The Secret Cultlike Rituals Behind NYT's Sunday "Weddings and Celebrations": Revealed!

Something incredible happened. The New York Times' ombudsman opened the lid on the Illuminati-esque processes behind a personal passion, the Sunday Styles' Weddings and Celebrations. Tell us: is there only upper-crust elitism at their core? And did he mention us?!

Clark Hoyt, the New York Times Public Editor, basically wrote the tell-all on Weddings and Celebrations, and for that, we have to thank him. But first:

The Secret Cultlike Rituals Behind NYT's Sunday "Weddings and Celebrations": Revealed!S

a few weeks ago on our weekly analysis of the Weddings and Celebrations, Altarcations, we featured a couple that was very, very outside the realm of what the Times typically highlighted. He, a former homeless heroin junkie who'd been in and out of the pen his entire life. She, a sexually-abused meth addict turned teenage mother. They met outside of a narcotics anonymous meeting, and the story ends with him falling in love with her daughter and the daughter telling him to marry her mommy. If my summary of it didn't just make you cry, reading it actually will.

Here's where it gets good:

A few readers did not like the change of pace. "Are we telling young adults it is alright to waste half their lives in a drug stupor and somehow it will magically work out?" wrote Richard S. Emrich of Plymouth, Mich. I heard from other readers who said they regarded the weddings pages as a place for upstanding people with good educations who come from good families. Sousa and Keen, they said, did not belong.

The Secret Cultlike Rituals Behind NYT's Sunday "Weddings and Celebrations": Revealed!S

And now you know why there's so much to hate about the Times: the assholes who read it like this. But Hoyt stands by the couple - who both have careers on the up-and-up, now - and against his dickhead readers. He found it inspiring. So do we. But he's also pretty clear on what the Times wedding announcements really are to people like us: manna from blogging heaven.

They are parodied online and in a new book, "Weddings of The Times." They are featured in New Yorker cartoons (bridesmaid to downcast bride: "So what if he's not the man of your dreams. The Times is going to be there.") and dismissed as "wedding porn" by people who find them an irresistible guilty pleasure.

There's also a gem in there about Slate writer Timothy Noah calling the NYT wedding announcements "anachronisms serving 'a very small aristocracy'" and then confessing that he pulled strings in the 90s to get his nuptials up in the 'pages. Nice! But do you know the numbers? They get 200 submissions a week for inclusion in their pages! You KNOW strings are pulled like mad. Also, to avoid any controversy, the Weddings and Celebrations section is (ironically) one of the most heavily scrutinized and fact-checked sections of the Times!

They must comply with three pages of rules and submit to rigorous fact-checking. Everyone involved in a wedding, including the person performing the ceremony, is interviewed, and some are asked for documentary proof of things like degrees and honors. Robert Woletz, the editor in charge, said it is amazing how little some people know about their family members, like a father's current job.

The Secret Cultlike Rituals Behind NYT's Sunday "Weddings and Celebrations": Revealed!

There's so much more awesomeness in there. But the holy grail trumps it all: once all is fact-checked and done, how you make it on the broadsheet. Answer?

Woletz decides who makes it in, "for better, for worse," he said. How does he choose? "The basic premise is that we're looking for people who have achievements," he said. "It doesn't matter what field these achievements are in."

Boom. There it is. And that's why we love it - because they are, at some points, the secret decoder to read the Sunday Styles: a strange mix of high-fallutin' over-achievement intermixed with the occasional, sometimes-guilted, often hysterical peek into what lies elsewhere. But what about straight-up sycophanticism? Phyllis Nefler, former Intern Alexis, and myself have all cheered on the Weddings and Celebrations section of the Times loudly and without fail. Did we (or any other outlets) get links or proper mentions?

Sure. About.com. The New Yorker cartoons. A blog devoted solely to this kind of thing. Slate. But us? NOTHING, GODDAMNIT. Message to Clark Hoyt and Robert Woletz, editor of the Weddings and Celebrations: do you have any goddamn idea how hard we work on these? We just want to be acknowledged. Loved. Married intellectually, or even married but estranged via a toss-off link. Mostly, we just want to make it in your pages one day. Then again, as Altarcations professor Phyllis Nefler put it via IM earlier today, "i HATE HIM. he's reinforcing the dominant paradigm of elitism in the Times wedding section!!!11!!" Some things never change.

Love and Marriage, New York Times Style [NYT]