The newspaper announcement was a little dry - and dry-eyed - as these things go.
"Deborah Jane Rubin and Arnold Lerman plan to be married on July 3," it began. There followed a brief description of the couple's careers - he a stockbroker, she a high school teacher. Then the parents' names and home towns.
And then it ended. No pictures, no adjectives, no whoop-de-doo. Not even a hint of where the blessed event would take place.
Aha, seriousness rather than tinsel. Could this be Marriage, 1977?
Perhaps not everywhere, and certainly not for everyone. But for Debbie and Arnie, yes.
Their dreams have their feet on the ground. The adjustments they foresee are practical. They look toward a future of one day at a time.
After three hours of talk about what marriage is and isn't in this mad day and age, I wished them luck - and strongly suspected they wouldn't need a drop.
Arnie's and Debbie's is a classic Washington romance in several respects.
They each came here from New England to attend American University. They got good jobs after graduation, and they liked the D.C. style, so they stayed.
They met two years ago at a party thrown by a friend of Arnie's. They chatted and parried. Finally, Arnie asked Debbie for her phone number. She gave it - a little reluctantly, she recalls.
They dated casually at first, exclusively soon after. This fall, they sat down for a series of discussions about where their relationship was headed.
They concluded, in December, that it was headed toward the altar, and that they wanted that. Now the invitations and the food are all ordered, and all they have left to do is to be sure they are in New Haven on the appointed Sunday.
"It was a gradual thing," said Debbie Rubin, a forthright 25-year-old who teaches a math at Paint Branch High School in Silver Spring. "I didn't wake up one morning and say, 'I'm in love with him.' It was no cloud nine type of thing."
Like anything, there's a process," said Arnie Lerman, a slim, incisive, 28-year-old stockbroker for Ferris & Co. in Bethesda. "You slowly resolve each of the questions. You take out each one like a little jewel from a box and look it over. One day, you say, 'Hey, this is something I really want.'"
While she is no "libber," by her own description, Debbie Rubin seems a Bride of the Seventies in several ways.
"Arnie is the central element of my life; I don't know if marriage is," said Debbie. She plans to work for the foreseeable future. Her chief roles in the marriage will be "companion, emotional partner and provider of part of the income." The couple is not sure if they want children; they plan to decide "at the right time," Debbie said.
Some of these notions would not have been comfortable to her grandmothers, or to anyone's, and Debbie knows it. Same with divorce: "I know it's a real possibility at any time," she said, "and I know it didn't used to be."
And same with the wedding itself: It will be very down-style, with only 100 fans in the stands. "It was important to me to have people around who are importnat," said Debbie. "That eliminates the show-and-tell type of thing," as well as "my father's business acquaintances."
For Arnie Lerman, for years, marriage was a matter of when-I-get around-to-it, and when-I-find-the-right-girl.
Until his summit conferences with Debbie in December, "I wasn't convinced marriage was something I wanted. I didn't want to accept the responsibility. I enjoyed meeting different women as a bachelor. There's a feeling of freedom of being just responsible for yourself.
"Now I'm willing to make a commitment. That's probably the most significant thing about it."
To Arnie, marriage is "very much the same as it always was," with one difference: "I'd want to see Debbie expand . . . Something would be missing if ten years from now Deborah were just a homemaker."
Will hers be the one and only shoulder he cries on? "No, athough she'd be the most logical. I think there are others. It depends. You build relationships over a lifetime."
Could divorce do them part? "I don't think you go into something like marriage looking for the back door," Arnie replied. "You keep renewing the commitment, try to remain unafraid . . . You don't write out a contract when you get married, but you make assumptions."
One common route for a young, serious couple these days is to live together, or at least try to. Arnie and Debbie firmly ruled it out.
"I thought Arnie was going to pose it" during the December Debates, Debbie said. "And I would have said no. I've been brought up with the concept that one day I was going to get married. I wanted that happiness. I thought I could only achieve that happiness through marriage."
"Simply living together wasn't going to give what I want," said Arnie. "It's the chicken's way out. It begs the question of commitment. What can you build together? There'd always be a doubt how long you'd endure."
For now, the only thing the couple disagrees about is "who will get which side of bed," Debbie said.
But a cliuud lurks on the horizon: Debbie crushes Arnie at tennis, routinely.
How does it make him feel? "Terrible! But it's also a nice feeling to know she's going to teach me," said Arnie.
He pauses and glances at her. "The same way I can teach her to bowl better," he jabs.
"I knew that was coming!" says Debbie. And they giggle.
One piece of business remained for this spring before Rubin-Lerman became more than a newspaper headline: A meeting of the two sets of parents.
It was scheduled for George Washington's Birthday at Sturbridge, Mas., roughly midway between the families respective homes in Woodbrigde, Conn. (Debbie) and Marblehead, Mass., (Arnie). A blizzard interverned, but the meeting was reset for mid-March.
Which leaves little left but the waiting. And the running through, one more time, of everything that's good about Them.
"I wasn't going to drag him into it kicking and screaming," Debbie said. "That was very important to me. And I didn't. It's just take each day as it comes."
With that, Arnie takes Debbie's arm and guides her safely across Wisconsin Avenue, around and through the crush of a Bethesda rush hour. It was a good omen. Any grandmother could tell you.