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If it seems like most wedding announcements in the Times are nearly identical, it's because they are.
The instructions page alone is as overwhelming as an SAT essay prompt, with an equally stressful deadline. Beyond that, the application feels more like an SAT math section: all about formulas. If it seems like most wedding announcements in the Times are nearly identical, it's because they are. A very strict set of guidelines ensures that they resemble Maroon 5 songs—indistinguishable from each other, and engineered to fill the average person with inexplicable despair.
Here's what it's like to fill out the prompts in real time:
"You must include the full names of the couple, the date of their event and the approximate time of day." Insert a 100 emoji here, because this one's easy. I do, in fact, know both of our names.
"We need their addresses, schooling and occupations." Oh boy. Well, hey, maybe going to a state school will give our announcement some character!
"Also mention any noteworthy awards the couple have received, as well as charitable activities and special achievements." Awards? Like the kind I have bestowed upon myself for being the only twentysomething woman who keeps up with the TV show Mom? Or are the rest of Manhattan's young professionals spending their weeknights more fruitfully?
"And tell us how the couple met." Hmm. I assume the story of us becoming fast friends over endless AIM conversations and liquor-filled nights when our employer was in the shitter isn't Times-appropriate.
"We also require information on the residences and occupations of the couple's parents. Please include this even if the parents are deceased." Ffffuuuuuck. Do we have to bring the adults into this?
I found myself sizing us up as a couple like we were paired in the Hunger Games, riding on the back of a chariot as part of the Tribute Parade.
I leveraged my his education (USC) against mine (University of Illinois, I barely got in), his impressive job (Vice President at a record label) against mine (my LinkedIn literally once said "professional human") and felt bad for the first time in my life for the path I had chosen. And that was before the paper of record had published a single word about us. I mean, if my fiancé was surprised to discover my parents didn't attend a traditional four-year college, what on earth would the couples sipping coffee on their couches think?
Because I'm the type to get my hopes up, I took a deep dive into the Vows column, wherein I learned that there will never be a Vows column about me, because I'm not the type of person who gets a Vows column. I'm not wildly successful, I'm not a public figure, and I don't have an against-all-odds love story (ahem: battling cancer) worth broadcasting to the masses. My husband and I are just two people who work hard, enjoy each other immensely, and care deeply. But for The New York Times wedding announcements, that's not enough.
I parsed the announcements featured for their excellent engagement photos (close up, with eyes and heads on the same level) and wound up scrolling through endless couples with small stacks of diplomas, job titles I've never even seen on a business card, and universal sets of brilliant doctor-lawyer parents back at home. I found myself sizing us up as a couple like we were paired in the Hunger Games, riding on the back of a chariot as part of the Tribute Parade. Sure, we have our weaknesses—Poor hand at archery! Only one set of parents who attended an Ivy League school!—but we've still got the will to believe we could win, even if the duos we're competing against are successes in every definition of the word while I needed to Google the translation of "magna cum laude." (It means "with very great honor." Yes, that stung a bit.)
"If you can't remember what kind of undergraduate degree you got, you probably shouldn't be applying to the Times," my fiancé said.
In the hour I spent attempting to fill out the form, the two of us uncovered some surprising facts about our impending nuptials, including that the rabbi presiding over our wedding wasn't quite a rabbi just yet. (Sorry, grandma!) I forced my fiancé to field detailed questions about birth dates and previous jobs and the name of his mother's former book store until he casually made a joke about my search history which changed everything. "If you can't remember what kind of undergraduate degree you got, you probably shouldn't be applying to the Times," he said.
And you know what? He was right. At first, I processed this information by ignoring him and filling out the survey sarcastically. ("It'll be a joke profile! They'll love it!") Then I realized that I was wasting my time. I shut my laptop closed for the night, and with it, shut the door on the entire possibility of being published in the paper.
I never submitted our announcement. We would never be featured. The six-week deadline passed the next day, and I couldn't bring myself to fill out the rest of those blank spaces, convincing a faceless stranger that I deserved to be listed in a small paragraph on a news page. I'd planned our entire wedding around not being Typical with a capital T—why should I ask the publisher of a magazine by that very name to decide if I was worthy of being featured? The fear of finding out, at what is supposed to be the happiest time in my life, that I wasn't good enough for them—whether I believed it or not—was too difficult to bear.
The wedding is over now. I'm back from the honeymoon. I should be done thinking about this, but it still feels like a missed opportunity. We had to tell relatives and friends who were planning to pick up a paper that they shouldn't bother. Others whom we hadn't told probably just thought we got cut. The truth is that I'm still half-convinced we would have gotten in, even though our announcement would have read like a successful, smart man settling down with a floundering, freelance-based woman-child. But the other half of me thinks we had no chance. We had no chance! Maybe I just won't let myself believe it because a part of me would have really liked the validation.
In the middle of wedding planning stress, I was kept sane by remembering why we were doing this ridiculous thing in the first place: to wed, and therefore, to make each other happy forever. That's why I originally wanted to announce my wedding in the Times—because I'm overjoyed that we found each other and want to tell everybody. (And, OK, because I've already posted as much as my social media followers would allow.)
A wedding is supposed to be a celebration of two people who make each other better. But here we were, setting our worthiness before the judgement of a newspaper—not in-laws, not relatives, not wedding guests, just a newspaper. I was considering allowing a pile of paper and ink to determine if we were good enough, even though I said "yes" in the first place because I know, deep down, that we absolutely are.
In the end, I didn't need a third party to enter the picture, compare the life I've selected against other people's, and, frankly, take a dump all over it. That's why I skipped the process entirely. I'm proud of the family that raised me, the education that taught me how to write, and the man I chose to marry, and I don't need a newspaper to make me question that.