The inherent Muckety of Times wedding announcements

By A. James Memmott

October 25, 2007 at 7:01am

Sunday was a good day for devoted readers of the “Weddings/Celebrations” pages of the New York Times.

There were stories, some brief, some longer, of 41 unions, the coming together of a whole lot of lawyers, some doctors, and at least one freelance hiking and music columnist.

Analysis of the reports indicates that a trend identified in the mid-90s by David Brooks (before he became a Times columnist) is alive and well.

In the grand old days, you got on the page if you were a member of the aristocracy (i.e., the great-great-grandchild of someone who was very, very rich).

Only one vestige of this jumped out on Oct. 21.

Consuelo Costin, one of the brides, was described as “an eighth-generation descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt.”

But Costin’s also a singer and songwriter about to produce an album. She’s vice president of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

Her new husband, Rafael Feldman, is a film and television actor who has been in “Monk” and other shows.

The Times doesn’t say how it chooses the self-submitted announcements it publishes.

However, it does seem that while old money doesn’t hurt, the paper looks for parental accomplishment in a variety of fields.

The parents of the Oct. 21 brides and grooms have headed foundations, taught school, led firms, conducted research, practiced medicine and worked for the city of New York. There is also a retired homicide detective in the group, as well as a life coach.

It certainly also seems to help if the bride and the groom went to at least one elite private college or university. (Think Harvard, Yale, Brown.)

And, quite often, the couples have been on a fast track since graduation, often going to law school or medical school and perhaps doing a little not-for-profit work along the way.

Deneta Howland and Bryan Sells, the couple featured in the Oct. 21 “Vows,” the weekly story on a wedding, touched all these bases.

They met at Harvard in 1989 and became friends while painting a mural in a homeless shelter.

He carried a torch for her. But she felt their different races - she’s African-American, he’s white - would be an obstacle to romance.

They went their separate ways after college, she to medical school, he to law school, but eventually got together and were wed on Oct. 7 at Harvard.

In a rare acknowledgement of the sort of family tension that surrounds any wedding, the paper also noted that the groom’s father did not show up for the ceremony because he “did not approve” of the couple’s relationship.”

The Times opened up its pages to same-sex commitment ceremonies or weddings in September 2002.

Timothy Noah, writing in Slate, the online magazine, applauded the Times’ decision.

But he said that, despite what he saw as a step forward, the paper should abolish the wedding pages as they were inherently elitist, one standard for entry (old money) having been replaced by another (an Ivy League education).

Noah, who graduated from Harvard, did come clean and admit that in 1990 he had “pulled strings” to get news of his own marriage reported in the Times. Nonetheless, he argued, unsuccessfully, that the announcements must go.

During the past few years, the Times has also included more announcements of older couples getting married.

And it has added more anecdotal content to some of the announcements, stopping short of the full “Vows” treatment but giving some sense of how the couple met.

On Oct. 21, readers learned that Sarah Carley married James Ryan despite the fact that he’s a Republican and that Ashling McAnaney and Matthew Kramer, really got to know each other while stuck in a 12-hour traffic.

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