Two things to know about the New York Times article I'm about to critique:
1. It concerns a fake wedding.
2. I'm not sure the story is meant to be taken as real news.
My suspicion is that Times editors envisioned this feature as a light piece with some fun art — even if the article itself appeared in the A section of the print edition.
In other words, I feel a little awkward offering a serious analysis of a bizarre story on a phony ritual. The piece reads and feels more like journalistic cotton candy than real steak. So the lack of hard-hitting trend analysis in the piece probably shouldn't surprise me.
Nonetheless, I'll raise a question or two related to the holy ghosts that haunt this Times feature.
Before I do that, though, let's set the scene with the colorful opening:
BUENOS AIRES — On a Saturday night in Buenos Aires, hundreds of guests turned out for what might have been the wedding of the season. The bride and groom were all decked out. So were the witnesses, family and friends.
But the altar was actually a stage. The priest’s questions to the couple were not quite what one would hear in a church. The wedding rings were inflatable, the cake plastic and the Bible oversize. It was all a bit burlesque.
This was no ordinary wedding. In fact, it was no wedding at all, but a “falsa boda” in Spanish, or “fake wedding,” and a really good excuse for a party.
In case there was any doubt, as the couple (hired actors) left the stage, colored lights flashed, the disc jockey started the music pumping, and the announcement was made to the paying guests: “The wedding is fake, but the party is real.”
“The purpose of the ‘falsa boda’ is to convey joy and fun and live the happy moments related to love, without having to fall into the traditional ritual of what a marriage is,” explained Nacho Bottinelli, 30, one of the organizers.
What's causing this trend?
The Times provides a little insight:
Real weddings have been on the decline in Buenos Aires — less than half of what they were about 20 years ago — as couples are simply living together or waiting longer to marry.
When they do, they do not necessarily want a traditional church ceremony. In 2014, a Pew Research survey found only 20 percent of Argentines went to church regularly, one of the lowest figures in the region.
But Argentines still love a wedding.
And a little more from the story:
The fake wedding is telling of the social paradox of a country that remains traditional, and overwhelmingly culturally Roman Catholic, even as the divorce rate hovers around 50 percent and civil unions become accepted.
The spoof is at once a nod to tradition and a subversion of it. It has also become a thriving business. The events are successful enough that Mr. Bottinelli and his friends now stage them in Buenos Aires about once a month, sometimes more.
So what's missing?
For one thing, there's no input from church leaders: What do they think of this trend? Do they mind the fake weddings? Are they taking any steps to counter them?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Those are deep-dive kind of questions, and this is a shallow-tiptoe-through-a-wading-pool kind of story.