Existential Despair, Heartbreak, and Fireworks: The Emotional Arson Of The New York TimesSThat's not Frank Oz's hand up Phyllis Nefler's ass; it's a stick called the Weddings and Celebrations section of the Sunday NYT. Today, she realizes the evil, dark magic contained within them. Presenting your July 4th Weekend edition of Altarcations:

What a glorious 4th of July! The sun was out, the grill was hot, and the pool was lukewarm. Unless, of course, you spent your holiday weekend battling flight cancellations, nosy distant relatives, zippers on strapless taffeta gowns (great moments in dishonesty: "You'll definitely be able to wear this dress again!") and the general malaise that shrouds all aspects of the matrimony industrial complex. Indeed, why celebrate the birth of our great nation when you can instead toast the blissful union of your fraternity brother and his wet blanket girlfriend who gave him a ring-or-wrong ultimatum after she caught wind of his minor transgressions with Daisy the cocktail waitress with a heart of gold? Mazel!

The wedding announcements were actually kind of bland this weekend, as the true A-listers know better than to ruin the holidays for their nearest and dearest. So instead of getting my fill of Harvard MBAs and the preschool teachers – "until recently", at any rate – who love ‘em, I was instead struck by the realization that Weddings and Celebrations is an evil empire intent upon perpetuating a downward spiral of destruction for lovelorn readers everywhere. [Ed. 'Bout time.]

You see, this week alone, there were four announcements, including the featured Vows piece, that followed this rote rom-com storyline: two young lovahs enjoy a life of bliss but ultimately break up (typically due to a youthful "I can do better" mentality) and spend years out of contact before reconnecting – either due to a serendipitous run-in or a casually calculated let's-get-coffee date – whereupon they experience such an overwhelming rush of emotions that now here we are, staring at their storybook smiles and reading clipped, semicolon-laden prose about their happiest of endings.

Existential Despair, Heartbreak, and Fireworks: The Emotional Arson Of The New York TimesS

Who would have thought? It figures.

Take Erika Fredell and Ted Skala. Young high school sweethearts, "he was the upbeat wrestler who drew cartoon animals; she was the mysterious transfer student devoted to equestrian show jumping." Their relationship ended, as they so often do, upon high school graduation. Skala was despondent:

Then he slept for days, longing for her. "Every night I would take the feelings inside of me and try to bounce them off a star," he said, "hoping that energy would reach her, and maybe somehow she would know that I was thinking about her."

Existential Despair, Heartbreak, and Fireworks: The Emotional Arson Of The New York Times

Also, he wrote her love letters and never sent them. A decade and many mediocre relationships later, the two met for drinks and commenced running into each other occasionally; six months after one such rendezvous they were engaged, and now they "tell each other the story at night like a bedtime story."

Mara McGinnis and Karl Bauer, high school sweethearts themselves, shared a similar cosmic fate despite breaking up in college and losing touch completely for years. The two bumped into each other by chance in Morningside Heights, realized they were both graduate students at Columbia (that'd be a +8!), got sideswiped by the ole "immediate upwelling of emotion," and the rest is history.

We'll get to some more of these in a minute, but not before quickly sidenoting the best announcement of the week: Jana Rubenstein and Robert Percival.

Existential Despair, Heartbreak, and Fireworks: The Emotional Arson Of The New York Times

The print edition is superior here: it shows a full body shot of the bride's wedding dress, which she designed for her senior thesis at RISD. Can a stint on Project Runway be far away? She and her 22-year old man went to junior prom together - she had to ask him out, which becomes less surprising when you learn that he grew up to be a video game designer – but bucked the Hot Storyline by actually staying together.

I'm not sure what you did on your 21st birthday, but personally I blacked out in one of those big front booths at McFaddens and eventually got kicked out of the pizza parlor across the street from Dorrian's. Never go there, the owner is pure evil! [Ed. "Fuckin' Dorrian's" tag forthcoming.] But anyway, Jana spent hers at the Seattle Nordstrom being proposed to over a pair of Chanel sunglasses. "I didn't have a ring or any money at the time," says her beau Robert. "Chanel sunglasses are expensive but not as expensive as a ring." Duly noted. Again: video game designer.

In other news, a girl took the tradition of posing for photos with rowdy Fleet Week sailors to its illogical conclusion and actually married one; a couple "met in May 2006 at the suggestion of Randy Febre, their hair stylist at Bumble and Bumble"; the daughter of a Vanity Fair editor married an officer in the British Army (no word on whether Graydon sent a gift); a girl turned 30 and was "serenaded with a private concert [of] Henry Eccles's "Sonata in G minor"; and I definitely want to meet this groom's dad, who is the pastor of the Evanston Mennonite Church and "also an independent truck driver".

Now, which couple has a story most worthy of being a plot point in a chick flick movie with an ensemble cast?

Katherine Zeisel and Joshua Salzman:

Existential Despair, Heartbreak, and Fireworks: The Emotional Arson Of The New York Times

• The bride is keeping her name: -1
• The bride graduated cum laude from Georgetown and received her law degree from NYU; the groom graduated magna cum laude from Columbia and received his law degree magna cum laude from Harvard: +12
• The bride's father is the director of the Nutrition Research Institute and the groom's mother runs a diabetes philanthropy: +3
• Old family friends, the couple had to keep their "more than platonic feelings a secret from their parents": +1
• Both lawyers: +3
TOTAL: 18

Mimi Franke and Matthew Marziani

• "The couple met at Vanderbilt, from which they both graduated, she magna cum laude, he cum laude"; the bride also earend a cum laude law degree from NYU: +7
• The wedding took place at "Cedar Park, an estate owned by the bride's family": +2
• The bride's full name is Mimi Murray Digby Franke: +2
• Cryptically, the bridegroom "uses an earlier spelling of his family's name": +1
• Also cryptically, the couple's photo isn't available online, but she's blonde and he's receding: +1
• The bride is a lawyer and the groom works at a Greenwich hedge fund: +3
• In keeping with this week's theme, the bride dumped the groom and broke his heart because she was "young and scared", they had no contact for awhile, finally he emailed her to meet, they cried joyfully through dinner, etc etc: +3
TOTAL: 19 and rights to the screenplay.

These story arcs are hopeful and touching, to be sure. But the larger problem I have is that all the single ladies, all the single ladies who are tearfully embracing these pat little tales are exactly the ones who ought to be treating them as radioactive. It's a lonely Catch-22: you read Vows because you're single, but you're single because you buy into what you've read.

Seriously, listen to your auntie Phyllis, and listen close: You are not going to get back together with your ex boyfriend. He is not sitting somewhere out there bouncing energy off the stars to get to you, and your attempts to just "catch up over coffee" will probably result in an awkward one night stand at best and a complete emotional regression at worst. Despite what you will read in way-too-many a Times wedding announcement, leaving books or jewelry behind will not net you a wealthy heir of your own. Ditto Internet stalking. Oh, and weddings are terrible places to meet your soulmates. Do not take these stories, however tempting, as inspiration. It may have worked for them, but remember: these are not real people. These are Altarcations.

[Ed. Two notes: first, apologies for the late arrival of this week's Altarcations; we'll be back at our normal time next Sunday evening. Our dear Phyllis was stranded in the Hamppy's sans lappy, and I got to it late. We promise less nocturnal ones next week. Second, you'll notice the removal of the 'Gawker Weekend Labs' tag from Altarcations and Ms. Nefler's byline on the post. She is officially part of my Weekend Crew! And the revived feature made it out of my "lab," yay. For this, I am like a proud father of the bride(smaid). More to come from the lab, and from Miss Nefler! - Foster.]