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Wedded Blitz! Do or DIY

Let’s face it: If you aren’t foraging in the forest for your centerpieces, you probably aren’t getting into the ‘New York Times’ ‘Vows’ section

Theory: Like the words “troll” and “hipster” before it, the idea of “do-it-yourself” has been diluted to the point of near meaninglessness. Most commonly associated with home improvement, DIY is even the name of a TV network devoted to the subject. But it has grown increasingly affiliated with the wedding industry, like a once-vibrant person being smothered by a relationship, and these days it’s more of a marketing buzzword than anything else.

Is sitting cross-legged on the floor stuffing invitations enough to self-proclaim a “DIY wedding,” or must one hand-fold the envelopes oneself? Does picking up a standard sheet cake from the grocery store and driving it to the venue in the backseat of your car constitute industrious “DIY” behavior — or is the term intended to be more aesthetic, a way of life, a commitment to spending $20 on a prefab box of straws and patterned tape?

A “Home & Garden”1 piece on DIY weddings only highlights the discrepancies. On the one hand, a Martha Stewart Weddings editor talks amiably about ribbons in customizable colors and kits to help you make little pompoms. But is that on the same planet — or even in the same orbit — as this?

Last weekend, the couple, who live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, were in the area, foraging for moss, fiddleheads and ramps in a friend’s woods, and pulling chunks of marble from a stream.

The moss and ferns will be incorporated into centerpieces by Ms. Thorne and her mother, Sarah. The ramps will be mixed with wild morels in tartlets, wilted into salads, and served with locally caught striped bass. And the marble will be set on rough-hewed plinths along the tables, along with other stones the couple received from guests at their shower at the suggestion of Ms. Thorne’s parents.

“Foraging for moss, fiddleheads and ramps” has to be to the baroque-artisanal era what “swingin’ on the flippity-flop” was to grunge, right? Also, I had to Google “plinths.”

“Not only are you involving the community around you, but also the environment around you,” explained the groom. “You’re beholden to your surroundings.” That sounds sensible enough. Who doesn’t want to say “I do” with all the voices of the mountain, or dole out pashminas in all the colors of the wind?

The rest of the article features an event-planning firm called Sugar and Fluff; a bride who claims to be averse to Pinterest and Etsy style details but then admits she made pompoms to string on twine; and an enterprising lady who charges four figures to arrange rented vintage furniture into suitable clusters.

The DIY issue of Martha Stewart Weddings takes things to a new level. It included these three “fresh ideas”:

1. Use drones to capture group wedding photos from high above — the perfect role to assign game-loving brothers or mischievous best men! “Controversial but fabulous, drones do a good job,” the piece says.

2. Screw the flowers — make paper bouquets instead! This is a casual multipart endeavor that involves wire cutters and bleach, and it hits you with directions like this:

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Martha Stewart Weddings

Continue to fluff and bend flower until it resembles a completely open bloom with lots of body and dimension. Gently bend the yellow bottlebrush top of the stem so it has a slight arch that mimics the shape of a natural stamen.

Fifty Shades of Grey quote, Martha Stewart arts-and-crafts tutorial, or live footage from one of those NPR-voiced stroke clinics on the Golf Channel?

3. Co-opt military ceremonialism! The actual implementation of these little charm magnets as table numbers is nice, but, man, whoever wrote the copy for the magazine really went all out. “Atten-TION!” it says. “The benefits of these military-inspired medals are twofold. You’ll set a uniform look for your party — and even better, each attendee will feel like a four-star guest of honor.” Ha, imagine telling your Korean War veteran grandfather that he has to affix a little froggy medal of honor to his lapel. “Don’t forget, instead of a toast we’ll be doing a love salute. As you were!”

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Martha Stewart Weddings

(I half-lied: nos. 2 and 3 are real, and no. 1 is derived from something that Stewart herself actually said when discussing the drones that took aerial footage of the many suburban farmlands under her rule.)

It just seems strange that all this stuff falls under the DIY umbrella; there should be more of a classification system at work. Off the top of my head, here are a few different species of self-doer:

THE CHEAPSKATE: This person is solely worried about the bottom line and can be identified because they are happy to tell you exactly how much their wedding cost. (This number conveniently leaves out the man-hours lost when friendships dissolved over potluck-related mishaps.)

THE MARTYR: “You know what, don’t bother. I’ll just set the tables myself. I’d honestly just rather do it than worry about it not getting done right.”

THE MOSS FORAGER: People who forage for moss.

THE PERSON HAVING A WEDDING DESCRIBED AS “RUSTIC CHIC”: It’s a proven fact that 89 percent of DIY-ers fall into this category.

THE PROCRASTINATOR: Of course these people have done everything on their own, they’ve been engaged for going on three years now.

THE DESIGNER: Professionals who should not be trying to pretend they relate to us amateurs. Reminiscent of Taylor Swift claiming to have felt threatened by cheer captains.

THE MIDDLE AGES ENTHUSIAST HAVING A MIDLIFE CRISIS: Does it count as DIY if you “decorated the wedding hall with shields and medieval knights’ helmets the groom had collected over the years”? I say yes.

As always, this month’s Society Scorecard highlights the results of our objective, quantitative NUPTIALS analysis. Thank you to Friend of Grantland Alex Morrison for his infographical acumen, and congratulations to Colleen Roh and Gerard Sinzdak, whose 37 points — 20 in Universities alone!! — made them the valedictorians of life.

The bride has degrees from Columbia, Cambridge, and Harvard, while the groom matriculated at Scranton and Cal. But he overcame that hardship: “The couple met in Washington while they were clerks for the United States Supreme Court, she for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and he for Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

In second place were Juliet Fraser and Fletcher Wade Gibson IV. Confusingly, the groom’s father is not named Fletcher Wade Gibson III! But his name is Donald Ennis, and the most important thing is that he and his wife are owners of “Ski Masters of Texas, a summer camp on Lake McQueeney.”2 The daughter of a Montessori teacher in Concord married an heir to the Chicken Soup for the Soul empire and earned third place (against all odds and in heartrending, quasi-religious manner that will be anthologized in paperback soon, no doubt).

Rounding out the winning five were two Greeks and two Yalies. (It’s too bad the latter bride isn’t changing her name, because having formal envelopes addressed to you as “The Doctors Blizzard” would be pretty cool.) But the biggest battle for supremacy wasn’t playing out at the top of the Society Scorecard — it was down at nos. 18 and 19.

In one corner, Sarah Waites Elkins and Francis Hopkinson Craighill IV: “The groom is a direct descendant of Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.” In the other, Alison Marie Devenny and Edward Berwind Stautberg: “The groom is a descendant of Martha Washington and Robert Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.” QUILL PEN–OFF!

According to the official website for the Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Francis Hopkinson “was a multi-talented person: writing, painting, music, design, politics, law.” He composed and played music, submitted a proposal for the design of the American flag, and represented New Jersey as a Continental Congress delegate. Quite the patriot!

But it’s no contest, really. Robert Morris’s life and times include being captured by pirates in Jamaica and subsequent refuge in Cuba; inclusion in the “Encyclopedia of American Wealth”; a manor in upstate New York where pineapples were grown; “the tea ship Polly”; scholarly disagreement over the particulars of Morris’s involvement in the Declaration; “the sobriquet of ‘Financier of the Revolution’”; China; “a palatial townhouse in Philadelphia designed by Maj. Pierre Charles L’Enfant”; Napoleon; debtor’s prison; debilitating asthma; and elementary school namesakes.

When you combine that AND noted hip, hip lady Martha Washington? It’s clear that Devenny-Stautberg have won the Battle of 1776. (By the way, if you’re more of a Civil War buff, we’ve also got you covered: Robert E. Lee’s great-great-great-grandaughter got hitched recently.)

• Lest you think a “shadow wedding” is something out of Game of Thrones — well, you’re not far off:

Imagine a pre-wedding ceremony in which a bride carries a bouquet of thorns and stands with her groom in their basement dressed in rags, with each verbally acknowledging the other’s neuroses.

So, like, a typical Tuesday night? I support this questionable wedding trend FAR more than I do the one where bridesmaids take photos of their butts.

• Apparently in Europe they give quite the performance bonuses to their management consultants! One bride’s father “previously managed [McKinsey’s] office in Brussels, where in 1992 he was knighted as an Officer of the Order of Leopold II for his economic contributions to Belgium.” (Second prize was a set of frietzak.)

• We’ve had announcement photos before that feature goats and Will Ferrell, so why not throw in a penguin?

• “The bride, 32, is the founder of eFlirt Expert, which offers online dating coaching … The groom, 28, owns Professional Wingman, through which he gives one-on-one lifestyle and dating advice; he also owns Confidence Unchained, a career strategy service.” Needless to say, they met via the #dating hashtag on Twitter.

• I would have liked to watch the World Cup final with these two.

• I had not known that New York Times critic Janet Maslin was married to John Cheever’s kid! What a world. At any rate, she is now in-laws with a set of thoroughbred horse trainers. I feel like ol’ JC would have had some thoughts.

• Mayor de Blasio has been officiating up a storm (though as New York politicians go he’s certainly no Yenta of the Senate!). Meanwhile, in the flyover states, Al Franken — whose son and daughter have both had marriage announcements in the Times — has his name appear once again, thanks to a former aide tying the knot with an erstwhile Richard Durbin assistant.

• I just kinda feel like presenting this entire paragraph without context:

Jon Regen and Dr. Mitchell Gaynor spent a single evening creating songs for their first album together in Mr. Regen’s home studio. Dr. Gaynor played crystal bowls, and Mr. Regen played keyboards, adding ambient sounds like waves. They recorded through a vintage microphone that had originally come from John Lennon’s studio. (“I had just dropped a good portion of my life savings” on the microphone, Mr. Regen said.)

• It was really thoughtful of the New York Times to honor the 22nd birthday of seminal film The Mighty Ducks via subliminal groom name selection.

• “The couple met in 2010 on a military base in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.” “The couple work at the United Nations.” “The couple met in the summer of 2009 in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, while backpacking through South America.” “The couple met in September 2008 when they were working on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in Tampa.” “The couple met in Washington while they were clerks for the United States Supreme Court.” Your move, Dorrians!!

• You know how one way you can find your adult-film-star handle by combining your middle name with the street you grew up on? (Ann Devonshire, baby.) Well, it’s lesser known, but there’s a similar game that helps you find your proper Bethesda designation. First, pick a president’s last name. Then, name a part — any part — of a boat. Finally, choose the most overrated place you ever made out in high school. Ready? Mine comes out to “Madison Tiller Backseat.” This guy, apparently, got “Carter Mast Beach” in real life.

“Notorious” and “Prophet” may sound like American Gladiators or hip-hop artistes, but this is 2014 and so they are actually the names of “a mobile app that provides beauty, fashion and fitness advice from celebrity experts” and a San Francisco consulting firm.

Please adopt me.

• I misread this and thought George W. Bush had painted a portrait of the groom’s dad and not the other way around, and I got way too excited. Hey, it could easily happen!

• A Goldman Sachs VP marries a kindergarten teacher; tale as old as time. EXCEPT this guy is a former Naval officer who battled Somalian pirates, and his wife has a master’s degree in the education of the deaf. See what happens when you ASS-U-ME? The announcement doesn’t mention it, but they probably nurse abandoned puppies back to health in their spare time.

I tried not to get too excited when I saw that a Yael was wedding a Yair, because while I suspected we might have this month’s Chosen Couple on our hands I didn’t want to socioethnically stereotype quite so fast. But forget what I just said about Goldman Sachs guy with heart of gold and all of that. Always trust your rashest instincts, as it turns out! This wedding featured three rabbis — both fathers, as well as the bride herself — and united graduates of Brandeis and Yeshiva.

But not so fast; this other couple MET at Brandeis and the bride is currently a student at Yeshiva! And her dad was president of the Hebrew Free Loan Society, while her mom taught at a Dallas-area Jewish day school. And then there’s these worthy candidates, who met as 4-year-olds at a Long Island camp before meeting again two decades later in Jerusalem. (Which is catnippier to a parent: that story, or the line “They first noticed each other at the departure terminal at Kennedy Airport before a Brown-sponsored trip to Israel”? I can just hear both stories being relayed loudly and proudly over the phone.)

But nope, Yael and Yair rise above, and here’s why:

She is the founder of MidrashManicures.com in Manhattan, which conveys Torah topics through nail art done at religious institutions and synagogues.

This is a gift. I like the one that conveys leprosy, but not the one that perpetuates a meaningless hockey stat.3 The best and most winning product, though, is the easy-to-use stickers. “You won’t want to Pass-over these Ten Plagues Nails Decals! … Nails home the Passover story.”

Nail art, when you think about it, is a fun and broadly unnecessary flair that is simple to master and yet time-consuming to create. It’s personal expression; it’s money that could probably be better deployed elsewhere. No one really even sees it except you, but it’s hard for you to notice much else.

In other words? Not only will it look great in those engagement ring selfies — it’s also perfectly suited for “do-it-yourself.”

Filed Under: Wedded Blitz, Weddings, New York Times

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Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes