NYTwedcelI admit it.

I’m 44 years old. Married, divorced, remarried and yet, every Sunday, I read the Weddings/Celebrations section in the New York Times. And have been reading it since the late 1980’s when I moved to Manhattan after graduating from college.

I left NYC over 12 years ago and get the Times delivered to my doorstep 7 days a week. (Thanks to my anonymous benefactor.) I’m slightly embarrassed about the fact that I still read the wedding announcements. Sunday Styles, the section which contains the announcements, is the section I read first, before anybody else in the house wakes up. So I don’t get caught. How could I explain my ongoing fascination with the marital circumstances of complete strangers?

When I was younger, out of college with getting married being at the very bottom of my to-do list, I read the section out of curiosity. I considered it a “good” week if I recognized the name of somebody getting married, even if I only knew them peripherally. Even if I didn’t know them at all but just recognized their name from a magazine or the gossip column. It was just fun.

A few years later, when I wanted to get married, I looked at the newlyweds with some jealousy and longing. They got married. Their lives were now secure. They had each other. And also probably had an amazing NYC apartment together. (My other fantasy.) How come all of these women had managed to find husbands? When was it going to my turn?

And then my turn came. I had always thought that I would have my wedding announced in the Times. But I didn’t. The reasons why are fuzzy to me now. Probably as simple as we didn’t have a good photograph to submit and didn’t have the money to spend to have one done. Maybe it seemed a little vain. We didn’t have anything special to say. We met in business school. Dated, broke up, dated again. Not the stuff of a whirlwind romance.

So my wedding came and went with little notoriety. But I was married. I had a husband. I had some security, someone to share my life with, a partner. Lucky woman. But I kept looking at the announcements. Even after my husband and I, along with our 1 year-old son, had moved to Florida.

When I started to become unhappy in my marriage, I looked at those happy smiling couples getting married as naïve. Suckers that didn’t know what they were getting into. Marriage wasn’t as easy as two people from good schools with good pedigrees having a beautiful ceremony at the Plaza Hotel or the Boathouse in Central Park. It didn’t matter if the way they met was romantic and sweet. Suckers, all of them. I guess I was a little bitter.

I got divorced. And kept on reading. More jealousy which at some point turned in to just plain curiosity again, a lesson in sociology. It seemed like there were a lot more people getting married, around my age, who had already been married before. You know how at the end of the announcement they write, “The bride’s first marriage ended in divorce.” I would think, well that’ll be me. One day. But I wasn’t in a hurry. My life was full with my two kids, a job, a house and an amicable relationship with my ex-husband. It was good.

But then I met someone. When I wasn’t really looking or even caring about being in a relationship, much less getting married again.

It’s been almost 4 years now since we got married. I’m happy, content and feel lucky that my husband and I found each other. And, yes, I’m still reading the wedding announcements. But I feel no jealousy, no bitterness. Sometimes I feel sentimental. I’m a sucker for a good love story. Like the one in today’s Times about the couple who met after the husband’s first wife died in a plane crash.

And I feel hopeful. Hopeful for the couples who are brave (though they probably don’t see it as bravery) enough to take this step. And hopeful that they don’t give up too easily on each other. Because marriage is hard. But marriage is also wonderful. When it’s with the right person.

I don’t regret that neither of my weddings were announced in print. It obviously has no bearing on how successful a marriage is going to be. But in much the same way that I think about what my obituary is going to say, I think about what my wedding announcement would have said. So I wrote my own. Wedding announcement, that is. Almost four years after the fact. But it still counts.

THE NEW YORK TIMES WEDDINGS/CELEBRATIONS SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2006

Jennifer S. F. Cullen, Fred D. Bryan

Jennifer Susan Felser Cullen and Fred (not Frederick) Daniel Bryan were married Saturday evening in South Miami, FL. Florida State Representative Dan Gelber, a step-brother-in-law of the bride’s, obtained his notary commission from BudgetNotary.com and officiated in the garden at the home of the bride’s mother, Madeleine Thea Evans Felser Silverstein, and stepfather, Dr. Bernard Stanley Silverstein.

The bride, 40, is an overqualified bookkeeper for Yacht Path International, a yacht transport company based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. She is keeping the last name from her first marriage because she doesn’t want a boy’s first name as her last name. Plus, there are the young children to think about. She graduated with a BA from Emory University and received her MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business. And doesn’t really use either degree in earning a living. But at least her student loans are paid off.

The bride’s mother, a portrait photographer, is known professionally as Maggie Evans Silverstein. The bride’s father is Dr. Frederick Samuel Felser, a retired gastroenterologist. (Note the similarity in the names of the father and the groom.) Her stepfather is a cardiologist in private practice in South Miami, FL. The bride is also a stepdaughter of Frances Y. Felser.

The bridegroom, 42, is the operating partner of the Jupiter, FL branch of C.R. Chicks restaurant. He is known informally as the Chicken Man and alternatively as the Red Man. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a BA in Animal Husbandry. He has his Ph.D. from the School of Life. He is the son of the late Marie Rozkuszka Bryan, who lived in Lake Worth, FL.

The couple met when Ms. Cullen and her two small children went in to Mr. Bryan’s restaurant the summer of her divorce. Mr. Bryan inquired as to the children’s names, served them lunch (which was quite tasty) and told them to “Have a nice day”.

A few months later, both Ms. Cullen and Mr. Bryan were at their local watering hole. Mr. Bryan approached Ms. Cullen and her friend and inquired as to how the children were, asking about them by name. Ms. Cullen, being a little taken aback by Mr. Bryan’s memory, said they were fine but made it clear that she was not interested in continuing a conversation with a stalker.

Over the next few years, the two saw each other around their small town and became friendly. No longer afraid that Mr. Bryan was a stalker, Ms. Cullen took to freely flirting with Mr. Bryan and was rewarded by free meals at his restaurant.

Finally, one November night, a few weeks after Ms. Cullen had extricated herself from a jealous and over bearing boyfriend, Mr. Bryan offered to give the inebriated Ms. Cullen a ride home from the watering hole. She didn’t make it home until the next morning.

They’ve been together ever since. Their story inspiring those looking for love where they least expect it. And assuring others who fall in to bed too quickly with a man from the neighborhood that being slutty can indeed lead to something virtuous: Love.

Theirs is a match made, if not in heaven, then somewhere else where some Divine Being has a sick, but wonderful, sense of humor. A long-time friend of the groom’s, who is also a well-respected physician, noted after meeting the bride for the first time, “There’s someone for everyone”.

The bride’s previous marriage ended in divorce, as did the bridegroom’s. Thank goodness for that.