The Times Wedding Announcements They Are a-Changin’

February 21, 2020
Posted by Jay Livingston

Here are some more trends dredged up from Wedding Crunchers, the New York Times corpus of words in its wedding announcements. As I noted in the previous post about brides keeping or changing their name (here), these announcements are not a representative sample of couples. And while they are not even representative of couples in the Times’s corner of US society, I think they point to some general trends in that elitish slice of the world.

Take grade inflation. This well-documented trend is reflected in Times weddings as well.

 (Click on an image to enlarge it.)
From 1981 to 2019, the proportion of announcements with a summa more than doubles (from 4% top 10%) as does the magna rate (9% to 19%). It’s possible, though unlikely, that Times has raised its bar for putting your announcement in the paper. Or maybe today’s couples really were better students in their college days. We do know that more of them are going on to post-BA programs. But which?

In the 1980s, we saw the rise of the MBA, the Wall Street “masters of the universe” in Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, or in real life the recently pardoned Michael Milken (MBA Wharton 1979, Pleasanton Federal Prison 1993). The 1990s was for lawyers. (I recall a New Yorker cartoon, which I cannot now find online, which shows a young woman and man at a cocktail party. She is saying, “How did I know you’re a lawyer? Everyone’s a lawyer.”)

As we head to the 21st century, two other phrases start turning up —  “hedge fund” and “start up.”

The numbers are small, never more than one announcement in 25 including either of them, but starting about ten years ago, start ups began to replace hedge funds as the choice of the adventurous and ambitious (and perhaps avaricious).

The other newcomer to the these pages is the dating app. The steep increase starts in 2013 or 2014. In only 5-6 years, about 20% of the wedding couples announce that they met via a dating app.

Finally, remarriage in the Times seems to run parallel with national trends.

The US divorce rate peaked in 1980, and since the most remarriages occur on average 5 years after divorce, we should expect the downward slope that begins in 1984. More curious are the upward trend 1996 - 2004 and the decline after that. Of course, remarriage in the Times is somewhat rare — the rate ranges from about 7% to 13% — so maybe we shouldn’t make too much of these fluctuations.

If you’re curious and what to explore your own key words, go to

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