Dinner With Daniel: Aziz Ansari

Coldhearted: A Visit to the Frozen Four

Rex Features/AP Images wedding cake

Wedded Blitz!

A very serious statistical analysis of the March New York Times wedding section.

It’s not just eligible bachelorettes and the occasional bachelor who flip to the back of the “Sunday Styles” section each week to see who got married. It’s their proud parents, too: They scour the announcements, some of them for the pure joy of it, but most hoping to glean some small tactic they can use to get one step closer to that coveted grandchild. They pass along findings — “a lot of your friends from camp married each other” — and formulate action plans. “I read about two people who met at their high school reunion. I can drive you.”

It’s important to remember that the anecdotes in the New York Times wedding announcements suffer from survivorship bias; you’re only looking at the positive outcomes. Just as hedge fund returns can look suspiciously good if you excise any products that went bust months or years ago, the implicit and explicit takeaways from a typical day in “Vows” — that not taking no for an answer is charming, that various acts of minor stalking and/or trespassing will be construed as devotion, that old biddies ought to be out there doing your bidding — are a little bit skewed. After all, you’re not seeing all the crashes and burns and epic flameouts that have come before in every direction.

This month in particular set a dangerous tone for well-meaning parents who agree with one mother who says, “when they cross three-oh, we kind of nudge them a little bit.” Several announcements bordered on outright propaganda for the dangerous practice of parental (or some other by-proxy) marital meddling.

Aaron Schulman was “in the Cornell medical school library preparing a presentation when an older woman asked for help with logging in to a computer and using the Internet.” Within a few minutes, she had sprung into action:

First the conversation was about medicine. Then it veered to the personal. He said she asked if he were single, if he were Jewish, and when the answers were yes, she told him that he had to meet her friend’s daughter.

Before he even answered, she ran off to call Ms. Strauss’s mother to get Ms. Strauss’s telephone number. He said she then handed him the number saying, “Helene, she’s a medical student and went to Brown.”

Score one for the brazen busybodies! What I love most about this story is the fact that “Ms. Strauss,” on whose behalf this woman was conducting her impromptu interrogation, wasn’t some aging spinster — she was just 25 at the time. (Another bride’s parents, mentioned above, began to get nervous when that same age came and went without a beau. “We hope our children get married by the time they are 26,” her mother said, while her father teased that she was “no spring chicken” as she approached 28.)

And when Zachary Zimmerman, a young Marine (and the grandson of “the late Freddie Fields, a founder and president of [what became] International Creative Management”), went to serve his country, his platoon commander mentioned so frequently that Zimmerman ought to date his cousin Sarah that “it became a running joke during deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Zimmerman’s parents befriended the parents of the cousin through military connections, even bunking up at their house.

“‘I am sitting here in my pajamas with your future mother-in-law,’ [Mrs. Zimmerman] said when he called her from Afghanistan.” The parents even went so far as to preclude their son from getting rowdy at Fleet Week, instead buying him a plane ticket to a wedding where they knew [Ms.] Becker would be. Yeah, yeah, the whole thing worked out — but there should be disclaimers on these things urging everyone: Please Don’t Try This at Home.

Anyway, speaking of mamas: With whose would you rather kick back? I’m torn between the part-time “herbarium technician at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Fla.” and “the author of Weather: Nature in Motion and 25 Bicycle Tours in and Around Washington, D.C.” who also does watercolors on the side. (That first book sounds like it’d be particularly fun to read after, say, a visit to an herbarium technician. Hey, bring the watercolors too. Pretty clouds!)

On the other hand, I kind of want this bride and this bride to become buddies so they can be kindred spirits who understand what it’s like to grow up with moms who write books with titles like: 35 Things Your Teen Won’t Tell You, So I Will (nos. 1-35: “They’re doing it”) and Raising Children Who Soar: A Guide to Healthy Risk-Taking in an Uncertain World. (Miss u, Falcon Heene.)

Also notable about that second couple is how President Barack Obama himself basically personally ruined the groom’s proposal plan. And this wasn’t just any proposal: This was the next step for a couple so hell-bent on the perfect engagement that the bride put “an exact picture of the ring I wanted and my ring size in his top drawer” and the groom had visions of going viral:

Mr. Wien devised 10 scenarios that ranged from organizing a Times Square flash mob to persuading Bon Jovi or the Dave Matthews Band to allow him to make his pitch onstage. Another scheme involved his riding into a circus on an elephant, “but there were insurance issues with that,” he said.

The winning idea: to propose in the White House Rose Garden, with the help of a friend who worked in the administration. But on the big day, “President Obama was in the Oval Office, and the Rose Garden was off limits.” So inconsiderate of POTUS! I wonder what he could have possibly been doing in there. Wien had to settle for “the next most romantic spot … a foyer with the presidential seal on the wall.” Shoulda gone with the DMB, dude.

They may have ended up tied for second in this month’s official NUPTIALS standings, but I just want to shout out the Moore-Fuller-Bennett couple for totally being no. 1 in my heart. I mean, this is what I wrote in my notes:

Lucy Moore, Harald Fuller-Bennett — YES YES YES — harvard, architecture, autism, conservation, smokey the bear, human rights advisor, crystal eastman, women’s suffrage.

I could stop right there and you’d understand. But let’s take a quick look at their announcement. What really sets it apart from the competition is how there are zero wasted sentences. If this were a résumé, it would be all active verbs. Everything from “He specializes in performing arts facilities and retirement communities” to “He graduated from Evergreen State College and received a master’s in Arab studies from Georgetown” to “The bridegroom’s mother is a senior human rights adviser to the United Nations Mission in Pristina, Kosovo” to “She was an author of the first Equal Rights Amendment in 1923” are tiny epics of their own, each just waiting to be developed into an HBO miniseries by Noah Baumbach (the performing arts facilities) or Nicole Holofcener (the Kosovo part — I’m seeing Frances McDormand in that role). And every sentence is like that. “She is pursuing Master of Architecture and Master of Historic Preservation degrees at the University of Maryland.” “He helped edit a magazine, newsletter and other communications that went to union members.”

They even have a correction that’s a gem:

A report last Sunday about the marriage of Lucy Moore and Harald Fuller-Bennett misstated the relationship between Mr. Fuller-Bennett and Crystal Eastman, a feminist who championed suffrage and who was an author of the first Equal Rights Amendment in 1923. He is a great-grandson of hers, not a great-great-grandson.

That’s right, he’s got an even greater percentage of pioneering feminist in his bloodstream than you were previously led to believe. I haven’t even gotten around to pointing out that he: (a) is wearing a fleece with a canoe embroidered onto it in the photo, which makes sense because he (b) “helps manage the Smokey Bear wildfire prevention program and Woodsy Owl national resources conservation and anti-pollution program.”

Does that mean he’s in charge of the divine Smokey Bear Twitter account?! If so, he’s a serious master of the dark art of good-natured, almost Ned Flanders–style sanctimony. This Sunday he/it tweeted: “Today is Sunday. I’m preventing wildfires. What are you doing?” and I felt bad about myself for like 20 minutes until I cheered myself up by remembering that “Smokey the Bear isn’t going through a terribly messy divorce.

In other news from the world of NUPTIALS:

  • It’s impossible to read this announcement about a couple who met at a coffee shop (“‘Asking him to watch my computer was a calculated move,’ Ms. Fox admitted”) without thinking of Meg and Hamilton Swan, right?
  • Sentences that may not age well: “She is a founder of the blog myveryworstdate.com.”
  • Two couples this month with Supreme Court ties: one groom (now the author of a textbook on “Computer Crime Law”) was briefly a law clerk for Anthony Kennedy, while another husband-to-be clerked for William Brennan Jr. approximately two decades earlier. (I want to know everything there is to know about that second announcement, by the way. The sentence “Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani officiated” isn’t even the most intriguing thing about it.)
  • Great moments in descriptive writing: “Mr. Dreyer was certainly noticeable — his kinky, rust-colored hair looked like an Afro.” —John Harney
  • Great moments in descriptive writing, part deux: “Nearby, sea lions barked as the music began, and Ms. Miller walked down the aisle in an ivory lace Oleg Cassini dress with a fluffy lace train.” —Deborah Scoch (I assume this is a corollary to the barking dog hypothesis).
  • Great moments in descriptive writing, part trios: “Every time I click on the browser tab I have open containing this announcement, I’m like, Michael Cera got hitched?” —Me.
  • I am mesmerized by the photo accompanying this cute story of a flight school instructor and his crushing student. I swear to god, she just twirled around in a circle and then winked at me. Walt Frazier didn’t know it at the time, but this picture helped inspire his 1970s love nest.
  • New fun party game idea: a three-legged race, except with dark-rimmed glasses instead. (“God, Elton. Can’t you SEE?“)
  • I want to live inside the whimsical freckle-faced wonderland invoked by this opening sentence: “Dr. Elizabeth Eileen O’Toole Tegins and Thad Tyson Sharp were married Saturday at the Ballinahinch Church in Ballinahinch, Ireland.” I like to imagine that the entire wedding party wore sweaters.
  • Between the nine groomsmen trapped in the elevator (they “found a YouTube video on fixing elevators”), the life-saving Skype, and the early days spent moonlighting in a wedding band, I find it hard to imagine that this story of two opera singers — which meets the Times‘ quota of at least one major article every two weeks involving either the opera or the ballet — won’t one day become its own hip meta production, complete with the references to West Side Story, The Sound of Music, and Justin Bieber. I mean, the cameo appearance by Placido Domingo could actually be a cameo appearance by Placido Domingo. There’s no way this can fail. Wait, has Glee already done this episode?

And finally: You would think that the marriage of guys like John Blair and Beto Sutter, who have “promoted gay parties at Studio 54, the Palladium, the Limelight and the Roxy” and whose wedding was officiated by Fran Drescher, would be a unique listing this month. (Miss Fine got her own article about her role in the event; it featured bons mots like “Giving orders comes naturally to Jewish women” that sounded like they could be issuing from a Fran Drescher spinoff of Chatty Cathy.)

But in the opposite corner was another gay couple, Robert de Michiell (“who uses a different version of his family’s name … DeMichiell,” which I’m onboard with, btw — the lower-case just looks richer) and Jeffrey Wilson, who get all name-droppy with the hot clurrrrbs of the ’80s. “We spoke of art, music, Danceteria, and Studio 54,” Mr. de Michiell recalls of their first meeting. “We had been there and lived through it.”

If the dueling Studio 54 reference wasn’t enough, this couple also saw the first couple’s Fran Drescher and raised them:

The theater producer Roger Horchow, who is also a Universal Life minister, is to officiate. Poetry readings are to be performed by the actor Richard Chamberlain and the actress Judith Light, friends of the couple.


Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes