It has been said that for some, wedding announcements are comparable to sport pages. What little I know of sport or its dedicated sections, I suspect there is a similarity in the density of statistics in both narratives. If you have any interest in human behavior or family dynamics; wedding announcements are a treasure trove, Hours can simply slip away as you theorize how people live and love. Areas of theoretic discipline are usually divided into; “how did parents of ‘x’ professional background raise a child of ‘y’ professional inclinations?”, “spouse #1 family background is diametrically opposite spouse #2 family background; what will their Thanksgivings be like?”, “both spouses are artists without benefit of employment; how do they live?” There is enough rich content in the average Sunday style supplement, that a hard-core wedding theorist would never waste time reading the generic couples. Rarely is there intrigue (that makes into the social section of the newspaper) about couples from old families or from rarefied locations. The real sport is in theorizing around breaking of traditions and expectations.
The tradition itself of wedding announcements is not that old and has evolved in a surprisingly timely fashion. Stepparents are now included in the details as are the qualifications of the officiant. (As anyone without benefit of any certification can ‘perform’ a wedding ceremony, it is always interesting to read the qualifying statements that follow an officiant’s name:) “George Jetson, the groom’s father’s friend from college, but not the first college he attended and didn’t do so well, but that other one, received his ordination from ‘doyouhaveawitness.com’ and performed the marriage along with the couple’s two myna birds (from a previous marriage)”
Scattered throughout the announcements are also “announca-stories”; little vignettes meant to inspire or placate someone important. These announca-stories are by and large rather dull, but periodically there is some actual data woven into the narrative. There is a subcategory of announcement analysis known as the ‘where’s Waldo” pursuit. Hidden (clearly not very well) is a word or two of snark. The adept ‘where’s Waldo” theorist can easily spot a cleverly worded but poorly masked; “they met when the groom took a cigarette break from his wife’s deathbed” or a “shortly after they announced their engagement they began divorce proceedings from their previous spouses” For the theorist it is interesting to note what passes as appropriate social column content.
These days there is a whole new addition to the topical additions to the wedding announcement: credits. No, not the usual “so and so got married, please buy her book” or “so and so got married, please visit his web business.” No, no, no. The credits I reference are those of the parents. “The bride’s father is an author” has been replaced with “The bride’s father has published the following books; …” No doubt the announcement will soon include ISBN and hyperlinks. A year or two ago you might have read; “The bride’s father is an actor.” Today it isn’t unusual to have his roles listed. The same resume shout-outs occur for parents’ cottage industries and web businesses. What intrigues me is how these announcements come to be. Maybe there’s a public relations intern involved, maybe not. But how does the subject of product placement even come up? Is it at the engagement party? Is it part of the wedding costs negotiations? Is it never discussed but passive aggressively achieved through “Don’t worry son/daughter of mine, I will take care of the announcement?” Doubtful. People are far too conscious of their public life to leave something like that to a parent. Surely there are difficult conversations that have always occurred around the content of the announcement. “How do we gloss over daddy’s current incarceration?” “Does that green card marriage need to be mentioned; and hey what ever happened to that $10,000 anyway?” “So he’s not actually divorced yet? Not a problem, they myna birds need never know.” It’s fascinating to consider that the “putting the best face on the family” has morphed into parental professional press releases. Of course it’s a big deal for a parent to marry off a child. Of course there’s much reason to puff up a bit. But what exactly is the point of a resume or vita in one’s child’s wedding announcement? Do casting directors scan the announcements? Has anyone ever bought a book or service because it was mentioned in a wedding announcement?
We may never know the answers to these questions. What we do know is that another category of theory must be added to the wedding announcement school of analysis. Still in the incubator phase we will bestow upon it the placeholder: “scrapbooks full of me in the background” theory.