When Deborah takes a closer look at a newspaper’s wedding announcements, she’s surprised at what she discovers
Dear New York Times, Kia ora from a subscriber in Auckland. I was prompted to write to you because I’m confused. You keep prompting me to read stories that don’t have proper headlines, just two names: Faith and James, Constance and Gordon, Candida and Justin. Six of the 10 news stories recommended for me today – forget Syria and Facebook data breaches – turn out to be wedding announcements. What the?
I’m a divorced 50-year-old single mother feminist. What would make you think I want to read wedding stories? Sure, I have been married once. On my wedding day, I had a hangover. In the morning I bought a pale blue chiffon dress from Karen Walker. (It was on sale; it didn’t quite fit). Then we went to the registry office. We asked a nurse and a man that worked at PlaceMakers to be our witnesses. I’m not sure this qualifies me as someone that swoons over weddings. Could you please amend your algorithm. Yours sincerely etc.
PS. PlaceMakers is a hardware store, not an upmarket event planning business.
I didn’t hear back from the New York Times. I seethed a little. But then, maybe it was because of the Royal Wedding or something, but I felt curious to go and read the wedding column after all. I expected it would be interesting in an anthropological kind of way. It would be full of snobby high-
achievers with good hair and white teeth who went to Ivy League schools.
The first few were the kind of cultural artefacts I was expecting. There were a lot of status-signalling chronicles and top quality canapés. Manhattan adman Jake Musiker, 29, never bothered to check Facebook messages because most of them “were washed-up acquaintances from high school inviting me to some kind of nightclub”, so he missed out on a message from his future wife Tara Blackman, who had spotted him on a beach in the Hamptons. But “smitten by his charisma and good looks”, she persevered and eventually they connected, which led to a Brooklyn wedding. Tara was a bit “Anna Wintour”, the groom said. “This is what Tara always wanted, and Tara is the kind of girl who gets what she wants,” said the bride’s father. “Tara and Jake are the most loving and good and innately kind people you will ever meet,” said Jake’s father. I guess none of the washed-up acquaintances got invited to the wedding.
Sissy deMaria, 54, a well maintained blonde PR chick, had only been separated for four months when she met dishy oncologist Guenther Koehne, 60, on an international flight. They felt an instant connection and started dating. She loves horses, jogging, tennis and golf. He loves opera and is a glider pilot. She noted “he does 150 push-ups a day and has the body of a 20-year-old”. He said she was “elegant and sees things like a little girl” and said as a workaholic he realised he “needed more of a private life”. At their wedding, guests ate filet mignon and baked stuff shrimp served on special china which was a gift to the couple. The cake was fondant vanilla rum.
Former marine Greg was described as a millionaire playboy broadcast journalist who was a fighter pilot and “a rock-solid, respectable young man”. His new wife Judith was “beautiful, amazing and multi-talented”. The bride wore a couture gown, and President Trump’s executive assistant was one of the guests. But not all the stories were like this. Danya Skolkin and Josh Tillis’ wedding in Houston was washed out by Hurricane Harvey, so instead of having a glamorous event they handed out their three-course meal to 100 displaced local residents at a shelter. “It brought tears to our eyes,” Danya said after she and Josh realised how their postponed wedding plans would be able to help their community in need.
Gertrude Mokotoff and Alvin Mann were introduced eight years ago at a gym in New York where they still work out twice a week. She’s 98. He’s 94. “A mutual friend said to me ‘I’d like you to meet a very nice young lady’,” Alvin recalled. They became an item quickly. “I kept getting teased about dating a cougar,” Alvin said. Eight years later, Gertrude asked Alvin to marry her. “I was tired of chasing after him.” Alvin received a bachelor’s degree in history last year, said age doesn’t mean “a damn thing” to him or Gert. “We don’t see it as a barrier. We still do what we want to do in life.” Just before dinner, the bride raised the roof, and the groom’s eyebrows, when she sat in a chair and hiked up her wedding dress above her knee to reveal that she was wearing a garter. “Very nice,” the groom said, his cheeks turning red.
Death brought Paley Ellison, 47, and Chodo Campbell, 64, together. They’re zen Buddhist monks and founders of the New York Zen Centre for Contemplative Care, a non-profit centre they set up to teach people to care for the ill and dying using practices like meditation. The couple met at a zen meditation centre in 1990. Neither forgot the other, although they didn’t meet again for another 12 years. In 2007 they were unofficially wed at a zen commitment ceremony in Manhattan. Instead of accepting wedding gifts they asked for donations to create the centre. It began operating a few months later and has graduated more than 400 students who have gone on to care for more than 90,000 people at their bedsides. “They’re two funny monks who changed the world by helping people who are dying,” said a longtime friend. They marked their 10-year anniversary by having an official wedding.
I think that might have been the best story I’ve read all week. I wish I could take back my whingeing letter to the New York Times. Maybe algorithms do know us better than we know ourselves?
THEY MET EIGHT YEARS AGO AT A GYM IN NEW YORK. SHE’S 98. HE’S 94