NYT's wedding announcements

Carl Remick carlremick at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 5 09:54:08 PDT 2000

>From the current NY Observer:

When the Wedding Announcements Reveal Too Much

The New Vows

What is the deal with the New York Times wedding announcements?

Loyal readers of the section will observe that the listings–formerly a crisp exposition of a bride and groom’s respective age, alma mater, occupation and forebears–now include a nice little story about how they met. It’s kind of like a consolation prize for not making Lois Smith Brady’s Vows column–the de facto Wedding of the Week, which carries photos from the ceremony and sound bites from the guests.

Some people find the change jarring. "I don’t like it as much," said Suzanne Immerman, 27, director of the Principal for a Day program, who’s such a fan of the section that it’s the first–sometimes the only–part of the Sunday paper she reads. "A lot of them aren’t even that interesting and it’s like they don’t merit that much detail."

"The Times has always been good to me, so I really don’t want to comment," said mores expert Letitia Baldrige, sounding as if she wanted to, desperately. "I wish I could–please. I just can’t criticize The Times. I just can’t say what I feel."

The longer pieces, which are unsigned, first appeared on Feb. 13; some hoped they were merely a Valentine’s Day aberration, but as the weeks go by the charming narratives appear to be encroaching on the old-school, curriculum vitae style of announcement.

"It’s just to put more emphasis on the people," said Times spokesman Nancy Nielsen, to whom society news editor Robert Woletz deflected calls. "Fleshing it out so that the people become more real to our readers."

She refused to name the pieces’ author.

The stories are not necessarily the height of romance. In the April 2 Sunday Times, for example, our mystery reporter revealed that Lev Grossman courted Heather O’Donnell by scrawling her a love note on the stall of a Yale unisexer, while Sharon Katz and Jason Cooper met while answering on-line notices on www.jewishpersonals.com.

"I feel like it’s more information than I really need to know about these people," said Ms. Immerman.

"It’s sort of like the Oprah-fication of The New York Times," remarked Pamela Paul, 29, who works in communications at CNN and is currently circulating a book proposal on marriage and Generation X. "It’s become much more revelatory. Before there was an element of ‘How the hell did those people meet?,’ or there was, like, the opposite scenario–where you were like Oh, God, I’m sure they met at some kind of New York Public Library fundraiser."

Which raises another, more delicate issue: While it is certainly commendable that The Times is striving to be more multicultural and less sexist–now frequently featuring couples of different ages and races photographed together, grinning broadly, rather than the formal picture of yore (bride solo, sporting single strand of pearls and grimace)–this social progress comes at the expense of a certain voyeurism. Real WASP’s, as the rest of us know from The Preppy Handbook, only appear in the paper upon birth, marriage and death. If the New York Times wedding announcements become tacky, an undesirable place to be, that’s one less chance for the rest of us to learn about this fascinating species.

A single, male 28-year-old Ivy League lawyer who didn’t want to admit he reads the pages had an additional complaint. "I did very well with the straight credential thing," he said, "and now I would have to do well with this additional set of specs? You’re going to have to come up with some little anecdote if you want to be in there? It’s going to have to be witty? I feel like it sort of adds to the pressure."

–Alexandra Jacobs

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