It was a very Boston wedding story. One that looked good in print.
But for years, there’s been no specific Globe weddings section. Nothing like what The New York Times does with Vows, which are addictive write-ups, even if you’re a cynic about love. Especially if you’re a cynic about love.
The bride went to Harvard. The groom went to Harvard. They had parents who easily paid for Harvard. The children were born knowing how to sail.
You know how some of them read.
I’m from Maryland, and when I moved here I was struck by how interconnected people from Boston were, despite moving in different circles. Everyone was six degrees from one another.
With that in mind, who wouldn’t want to read stories about local people getting married? It’s like the best party gossip.
I haven’t let the idea of a weddings column die, especially now that celebrations of love feel like a wonderful treat after a year inside. People have found new and inventive ways to celebrate their unions. Some have eloped, while others have planned a wild party for 2022.
Maybe I also want to find a nice balance to the Love Letters advice column, where people write to me about relationship problems, and I rarely get to hear about the happy endings.
While revisiting this idea over the past few weeks, I read Cate Doty’s May book release, “Mergers and Acquisitions: Or, Everything I Know About Love I Learned on the Wedding Pages.” Doty, a former New York Times weddings writer, has written a memoir that’s a fun, gossipy romp of a book about her wedding journalism. It’s also a book that makes you think about why anyone gets married — and who needs to know they did.
You’ll cringe when you read her tales of demanding couples, status-conscious resumes, and why so many people feel entitled to make news with their special occasion.
But Doty’s book, the memoir piece of it, reveals what information is missing from these announcements of matrimonial choices.
For the record, Doty’s book is not self-help, but it is helpful. It certainly falls under the umbrella of this Working On It column, which is about books that aim to make us better.
The book starts with a lot of the fun stuff. Behind-the-scenes stories of difficult brides, grooms, and wedding parties. Fact-checking wedding announcements can be wildly stressful, it seems.
Doty also provides some fascinating history about the American wedding announcement. “The first piece of content that can be identified as a wedding announcement appeared in the New-York Daily Times on September 18, 1851,” she writes. “By 1865 as many as 20 couples an issue submitted their matrimonial announcement to the Times, which … gave only the barest of details.”
She writes about race — and what couples got written about where. She is beautifully critical about who is deemed worthy of being part of “society.” She also gets to the heart of what we don’t know about relationships and the weddings themselves.
“There’s something crucial missing in a wedding announcement. There’s no public document of the jitters, the hangovers, the things that go wrong, the mud on a dress hem at the end of the night, the joy and the gentle sorrows.”
The most instructive story she tells is her own. Doty shares her own history, from failed relationships to the winding path she took with her husband. She is honest about their ups and downs. The epilogue of where she is now says so much about the reality of marriage.
It’s the stuff we never get to know when we read a wedding announcement, like when her partner Michael gets freaked out after watching the 2007 Judd Apatow-directed comedy “Knocked Up.”
In the film, Seth Rogen’s immature, stoned character must rally, rather quickly, to become a partner and father. The story made Michael question what he wanted from the rest of his life.
“It was my turn to rub my face and look at the ceiling. ‘”Knocked Up.” Are you [expletive] kidding me?’ I said. ‘What about that movie is bothering you?’ … I knew I was belittling Michael’s pain at that moment, but all I could think was, I’m going to kill Judd Apatow and I don’t know him, but I’m going to kill him. … Apparently… the idea of growing up — crept into his consciousness as the credits rolled, and he walked out of that theater with a newfound fear of life, the future, and life with me.”
Imagine “Knocked Up” almost ending a relationship.
After I finished the book, I looked up Doty’s own eventual wedding announcement in the Times. It’s small and simple and says she’s a descendant of a passenger on the Mayflower. It doesn’t tell you how wonderful and hilarious it is that she and her husband survived a relationship fracture caused by Seth Rogen.
Wedding announcements don’t tell us much.
They leave out the stumbles and recoveries, the embarrassments and the mundane moments that led to the commitment.
There are lessons in those moments. That’s the newsworthy stuff, I swear.
Who it’s for: Spouses-to-be, newlyweds, anyone who loves the weddings section or rom-coms.
“Mergers and Acquisitions: Or, Everything I Know About Love I Learned on the Wedding Pages” by Cate Doty (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), $27.
Meredith Goldstein writes the monthly Working On It column about self-help releases, alternating with writer Christina Tucker. Goldstein also writes the Love Letters advice column. You can send a letter to email@example.com. You can also send information about your upcoming wedding to firstname.lastname@example.org.