Countdown to Bliss

Jerry Neugebauer and Eunice Hong

Met: 1999

Engaged: Dec. 17, 2005

Projected Wedding Date: Sept. 30, 2006

Jerry Neugebauer, 28, a lawyer at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton L.L.P., plans to wed Eunice Hong, also 28, an interior designer for Mancini Duffy. The Reverend Allan Lokos and Susanna Weiss—married interfaith ministers—will preside over the ceremony at Banchet Flowers, a florist-cum-catering-space in the West Village.

The couple’s first encounter was during freshman year, when they were both standing on line to pick up keys to their dorm rooms at Dickinson College. “I was like, ‘This girl has the nicest ass I’ve ever seen,’” Mr. Neugebauer said. “Keep in mind I was 18 at the time.”

Flash-forward three years. Ms. Hong’s roommate was flipping through pictures of a year abroad in Spain. “Who’s that guy?” asked the bubbly Ms. Hong, pointing to a lanky fellow with close-cropped hair and a shy smile.

It was—you guessed it—Mr. Neugebauer!

The gals decided to invite him to a party in their house off-campus. At the bash, Ms. Hong got tipsy early. “Can you go talk to him and check him out?” she asked her sister, who was visiting.

Eventually, she approached him herself. “Want to see my bedroom?” she slurred after some brief chitchat.

“I’ve already seen it,” he replied, having gotten a tour from another host. “Eh, I thought I was being funny,” he told the Love Beat.

By the end of the night, Ms. Hong was passed out in her closet. Mr. Neugebauer went barhopping with some friends.

Two weeks later, she invited him over for a home-cooked dinner: poached salmon with dill. “She laughed at everything I said,” he said. “She made me feel like, ‘Hey, maybe I’m really funny.’ It just turns out that she laughs at everything.”

As the pair got closer, Ms. Hong faced trauma at home in Baltimore: Her father was terminally ill with liver cancer. Mr. Neugebauer agreed to accompany her there for New Year’s Eve 2000. As the rest of the world stockpiled water, preparing for the apocalypse, Ms. Hong and her sister, seeking distraction, went on a pub crawl. The following morning, they awoke to a phone call informing them that Ms. Hong’s father had only a little time left.

“If it were me that it was happening to, I would have wanted to punch something,” said Mr. Neugebauer, a former high-school linebacker, “but Eunice and her sister handled the situation with the utmost grace and dignity.”

The tragedy only brought them closer. “He went out of his way, even though he didn’t need to, to be there,” Ms. Hong said. “I really got a good sense of his heart and how big it is and what a genuine person he is.”

It wasn’t long before she told him “I love you.”

“I was drunk,” she said defensively.

“You were not!”

“Was too, and I was vulnerable.”

The following year, Mr. Neugebauer was accepted to N.Y.U. Law School. Ms. Hong got an entry-level job with Mish Jewelry on the Upper East Side, where she eventually rose to product manager. “New York seemed so scary before,” she said, “but not really knowing where we were going, it was really sort of exciting for us.”

One day, Mr. Neugebauer saw his sweetie step out of a Banana Republic in a tea-green trench coat, and something stirred within him.

“She seemed to embody the sophistication of the city,” he said.

“Banana Republic’s not New York!” Ms. Hong objected.

“What are you talking about, there’s one on every corner!” (The man has a point …. )

After graduating, and a stint clerking for a judge in California, Mr. Neugebauer returned to the city, moving into an East Village one-bedroom with Ms. Hong.

Last Christmas, he gave her a parcel containing a bride-and-groom ornament for their first tree together, an allusion to an inside joke that caused Ms. Hong to laugh so hard it took her a while to notice the sizable platinum-set, Asscher-cut, trapezoidal-baguette-bedecked diamond ring that was also inside. Deck the halls!

Jacalyn Lee and Rio Escueta

Met: 1997

Engaged: May 13, 2006

Projected Wedding Date: Oct. 20, 2007

It was a scene begging for a John Hughes treatment: In high school, Rio Escueta and Jacalyn Lee both sold shoes at an Aldo chain in Roosevelt Fields. The soft-spoken, bronze-skinned Mr. Escueta was thoroughly smitten by Ms. Lee’s dark eyes, shiny raven-colored hair and slightly Valley Girl–ish laugh. A shy fellow, he mentioned this enchantment to a mutual friend.

“Rio has a thing for you,” the buddy blabbed to Ms. Lee, in classic 18-year-old fashion. His hand forced, Mr. Escueta summoned the courage to ask her to be his girlfriend on July 4, under the fireworks at Jones Beach.

But college was looming. Ms. Lee was headed to SUNY at Geneseo, Mr. Escueta to Baruch. Somehow, they managed four years of back-and-forth. The real trouble came after graduation, when she moved into his apartment in Mineola, Long Island. “To go from having a long-distance relationship to moving in together—it just felt really fast,” said Ms. Lee, 25, who quickly decided that the two should “take a break.”

Mr. Escueta, who is 29, took it like a man. “I wasn’t that worried,” he said. “I knew she just needed time to really think about it.” Time, and perhaps a vacation in the Bahamas? “If you have nothing better to do … ,” he told her.

Ms. Lee heartily enjoyed her time in the sun and surf. “I think I just realized I was being stupid,” she said. “I had this great amazing guy …. What am I doing at home by myself?”

They spent several years developing their careers. She is now a publicist at Aspen Marketing Services; he’s an accountant at AIG. They sold their separate apartments, bought a one-bedroom apartment in Forest Hills and acquired a Labrador-beagle mix, Tyler. Ms. Lee didn’t care about making it official. Not at first. “It was funny,” she said. “When you’re together with someone for so long, people always ask you, ‘When are you going to get married?’ I wasn’t ready for it. I figured, ‘You can be married for the rest of your life.’ I don’t know what happened; I woke up one day and was like, ‘Oh my God, I want to be engaged!’”

The day before Mother’s Day, she got a mani-pedi and came home, excited to watch Desperate Housewives of Orange County.

“There’s something wrong with Tyler,” Mr. Escueta said.

Honey, the only thing wrong with Tyler was that the poor unwitting dog had a two-carat, cushion-cut diamond engagement ring surrounded by a pavé halo dangling from his collar!

Later that evening, the couple went to a performance of The Wedding Singer in Times Square to celebrate. “How appropriate,” said Ms. Lee, who is currently planning their ceremony at Peter White Studios in Chelsea, having suffered through enough Long Island nuptials in her life. “We really wanted a New York City loft-style wedding,” she said.

Countdown to Bliss