Harried brides-to-be from Gramercy Park to Greenpoint gasped in horror a few weeks ago when the New York Times announced it was launching a paid wedding-announcement section in “Sunday Styles.” “We are pleased to offer a guarantee that your big day will be mentioned in the New York Times,” said a Times ad rep in the press release, the word guarantee a nod to the hand-wringing and heartburn suffered by overachieving intendeds as they wait to see whether their wedding will be listed in the Paper of Record. (I know all about it, since after multiple phone calls and e-mails, my own was.)
The Times’ asking price is $48 a line, which means that even the most economical couples will have to spring almost $1,000 for a bare-bones, twenty-line announcement. Adding a decent-size picture could up the total by another several hundred dollars. What the brides are fretting about most is not the cost but the stigma: The paid notices will be clearly delineated under a banner that reads “Social Announcements,” in a six-column format different from the “Weddings” page—thereby eliminating all the prestige. Where is the coup in appearing in the Gray Lady if everyone knows you paid her off?
Zach Miller, 25, who writes VeiledConceit.com, a blog dedicated to mocking the Times’ “Weddings” pages, is looking forward to the change. “There’s no way it won’t be funny to see who’s willing to pay,” he says. “And this will only heighten the glory of those who are chosen through the traditional process, because they got it handed to them and other people had to pay for it.” Bien Pagan, 29, a research administrator at New York University and a recent bride, says, “This will take away the prestige from those who have been chosen. When someone says they were in the Times, people will ask, ‘Did you pay for it or did they choose you?’ There is going to be a lot of muttering behind people’s backs.” Cristina Espinosa, a 26-year-old fashion-design associate who’s engaged to be married, says the price is so high that anyone who chooses to do it will look gauche. “Everyone is secretly dying to be published in the announcements, but to want it so bad that you’re willing to pay $50 a line is ridiculous.” Espinosa, who will marry in May, is planning to submit to the “Weddings” pages but not to the “Social Announcements,” although she admits that she might consider it if it were cheaper.
A representative for the Times said the start date would depend on the demand, but that “we are anticipating a lot of response in the spring.” Couples will be able to submit to both sections simultaneously, ensuring themselves a slot even if they are rejected from the editorial pages. (The Times rep says the content for the “Weddings” pages will be reviewed independently.) There will almost certainly be couples who’ll assume they have been rejected, spring for an ad, and wind up appearing in both sections—letting the whole world see their desperation.
The big question will be what effect the paid section will have on the editorial section. Though being able to buy in may broaden the scope of the announcements, the high ad price ensures that brides and grooms on tight budgets won’t be able to afford it. Then again, with the cachet the Times brings, many couples may choose to buy a $2,000 ad over $2,000 in gift bags. One will immortalize you; the other will get tossed before the guest even gets it home.
Nina Willdorf, author of Wedding Chic: The Savvy Bride’s Guide to Getting More While Spending Less, thinks the ads will let some fresh air into the pages. “It’s making the whole wedding-listing process a little more democratic,” she says. “If you read the listings now, it seems everyone’s from an Ivy League school or their parents are super-fabulous. Now you can buy your way in, and isn’t that ultimately so American?”
For brides and grooms at their wits’ end, there are, of course, many other local publications that run free wedding announcements, such as the New York Post. New York Magazine has begun offering paid announcements, which will debut this spring, that will not be juxtaposed against an editorial section. When I suggest to Willdorf that there are alternatives for those who don’t get into the Times and find the $48-per-line ad cost too high, Willdorf scoffs. “The people who want to be in the Times wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. The Times is the Plaza Hotel of wedding announcements. It’s the best venue in town.” Then again, the Plaza is shutting down soon for a $100 million renovation to make room for retail space and luxury condos. Apparently, money talks, no matter the venue.