Wedded Blitz: Game, Set, Married

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Middling tennis players are often counseled by their patient and hungover club pros to just hit their second serves first: Give up on that fancy appearance, that difficult spin and unattainable velocity, and just hit a casual shot that starts the point already. Why stretch yourself so thin, after all, right as everything is just beginning?

In many ways, the New York Times has now given the world permission to hold their second weddings first. Just look at the illustration to this article: Who hasn’t secretly dreamed of wearing shower sandals and a turquoise Marge Simpson necklace to their nuptials, rather than all that corseted floof, or those sink-into-the-grass stilettos? Who doesn’t feel more comfortable in a festive short-sleeved shirt?

Consider the attire of one recent couple featured by the Times:

The bride’s hair was long and gray. There was no $7,000 Vera Wang gown, just a $369 black sheath she bought at a basement sale. It was paired with polka-dot stockings, an orchid corsage and black patent leather Mary Janes.

The groom, a musician, had on Teva sandals, which he wore with a faded pair of pants and a short-sleeve batik shirt, no tie.

Setting aside the amusing fact that a $369 dress is literally, in the Times‘s telling, bargain-basement, there’s nevertheless something refreshing in these sorts of events.

Second weddings, explains a wedding photographer quoted in the Times, allow participants and planners to “act upon the things that are important to them that got lost the first time in the hubbub of mothers and mothers-in-law, money, the whole wedding-industrial complex.” During a second wedding, adds one event designer, people “write their own rules.”

That second serve may not awe anyone, but if the ball lands fair and square, let the games begin.

Jennifer Downey, a psychiatrist who “had diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder over her own divorce,” met her new husband, Robert Reid, after she decided to place a personal ad in the Columbia alumni magazine, figuring she’d find a more genteel demographic there than on the wilds of the Internet. (She obviously hasn’t met many Columbia kids of late.)

While she was “appalled” by the first photo her now-husband sent her, one “taken with his sopping-wet white boxer, Bianca, after they had taken a swim in Long Island Sound” — hey, at least it wasn’t sopping-wet white boxers!1 — his subsequent correspondence was more in line with what she had expected:

Yet she was drawn by the intelligent and charming emails that followed, all ably assisted by his four years of Latin, three years of Greek at Fordham Preparatory School and years of persuasive lawyering.

Dr. Downey suggested they meet. A simple request for some, but not for two full-time overachievers.

“I thought no one was busier than me, but he seemed to be extremely busy,” she said.

Their relationship included trips to Italy and Portugal, outings to symphonies and museums, and weekends indoors making their way through Cook’s Illustrated magazine. You might predict that their nuptials would have all the trappings of a similarly well-to-do affair.

And yet when it came to the big day, they opted for a ceremony of a 9:45 a.m. mass at a diverse South Bronx church that had embraced them as members. The bride wore hot pink, head to ankle. It was all followed by a basement reception. “This is a party for the people of the parish,” the groom explained, and unlike most first-timers who say they just want their guests to have a good time, he seemed to be living it.

Of course, while some opt for second weddings defined by tacos and cupcakes, or prefer to have their ceremony housed wholly in a simple rabbi’s study, there are those who take advantage of their second chances to really, in their words, “go along with my insane ideas.” That includes one couple, mentioned in the second-weddings article, who “created a meticulous re-enactment of an 18th-century wedding, complete with historically accurate clothing stitched by tailors in Williamsburg, Va.” Another woman spent an “outlandish amount of money” flying a florist cross-country, but felt “secure in her decisions” this time around. Whatever works!

One profiled couple, Barbara Bestor and Tom Stern, took the opportunity to indulge and showcase a passion when they were wed, each for the second time. (The groom joked that the Ikea bunk beds he set up for his children after he and his first wife split should be named “DIVORKED.”) Bestor, an architect, held the wedding at a famous modernist house in L.A. owned by the president of Beats Electronics that featured “gewgaws fit for the Jetsons” and a transparent wall that an unsuspecting videographer crashed through. (Mazel tov!)

It also featured a “cantilevered tennis court on a steep slope,” on which they held the reception dinner. No word on whether they served the second course first.

A warm best wishes2 to the top dogs in our latest Society Scorecard, determined through our proprietary NUPTIALS and NUPTIALS 2.0 algorithms. It’s always difficult to make this list, but earning such accolades during the hotly contested April-May-June quarter is quite an achievement. Consider that couples who did NOT make the list include but are not remotely limited to:

• A trio of Mayflower passenger descendants: one of whom also counts as her relative one Rolland Harty Spaulding, the Republican governor of New Hampshire a century ago; and the other two a pair of Mayflower spawn who married one another. This is nothing personal against the mighty vessel: one woman whose great-great-grgrgrgrgreat-grampy was “a founder and governor of the Plymouth Colony” also failed to make the cut, as did the descendant of “a delegate to the Continental Congress and a signer of the Constitution.” Sorry, America: Founding Fatherhood ain’t what it used to be! I’m sure Trump will give a speech about this at some point.

• A couple whose announcement included the groom saying, of the night he met his beloved: “She was gorgeous, lively and a lot of fun, and at a Cuban-themed party thrown by a bunch of blue-blooded Yalies, she was one of the only authentic Cuban people there.” I’m convinced that this is the real reason for the reinstatement of U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations.

• Steven Tyler’s daughter (no, the other one — no, the other other one) and an actor who “played Michael Skakel in the 2002 television movie Murder in Greenwich.” (The two comprise an “electronic soul duo” called Kaneholler, so named for two reasons: “Kane is a Gaelic word meaning battle, and holler means to cry out; Kaneholler is the name of the bamboo forest on land in the southern United States that is owned by Ms. Tyler’s grandfather.”)

A dude who makes “small-batch artisan pickles and vegetables at the Brooklyn Brine in Sunset Park, Brooklyn” and a dude who took “a five-month snowboarding sabbatical in Châtel in the French Alps.” Unfortunately, these dudes were neither the same groom, nor did they marry one another.

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But enough about the people who don’t appear on the Society Scorecard, let’s take a moment to fête those who do. In the top spot are Emily Sussman and Kevin Craw: Sussman’s dowry includes a chunk of the New York Football Giants, while Craw’s credentials feature a Bronze Star for meritorious service as an Army captain in Iraq. New Jersey senator Cory Booker “became a minister of the American Fellowship Church” in order to personally officiate the event. Sussman joins her younger sister as a no. 1 bride:3 Both of them have a shared family history so impressive that their stepmother being Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine somehow feels like an afterthought. The announcement doesn’t come right out and say so, and as a Giants fan I’m biased about this, but the Tisch ladies kick ass. (Especially Grandma Joan.) Mazel!

In second place is a different sort of couple: sexagenarians Laurie Bennett and Skip La Plante, mentioned above, who knew each other back as Princeton undergrads in the ’70s but drifted apart as she attended Harvard Law and worked at the State Department and the Justice Department while he “went to live at a series of farms, where he tended chickens and made a living as a musical accompanist at local dance classes.”

Decades later, La Plante was a widower and Bennett was coming to terms with the decision by her husband, a former CIA and Justice Department lawyer, to transition to life as a woman. And so, “soon enough, the relationship between [them] took a romantic turn.” (The wedding announcement uses Bennett’s former spouse’s male name and pronoun, at his request, and notes that he “had a case of wine delivered to them from Napa Valley” as a wedding gift.)

La Plante wore Tevas to their marriage ceremony and the two now live in Queens, “around the corner from an Ethiopian coffee house [ … ] and a poultry shop that sells live animals” including goats. A mention of goats in a wedding announcement, per our rubric, earns one point.

Rounding out the most Fabulous Five are a couple who met at Harvard, a couple who met at Yale, and a couple with various stints at MIT and Oxford who met on their first day at Harvard Medical School: “We shared the same cadaver,” remembers the groom. (“They bonded over difficult anatomy dissections, outdoor adventures around Boston and all-you-can-eat wings,” the announcement explains. Depending on the restaurant, two of those things can be one and the same!)

The Yalie couple wins for best proposal, though: After meeting in college, Nicholas Thorne and Alexandra Jones learned that they’d actually been close to one another for most of their lives, having grown up on the same Manhattan corner, 79th and Lex.

And so, years later, Thorne commissioned a cousin to lay down orange cones on that intersection, waited for the light to turn red, and then knelt in the middle of the street, all to the soundtrack of a hired trumpeter “stationed on the corner playing ‘On the Street Where You Live’ from ‘My Fair Lady.’” The best part of the story, however:

As they hurried to the sidewalk, a construction worker approached, and in Mr. Thorne’s telling, “in a thick Long Island accent, he said ‘I like 79th and Lexington as much as the next guy, but I have to ask, what’s the significance of this corner?’”

I’m dreading the inevitable: Bank of America incorporating this whole thing into its advertising, somehow.

Cory Booker wasn’t the only politician to lead a ceremony this quarter: Both Al Gore and Bill de Blasio presided as well, with de Blasio doing double duty. The mayor had pledged to one of his colleagues that “I would devote all my energies to matchmaking to find her the right guy,” and while he failed to accomplish that, she was able to snag a rocket scientist via instead.

Here are some other folks — all of them potential constituents, unless there are some felonies we don’t know about — who got hitched over the past three months …

• We had rocket scientists, brain surgeons, and astrophysicists get married of late. (“If you want to impress people, you are an astrophysicist,” the groom explained. “If you want to talk to them, you are an astronomer, and if you don’t want to talk to them, you are a physicist.”) It was this wedding that led to the best correction:

An article last Sunday about the wedding of the astrophysicists Kate Grier and Thomas Beatty paraphrased incorrectly from comments by Mr. Beatty about exoplanets. While he noted that he is part of a group that has discovered 10 exoplanets, he did not say that only about two dozen exoplanets have been confirmed. (In all, more than 1,500 exoplanets have been confirmed, according to the website.)

• WOULD YOU RATHER: Have your family own (a) a hunting retreat in Ridgeland, South Carolina; (b) a wildflower garden and wildlife preserve in Chattanooga; or (c) the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League and the Fulham Football Club in England? It’s a trick question, because the correct answer is (d) Krave, a nightclub in Las Vegas. Free bottles for all!

Someone had to have worked a “when in Rome … ” reference into the wedding toast for these two, right? Total catnip for a father-of-the-bride speech.4

• Obligatory for this time of year: the couple who met at summer camp.

• I kind of want the Fulbright Fellow who studied Finno-Ugric historical linguistics to get together with the professor of Sanskrit for a few beers. If they want to take their minds off of work they can talk about their new families’ flower shop and food truck businesses, or that zany son-in-law’s old gig as Baldwin the Boston College Eagle. Laughs are the ultimate lingua franca!

• This is a different Anna Kendrick, but there’s still no doubt in my mind that the Pitch Perfect actress would also fall for someone who studies “the cultural history of outer space in the West European popular imagination.”

• That 300 Sandwiches lady finally did it!!!!!!!!!! Chicken salad on rye, untoasted, for life!!!!

This is the Stefon of weddings, one that truly has it all! A Bradley Cooper reference in the opening paragraph; a groom named Winston Lord who “shares a name with his father, a well-known American diplomat”; board memberships that include the Washington Ballet, a soup kitchen, and an advocacy group that brought the Washington Nationals back to town; name drops ranging from Henry Kissinger (and his dog) to Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton; a golf-course-designing father of the bride; a “rickety old mailbox called the Kindred Spirit”; an ancestor who helped establish Connecticut; and another relative who “was an heir to the Pillsbury fortune but started her career as a family welfare worker in Minneapolis and Harlem.” No wonder this article required a double byline. I’m exhausted.

• Love you long time, Bodhi the Menswear Dog, but those Monterey and New York looks are WACK.

• The hardy wackadoos who involve Tough Mudder competitions in their wedding weekends are clearly seeking a literal spark in their relationship: “One daunting obstacle is called electroshock therapy, a collection of dangling live wires just before the finish line.” (Hey, that actually kind of sounds like wedding planning!) I’m convinced that these people eventually grow up to be these people.

• It’s rare that Weddings Editor Bob Woletz emerges from behind his Wizard of Oz–like curtain with a byline, but he did so twice over the past three months: once to email some Hawaiians about love and surfing, and again to provide an update on Pat Dwyer and Stephen Mosher, a gay couple who since 2011 had been exchanging vows in all the states where same-sex marriage was legal. With more and more states passing legislation, and with the Supreme Court granting all Americans the constitutional right to marry this June, Woletz noted that the couple, happily, had struggled to keep up the pace. One of them, though, noted that he did have his eye on a Hawaii wedding. It seems like Woletz could put them in touch with some locals.

• Your parenthetical of the day/month/quarter/millennium: “(There’s no Sunday school because most Aspen children ski on weekends.)”

• Like the child of a certain kind of mother, we were truly spoiled by last quarter’s Chosen Couple. This time around no one else came close to measuring up. Honorable mentions to the rabbi and the lawyer and the couple whose announcement included a synagogue and a hillel, though.

• What a beautiful memory to have enshrined forever in your wedding announcement: “For his part, Mr. Rees thought his future husband looked like ‘the prototypical college bro,’ neither gay nor especially interesting.” I would get that written out by a calligrapher and framed above the marital bed. (Runner-up, this time straight from the bro’s mouth: “’I thought she was attractive but very serious,’ he said, and, perhaps worse, ‘very Connecticut.’”)

• At first I thought former New York Ranger Sergei Nemchinov’s daughter getting married would be a personal highlight, but then I saw that How to Cook Everything author Mark Bittman’s daughter got married. I’m getting so domestic in my old age.

Prozac Nation author Elizabeth Wurtzel got married, which means readers were treated to both a passive-aggressive headline and a Lena Dunham comparison. (This isn’t the only announcement Dunham appeared in; a line from a New Yorker piece of hers was also quoted in this one.) The most compelling characters in this announcement, though, are the owners of the Soho loft where the wedding was held — “Elizabeth said it would be for 40 people and we told her, ‘Of course,’” the hostess said; twice as many showed up — and their neighbors, who tried to block the crowd from mingling on the rooftop, with one even following everyone up the stairs.

• Between the professional belly dancer, the Twin Dragons, and the last name Poon, this announcement is a Mad Lib filled out by a teenage boy.

• It’s such a let-down that “first grade detective” has nothing to do with this.

The New York Times has long implicitly doled out questionable dating advice, frequently publicizing overly aggressive lovelorn folks whose dogged determination in Getting the Girl or Snagging the Guy might possibly, in the real world, come across like a jailbreak from stalker central. Relentlessness doesn’t always equal romance unless someone has a change of heart. Over the past three months, the wedding section has been a hotbed for another cool new dating tip: have a friend who likes to lie.

There’s no denying that dishonesty is all the rage. Oh, sure, these lies are harmless, the little white kind, the sort that mean so well. It’s not throwing someone under a bus, it’s installing them in the driver’s seat! It’s not a blindside, it’s just a gentle nudge! Still, all together, it’s pretty uncanny.

The first example is the most benign: the ol’ dropped-item manuever. Not a lie, per se, but certainly a sleight of hand perpetrated by a tricksy meddler. Not only did Kinnari Shah’s friend Hillary — described as “like a Jewish bubbe” — force her pal to go out in a snowstorm rather than stay in and order sushi, she “then dramatically knocked a menu off the table with her elbow” to get Pawan Deedwaniya’s attention.

The gambit worked, spoiler alert, but there’s one detail from the story that I just can’t shake: There are people who live in Union Square who have a car?! Something does not add up. (Speaking of cars: Here’s another announcement in which a guy fudges the truth about a laptop left in a friend’s car in order to try to push two acquaintances together.)

Another article comes right out and says it in the headline: “Sometimes, a Little Lie Helps.” In this case, an innocent woman in a new city joined a friendly house of worship, where she was befriended by a kindly man. A little too kindly: He started going to functions just to see if she was there, and “he always seemed eager to make conversation and wanted to hang out,” the bride recalls, “but I really wasn’t interested.”

And so, a friend with a god complex intervened:

In April 2013, Mr. Milligan told a mutual friend that he still liked Ms. Freeman, but that she was not romantically interested in him.

Their mutual friend, wanting to see them together, proceeded to lie to Mr. Milligan, telling him that she did indeed have a crush on him.

“I really believed it, and that gave me the confidence to give it another try,” Mr. Milligan said.

So he approached her in May 2013 at a rooftop charity event in Manhattan. Soaring with false confidence, he brought up the idea of going to see a movie together.

Somehow, this worked, and all was well that ended well, although I cringe thinking about the copycat crimes inspired by this article that are surely taking place at this very moment.

The final instance takes this tactic to an extreme: When Elyse Jasmund was hospitalized for a recurrence of leukemia, Andrew Starling, not knowing what had happened, wondered why she wasn’t responding to his texts. A friend let him know that she was bedridden, and he dropped off flowers — how sweet.

Then another friend took things to the next level:

A couple of weeks later, Mr. Starling visited the hospital once again — a visit that was inspired when a friend of Ms. Jasmund lied and told Mr. Starling that she had asked about him. By coincidence, he visited the day she came out of her coma.


Look, I’m thrilled this all worked out, but man, you were treading some dangerous waters, friend. This is three snot-nosed kids and one Kurt Russell–in–denim away from the plot of the movie Overboard. Now there is a “Vows” column I would really love to read.

Filed Under: Wedded Blitz, Weddings, New York Times