Wedded Blitz! The Rites of Spring

Tomi Um

It seemed like it might never happen, but spring, dearly beloved, has sprung. The snow-garbage heaps are getting increasingly compacted and shrunken. The sun shines down upon evening rush hour, warming hearts and blinding drivers in equal measure. Flowers bloom and are felled by late frost. Canada Goose parkas and Merrell boots are stuffed into closets, swallowing up half their square footage.

Baseball season is starting, ski season is ending, and invitations for wedding season are being beautifully addressed and hand-canceled and misplaced in that pile of bills and junk mail on your desk. Spring means Tiger Woods at the Masters, the premieres of 17,000 Sunday-night TV shows, the NHL and NBA playoffs, and, most importantly, the glorious return of Wedded Blitz.

Every few months we’ll examine the New York Times’s “Weddings and Celebrations” section, searching for deeper meaning in each snippet of text the way lonely teen girls analyze boy band lyrics or devout believers pore over the Bible.

Today, we look back on the early announcements of 2015, three months’ worth of vacation homes and online matchmaking, of proud goat owners and Harvard MBAs. So let’s all raise our glasses — and our glasses — and salute the fine folks whose unions are so much more than the sum of their parts. You may now dis the bride.

Having a first-quarter wedding takes a certain devil-may-care set of balls: These are people so secure in their love and social standing that they are willing to risk killer bridal party hangovers so they can wed two days after New Year’s, or battle snowy flight delays for weddings on Valentine’s Day. (Either that, or they’re just looking for an awesome off-season deal on a venue.)

To the Top 20 two-tops of early 2015, we here at Wedded Blitz HQ offer a trembling-handed best wishes and a hearty booze-fueled mazel tov! As always, scores are based on our proprietary NUPTIALS algorithm, which seeks to quantify that vague sense of “these people live such grander lives than I do” that you get when you sit down with the “Sunday Styles” section over brunch.

The two top couples of this quarter were quite different from one other, and yet both of them are fantastic examples of efficient ways to rack up NUPTIALS points. I knew champions Mimi Hoesley and Benjamin Slater IV would have a leg up right off the bat, before I’d even read their vital stats: Anytime you have a groom with a IV in his name, you know there’s gotta be a dad who’s The Third. That’s seven points before the JUST MARRIED yacht has even left the dock! Throw in twin MBAs from Columbia, two mothers who work in interior design, and those magic little words “Palm Beach” and you’ve got a fool-proof recipe for success. The Episcopal priest is just gravy.

Earning the silver medal were Dr. Meryl Rosofsky and Stuart Coleman, who have 49 cumulative years on the Hoesley-Slaters and thus a whole lot more board memberships (worth one point apiece). Rosofsky, who has both a Harvard Medical School degree and culinary certificates from Paris and Siena, serves on the boards of a theater foundation and a women’s culinary alliance. Her husband is a trustee representing the late choreographer George Balanchine (Coleman’s mother was a principal ballerina in NYC, which I assume is the connection) and a board member of a New York performing arts organization. He also sits on the board of one of the Guggenheim Museum’s many expensive tentacles.

(A correction appended to the couple’s announcement regrets having “misstated the groom’s role with the Guggenheim Museum,” noting that he works with a side performing arts series called “Works & Process” and “is not on the museum’s board.” I can only imagine the feathers that were ruffled by that mistake.)1

The best part of this announcement, however:

A nondenominational ceremony is to follow at the Pool Room at the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York, led by James Lipton, the host of “Inside the Actors Studio,” and Betty Fussell, the food writer, who are friends of the couple. Mr. Lipton will read from Marlowe and Shakespeare, and Ms. Fussell will share reflections on marriage.

JAMES LIPTON READING AT YOUR WEDDING. We might have to make the “S” in the NUPTIALS rubric stand for “scrumtrulescent.”

Rounding out the fabulous five are a management consultant and an investment banker; a former deputy secretary of state (and current head of the Brookings Institution) who had both Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Breyer’s daughter, an Episcopal priest, participate in the wedding; and a pair of JPMorgan Chase employees.

One fun thing about reading thousands of words about high-flying relationships over the years is that at a certain point you begin to notice sweeping societal change taking root. Many of the Times announcements feature same-sex couples, and a few years back the paper did away with the archaic word “bridegroom.” Stories that used to focus on where a bride went to finishing school or made her debut now outline her career successes and Fulbright scholarships. But these things pale in significance to 2015’s most recent trend: We’re seeing a shift away from relationship origin stories involving JDate and Match.com and toward lifetime love based on good old Tinder instead.2

The best part about this featured “Vows” column isn’t the bride, Lori Levine, who has “more than 50 pairs of designer shoes,” self-proclaims herself to have been living “a ‘Sex and the City’ existence,” and makes comments like “you want to kiss me right now, don’t you?” and “Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t coming over for coffee every day.” No, it is the über-Timesian description of just what Tinder is:

Unlike online dating sites such as Match.com or eHarmony, Tinder works more like a game, with users showing their approval or disapproval of other users’ photographs by swiping right or left on their phone screen. Since “matches” are based solely on photogenic traits, it is perhaps unsurprising that the app is not known for contributing to long-term relationships.

Can’t you just feel your aunt reading this and furrowing her brow?

Levine noted that most of the men’s profiles she encountered on Tinder featured pictures “with live tigers.” Meanwhile, Jan van Arsdale, a “marathon-running divorced dad,” mostly used the app to help schedule “half-hour ‘speed dates’ near Grand Central Terminal before catching his commuter train home to Fairfield, Conn.” (Perhaps this is code for the modern-day nooner.) But the two of them swiped right on each other, and so, too, did fate. A year and a half later, Fran Drescher gave a toast at their wedding.

Emma Marwood and Miguel Palafox, meanwhile, met on the service when they were both living in Mexico City, she as a staffer at the U.S. Embassy and he as a commercial director in his hometown. Palafox had “a predilection for what he calls Barbie girls,” but when he met Marwood he was “mesmerized … she’s just so smart and intelligent.” They got a Chihuahua together — Marwood called it a “diplodog” for its international portability — and, six months after their first date, got engaged. I worry these stories may be setting false expectations among Tinder users just a tad.

Another joyous element of the Times wedding announcements is the window they give us into people’s most arcane obsessions, their most personal enthusiasms. For Robert Burton Jr., that raison d’être was “speed-cubing, or unscrambling a Rubik’s Cube in less time than it takes to explain what a Rubik’s Cube is.” Burton, who “averages an 18-second solve,” taught his trade to his girlfriend Jaclyn Sawler, who can now solve the six-sided puzzle in as little as half a minute.

But that wasn’t Burton’s only nerdy quirk. He told Sawyer “he would not propose until she completed his favorite Nintendo action-adventure video game, ‘Legend of Zelda.’” (I can’t decide whether that’s more or less sensible than the guy who wanted a year’s worth of creative sandwiches.) He abandoned this prerequisite as he watched the days on the calendar fall away as she remained stuck on Level 8. You see, Burton had a plan, a wedding vision rivaling that of even the most militant Bridezillas. He wanted to get married on March 14, 2015, and not a day later.

That day is celebrated among math aficionados as Pi Day in recognition of the first few digits of the number representing the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, 3.1415.

He explained his wedding-date calculus this way: The 3 before the decimal point in pi would stand for March; the 14 after the decimal point would stand for the day; and the 15 for the year. Oh, and the Pi Day in 2015 was the one Pi Day in 100 years when that sequence would apply.

Nor did he stop with the hour and the minute. He was aware that when carried to 9 decimal places, pi was 3.141592653. He said that the right time for the ceremony was the 53rd second of the 26th minute of the ninth hour of the day. She agreed.

The ninth hour of the day as in 9 a.m. All I can say is that this guy has far more dedicated friends than I do; if I’d gotten married at that hour, it would have been in front of crickets. But the ceremony was sweet, as well as meaningful: It took place in a room featuring an exhibit on the 40th anniversary of Rubik’s Cubes, including “an 18-carat gold cube said to be worth $2.5 million, and a cube-solving robot.”

Burton wasn’t the only one with highly specific interests. Margie Goldsmith and Jamie Anthony, both in their seventies, met because they are both such big fans of blues music, with Goldsmith having even learned to play the blues harp. (“She would perform exuberantly on her harmonica at every opportunity — with Pygmies in Uganda, at a pub in Ireland, at a bar in New York.” Do you think the Pygmies made fun of her behind her back?) During the course of their courtship, Anthony managed to turn Goldsmith on to another of his passions: riding motorcycles. And I use the words “turn on” and “passions” pretty literally:

“Riding behind him was very sensual,” she said. “You can choose how much to put your arms around him. I put my arms around him a lot. We were like two teenagers on our first date. By the time we made it back to the city, I was hooked.”

While some of these Vowsian hobbies begin unilaterally and become mutual, others were enjoyed by both parties all along. And there’s nothing the Times loves more than shared love: In fact, I’m beginning to suspect that the writers earn a bonus if, somewhere in their piece, they point out two people’s common joys. TO WIT:

1. “They bonded over a shared love of family, tennis, and travel.”

2. “They soon discovered a shared love of family, theater, politics and pizza.”

3. “ … he, like she, valued family, loved traveling, and was a Democrat.”

4. “The two discovered they shared a deep commitment to education, family, and Indian culture.”

5. “They were soon dating and enjoying a shared interest in family, travel, indie rock music and Chinese food.”3

I totally feel the pizza and Chinese food shout-outs, and travel is cool, but I have to ask: What is with all the people who are so into their families?! Just once, JUST ONCE, I want to hear that two like-minded folks spent their entire first date bitching about their lazy, selfish siblings. I want to meet the couple that knew it was love when they both punted phone calls from their long-winded stepdads straight to voice mail.

I want to read something like: “Over mac and cheese and boxed rosé, they discovered a shared love for sleeping in, browsing Reddit, and never leaving Brooklyn — and a mutual distaste for the passive-aggressiveness of their meddlesome mothers.” These are the weddings that wind up being the most fun anyway.

Speaking of fun weddings, is this a great wedding photo or the greatest wedding photo? It’s not every day you get a dude in jeans and a Carhartt jacket chilling next to a dapper gent in a polka-dotted tux, and I’ve always wanted to go to a fiesta inside a giant igloo. Here are some other dispatches from happy days across all of Weddingland:

• This groom will see your proposal on a hot-air balloon over Lake Champlain in Vermont and raise you a proposal while surrounded by bald eagles on an icy Hudson River. (“Seeing a bald eagle was also on my bucket list,” he explained. “I’ve been called the Bald Eagle since I was — I guess since I was 14, when I started losing my hair.”)

• A ring was put on it, the “it” in this case being Tina Knowles.

Photographer Judith Glickman and scion Leonard Lauder, the son of Estée Lauder4 and the chairman emeritus of her empire, were joined in matrimony. (If there’s a better sinecure than being “chairman emeritus” of something, I’d love to know it: maybe “writer-at-large” or “hotel impresario”?) Like so many migratory birds, they fled south for the winter, holding their wedding at the Sarasota Ritz. But the money line here involves the trifecta of clergy who helped with the ceremony: “Rabbi Brenner J. Glickman, a son of the bride, officiated with his brother Rabbi Jeffrey Glickman, and Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman, who is married to Rabbi Brenner Glickman.” We need a visual representation of this setup, like the kind you find in the front of fantasy novels.

• On the topic of rabbis, one of them got married this March! Let’s go through his announcement in order and cherry-pick some key phrases:

– “Rabbi James E. Ponet, the Howard M. Holtzmann Jewish Chaplain at Yale, officiated.”

– Tel Aviv

– “the New Moon Project, a monthly online journal of women’s reflections based mainly on the kabbalah.”

– “the rabbi at the New Shul in Manhattan”

the oud

– “Epichorus, a Manhattan-based band that performs Jewish-Arabic contemporary and traditional folk music”

– “a master’s degree in Midrash and scriptural interpretation from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America

– “a service conducted on Yom Kippur by Storahtelling”

– “went into a hiccupping fit during Kol Nidre”

– “she spotted him at a Friday night service at Romemu, an Upper West Side synagogue”

– “its rabbi, David Ingber, an old friend”

– a fast

– “the first wedding he would perform as a rabbi”

And now he’s had a wedding of his own. All together now: CHO-SEN COU-PLE (clap clap clapclapclap).

• Childhood sweethearts Joel Burger and Ashley King plan to go by the name “Burger-King” once they get married, which prompted the fast food chain to announce that it “wants to help give you a whopper of a wedding” and will pay for the whole thing. No word on whether the chosen currency is chicken fries.

• We generally don’t cover divorce news in this column — that’s the Huffington Post’s beat — but the headline “Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man responds to Divorce Court claims that woman slept with ENTIRE band” is too good not to mention. (“She gave Wu some tang” is an actual line from the article.)

• I like this groom’s style: When he was a student at Harvard, he sent an email to his dorm listserv “in which he announced himself as the prince of Mauritius and declared he was looking for his 19th wife.” His email included a promise of being “showered in gold literally” and “guaranteed continuous protection by my mighty spear-throwing royal army.” More than one ostensibly well-educated woman fell for it. The Times harshes his buzz a wee bit, pointing out that Mauritius has no royal family and that he grew up “in a cinder-block house, not a palace,” but still: This Eshwan Ramudu clearly gets it. He’d make an awesome stunt-blogger.

“Descendants of,” Ranked

6. “the founder and a headmaster of the Millbrook School in Millbrook, N.Y.”

5. “the late J. Howard Pew, the chairman of the Sun Oil Company, and a founder of the Pew Charitable Trusts.”

4. “Bernhard Stroh, who founded the Stroh Brewery Company of Detroit in 1850.”

3. “the president of Cuba from 1948 to 1952.”

2. “Fielding Lewis, a colonel during the Revolutionary War, and Betty Washington, a sister of President Washington.”

1. “King Kamehameha the Great, who, by 1810, had united the Hawaiian islands and founded the Kamehameha dynasty.”

• Despite her no. 5 ranking above, the great-granddaughter of the late J. Howard Pew is part of one of my favorite couples: the daughter of a calligrapher marrying the son of a Buffalo wing sauce manufacturer and distributor! That wedding was clearly both tasteful AND tasty.

• Other featured foodstuffs over the past few months include Hungry Pilgrim Oysters, Lox, Stock & BagelBirch Benders pancake mix, and “Welch Foods, the food processing and marketing arm of the National Grape Cooperative Association.”

• True wealth and status, it turns out, isn’t being featured in the New York Times wedding section — it’s having such massive family funds that you’ve got people featured in the New York Times wedding section who are specifically employed to manage all dat cash. We salute you, Sackler family and Steven Schonfeld! Also, can you spot us five (million) bucks?

What kind of wedding guest are YOU? I’m somewhere between “I’ll Try Not To Make A Scene, But There Are Going To Be A Lot Of People At That Reception That I Haven’t Seen In A While, And I Have Some Scores To Settle” and “The Gag Gift I Buy You Is Going To Be Far Less Hilarious And Far More Hostile Than I Intended.”

Now that spring is here, it’s time for some light housekeeping; a few minor changes will be made to the NUPTIALS formula in order to freshen up a bit for polite company and get with the times. Wedding dresses are lovely because they’re so specifically altered, and we hope these small tweaks and tucks create a rubric with a perfect fit.

Names

Someone has a hyphenated last name: +1 (+3 if two hyphen-kids marry each other)

A parent and a step-parent share uncomfortably similar first names: +2

Both halves of the couple take the same name, but it’s different from either of their originals: +3

Universities

Columbia knocked down from an Insufferable (+3) to a Semi-Elite (+2). No offense or judgment meant; there just seems to be a real glut of Columbia degrees out there throwing off the careful equilibrium of NUPTIALS, and something has got to give.

Culinary degree: +1

Zero mention whatsoever of where bride or groom went to college: +2 (+3 if that person is in a band or currently has an art installation somewhere in Brooklyn). These people have a certain antiestablishment mystique that ought to be acknowledged.

Parents

Parent owns a professional sports franchise: +1 for each team

Mother is an interior decorator: +1

Father’s full-time job is managing the family’s massive stores of wealth: +2

Father is some sort of doctor AND mother is the office manager: +3

Tropes

Story includes reference to groom (or bride, we’re progressive in these parts) asking permission from his or her parents: +1

Couple met on a private Silicon Valley corporate bus: +2

Story includes a list of “shared loves” that includes “family”: +2

Story includes a list of “shared loves” that does NOT include “family”: +4

Story is written in such a way that makes some sort of perfectly mundane detail sound like an unusual and/or epic tale: +3. Examples include two paragraphs’ worth of stuff like, “Two days later, he texted her back, and she responded with a link to that article they’d been discussing,” or, “Many weekend mornings, he makes eggs at their Manhattan apartment and they watch one or two episodes of a TV series.”

Identifiers

OUT: David Sedaris, exterminator, Oprah, roast, skateboard, Stephen Talkhouse, Verve Pipe. (I’m not sure that any of these have ever triggered a point, although maybe Oprah deserves Identifier Emeritus status going forward.)

IN: ambassador, bad first date and/or weather, Beano’s Cabin, Clinton, farm, Gloria Steinem, goats, jail (additional point if referred to in a bizarre throwaway parenthetical), lithe beauty, Montana, motorcycle, NFL, Obama, Occupy Wall Street, park bench, Peace Corps, senator, shared love of travel, shoes (“more than ___ pairs of”), Surf Lodge, Tinder, tiny apartment, valuation.

Avocations

Someone is a:
venture capitalist: +1
Google/Facebook employee: +2
Tesla/Uber employee: +3

Locales

Hood River, Oregon; Ojai, California; Vancouver Island, Canada: +3 (“Pack your Patagonia.”)

Copenhagen, Norway, Uganda +2 (“How exotic!”)

Bethesda, Maryland; Belle Meade, Tennessee; Brooklyn; Cape Elizabeth, Maine; Eden Prairie, Minnesota; Hunts Point, Washington; Oyster Bay, New York; Princeton, New Jersey; Thousand Oaks, California; Woodside, California: +1 (“Oh, that’s lovely, dear.”)

The wedding is held in a foreign country for a discernible reason: +2

The wedding is held in a foreign country for no discernible reason: +3

Special Situations

No change. I like you just the way you are. Marry me?

Filed Under: Wedded Blitz, weddiings, New York Times

Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes