For a long time I thought the most surefire ways to get your wedding into the New York Times were the time-honored ones: meet your beloved during your freshman year at an Ivy League school, perhaps; or have the last name Vanderbilt or Taft; or grow up in Greenwich and get married on Grandma’s Newport lawn. It was in some ways reassuring, almost beyond one’s control: You’re either one of us or you’re not, the weddings announcements seemed to be saying, and if you have to ask, you don’t want the answer.
Lately, though, there’s been an increased focus on the story — and not just the social signifiers — behind every couple. Sometimes this is fun to read: the nice couple who met in an elevator, the friendly cyclists who are so uncontrived they’ll happily tell the world that Stranger Than Fiction is one of their favorite films.
Other times, however, everything starts to feel like some bizarro anti-arms race, with everyone rushing to distinguish themselves through a doctrine of de-escalation. Last month I pointed out a few lines from one announcement that had this vibe:
Ms. Schuleit, now 38, and Mr. Haber, now 36, sometimes seem to inhabit a different plane than do other people. Their eyes and minds are not fixed on smartphones or other gadgets, and pop-culture references and slang do not creep into their conversation.
It stuck out because it reminded me of the opening line from an announcement a year earlier:
Alexandra Sage Mehta and Michael Robinson do not seem to belong to the Facebook generation that expresses itself in sentence fragments.
I jumped the gun on comparing the two because this month came another long “Vows” column that wasted no time in establishing the old-fashioned superiority of its bride and groom. The article’s very first sentence:1
Christina Daigneault and Simon Van Booy are anomalies in a digital world: they write letters and thank-you notes; the kind that require stamps.
The article goes on to describe these ancient artifacts: “correspondence cards from a small engraving and letterpress shop in Oyster Bay, N.Y., with their names printed across the top.” It describes how “he writes her love letters on other stationery, from hotels all over the world,” and how “she tucks tiny notes into the freezer or nestles them within the pages of a book he is reading so they might flutter out like confetti when he removes a box of pizza bagels or arrives at a certain passage.” (Sadly, no word on how they actually make letters appear on the page — maybe some kind of old-timey stylus?)
Then it drops the hammer.
But they do live in a digital world, and their first contact was by e-mail.
E-mail?! But wait — I thought — WHERE DID THEY PUT THE STAMPS?
Another couple who met online similarly sought to distance themselves from any e-club that would have them as a member. Down with sentence fragments:
Mr. Towles, too, was intrigued with Mr. Gamm’s use of language. “He seemed really well spoken,” Mr. Towles said. “He used proper punctuation, and he didn’t use any Internet chat-speak shortcuts. He seemed really thoughtful.”2
Yeah, we all know the awful things that Internet chat-speak can do to people.
At least Joyce Maynard — yep, that Joyce Maynard — didn’t seem to find anything wrong with meeting her new husband on Match.com. Instead, she turned her self-loathing toward her engagement ring.
Similarly, she now wears the diamond engagement ring Mr. Barringer gave her, not exactly her usual style of jewelry.
“I’m not a diamond ring type of person and I have the fingernails to prove it,” she said. “I’m a person who puts my hands in the dirt and I make a lot of pies. I get a lot of dough on this ring.”
It’s a good point, since gardening and baking pies are activities that have long been off-limits to women wearing diamond rings. I wonder if this carefree rogue gets laundry detergent on her rock, too. The article goes on to say that the 150 guests at Maynard’s wedding “seemed like the sort of people who know poems by heart, dance and sing without inhibition and give more hugs than handshakes.” In other words, they seemed like the sort of people who seemed like … people.
Congratulations to Kathryn Exum and William McDavid III, the winners of this month’s Society Scorecard. (As always, the Scorecard is calculated based on our proprietary NUPTIALS algorithm and is presented here with the much-appreciated help of Friend of Grantland Alex Morrison.) These towheaded 25-year-olds, who met as high schoolers at Rye Country Day, had a strong showing that included points in nearly every category, including four for Names (“Sherwood E. Exum Jr.”), eight for Locales, and a Tropes point for having a cumulative age of 50 or below. We salute them.
In second place were Sara Gorman and Robert Kohen, who earned 18 Universities points — a July high — thanks to degrees (two summa cum laude) from Penn, Oxford, Harvard, Columbia, and two more on the way. Rounding out the medal podium were Lucy Whidden and Jon Hampton, a pair of Dartmouth grads who were part of the annual Great Maine Wedding Migration, which takes place each July, just in time for the ocean to heat up to just above 50 degrees. They were joined in the Pine Tree State by several other couples, including a pair who got hitched in Kennebunkport, one that tied the knot in Bar Harbor, and the daughter of a political philosophy professor and the son of a tax law and policy professor. It would be fun to walk up to one of those dual-family dinner parties, whisper the words “flat tax,” and sit back and watch the wreckage unfold.
If you didn’t get married in Maine in July, another suitable choice would have been Montana. When it comes to wedding planning, Maine and Montana are like those flowers that go into bloom for 48 hours a year but bring people to their knees at the sight of God’s glory when they do. The late summer has the daughter of “the Lebanese representative to the United Nations from 1953 to 1957 and … the League of Arab States representative to the United Kingdom from 1961 to 1966” wed a Princeton professor in the Big Sky state, while a Yale grad and a Yale employee were married on a Montana ranch. And then there were the two who met at Harvard, are now both postdoctoral biology fellows, and held their wedding “in Dayton, Mont., near the summer house of the bride’s family.”
Here are some various odds and ends from all of July’s marriages — because every good wedding is all about the random details (or so the wedding-industrial complex would like you to believe!).
• This girl received a bunch of e-mails meant for me in college; I’ll never forget the time I thought I wasn’t invited to a frat backyard toga party because the Evite went to her instead. Everyone always thinks all Katies are short for Katherine even when many of us good Irish Catholic girls are actually Kathleens. Fight the tyranny of assumption in your everyday lives! I did end up at the party, and it was just as disgusting and divine as I imagined, so the story has a happy ending.
• I’m upset that the Times announcement for this wedding (another one held at the Maine “country home of the bride’s parents”) didn’t include the sparkling level of detail contained in this Vogue slideshow. “[Bride Mieke] ten Have met journalist Tyler Graham at a champagne and hot dog pairing organized by Moët Hennessy in March of 2011” is pretty high up there as far as great how-they-met stories go. (Though for July, “the couple met after the failed 1992 coup led by [Hugo] Chávez” takes that wedding’s cake.)
• “Rabbi Yaacov Love” + “MyJewishLearning.com” + Brandeis + “a master’s degree in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies” + “editor of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance’s Journal” + “rabbi and Jewish studies teacher in New York for the Abraham Joshua Heschel High School” + Elisheva + Eli + “Dr. Francine M. Siegel Stein and Dr. Aaron A. Stein” = all together now, THE CHOSEN COUPLE OF JULY. Mazel!
• In related news, I really hope this and this are the same Rabbi Michael Friedman. Guy is getting things done!
• Recently there was an important GQ investigation into just how “#YOLO” things are in Yolo County, California. (Spoiler alert: Not all that #YOLO.) I thought about that when I read this announcement about a couple getting married in “the Topanga section of Los Angeles County” and concluded that they are very Topanga Lawrence-Matthews.
• With class out of session, July is a big month for those involved with education to hold weddings. Of course, this being the New York Times, most of that education is of the private kind. An admissions officer (“and an alumnus,” the announcement says) at boys-only Belmont Hill up in Massachusetts got married, as did the alumni development officer at NYC all-girls school Spence. And that wasn’t the only Spence-related wedding: The stepson of “Bodie Brizendine, the head of school”/son of the academic dean at Collegiate, got married to a reporter who covers “news and culture on the Upper West Side.” I stopped watching Gossip Girl after the fourth or fifth season, but I’m pretty sure that whole setup was part of a late-series plot.
• This announcement contained some of the best names of the month: Eben Hogan Pingree, Dudley F. Blodget, Dr. Richard Graham Pingree, the Great House on the Crane Estate, etc., etc. — but nothing in July quite stood up to the extra starch in the collar of this opening sentence: “Elizabeth Barret Matthews and Stuart Harvey Rhodes were married Thursday at Holme Pierrepont Hall, a house in Nottinghamshire, England, owned by Robin and Elizabeth Brackenbury, distant cousins of the bride.” Brilliant! Quite right! Laura Linney ought to be narrating that. It’s such a letdown later on in the announcement when the words “software enabling consumer payments on the Web” show up and sully the mystique of it all, like rude dinner guests.
• The former chief of staff to President George W. Bush married the former spokeswoman for Laura Bush, while another Bush-era operative was wed this month. (All three of them have since moved on to more noble professions: two as communications consultants, and one as an investment banker.)
• Someday, when a distant cousin of my own unexpectedly bequeaths to me a small fortune, I shall use it to open a bar called Meet the Parents, in which all the moms and dads from the New York Times wedding announcements drink for free. Just imagine it: The Greenwich father who founded and sold an investment bank then penned “‘The Adventures of Ibn Opcit,’ a two-volume book of poetry” huddled at the bar next to the “photographer for White Flower Farm, a mail-order plant nursery in Litchfield, Conn.” Or the “fiber artist” mother of one bride talking shop with another bride’s parents, who “make clay jewelry and sell it at craft fairs.” The logging supply shop salesman and the dad who “engineered and produced several Aerosmith albums [and] also produced John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s album ‘Double Fantasy’ (1980)” would be an unbeatable table shuffleboard team.
• I wonder what the “founder of PeacePlayers International, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that uses basketball to help resolve conflicts in places like Israel and South Africa” thinks of Dennis Rodman’s North Korean diplomatic machinations?
• From the annals of hard-won college wisdom: “Sorority girls and guys who aren’t in frats go to different bars.”
Two of July’s featured weddings contained some noticeable similarities, so let’s close with a quick comparison between them. Here, the rundown of Aliza Zelin and Stephen Neidich and Jackie McLean and Shawn Strack.
They have super Times-y headlines. Zelin-Neidich: “Paths Interlaced, Like Wisteria Vines” McLean-Strack: “Starting a New Verse With ‘I Do'”
The brides like to wear black … Zelin-Neidich: “‘Aliza wore a long black Valentino dress with a slit that went probably above her hip,’ he said.” McLean-Strack: “After the ceremony, Ms. McLean changed from her wedding gown into a black floral minidress … “
… but don’t like to wear makeup. Zelin-Neidich: “‘She wore very little makeup, which is something I love. Her hair was just down and straight. She’s very natural.'” McLean-Strack: ” … a $10 thrift-store find befitting a self-described ‘no-frills’ bride who grew up catching frogs in her family’s pond and rarely wears makeup.”
Everyone seems like they’d be really into the New York Magazine Approval Matrix. Zelin-Neidich: “‘He has a million friends,’ said Helen Brown, one of them. ‘He can talk to anyone. He can go super-intellectual and talk about art or talk about the dumbest stuff ever.'” McLean-Strack: “‘Everything,’ said Ms. McLean — everything covers Dante to Kafka to Star magazine — ‘is a topic of in-depth conversation.'”
Their parents are powerful. Zelin-Neidich: The groom’s mother is “a chairwoman of the board of trustees at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York” and a vice-chairwoman at Lincoln Center. McLean-Strack: “That was certainly high praise from Ms. McLean, whose father, Don McLean, wrote and sang the 1971 classic “American Pie.” (OK, “powerful” may have been the wrong word.)
So where do you summer? Zelin-Neidich: The wedding was held at the groom’s family’s Hamptons compound, referred to as “Camp Neidich” and described as having “a big shingled house that rambles like a run-on sentence; a pristine barn with lots of bedrooms and beautiful art … an Airstream trailer in a grove of trees; a fire pit surrounded by Adirondack chairs; a fleet of taxi-yellow bikes; and a hammock as wide as a king bed.” Four hundred twenty guests!!3
McLean-Strack: “They were married on June 30 before 130 guests in the rose garden of the bride’s family home in Camden, overlooking Megunticook Lake, Mount Megunticook, the cross on Maiden’s Cliff, and the Camden Hills.”
There’s lots of questionable taste: Zelin-Neidich: “For dinner, he was content eating peanut butter out of a jar with a spoon.” McLean-Strack: “In the ensuing weeks, they became inseparable, bonding over their love of books and film as well as ice cream, sushi, sledding and the band Blink-182.”
A tale of two proposals. Zelin-Neidich: “… on a secluded beach on St. Barts.” McLean-Strack: “… he knelt down before her and began reading what she thought would be a work of fiction but instead were vignettes from their relationship, everything from Ping-Pong to Snooki to Hamlet.”
And, finally, just like everyone else who shows up in the wedding section these days, they’re toooootally different from everyone else who shows up in the wedding section these days. Zelin-Neidich: “Just as he is not a stereotypical artist, she is not a stereotypical fashionista. For one thing, she’s a bookworm. And although she loves haute couture and wickedly high heels, she’s also down to earth and hardy.”
McLean-Strack: “A traditional string quartet played classical music as Mr. McLean walked his daughter along an aisle of scattered rose petals freshly plucked from their garden … During the brief ceremony, Ms. McLean, who said she didn’t want her wedding to be ‘a drawn-out sappy thing,’ wore an A-line, vintage-inspired Rivini gown with lace trim, and an apricot-colored sash. The groom wore a navy J. Crew suit, white shirt, and gold-and-navy-striped tie.”