Monday, September 10, 2007

Wedding stories annoy some

Adam and Caitlin Nations are working their way through college. They were attracted to each other in part because of their interest in being missionaries. The bride, 21, and groom, 20, even have wonderful role models when it comes to marriage: Both sets of parents married at a young age and have stayed together.

If only all wedding stories could be so idyllic.

The reality is that the weekly "I do, I do" feature by M.C. Finotti sometimes raises hackles. That's true, in part, because her stories provide an unvarnished reflection of how local people meet, love, marry and have children - and not necessarily in that order.

One recent story was about a groom who had been twice married and twice divorced. For his third marriage he used index cards to describe in terms of "Hot, Hotter, Very Hot and Super Hot" his love for his bride. One reader found it all deeply disturbing.

"So distasteful that I wanted to shower after reading such solemn stuff," Sam Pringle wrote, urging that the weekly wedding stories be about more "normal" couples and first-time nuptials.
One recent and quite typical story was about a couple who met while looking for roommates on the Internet. They moved in together, the attraction flourished and they got married two years later.

Even casual readers of "I do, I do," can surmise that some couples live together, have children and then get married. That such nontraditional weddings are chronicled routinely says much about these times - and some readers have much to say about it.

"I do not think private behaviors that do not necessarily promote the values of the majority of your readers need to find voice in the newspaper," Pam Roberts wrote in April, being careful to say it wasn't her intent to make moral judgments about people's private lives.

"As I read the 'love story' and am caught up in the 'feel-good-isn't-that-nice' mode, I read the next line where the couple's child or children were the miniature bride/groom or attendants, and the feeling vanishes," Roberts said.

Most of the wedding stories are heartwarming features about how couples met, proposed and married - and we do have variety.

One straight couple met in a gay bar.

A dental hygienist introduced another couple after each had lamented to her about their love life.

Last week's story told how the woman arranged to have fireworks and bagpipers playing Amazing Grace when she proposed.

Today's offering is about a schoolteacher and a sailor who met via the Internet; their first kiss came during a walk on the beach.

One groom-to-be took his wife fishing and surprised her with a proposal amid a lights and fireworks show.

Another created an elaborate scheme to propose during what his wife thought was a focus group session.

And then there was the Indian groom who sat atop a 4-ton elephant and led a 150-person entourage, dancers and a band as it snaked through World Golf Village to a traditional Indian ceremony.

Finotti, a former television reporter in Jacksonville and a producer for CNN in New York and Washington, started writing the weddings feature early last year.

So how does Finotti find such interesting stories of love and marriage? Readers and wedding photographers suggest some, but she finds the majority of her subjects by reading the wedding announcements.

"What I mostly strive for is to bring in the whole gamut, rich people, poor people, divorced, interracial, everything," she said. "That to me is the essence of good journalism, to report on everything."

The writer of the wedding feature has been married for 24 years and has two children.
Her recently completed first novel, The Treasure of Amelia Island, will be published next year. It is historic fiction for young adults set in 1813.

Concerning her own courtship and wedding, would that have been the stuff of an "I do, I do" feature?

"You know what? No," Finotti laughed.

"It wasn't even a grand proposal or anything. He just said let's get married. And we had a small wedding of about 50 people."

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