Get out your Nikes and Kool-Aid, and drink up: Phyllis Nefler's serving a tall, cool glass of a special weirdo religion version of the Weddings and Celebrations section of the Sunday NYT. Also, successful matchup by Samuel L. Jackson!
Organized religion: such a drag! Personally, I associate praising God with getting dropped off against my will at children's choir practice at like 8am on Sunday mornings and committing minor acts of truancy during Wednesday after-school CCD. Also, in middle school there were these mean nuns who would sneak up behind us in the hallways and thrust their spindly virgin hands down our plaid skirts while hissing "tuck it in!" at our stunned little faces.
But say what you will about the tenets of Irish Catholicism (my ancestors went by O'Nefler, but then my grandfather married into money and they deemed it too ethnic), at least it's an ethos. My faith may have its faults, but one thing it does do is abide by a rigid and identifiable - albeit antiquated and bigoted - system of policies and regulations. Because, setting aside the implications of our presence within, this is not Vietnam. This is religion! There are rules.
So I was interested to find out more about the rules, as it were, of a dogma that's been cropping up in Weddings and Celebrations with greater frequency: Universal Life.
You know how with ants you'll notice just one but then realize that there is an infestation everywhere you turn? (Yay city living!) Well, Universal Life was like that. I spotted this, regarding Gayle Eisenberg and David Simões: "Donna Arrigo Saucedo, a friend of the couple who became a Universal Life minister for this event, officiated." And then I looked back at the archives and realized that these nebulous Universal Life-sanctioned weddings were everywhere.
And holy mother of Moses, this religion is ridic! Per the People's Britannica, the Universal Life Church is "a religious organization that offers anyone semi-immediate ordination as a ULC minister free of charge." It was founded in 1959 by a Pentacostal reverend operating out of his garage! The first rule of ULC is that there are no rules! (Or, in more official language, "The ULC has no traditional doctrine, believing as an organization merely in doing ‘that which is right.'") They have a problem with people selling knockoff ordinations on eBay and "a common criticism of ULC ordination is that some people, usually as a joke, submit ordination requests for their pets"! How has the New Yorker not written about this yet?
Anyway! Plenty of couples this week abided by the good old American virtues of Presbyterianism.
Like Emily Eavey Armstrong Oates, great-grandaughter of William Kingsland Macy, a member of the House of Representatives from 1947 to 1951, and her beloved Olympic runner Jorge Torres. Her uncle was the minister! I am jealous of this couple because they got married "atop Eagle's Nest Ridge in Vail" and I never will.
Talk about religion wouldn't be complete without a shoutout to the greatest matchmaker of the modern era, JDate, which brought together Laurel Levine and Russell Steinberg and his "chocolate brown eyes".
(One thing about this story, in which Laurel got boozy at the restaurant bar thinking she was being stood up while Russ – can I call you Russ? – waits patiently outside in the rain, bothers me: why didn't he just text her? If this were a TV show storyline we'd be complaining that we couldn't suspend cell phone disbelief. [Ed. Fuckin'...J-Date.]
The weekly retired Baptist minister grandfather giving away the bride storyline can be found in the union of Yale educated Laura Hammond and her Columbia Law professor husband Christopher Hempill, whose resume is littered with degrees (from Harvard, LSE, and Stanford), accolades (couple o' Fulbrights), and questionable jobs (law clerk to Scalia).
Finally, worshiping at the diamond-earring studded altar of Samuel L. Jackson is an appropriately badass couple named Victoria Rowell and Radcliffe Bailey, who get the featured Vows placement. It's a satisfying pairing: Victoria spent her childhood hopping around foster homes and eventually grew up to be an actress and author of a memoir, while Radcliffe Baily is a mixed-media artist whose work is collected by Jackson and his awesome-sounding wife LaTanya, who set the two up.
The article is star studded, with a picture of wedding guest Alfre Woodard and a former pirma ballerina and the casual aside that Rowell had "a daughter from her first marriage and a son from her long relationship with the jazz musician Wynton Marsalis." It's also an interesting look at how two free-spirited artistes approach the constraints of marriage, quoting Bailey saying that "space is a beautiful thing. We have space between us, space between our work, space between our space."
Space between our space sounds like something off of the Universal Life website, practically, and so this week we will compare two couples whose marriages were officiated by ministers of the church whose stated goal is "A Fuller Life for Everyone".
• Couple are both in their second year of study for a master's in global affairs at New York University: +3
• The wedding was held "at the home of the bride's maternal grandmother in Taos, N.M.: +2
• The bride has one of those great obscure job roles as "the deputy director for the national program and outreach department at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York: +2
• Groom's father is a juvy court judge: +2
• Bride's father is the author of 22 books, including "The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin" and "Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt": +2, and feel free to leave totally original book title suggestions like the ones above in the comments! "Barack Obama: How One Man's Past Changed America's Future" is mine.
• The Universal Life minister officiated "at the summer home of the bridegroom's mother in Orient, NY: +2
• Groom is a stem cell research scientist with a PhD in molecular embryology (!): +3
• Groom's mother is the chairwoman of the Emergency Medicine department at New York Hospital Queens: +2
• Bride's mother teaches gifted children, obviously: +1
• Bride and her dad both work at amusingly obviously titled nonprofits, she at "Philanthrophy New York" and he at "Grassroots Envrionmental Education: +2
• Groom's father totally writes better books than Mr. Brands, with novels including "Secrets" and "A Fling With a Demon Lover". Haha, like my ex! And again, try your titles in the comments!: +2
How do you say "congratulations" in Universal Lifese?
In closing, I almost logged on the website ("If your parents had a sense of humor when naming you, we may reject your application initially, but upon explanation, we will reconsider") to sign up to speak directly with/as God, but then I got nervous that this would constitute worshiping a false idol other than my lord and savior Jesus Christ and I would rot in Hell.
But if I can overcome this Catholic guilt you better believe that I am officiating the weddings of all my friends at their aunt's summer cottages and subsequently lording my power over them for the rest of their lives. I can see where these cult leaders were coming from.