long-term relationship with a fellow student. Fate intervened one dark and snowy night at Logan Airport, when both were scheduled on a canceled flight to Baltimore to interview for a Gates Scholarship at Cambridge University and agreed to Amtrak it instead.

At the station, Mr. Nyren paid for both tickets. That’s so nice, Ms. Levey thought, her blowout frizzling in the humidity. He’s showing off.

“Seventy-four dollars well invested, I think,” Mr. Nyren told the Love Beat.

He was eager to chat on the train, but Ms. Levey had other ideas. “I have to get eight hours of sleep,” she told him. “I’m going to bed at 10.” Typical Cliffie!

“You’re not serious!” Mr. Nyren scoffed.

Sure enough, she curled up and conked out at 10 on the dot.

The next day, Mr. Nyren rushed to make it to his interview as Ms. Levey donned curlers and took a leisurely nap in preparation for hers.

Mirabile dictu, they were both awarded the scholarship, a fact they only discovered through mutual friends.

Once in the original Cambridge, Mr. Nyren happened to be walking by Ms. Levey’s college when her cab pulled up. He wound up helping her move in. Over the next few months, that “long-term relationship” of hers began to deteriorate, and she began confiding in Mr. Nyren. The day it crumbled altogether, he called to find her crying uncontrollably. “Put on some nice clothes,” he told her. “I’m taking you to London for the night.”

After their taxi pulled up in front of Al Duca restaurant in St. James Square, Mr. Nyren opened the door for Ms. Levey. My ex would never do that, she thought.

“It was weird,” she said. “It felt like a date, but it wasn’t a date.” We can’t argue with you fancy Harvard types ….

A month later, discussing their “situation,” they started passionately making out. “This is probably a very bad idea,” Ms. Levey said. “This is definitely a bad idea,” Mr. Nyren said. But before winter exams were over, they’d begun dating for real, complete with icky-pooh baby talk. “The friends we still have from that period are very good friends indeed,” Mr. Nyren said.

“We should totally elope,” Ms. Levey told him one sunny afternoon in Provence, during a romantic tour of Europe that included stops in Monte Carlo, Milan and Paris.

“A bad idea,” they agreed, for the second time.

Ms. Levey enrolled in a Ph.D. program in sociology at Princeton, while Mr. Nyren moved to Murray Hill and scored a consulting job at Mercer Oliver Wyman, a risk-management consulting firm. Soon, the nagging questions began. “I’m a planner,” Ms. Levey said. “I needed to know when to plan my dissertation.”

Mr. Nyren informed her that each inquiry about a proposal would delay the momentous event for two weeks. (Who said feminism is dead?)

Ms. Levey was getting her nails done one day when a wedding party walked into the salon, and she lost it. She phoned her mother, her best friend and, finally, Mr. Nyren. “When are we getting engaged?” she demanded.

“Uh, two weeks,” he said.

Somewhat mollified, Ms. Levey went to his apartment to get ready for dinner at the Modern with friends. She was perplexed but willing when he suggested a round of Boggle beforehand.

When she unearthed the board, there were three princess-cut, platinum-set diamonds from the 47th Street jeweler Shenoa twinkling amidst letters spelling “Will you marry me.”

Mr. Nyren then informed her that they would be dining not at the Modern, but at March on Sutton Place. “Oh my God,” Ms. Levey cried. “I have nothing to wear!”

They jumped in a cab to Bloomie’s, where she ran up the steps to the Diane von Furstenberg boutique.

“I just got engaged and I have nothing to wear!” she told the saleslady, and left with a smart black wrap dress.

Countdown to Bliss