One of my guilty pleasures every Sunday is perusing the New York Times "Weddings and Celebrations" section. I read it without fail.
So I clicked with alacrity on an article in Current Affairs headlined "Can the New York Time's Weddings Section Be Justified?" Justified? In my book it can be justified solely on the basis of the voyeuristic thrill it gives me every week.
Alas, Current Affairs author Nathan Robinson is not so easily pleased. He is insensible to the pure delight afforded by the section and instead has a bee in his bonnet about thesnobbery of the section.
Mr. Robinson seems–inexplicably–to have exepected the Times weddings section to be more egalitarian. Still, Mr. Robinson can be quite funny and he does know what kinds of weddings are likely to receive the editors' nod:
At this point, the weddings section of The New York Times is almost beyond ridicule. It has been mocked endlessly for its Ivy-infatuated elitism. It has inspired a fake Twitter account (“The bride is willing to overlook her groom’s public school education, saying, ‘sometimes you take a chance–the heart wants what it wants.’”) and even a full book of parodies. Placing one’s wedding announcement in the Times has become “a sacred and important ritual that rich people have been performing for years,” something the Times itself has even acknowledged.
As Robinson notes, the section is achievement-oriented, but it has a definite sense of what constitutes achievement: It's degrees and jobs and (dirty secret) money. Robinson is right: a Costco manager isn't going to make it into these hallowed pages.
Mr. Robinson is not the first to be repelled by the Times snobbery:
The ugly hypocrisy of the Times wedding page has been pointed out before. In 2002, journalist Timothy Noah called for its abolition, since it is “built on the false assumption that the weddings of wealthy non-celebrities constitute news.” (Noah’s case was undercut somewhat by the fact that he admitted having lobbied heavily to have his own wedding included in the section.)
David Brooks in Bobos in Paradise took a less hostile tone that Tim Noah (as quoted in the Current Affairs article):
When you look at the Times weddings page, you can almost feel the force of the mingling SAT scores. It’s Dartmouth Marries Berkeley, MBA weds PhD, Fulbright hitches with Rhodes, Lazard Frères joins with CBS, and summa cum laude embraces summa cum laude (you rarely see a summa settling for a magna–the tension in such a marriage would be too great). The Times emphasizes four things about a person–college degrees, graduate degrees, career path, and parents’ profession–for these are the markers of upscale Americans today…
My sheer delight in the weddings section does not mean that I am not appalled by the values it reflects! My horror probably makes the section even more of a weekly thrill–like a temperance advocate besotted in a bar. I can't help noticing the couple is likely to have been married, not by a clergyman, but somebody who has become a Universal Life Minister for the day.
The wedding section of the Times truly reflects our society, but I am interested in something else: as a reader of many years, I have long regarded it as not only a mirror but (with apologies to Bill and Hillary Clinton) as a "change agent." It used to be the province of old line society and it could be argued that the editors' decision to include the achievement-oriented society reflected in the section gave an additional shove to that society.
I would argue that its decision to include gay couples was highly significant in making these couples acceptable. The Times is blase about conundrums that would have shocked earlier generations of brides and grooms. There was a time when "A Husband's Transgender Secret Takes Its Toll" would not have appeared on these pages.
Nor, in the benighted past, would "Wedding Dressing for Two (Or More)" have been in the Times. “There is a real hole in the market for cool maternity bridal dresses,” said Ms. Wall, 36.
Some canny retaler will surely rectify this soon.
I am sorry Mr. Robinson doesn't enjoy the Times weddings as much as I do.
On the other hand, maybe I need to get out more.