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Wedded Blitz: Summer Lovin’

Fulbright scholars and eco freaks run the table in this month’s (highly scientific) look at the New York Times “Vows” section.

Fran Calvo and Monica Fraile

From Martha’s to Monterey, the late-twenty-and-early-thirtysomething nation collectively collapses on our chaise lounges, fanning ourselves with our plane and train tickets. We blot our sweaty faces with our pairs of Spanx; we quench our parched throats with our bottomless flutes of champagne.

We groan, we gripe, we get miserably hung-over and misguidedly laid. We ask each other: “How many’ve you got this summer?” We answer, our heads pounding too hard to properly count: “Oh, it’s absurd.” That’s right, it’s that time of year when we suffer from the scorching exhaustion of that perennial summertime malady: wedding fatigue.

“The tempo driving the game of conjugal musical chairs has suddenly accelerated,” author Maggie Shipstead wrote in a New York Times op-ed a few weeks ago. “[S]ummer weekends are spent zipping around the country watching friend after friend tie the knot. There is something numbing about all this marrying.”

It’s true, and it’s also the same as it ever was. Six years ago (oh man, I can’t believe this was six years ago) I can remember a similar essay being e-mailed around by my friends. “Summer is supposed to be a season of peace, of relaxation — time to hang the Gone Fishin’ shingle and take a break,” wrote Nicholas Kulish in 2006. “Instead it has become a gauntlet of festivities.”

Little has changed. Kulish described “the comparative analysis of the salmon and the filet mignon”; Shipstead observed “a jaded peanut gallery … guests with finicky expertise on food and venues and fine points of policy, like whether bridesmaids should wear matching dresses or whether there should be bridesmaids at all.”

Now, of course, we have new, designer problems. Even those who thought they had aged out of the matrimonial crush are now being confronted with a new wave of weddings: the gay ones. In a column about the en masse same-sex rush to the altar, Times writer Brooks Barnes quotes one overwhelmed man as such: “The equality people will have a fit about this, but I’ll say it anyway: I have gay-wedding burnout.”

I loved Barnes’s column; anything that refers to judgment as “a favorite gay hobby” and lovingly employs the phrase “lesbians plodding down the aisle to the Judds” is A-OK in my book. But what’s most noteworthy about it isn’t that it highlights the small stylistic differences between gay and straight weddings (like, for example, the involvement of “a picture of a naked George Washington dwarf standing on top of a pile of slave dwarfs in fetish gear” or a request that guests arrive nude for a ceremony on Fire Island) but that it demonstrates how, at the core, it’s all more of the same. “An awful lot of toasting and tuxedo wearing and traveling,” he wrote.

It’s Shipstead, though, who has the best solution to all of this. “My dream wedding,” she gushed, “is the party scene in ‘Dazed and Confused,’ except with me wandering around shrouded by a veil.”

That does sound sublime. If I could somehow Pinterest the sentiment, I would. Bridal party at the moon tower, man! But it’s a different moment from that iconic film that, modified slightly, can help us understand the true source of our own love lethargy. Here’s what we hate about these high-society weddings, man: We get older … they stay the same.

Many people sent me this month’s great wedding announcement parody (complete with video!) from The Onion (headline: “Horrible Couple Really Wants Wedding to Reflect Their Personalities”) and, while it’s funny, it’s also a little bit chilling: As with so many Onion articles, there are some outlandish details in there that are all too real.

A few parts of the Onion piece reminded me of one of the more ridiculous wedding articles the Times has ever printed. While it wasn’t a July wedding, the comparison is too good to pass up. Here’s a snippet from the Onion, emphasis mine:

The couple told reporters the insufferably precious ceremony will include readings from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, a 10-minute silent meditation on each wedding guest’s own conception of love, and a forcibly lighthearted accordion wedding march expected to last for nearly 20 minutes.

And from the Times:

After the ceremony, in which chants were chanted and vows, written by the couple’s friends, were exchanged, guests sat down to a series of talks, with PowerPoint presentations, on subjects of interest to the couple — ecological efficiency, neuroscience, holistic healing.

The Onion:

Attendees will reportedly be expected to ride bicycles to the wedding venue in honor of the groom’s “lifelong love affair with cycling,” and all guests will receive a hand-decorated card indicating how much their carbon footprint has been reduced by doing so.

The Times:

When guests arrived on Saturday night two weeks ago, they were greeted with name tags that asked them to declare a commitment. Lest they not take the request seriously, the hosts had additional cards printed that asked them to “Name something you are really committed to.”

The Onion:

“The invitation includes instructions for folding it into a paper airplane, to represent Ross and Jessica’s love of travel or something,” said groomsman Dylan Emerson, noting the whimsical “Please fly me into the recycling bin when done!” message on the back.

The Times:

During the reception, Mr. Friedlander asked his guests to please recycle their cups, “because we’re really in a serious situation with climate change.”

I’d go on, but you get the point: As always, the truth is more painful than fiction.

Surprisingly, though, through all this wedding fatigue, I actually kind of loved a lot about July’s featured couple. I even wrote in my notes, about Emily Mitchell-Marell and Ben Umanov: “I LIKE THEM. HEAVY METAL BLOGS AND DAILY AFFIRMATIONS FROM MOM.” The Times clearly took a shine as well: Two weeks after their announcement ran, they were featured a second time, this time in the longer “Vows” slot. (I can’t recall this happening before; you usually get one or the other.)

It turns out they met at a hippie-dippie camp called “Thoreau-in-Vermont” (literally hippie-dippie: there was “a fair amount of skinny dipping,” according to a camp friend) and were raised by former commune-ists (the bride) and a guitar shop owner (the groom) who palled around with Patti Smith and Richard Gere. I particularly love the way the groom’s love for heavy metal is presented as some deep, dark secret (“he sat me down and was like, ‘I have something to tell you,'”), and I can’t even make fun of the bride for her weird word abbreviations, because I’m obvs totes guilty of that myself.

This “Vows” column was unusual for the Times in that it took a “regular,” “everyday” couple and managed to portray them straightforwardly, sweetly, and without condescension. This one, written originally by the bride’s father for the Omaha World-Herald, is an stunning story of unspeakable violence followed by incredible bravery and perseverance.

And even the story of Cailin Goldberg-Meehan, a scriptwriter whose older sister was featured in 2006, and Robert Dubbin, a Colbert Report writer, made me smile. Sure, they both went to Harvard, and sure, her producer father totally redesigned his “17-acre spread in Santa Barbara, Calif., in order to afford their wedding guests stunning water views.” (He had the following things built for the affair: a “wedding hill”; a fountain and surrounding plaza; a barn.) Sure, the article name-drops Julia Louis-Dreyfus as being among the 225 guests.

But they seem like a fun pair, the type you’d want to hang out and shoot skee-ball and do the Elaine dance with in their bespoke marital barn, and besides, I’m too tired to roll my eyes. I’ve been to like 9,000 weddings this summer, and I’ve been reduced to nothing more than a sore-footed (and bankrupt) puddle of love.

Here’s this month’s Society Scorecard, calculated based on our proprietary NUPTIALS algorithm. I have to admit, I didn’t initially think Robin Ried and Christopher Staudt had what it took to beat a really strong July field.

Society Wedding BlitzSelect a couple to discover more; depress digitus tertius to visit the original placement:

There were two couples who earned upwards of 20 points on their overeducation alone, whereas these two scored just nine. And Halsey Meyer and Griffin Schroeder really seemed like the team to beat: the daughter of the chairman of the Boston Ballet (and the former head of the Harvard endowment) marrying her Harvard AND Harvard Business School classmate on a horse farm owned by her family? I mean, these two were positioned like McKayla Maroney after her first vault the other night.

But we know, from the bitchface GIF’d round the world, that Maroney had to settle for the silver — and so it was for Meyer and Schroeder. Ried and Staudt completely killed it with their elite geography, winning wedding gold by just one point. It makes sense: If you’ve got Bronxville, Scarsdale, and Westport in your life and you’re getting married on Nantucket, congratulations: You’re not only the top Times couple, you’re also pretty much the paper’s target audience.

Here are some other odds and ends and observations from around the July wedding circuit:

• Congratulations to Grantland’s own Jonathan Abrams for totally making the cut! Workplace idol.

• It’s a sad day at Wedded Blitz HQ when a bride named Lily Thom opts to keep her maiden name instead of taking the one of her fiancé, James Lilly (“a descendant of Eli Lilly, founder of the Indianapolis pharmaceutical company that bears his name”). Think of all the fun we could have had with alternate renditions of this song! You’d barely have to change the lyrics.

• I’m not convinced these two aren’t actually identical twins who just can’t bear to be apart.

• Man, the Times sure does love the descendants of Charles A. Pillsbury, of the doughboy Pillsburys. And why wouldn’t they? Judging by this 1997 announcement, this 2000 announcement, and this July announcement, they do know how to marry well. (That last one is great: The two are the same age and went to the same small private school outside New Haven, and yet “never exchanged a word all through middle school and high school.” Sounds like someone must have been a late bloomer! Also, after reading Edith Zimmerman’s great New York Times Magazine piece about Cosmopolitan, I love that they met at their 10-year high school reunion “only” because the bride was attending so she could write a piece for Cosmo. Reader, she married him.)

• Alec Baldwin got married? Alec Baldwin got married! The move that hooked the yoga instructor? “I was standing near the door with my friends when he walked up and took my hand and said, ‘I must know you.'” Smooth, Donaghy. Smooth.

Blond, blonder, blondest. (And look at those matching shirts!)

• I love how heavy this announcement gets at the end. Just what everyone wants: the story of their love concluding with the detail that the groom’s grandfather “refused to allow Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who had been convicted as atomic spies, to avoid the death penalty when they contended that pretrial publicity had created an atmosphere of prejudice and hostility toward them.” Con … gratulations?

How often do you think the groom has had to endure hearing “he had whiskers on his chinnigan“? Hoping that John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt gets wed in August so I can get a new never-ending song stuck in my head.

• Pretty bummed out I don’t have any friends who are shamans. Get your spiritual powers of divinity together, guys, so I can have my traditional Incan ceremony at our Ecuadoran pal’s place!

• This month’s Chosen Couple (sponsored by Aly Raisman’s floor exercise to “Hava Nagila”) isn’t the one that has the “great-great-granddaughter of the late Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the principal organizer of Reform Judaism in the United States,” nor is it this worthy pair. Instead it’s Emma Timmins-Schiffman and Ronen Elad, for being, in their words, “one of the only Jewish couples to have met at a Greek church.” I’m imagining some sort of variation on the “bundt” scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, only with borscht.

• Great sentence or greatest sentence? “To say the least, graveyards are not popular wedding venues, but Ms. Delaney said that the Marble Cemetery ‘seemed like the perfect fit for us.'”

• It’s great that these two found each other while in the hospital, but maybe the Times can lay off on the excruciating detail about the poor groom’s “string of difficult events that included being blinded in one eye after a 2008 paintball accident, a divorce and having to sell the house where he and his ex-wife had raised their family,” you know? I’m going to go weep gently into a pillow for awhile.

• The elite-wedding ecosystem, summed up in three words: “Competing Consulting Firms.” Hey, free band name!

• Speaking of which: This groom is a senior budget analyst with the Newton Public Schools system by day, and “a drummer, songwriter, and singer for the Boston band Po Boyz” by night. His band is described, variously, as “a soulful gumbo of sounds, fearless souls and spirits” (so, basically Mardi Gras?); a “dirty, deliciously gritty Southern funk” (so, basically a frat basement?); and “Boston’s funkiest organ trio” (so, basically a Southie ménage). I wholeheartedly approve of Po Boyz. It reminds me of college.

• It’s been a good year for the Frankenfam: In October, the daughter of Al (“a Minnesota Democrat and a former writer and performer on Saturday Night Live“) was married, and this month his son was the next to go. It’s just good no one had to share a venue with Dubya’s former speechwriter.

• A friend of mine wrote me a huffy e-mail upon reading this announcement, which trumpets the father of the bride’s sterling record (17 national championships!) in his role as the tennis coach at Stanford. My friend’s objection: “When the father of the bride is a hedge fund manager, they never quantify what his funds’ profits are!” I think this is a fair complaint, and that the Times can fix it going forward by divulging precisely how successful every person they mention is. It’d be like advanced statistics for marriage! Who wouldn’t flip straight to the wedding pages for that?

• I love when announcements save the very best nugget of information for last, as if to reward those who have stuck around for the whole thing. Spoiler alert, I guess, but: This groom’s dad “is also a creator of the video game ‘Ms. Pac-Man.'” Get right outta town!

There is no one single profile of a typical Fulbrighter,” explains the Fulbright Scholarship website. “All Fulbrighters share a strong academic background, leadership potential, a passion for increasing mutual understanding among nations and cultures, and the adaptability and flexibility to pursue their proposed Fulbright project successfully.” They also — and I’m just generalizing here — like to get married in July.

There were four “Fulbrighters” featured this past month, which leaves me no choice but to rank their projects, using a modified “semester abroad scheminess” scale. In other words: Which Fulbright projects sound the most like real work, and which are closer to the tried-and-true tactic of “taking shots and siestas in Barcelona and passing it off to your parents as a cultural experience”? (I’m still wracked with regret that I never pulled one of those off.)

In descending order of intensity:

4. “From 2002 to 2003, he was a Fulbright scholar in Beijing, doing research on the Chinese historian Sima Qian.”

I looked up Sima Qian on Wikipedia and found this grim sentence: “In 96 BC, on his release from prison, Sima chose to live on as a palace eunuch to complete his histories, rather than commit suicide as was expected of a gentleman-scholar.” In one of his letters, Sima wrote: “there is no defilement so great as castration” and described himself as a “mutilated wretch.” I wonder how many times this Fulbrighter had to cross and uncross his legs uncomfortably during the course of his research.

3. “From 2009 to 2010, she was a Fulbright research scholar at Waseda University in Tokyo, where she focused on Japan’s reconstruction after World War II and its effect on Japanese art.”

This announcement goes on to describe the book she authored on the subject, which proves she wasn’t slacking off.

2. “From 2005 to 2006, she was a Fulbright scholar at the National Institute of Development Administration in Bangkok, where she conducted research on Thai migration and Thai literature.”

Suuuure she did.

1. “From 2004 to 2005, she was a Fulbright scholar in Barcelona, Spain, focused on environmentally sustainable neighborhood design.”

There’s the jackpot: Barcelona! Every friend I had who went abroad to Barcelona came back with a smoking habit and some pretty messed-up stories. I can only imagine what kind of crazy ish the green urban planning crowd in that place must get into, especially in the heady days of 2005. I miss the Bubble Epoque. Or whatever you’d call it, while drunk at a discoteca at five in the morning, en Español.