Culture

HOW MARRIAGE LISTINGS BECAME THE NEW #COUPLEGOALS

The New York Times is home to some of the purest declarations of betrothal on the internet

17.04.2020

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Daniel Richardson Bering (32, project manager at Lyra Management, Connecticut College undergrad) and Robert Marshall Strain (33, son of Karen A. Strain and Robert D. Strain Jr. of Westminster, Colorado) look like any regular, modern couple. They’re professional. They like a good cocktail. They probably argue about the new box of eggs in the fridge without a ‘free range’ stamp.

We don’t know Daniel and Robert from a party we went to. We never shared a wedding table at which we traded barbs about the shit-hot-shit-for-brains best man. We’ve never even met. Yet we know them. For this happy, handsome pair live in The New York Times marriage listing section.

On September 18, 1851 (a fantastic year for French despots, with Napoleon the III crowning himself Emperor of the Third Republic), a small newspaper named The New-York Daily Times announced the marriage of Sarah Mullett (23, brunette, daughter of a wealthy Vermont farmer) and John Grant (26, somewhat dour, cousin of future president Ulysses S. Grant). And thus a strange American phenomenon was born. Wedding announcements became de rigueur in a nation that was still trying to find itself. Couples all over the country grew keen to publicise their union, and were soon subjected to gushing write-ups from would-be Evelyn Waughs that describe women’s necks to be pearls “dipped in diamonds of surpassing lustre and beauty.” Though old money circles sniffed at the sentimentality of it all, a new class of new money took control of New York, and the wedding announcements became a fashionable means of showing off to those without an invite. The biggest ticket of 1853: a partnership of two comically wealthy families through the marriage of William Astor and Caroline Webster Schermerhorn. Imagine the hype of Britney and K-Fed in 2011, but just a nicer spread and fewer people fighting in the car park.

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Two centuries later, and anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Sex & The City will remember the sting of WASPy Jewish convert Charlotte upon a bad photo in her own listing. Not as flowery in its write-up, and though they still lean conservative, there have been small, quiet episodes of change – couples announcing their love and restitching a rigid social fabric to allow others under the duvet. 2013 saw the marriage of Ada Laurie Bryant (Lesley College Graduate, daughter of the late Ada Lee Laurie and the late Richard Laurie) and Robert Mitchell Haire (chemical engineer and hobbyist poet); a couple in life’s twilight but stood at the foot of young love at the respective grand ages of 97 and 86. The bride kept her name. And The New York Times every now and then gives a voice to those who are so often out of the periscope’s sight. In 2018, Michelle Vestal (of Barrow, Alaska) and Bob J Kitcheon (of Phoenix, Arizona) arranged a ceremony to show the world their love for one another, despite having no roof over their head and long-standing struggles with addiction.

"they’re nice stories of people in love, and give us a glimpse into the different types of love we’re allowed in 2020"

Such tales are a sweetener, a salve for the undying trend for staged #couplegoals. They’re parables of modern love too, that don’t involve screenshots of phantom-like fuckboys who mistakenly text you instead of their dealer at 4am. No, these displays bridge the gap between giddy viewers of The Notebook who still grieve on their ninth viewing and those with internal bruising from the swinging brick in their chest cavity. Various unions once deemed unholy (she’s not a virgin! They’re interracial! They’re both men! Tinder!) aren’t just welcomed into the space: they’re celebrated. And yes, we can bemoan the upwardly mobile nature of the weddings on The New York Times, and yes, we can roll our eyes at the humble brags of the parental salaries, but they’re nice stories of people in love, and give us a glimpse into the different types of love we’re allowed in 2020. Because Daniel and Robert are just any normal happy couple – and they’ve every right to tell the world about it.

images | shutterstock

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