Some 200 couples compete each week for no more than 40 coveted spots in the Sunday New York Times’ Weddings/Celebrations section. Blissfully-in-love newlyweds battle it out, trying to fudge their education backgrounds, tweak their job title to that of a top-notch lawyer or well-endowed investment banker and paint some idyllic picture of what their upbringing was like in their stereotypically charming, “Gilmore Girls”-esque suburban town.
Week after week, the nuptial announcements start blending together, proving to be equally as elite and nauseatingly cute as the next. The engineering team over at “hip-hop Wikipedia” Rap Genius spotted the trend, opting to use America’s most exclusive wedding section to answer: “What do the world’s most self-important people think is important?”
They responded with WeddingCrunchers.com, a searchable database of nearly 60,000 New York Times wedding announcements from 1981 through 2013. As Rap Genius simply describes:
WeddingCrunchers lets you measure the frequency of specific words and phrases in these announcements. When you search for a phrase (technically called an n-gram), you get back a graph displaying how usage of that phrase fluctuated over time.
Take the New York Times’ preferred educational stars from the Ivy League:
Given Columbia’s proximity to the New York Times’ offices, its prominence in the section makes sense. Harvard is the second most-mentioned of the Ivies, however, and is also the University that appears to have the highest rate of graduates with Latin honors. Rap Genius calculated the percentage of each school’s mentions that are preceded by the phrase “cum laude,” and received this:
What paints a more amusing, eye-opening picture is how often Harvard is mentioned next to Greater Boston’s other big-name institutions, though. According to this table, if you wanted to be featured in the New York Times last year—and didn’t go to Harvard—you…well…likely wouldn’t have been featured, but at least would have had a better chance if you attended Boston University.
Robert Woletz, the New York Times editor in charge of the hotly-debated section, has been known to say: “We’re looking for people who have achievements. It’s doesn’t matter what field those achievements are in.”
If you want to find your glowing, newly-engaged face in the pages of the New York Times, however, you better ensure “a Harvard degree” is among those achievements.