A New Feel for the New York Times Wedding Section—It Now Will be Known as Mini-Vows

From a Times Insider column by Katie Van Syckle headlined “A New Feel for the Wedding Section”:

In 1851, the debut issue of The New York Times, then known as The New-York Daily Times, announced the marriage of John Grant and Sarah Mullett, who was from a prominent family in Fredonia, N.Y. At the time, high society marriages were cultural and social news. The tradition of reporting on the nuptials of the elite evolved into The Times Weddings section.

Like many things, the coronavirus pandemic changed the way The Times covered wedding announcements. In March 2020, as stay-at-home orders went into place, and celebrations were canceled and postponed across the country, there were fewer weddings to announce. By April 2020, the desk went from getting about 20 wedding announcements a week to about four or five. In response, editors started to print more installments of an existing column called Mini-Vows, a short article that tells a couple’s love story instead of focusing on the biographical details of each person.

Last week, the editors announced that the wedding announcements would now be known as Mini-Vows and would include a detailed account of a couple’s story and their wedding. The Times’s Weddings editor, Charanna Alexander, who took on the role last year, discussed the changes, the new submission form and one of the main goals of the evolved Weddings section: exploring what it means to be committed in 2022, whether or not that includes marriage.

You have worked on the Weddings desk for the past five years, first as a web producer and then as an editor. What has your focus been?

My focus has been on creating more diversity in our pages and making our section more inclusive, and that was also the goal for the previous editor. But it’s something that I personally feel so driven by because I have this amazing opportunity to tell all different types of stories that really represent the world around us. And I know that the Weddings section gets a bad rap. So I really came in wanting to change everyone’s perception of the types of couples we feature. I wanted to not only make it more racially diverse, but also culturally diverse. I just really wanted to look for holes in our previous coverage, so that we can start to be a section that everyone can see themselves in.

What is the goal of the Mini-Vows column?

The common thread of all of our Mini-Vows is that the couples all share some moments of transition where they have to overcome something together, whether that’s being long distance or having family members who’ve passed away from Covid. We’ve tried to tell stories about couples that have absolutely nothing to do with their accolades, but more to do with a love story that is inspirational, in a way, and uplifting.

What is the submissions process now?

The old form was a little cumbersome, and it asked for a lot of information that we no longer need. Now, what we’re asking for is for couples to really dig deep into their love story and tell us what makes them click: how they came together; what their relationship means to them, and maybe even the people in their lives; and how they’ve changed since they’ve been together. We’re just asking couples to go a little deeper, which gives us a better sense, once we get a submission, to say, “Hey, this is really inspiring.” They’re not just talking about their accolades or their educational background, but they’re getting into what makes them special as a couple and that’s the thing that I gravitate toward when I’m assigning. I want to tell stories where you feel something when you’re reading them.

Do you have any other goals for the section?

What we’re looking for is to continue to tell stories that give us a different perspective on relationships in a way that we probably wouldn’t have thought of in the past. Outside of our Mini-Vows, we’re looking to tell stories of commitments that are not necessarily associated with marriage. What we’ve been seeing is that a lot of people are not getting married and are not committing in that traditional sense. But they are starting families, and they are creating homes together in a different way. We want to explore that: What does it mean to be committed in 2022? We will begin to tell stories outside of our traditional Mini-Vows that explore relationships outside of what we know to be marriage. Marriage has been our bread and butter because, obviously, we’re the Weddings section, but I do feel that it is time that we get into what is considered nontraditional and kind of normalize that. For example, we have written about platonic spouses, or people who are marrying their friends. Those stories are worth telling as well, and we’re going to carve out a place to tell those types of stories. That’s where we’re looking to go, to just expand what the word commitment means.

Katie Van Syckle is a senior staff editor at The Times.

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