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Wedded Blitz! Fear Your Inner Bridezilla

As our intrepid reporter dives into another month of the ‘New York Times’ ‘Vows’ section, she ponders her own metamorphosis

W  ait a minute, I thought as I began drafting my latest private message to the nice man on Etsy who peddles vintage stamps. It was about a custom order, my second transaction with him in the span of about four months. Am I … a bridezilla?

Sickened, I mentally staggered backward, realizing with newfound clarity that all the signs were there. The browser tab opened to my “secret” wedding Pinterest. The hastily stapled card of unflattering fabric swatches on my desk. The 2,000-word emails in my outbox to BCC’d recipient lists about Thursday-night accommodations in October with photos attached and links embedded and the words “NO PRESSURE!” sprinkled throughout like confetti or rice. (Which reminds me: must decide (a) which one to order, or (b) whether to develop a strong, smug stance against the general practice.)

Have I become the thing I hate? I have idly Googled phrases like “floral crowns” and “hint of mint” in 2014 the year of our Lord; I have written separate checks to a “day-of coordinator” and a “travel concierge.” It seems straightforward. In assessing just how far down the rabbit hole I’ve fallen, there are competing rules of thumb at hand. If you ever fear you might be a sociopath, after all, that you’re even wondering means you’re probably safe. (You’re just a regular jerk.) If I can identify the bridezilla in the mist, at least it means I have some modicum of anthropological perspective, right?

But there’s also the inescapable fact that anyone who self-anoints as “a laid-back bride” or “really chill about this whole thing” is probably not telling the complete truth. They may not know they’re lying. But in almost every case, it unfolds like when someone contributes to a decision about ordering takeout by saying, “I don’t care, I’m really up for whatever,” and then proceeds to veto every subsequent idea.

What doesn’t help is that it’s hard to find a decent middle ground. There’s the addicting terror-reign of the bridal magazines and the “styled shoot” blogs (it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize a lot of the photos on Style Me Pretty weren’t from actual weddings) with their checklists — three months out, time to order the monogrammed napkins and find a good dermatologist! — and their I-agree-with-your-mother views on etiquette and protocol and the necessity of registering for expensive silverware. Another thing I keep forgetting to do.

Search out a less intense demographic, though, and it doesn’t take long to get overwhelmed by the “I got married in my basement with eight of our closest friends and all the readings were obscure Roberto Bolaño passages and my husband cooked the food from scratch and we planted a garden in lieu of gifts, DON’T buy in to the wedding industrial complex” crowd. The barrier to entry there often seems equally daunting, even if those people do always have great ideas about good first-dance songs and affordable non-cake desserts. (Seriously, can we all just agree that rubbery fondant icing is the worst?)

The result of trying to find an acceptable spot in the center is that I’ve found myself in a place where you can’t believe people travel to a monastery in central Italy for affordable wedding gowns, ha ha, those silly people, while debating photo-booth-or-taco-truck budgetary concerns over a Tuesday dinner.

This weekend, I got to revert back to the mode of guest, and blessedly, it was at one of those perfect weddings where you barely eat the overpriced food because you’re too busy toasting and laughing, and where, at one point, you look around your table and realize you’ll realistically never be seated in one place with this particular permutation of great old friends ever again.1 At some weddings you want to catch the first bus back to the hotel, but at this one we lounged around a fire pit and hoped we never had to leave. It was an energizing reminder of what exactly it is I’m really hoping to eventually stir up with all this sorcery, however shameful. Oh yeah, and it was a reminder of something else. Note to self: Call the caterer to find out how much breakfast sandwiches served at midnight might be.

♦♦♦

Sorry, enough about me and my problems. (I’m just jumpy because my bachelorette’s this weekend and I don’t know if I’ll survive.) With the usual thanks to Friend of Grantland Alex Morrison for putting together this interactive Society Scorecard, here are the highest-ranking couples of February as determined by our proprietary NUPTIALS algorithm.

The specific bylaw that awards up to two points if someone in an announcement has been on the payroll of the Times got a good workout this week, as we had both Sulzberger and Ochs descendants in the house!! The former was one groom whose mother was “a niece of Arthur Hays Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times from 1935 until 1961,” while the latter had a bride whose “paternal grandfather, the late Maj. Gen. Julius Ochs Adler, was general manager of The New York Times as well as the president and publisher of The Chattanooga Times in Tennessee.”

This second bride didn’t just have the more impressive-sounding Times-ian patriarch in her bloodline — she was also one half of February’s top couple. Between the two of them, Anne Adler Tarbell and William Walker Marden III have degrees from Yale, Wharton, Cornell, and Princeton; a tour in Vietnam and a top job in investor relations; and connections to both Maine and a private boys’ school in New York City. They unfortunately also met under sad circumstances, having both lost spouses to cancer. I don’t recommend watching the accompanying video — which involves a heartrending tribute on a bicycle built for two — if there are people around you whom you don’t want seeing you cry.

(If you don’t mind experiencing emotions, the Times wedding videos are always fantastic. I went into this one ready to make some comments about these women’s glasses vis-à-vis one of their photography anthologies being called Reframing and came away thinking about my own shallowness and that there ought to be some sort of micro-documentary category at the Oscars. Since these guys didn’t get a video, I’ll just point out their matching glasses instead.)

Rounding out the top five are an Upper East Side Democrat and his Sotheby’s auctioneer wife; a pair of Harvard and Duke Law grads; another Harvard duo (this one with additional degrees from Harvard and UVa and a mother of the bride who is “an assistant to David Bernier, the secretary of state of Puerto Rico”); and, oh hey, surprise, Bill Kristol’s son met his wife at Harvard as well! What a small, small world.

♦♦♦

There are often couples in the NYT weddings section who met while working on political campaigns, and it’s easy to see why — you have that shared alternate reality, those long hours, that jacked-up adrenaline, and those moments of desperate loneliness. (It’s basically a really long, Johnny Weir–less Olympics!)

The desirability of the candidate matters not; even two people who “met in May 2006, in Rocky Hill, Conn., while working at the campaign headquarters of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman” can find love. (Or, in Washington-speak, “Mr. Thornton discussed his ideas with Ms. Salomone, often over coffee, and began to appreciate her more with each stressful day.”)

And then there were the two who met while serving Mayor Mike:

The first throes of love coincided with the last days of a mayoral campaign, which meant working 16-hour days and weekends.

For Mr. Coffey and Mr. Riff, it was both exciting and romantic, as their effort on Mr. Bloomberg’s behalf was amplified by their feelings for each other.

I’m distracted by visions of how this interview went down. “Yeah, we were holed up at the Gramercy Hotel for like a week while they thought we were digitizing all the mayor’s Spanglish press conferences, but — no, no, don’t write that. Put down that … our love for each other … was … was almost as great as our love for Mayor Bloomberg! Or just write something that sounds vaguely like a double entendre, that works, too.”

Later, drunk, they all pull up this oldie-but-goodie on the living room iMac and perform dramatic readings. In that addled yet celebratory spirit, here are some observations from the month in matrimony …

• A hearty mazel to February’s Chosen Couple! Married by Rabbi Avi D. Friedman, a cousin of the bride, this pair has parents with much in common. The groom’s father, until recently, was vice-president for community services and finances at the Columbus Jewish Federation, while both the bride’s parents are on the board of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. We need some sort of inter-federation rec sports league and stat.

• Dream job alert: “The groom’s mother is the owner and publisher of the Weekapaug-based Ocean Views Summer Directory, which publishes a summer directory and an annual newspaper.

Your parenthetical aside of the month: “(his 51st online date, her first).”

• Speaking of parenthetical asides, here’s one in a weird sentence in an otherwise nice story about a widower and father of three marrying JoJo Cohen, the daughter of the former L.A. Kings owner: “She hired a surfing instructor (married, so there were no blurred lines) and began to consider the possibility of relocating.” I’m going to start inserting that into my writing at random.

• On the run and looking for the CliffsNotes versions of all these “Meeting the in-laws for the first time is intense!” stories? I’ve taken the liberty of condensing most of them for you by cutting out everything except the first and last lines …

1. “On Nov. 26, 2008, the first Thanksgiving that Anna Whitlow spent with Jose Posas’ family in rural Georgia, the couple arrived late at night, let themselves into the house and placed their crated dog in the garage. … The couple married three years ago in Key West, Fla.”

2. “Meaghan Feodoroff and Tim Curcio met at a kickball game in Prospect Park in Brooklyn in 2006. … Eighteen months later, he proposed, and they were married in Nantucket, Mass., on Sept. 20, 2008.”

3. “Eric Villency had a bad case of the prenuptial jitters when he boarded a plane for Europe to meet his fiancée, Caroline Fare, and, for the first time, her parents during Swedish Midsummer festivities in June 2011. … They were married at the courthouse in Lower Manhattan followed by a spiritual ceremony in Manalapan, Fla., on Dec. 14, 2013.” [Note: This one is actually worth reading in full, considering it also includes the phrases “jump naked into the sauna,” “egg-sack and potato-sack races,” and “Norwegian lutefisk soaked in lye.” I like these guys!]

5. “The first time Alex Orlofsky met his future mother-in-law, he was beyond nervous. … And the couple married at the Miami Beach Resort and Spa on March 6, 2010.”

6. “Andre Agassi began to date his fellow tennis star Steffi Graf not long after his 1999 divorce from the actress Brooke Shields. … Neither father was present.”

• There were two really nice essays this month, one by Adam Gropman about what it was like to get married during that live Macklemore-Madonna mass ceremony at the Grammys (“The secrecy was high all around. It was as if we were entering into a project with SEAL Team 6″) and the other by Beth Rosen about mothers and daughters and what to wear to one’s wedding.

• I was so endlessly distracted by the zombie apocalypse wedding photo in this announcement that I almost overlooked that “the bride is a descendant of the frontiersman Daniel Boone.” I hope she’s as good at shooting walkers in the brain as he was at shooting panthers in the heart. No but seriously watch out THAT GUY IN THE NORTH FACE IS GOING TO EAT YOU!

• Conversely, there’s never been an announcement that needed a photo more than the one where the partner at Sullivan & Cromwell married the former Naval officer and current personal trainer “and fitness model” 10 years her junior. You’re basically the two most attractive people in the world and you’re going to leave us guessing like that? Beautiful people really are different from the rest of us.

Something about this picture is mesmerizing, like gazing into a Magic Eye. I can’t tear myself away, and also I think I just saw a spaceship.

• Ha, while all you outer-borough dwellers are messing around with beard transplants you’re missing out on the cutting edge of facial-hair retro-trends: behold, the waxed-and-twirled. (Sounds like a Waffle House hash browns order and/or a Jerry Seinfeld “move,” either of which are to be approached with caution.)

• It’s always funny when the titles of various creative works are listed out of context in an announcement, and especially so when the bride works in the early-edutainment sphere. “Ms. Nee, 44, is the creator and the executive producer of ‘Doc McStuffins,’ an animated preschool series on Disney Junior, a cable television channel. She has written for other children’s television shows, including ‘Little Bill’ and ‘The Backyardigans,’ both on Nickelodeon.” As someone raised on a steady diet of Sebastian and Pinwheel, I salute this.

♦♦♦

We’ll conclude with a poem, “Names of the Times.”

Babette Dorfman Fortune
and Hollace D. Tullman
walked by Atlanta law firm
Troutman Sanders
one day.

Not of Nutley, New Jersey,
was George I. Kingsley,
while Doc Cornelius H. Halvey
came from Sarasota to stay.

They were there for the same thing,
Trust and estate planning,
But they also found something
That blew them away:

People whose nomenclature
Was just like theirs in nature,
Letting them easily rest assured
Of each other’s cachet.

Filed Under: Wedded Blitz

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Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes