The New York Times Newspaper Wedding Announcements

Tradition says that a woman's name should be mentioned in the newspaper three times: when she is born, when she dies, and especially when she gets married.
Tradition says that a woman's name should be mentioned in the newspaper three times: when she is born, when she dies, and especially when she gets married.

The Gold Standard Of Newspaper Wedding Announcements

Once called the “Plaza of newspaper wedding announcements”, for brides to be, there is nothing more prestigious than being featured in The New York Times wedding announcements in the Sunday Styles section. With roughly only one in five applications making the cut, the Times announcements inspire fierce competition among upper crust brides. For many they are a guilty pleasure, but also a legitimate social barometer of an ever changing society. Whether you are a bride-to-be hoping to gain inclusion into this exclusive club, or simply interested in the fascinating world of The New York Times wedding announcements, this is everything you need to know.

For generations, the wedding announcements in The New York Times have read like the “who's who” of society. One thing that is very unique about the announcements in the Times is that they are free, but must be hand-selected for inclusion in the Sunday Styles section of the paper. In the vast majority of newspapers, any couple can post a wedding announcement for a fee. At the Times, it is social currency which determines which brides and grooms will be deemed worthy of being granted one of the coveted spots. There is no magic formula, but there are some guidelines which couples must follow to even be considered.

Traditional bridal portraits have always been a part of the wedding announcement.
Traditional bridal portraits have always been a part of the wedding announcement.

The Application Process is Rigorous

The requirements listed on the wedding announcement submission page of The New York Times (easily viewed online) are lengthy and precise. The first one is that while applications must be submitted at least six weeks in advance, the events will only be featured in the paper within six days of the ceremony or on the same day in the case of a Sunday service. It is a newspaper, after all, and they want their stories to be current. Why the long lead time? Unlike most papers, being granted an announcement spot in The New York Times requires an intensive period of fact checking and interviews before the announcement can be published.

To submit an application for the weddings section, the couple must include a long list of precise information, and it must be typed, never written by hand. Before filing your application for a wedding announcement, have the following required details at the ready:


Full names of the couple, their addresses and phone numbers

Being a Vanderbilt certainly helps your chances of being chosen.

The date of the wedding or commitment ceremony, the exact location, and an approximate time of day

Episcopalian and inter-faith ceremonies tend to be most common.

Schooling

A casual survey reveals that around 40% of wedding announcements feature Ivy League graduates, so give yourself bonus points if you attended Miss Porter's followed by Yale. Be sure to mention advanced degrees (around half of couples chosen for announcements have them) and if you graduated with honors.

Occupation

Top 3 for grooms: finance, media, law

Top 3 for brides: media, education, or current student

Noteworthy awards

It helps if the groom is a Nobel prize winner.

Charitable activities

It helps if the bride is a member of the New York Public Library Young Lions.

Special Achievements

Were you the the editor of the Harvard Law Review? Did you found a charity to help children or victims of natural disasters? If so, this is the place to mention it.

How the Couple Met

It is shocking how many of the stories begin, “We were both dating other people when we met...”

Names (including those of deceased parents), Residences, and Occupations of the Couple's Parents and their phone numbers

Your chances of being selected increase exponentially for every Senator or captain of industry to whom you are related.

Name of officiant (s) with exact title, affiliation, and their office phone number

Yes, even the officiant will have to be interviewed.

Don't Try to Embellish Your Announcement Application

Applications which are under consideration are subject to rigorous fact checking and research. In fact, some critics of the Times wedding section take issue with the time and resources of reporters being used to vet wedding announcements instead of pursuing hard news stories. The bride and groom will be interviewed, as will anyone else involved in the wedding. The fact checkers at the Times are deadly serious about ensuring that all details provided by the couple are accurate; it even notes on their website that documentation may be required to verify degrees and honors which have been listed. This scrutiny certainly goes a long way towards discouraging eager brides from embellishing their applications to improve their chances. In fact, being caught in a lie is a sure way to have a wedding announcement application rejected out of hand.

Full length bridal portraits are now permissible.
Full length bridal portraits are now permissible.
New York Times wedding announcement - notice the perfect alignment of the bride and groom's eyebrows!
New York Times wedding announcement - notice the perfect alignment of the bride and groom's eyebrows!

"Eyebrows Must Be on Exactly the Same Level"...

After the couple has assembled their curriculum vitae , there is the matter of the photos to submit. The requirements for wedding photographs at The New York Times are equally as stringent as the bridal couple's vital facts. Although the standards for pictures have not declined, in recent years the Times has added certain types of images which may be included for consideration. The traditional photographs are a formal portrait of the bride and groom, as well as one of the bride alone. The new inclusions are a full length image of the bride in her wedding gown (presumably due to public demand) and informal pictures of the couple “in attractive settings ” (the emphasis is mine, but the words are theirs). In addition, the website which lays out the wedding announcement submission ground rules states that the couple must be “neatly dressed” and that the images should be professional quality. In other words, informal does not mean sloppy at The New York Times . Informal in this cases means that the groom wears a cashmere sweater instead of a suit and tie, while the bride wears a day dress from Barney's with her pearl jewelry.

Photographs submitted for a wedding announcement in The New York Times Sunday Styles may be black and white or color. For prints, 5x7 or 8x10 are the preferred sizes, and it is suggested on their website that the photos be sent via private courier or by guaranteed overnight delivery rather than standard mail. The photographer should be credited, and pictures will not be returned. These days, images can also be submitted electronically, as can the announcement application itself. Photos of the couple are required to be horizontal with heads close together and their “eyebrows on exactly the same level ” (again, this is an actual quote from the Times website).

"Vows" feature in Sunday New York Times
"Vows" feature in Sunday New York Times

The "Vows" Wedding of Distinction

In addition to inclusion in the Sunday Styles wedding announcements, brides who are among the chosen few will also get the pleasure of seeing their weddings on the website of The New York Times. The ultimate prize is to be selected as the feature wedding of the week, which is written up in the “Vows” column. Introduced in 1992, the “Vows” feature is an 800 – 1500 word write up describing a “wedding of distinction”. It goes far beyond the who, what, when, and where of the wedding and delves deeply into the couple's story: how they met, defining moments in their lives, and all about their romance. The “Vows” wedding feature divides the people of New York. One the one hand, it is the ultimate bridal achievement to be the one chosen, but on the other hand, many people think that it is far too sappy and reveals much more about the bride and groom than need ever appear in print. In addition to the printed “Vows” feature, there are video “Vows” stories which can be viewed online.

The first same-sex wedding announcement in the New York Times
The first same-sex wedding announcement in the New York Times

Couples Chosen Are the Creme de la Creme

Perhaps the most interesting thing about The New York Times wedding announcements is the way in which they are perceived in society as a whole. There is no question that for most of their history, the announcements have focused almost entirely on the bluebloods of New York high society. Anyone without an impressive social pedigree and a large bank account had very little chance of being selected to appear in the newspaper. For that reason alone, there have been many people over the years who have called for the abolition of the wedding announcements in the “Gray Lady”. Some believe that spending the newspaper's resources on providing a service to a very small aristocracy comprised of the private school elite of Manhattan (you don't actually think they accept brides from the Bronx, do you?) is not the most appropriate way for a serious publication to allot its ink.

However, what is particularly fascinating about the wedding announcements in The New York Times is the way in which they act as a window into the ways in which our society has evolved. They are actually watched by those who are interested in the shifts in our country, especially when it comes to the power structure. While there are still plenty of the old guard featured in the Times wedding announcements, the brides and grooms selected are no longer limited to the top 1% of New York's most influential families. Wealth and social status certainly play a role in which weddings are granted an announcement, however many of the couples featured these days are from the middle class.

The NY Times Wedding Announcements Enter the 21st Century

A broader range of achievements is now factored into the selection process, so that the typical couple in The New York Times wedding announcements is just as likely to be chosen for their brains or career accomplishments as their connections. A recent perusal of the weddings featured on nytimes.com revealed the announcements of a surgeon, an NFL player, and a woman whose wedding was featured on the reality television show Four Weddings the previous evening (which was not mentioned in the announcement, interestingly enough). Even this more inclusive approach has its critics, primarily among those for whom the whole point of reading the wedding announcements in the Sunday Times was to see which socialite just married which bank founder's son. It is more fair, perhaps, but some of the snob appeal has definitely diminished.

There is another way in which The New York Times wedding announcements have changed with the times, and that is in their inclusion of same-sex marriages, civil unions, and commitment ceremonies. The Times became the first major U.S. newspaper to publish same-sex announcements when it included an announcement about the civil union and Jewish commitment ceremony of Daniel Gross and Steven Goldstein in 2002. The influence of the Times ensured that other newspapers soon followed in changing their policies. Of course, same-sex couples are subject to the same lofty standards as heterosexual brides and grooms hoping to see their names in print in the weddings section of the Times. Mr. Goldstein was the owner of a public relations firm and held degrees from Harvard and Columbia Law. His husband was no academic lightweight himself, being a former Fulbright scholar and having earned an M.B.A. from Yale before becoming an international financier. In other words, Mr. Gross and Mr. Goldstein were pretty much like any other couple featured in The New York Times wedding announcements.

Social Necessity or Outdated Anacronism?

An institution like the Times wedding announcements inevitably becomes a part of the popular culture. The fact that to be chosen is considered by brides in some social circles to be a mark of distinction naturally leads to a certain desperation. A great example of this in pop culture was the episode of the television show Sex and the City in which WASP Charlotte York desperately hoped to have her wedding selected for The New York Times announcements. She was delighted to discover that she was chosen, only to be devastated when she saw that the accompanying photo had been marred by a splotch of ink which made her appear to be wearing a Hitler mustache! The underlying message of the episode was that the social niceties of a wedding were less important than the strength of the relationship between the bride and groom. In other words, better to have a bad picture in the Times and a good marriage than the other way around. Sex and the City is by no means the only place in which The New York Times wedding announcements have been gently mocked. There have been cartoons in the New Yorker, blogs, and even books on the subject.

To some extent, the wedding announcements of The New York Times will always be a social battleground. There are those who like the more inclusive direction that the section has taken, and the shift away from the old guard of society. There are also those on the other side who feel that the chatty details about how couples met (standard since 2000) and the inclusion of brides and grooms from a lower social strata (such as the controversy which erupted around the wedding announcement of two former drug addicts in 2009) have eroded the prestige and significance of the announcements. Add to that the horror of many when the Times first began accepting paid wedding announcements in 2005 (printed separately from the ones which are hand-picked so that everyone knows the difference, of course), and the whole institution has practically been turned on its ear over the last decade. Then there is the growing group of people who think that the entire idea of the wedding section in The New York Times is a relic from another era and should be dropped from the paper altogether. Yet despite all of this, there is still a powerful allure to the Times wedding announcements, and for many reading them is a guilty pleasure in which they happily indulge every Sunday.

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