If you're a self-described "28-year-old vegetarian hippie," you've basically got two surefire paths to getting your wedding announcement in the New York Times. You can be a trustafarian who founded a sustainable co-op on land in Vermont that your great-aunt left you in her will ostensibly because "she always liked your mischievous spirit" (though actually because she was estranged from your grandmother ever since a particularly disastrous dinner party in the early '80s involving a misunderstanding between the words Ionic and yonic and "wanted to spite that prude old broad").
Or, you can spend years on death row and go on to spend many more in prison for a crime that you did not commit, finally get released and travel the world speaking at Amnesty International events, meet and marry a man who found himself in a nearly identical situation, and wind up teaching yoga, raising hens and goats for milk and cheese, and having your life story turned into an Off Broadway show that has over the years variously starred a long line of actresses including but not limited to Mia Farrow, Kathleen Turner, Susan Sarandon, and Brooke Shields in the role of you.
(In either case, your name will be "Sunny Jacobs.")
As for this particular instance: "[M]ost married couples will tell you that the things they hold in common helped cement their relationships. For Sonia Jacobs, 64, and Peter Pringle, 73, married in New York last Sunday, common ground was the decade and a half each had served on death row before their convictions were overturned for the murders that they steadfastly maintained they did not commit."
It's a touching story, to be sure, and I'm not trying in any way to take away from the crazy particulars of their cases and the circuitousness of their journeys. I applaud the space given to legitimate sociopolitical issues such as capital punishment. (Another announcement this month deftly told the story of two people who have devoted their lives to fighting police brutality and corruption.) And I adore what Jacobs has to say about her attraction to her husband: "Sure, Peter and I were also physically attracted to one another, but it was deeper than that you know what happens to attractive, it becomes wrinkled and fat." Words to live by, those. And, man, I found Keith Gessen's story of the less than two days he spent in jail to be absolutely startling. Death row? It's beyond my ability to even comprehend.
But still, this whole thing seems to smack of classic liberal guilt. They bring us a post-prison couple — but of course, there's Brooke Shields in the photo, and of course, "a seaside cottage" is involved. The whole thing just feels like the Momofuku of "Vows" columns: serving up the gritty underbelly, but making it all palatable to upscale tastes.
November's other featured "Vows" columns were way more obviously situated in everyone's comfort zone. I loved them all! We have Gail Marquis and Audrey Smaltz, a former Olympic silver medalist in basketball and ex of Lionel Hampton, respectively. ("Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, with whom both women are friendly, sent a congratulatory message.")
One of the New Yorkiest — and most dangerous — of pairings is found in Jennifer Miller and Jason Feifer: a writer and an editor. ("It all began with a semicolon," it begins.) In the grand tradition of "Vows," these two are quirky — the column references bowling shoes; being "an aficionado of miniature cutlery"; and the banjo and "the didgeridoo, an Australian aboriginal instrument." But they're also sweet, and their real-life vows are touching: "You're going to look amazing in white hair," the bride tells her beloved, "and I'm so glad I'll be around to see it."
And finally, another male ballet dancer! (They're the Times' favorite.) Jock Soto, the former "celebrated principal dancer with the New York City Ballet" marries Luis Fuentes, "an opera buff" who had also "been trained as a chef at the Culinary Institute of America and was a sommelier." Their announcement column is perfectly encapsulated thusly:
Two days later, dressed in tuxedos given to them by Marc Jacobs, they exchanged vows at Indochine, the East Village restaurant, where Mr. Soto once had shimmied on the tabletops after being egged on by Andy Warhol.
Speaking of comfort zones: An Atlantic Wire piece this week went and ran some numbers to see just who has the best chance of making the cut. The analysis found that the Weddings and Celebrations pages are lousy with lawyers, and that Harvard-Yale-Princeton types show up a lot. Surprise surprise! (The work didn't account for whether the micro-demographic of "two people named Daily and Phineas whose announcement includes both Reagan and a Kennedy" has a good shot, but I'm pretty sure we can guess.)
The timing of this research was fitting. November's second-highest-scoring couple are both lawyers; they studied in Cambridge and New Haven and "met at Yale while the bridegroom was attending law school and the bride was working as a Woodbridge fellow in the offices of the president and university secretary."
November's highest-scoring couple, meanwhile, had the following sub-headline to their announcement: "A fifth-generation Yale graduate finds love, at last, with a Harvard man." At last!!! Sarah Pease and Jeremiah Murphy III met in D.C. playing kickball, but while they enjoyed chatting about mutual friends from home, there was a catch:
A self-described "fifth generation Yalie," Ms. Pease also had a hard time with the fact that Mr. Murphy had gone to Harvard. "I was brought up in Yale sweatshirts, with a distaste for all things crimson from an early age," she said. "But Jerry was convincing me that going to Harvard didn't make you a bad person."
I can't wait for them to have a kid who punks them both and goes to Cornell.
- The antidote to all the fusty Ivy Leagueness of November is the wedding of Susanne Menden-Deuer and Tatiana Rynearson, and I want to become lifelong friends with both the brides. These three sentences are all you need to know: (1) "She gave me a very curt 'thank you' and turned back to examining her fish guts," (2) "She was thinking that Ms. Rynearson seemed very nice after all when they suddenly heard loud grunts and howls from unseen animals," and (3) "They were both members of the student scuba-diving club, and Ms. Rynearson was in charge of the diving equipment."
- This piece on New York Giants tackle Will Beatty getting really intense about his own wedding planning is super-long, and yet I probably could have read another, oh, 5-10k words on the subject. The part about him having 12 different outfits under consideration! The "Do you have anything in a white birch?"! They have a wedding countdown on his webpage!! (I'm definitely going to leave them a note — just trying to decide if it should say, "Marriage is like football: Sometimes you think you're getting tackled and then you throw an improbable pass downfield to win the Super Bowl and other times you let the Philadelphia Eagles become the first team to execute a walk-off punt return for a touchdown. You know?" and "Will Eli wear a tux?")
- One of the original NUPTIALS bylaws awarded a +1 for any announcement that "contains a line that sounds like it's been lifted from a cruddy résumé." This month there was a sterling example of what I meant by that. We have a groom who "works as an associate director in the research division's communications department, where he helps develop ways for research scientists to communicate with one another and explain their findings to the public." Why is this a sentence? I'm pretty sure they just throw this kind of thing in as filler to help get everything to fit the page.
- The extraneous information conveyed in another announcement, on the other hand, left me clapping maniacally in joy. "The bridegroom's mother, a certified public accountant, is the controller of the United Trust Fund, a real estate investment firm. She also owns Gift Chixx, a shop." SHE ALSO OWNS GIFT CHIXX, A SHOP. There is no comparison to this sentence and there never will be. This sentence is the one that everyone hopes will be their Secret Santa in book club. This sentence owns a mug with the face of its favorite dog breed (Westie) painted on it at one of those make-your-own-pottery places, which happens to be conveniently located next to this sentence. This sentence is on a diet but the calories don't count if it eats a bite of cheesecake off someone else's plate. I want this sentence to come to Kleinfeld's with me when I star in an episode of Say Yes to the Dress someday. I feel like this sentence would be supportive but also speak its mind.
- The daughter of the chairman/CEO of "the H.J. Heinz Company, the food producer, in Pittsburgh," married the son of the retired owner/CEO of "Juhl Brokerage, a food concern in Minneapolis." The Thanksgiving dinner or 4th of July BBQ where the two families first met were either the most majestic or fraught culinary occasions of all time. Asking for the gravy or ketchup would yield you seven different kinds or cause a Hatfield-McCoy-style standoff.
- Not sure why, but something about the job description "self-employed swimming coach" just makes me think of this product that I always used to see advertised in the back of the New York Times Magazine (the only magazine with more absurd back-section ads is The Atlantic. The stuff hawked there is basically the opposite of the "massage therapists" you find in the Village Voice — it's, like, mid-century zero-gravity chairs that can convert to a writing station).
- While I'm on the topic of weird word association, there's also bride Sarah Seltzer, whose father is "the president of the private brands division of Jordache Enterprises" and now has me thinking of the best thing I ever learned about in college: the trademark lawsuit between Jordache and a company called "Hogg Wyld" that made plus-size jeans called "Lardache." Hogg Wyld, now called Oink, Inc., successfully defended the infringement case. I'm making none of this up. See, school can be fun!
- Best "is that ?" of November: Jillian Gumbel, "a nanny [who] works in New York" and whose father "is the host of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."
- This bride's father "is the author of Financial Modeling with Crystal Ball and Excel." My head tells me that Crystal Ball is the actual name of financial modeling software, but my heart just keeps thinking that it would totally read vols. II and III: Management Consulting with Ouija Board and PowerPoint and Brand Marketing with Tarot Cards and Outlook.
- The monthly mazel you've all been waiting for: November's Chosen Couple! We've got a doctor groom who is the son of a rabbi named Chaim. We've got the phrases "Jewish Federation of South Broward County" and "leaders of Jewish teenage philanthropy programs." We've got Brandeis. We've got Yeshiva. We've got a middle name of "Israel." We've got a winner.
- I spent one summer working for a guy whose clients were, like, 90 percent Armenian. And reading the last names in this announcement — Azarian, Karapetian, Barsamian, "the bridegroom's maternal great uncle, Sarkis Acopian, who invented solar radio in 1957" — gave me flashbacks to those meek and sweaty days of totally botching every phone call. "Um, sir, I've got Mr. Bo[cough]ian on the line?" "Bogosian? Or Bozigian? WHICH IS IT? I NEED TO KNOW!" "Um, the first one? No, the second!" He'd hang up glowering a few minutes later. "That was Mr. Petrosian. What is wrong with you?"
This week I received an e-mail lamenting that the Times wedding announcements never accurately reflect the true reality of so many courtships: the inebriated miscommunications, the anti-romantic exchanges, the mundane technological dramas. Which is why I think it's fitting to end on a wedding that is so sweet precisely because it's so honest and imperfect. It also demonstrates the small victories that come from incremental social change, and it does so without hitting you over the head.
After years of not wanting to commit to marriage, Gregory Reardon was told by his longtime partner, Thomas Kelly, in no uncertain terms that if it ever became legal in New York, Reardon had best propose. And ultimately he did: sitting right there on the couch as they watched the New York votes roll in. "What, are you kidding?," Kelly said, then repeated the rest of the proposal exchange.
"He said, 'No.' Are you drunk? He said, 'No.' Are you going to remember this tomorrow? He said, 'Yes.' And I said, 'I'm going to start calling my friends.' 'That's O.K.,' he said. And I said, 'Yes, yes, yes.'"
It wasn't the "spectacular" proposal that Kelly had demanded, and yet, in its way, it absolutely was.
Katie Baker is a staff writer for Grantland.
Previously from Katie Baker:
The NHL Coaching Carousel Spins Off Its Axis
Broadway Blueshirts Are Becoming Must-See Theatre
Manning-ology, Lady Byng, and the Pitfalls of Great Free Tickets
The Best Team in the NHL
Wedded Blitz! The October Marriage Season
The Rise of the Female Distance Runner
The Horrible Habs
Coming to Grips With the Winter Classic
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