Center for Strategic Communication

By Patricia Lee Sharpe

Lu marries Tham, but Chen marries Healy. Flannagan marries Kennedy, but Roberts marries Maheshwari.

So the U.S. is still a melting pot, ethnically.

But wait: birds of a feather—East Asian as well as Irish—are definitely flocking together.

Both, obviously, are true, from the evidence of the matrimonial announcements published on May 15th in the New York Times. Actually there were only 20 items, but they tell a powerful story about who’s making it—and who’s not, colorfully confirming more abstract analyses.

First the photos: remember the time not so long ago when you did a double take at the first couples photos? Portraits of bride and groom in mufti, that is, instead of a generic Barbie doll topped with a veil, as if a wedding were a solo performance. And then something else happened: a same sex marriage was celebrated pictorially in the newspaper of record. Imagine the editorial discussions preceding the breaking of this barrier a few years ago, especially since there are still some bakers, professedly Christian, who balk at making a wedding cake for a non-heterosexual couple? Two brides on top. Awesome! Anyone who finds love is to be congratulated—and envied.  This batch of matrimonials includes same sex partnerships of the male and female ilk as well as traditional couples.

So who performed the marriages that got announced on May 15th—and where did the couples choose to get married? Once again, it looks as if diversity thrives. Rabbis. Episcopal officiants (one of them a woman). A Greek Orthodox priest. A Lutheran minister and a pastor from the United Church of Christ. A Hindu priest. A judge. Several Universal Life ministers, which seems to be a frequent recourse for secular people with a spiritual nature and a taste for ritual—or perhaps with warring families of different faiths. Conclusion: freedom of (and from) religion is alive and well in America, despite the absence of Muslims in this sample, which I’d be inclined to attribute, not to snobbery or bigotry, but to the distribution of wealth and the related Times subscription base, about which more below.

The where of the weddings is roughly predictable from the affiliation of the officiants. Churches, including a cathedral. Synagogues. Resort and event venues. A judge’s chambers. A couple of country clubs, including the not so countrified and suddenly salient Mar-a-Lago.

Some brides kept their names, others didn’t, at a ratio of somewhat less than two of the former to one of the latter. Women who kept their own names looked to be very successful professionally, but among those who chose the Mrs. degree, there wasn’t a single bride who seemed to be a candidate for traditionally dependent housewifery. Also interesting: last names gave no clue as to who’d be changing and who’d be keeping her name.

So, well established professionals are marrying professionals, which tends to boost household income well into the six figures of comfortable, upper middle class life. What’s more, most of the parents of this cohort of the newly married , that’s mothers as well as fathers, also appear to be successful managers or professionals, which makes for strong class continuity even as ethnicity fades in importance. If successful men these days are universally marrying their female peers, an important upward mobility ladder for disadvantaged young women has vanished. And so these apparently innocent matrimonials confirm a trend: the U.S. is becoming an ever more sharply differentiated class society, with an increasing income gap between upper and lower classes.

Meaning: our story darkens. The people who wished to publicize their happiness in the NYT belong to a financially privileged class, some of whom may even be able to buy those multi million dollar condos advertised every Sunday, which may be one reason why, during my occasional perusing of Times matrimonials, I’ve never encountered a Muslim marriage (which doesn’t mean there haven’t been any). It’s said that Muslims have been more fully assimilated in the U.S. than in other Western countries, but their visible presence at high income, leadership levels remains minuscule. In some such cases, of course, photos of the bride would be taboo, which isn’t necessarily a disqualifier. Most but not all NYT announcements are accompanied by pictures—and surely it would be possible to accommodate a photo of groom only, if it came to that.

What’s more, and far more distressing, as some readers may already have discerned, there were no Latinos or Black Americans (not couples, not even one side of a partnership) among the matrimonial announcements on May 15th. Given U.S. demographics, these absences testify to the lack of educational and economic opportunity faced by a huge proportion of the current U.S. population. The massively disadvantaged don’t have anything to crow about in the pages of the NYT.

All in all, then, here’s the good news from Sunday May 15th: Women have a solid toehold on the professional world, and they aren’t giving it up. Ethnicity is of indifferent importance when it comes to personal happiness. A wildly variegated freedom of religion thrives. But there’s truly bad news, too. It’s conveyed by omission. Blacks, Latinos and Muslims aren’t making it.

And, at last! here’s the dope you unhappy singles have been slavering for: where the lovers met. I found a mix of the old and the new. Several couples found one another through or But more were brought together by friends or met in college. And two pairs of future spouses met in a bar.

There is, evidently, no one path to true love.