Love in the Time of Bush

Dow is down, Love is up

Remember the days when single people were lording it over this town with their strappy sandals and $10 cocktails and saucy cynicism? No more. This Valentine’s Day, it’s a cold, cold time to be alone. For better or worse, Manhattan has gone marriage mad. Whether love really has come to town-or whether the cruel combination of frigid serial dating and a scary economy has simply driven New Yorkers to give up and say ‘I Do” when they don’t-the betrothal business is booming.

“I have never had so many wedding inquiries,” said Lawrence Harvey, executive director of catering at the Plaza Hotel for 14 years. “I’ve never seen this volume.”

“I’ve seen a trend of 25-year-olds acting like 29-year-olds, acting like their biological clocks are about to tick out,” said Dr. Michael Grove, a couples counselor on the Upper East Side. Indeed, downtown at the new Crate & Barrel on Houston Street, happy, chunky-scarf-clad young couples can be seen prowling the aisles-according to the store, its New York City registry traffic is up 30 percent. And even in this arid economy, the quarterly Martha Stewart Weddings -the glossy secret indulgence of many local female intelligentsia-is publishing a fifth issue for the first time ever.

An of course we’re bathing in TV love (the cranky, cozy cocoon of The Osbournes , the crass, mesmerizing pageantry of Joe Millionair e and The Bachelorette ); movie love (Kate Hudson, Reese Witherspoon), literary love (the determinedly boho Dave Eggers is rumored to be engaged), mogul love (Gerald Levin, Sumner Redstone), and even hot throbbing New York Times love (executive editor Howell Raines all the way down to food writer Amanda Hesser).

“Dating just seems really stagnant now, instead of marriage seeming stagnant,” said Rick Marin, author of Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor , who’s marrying lifestyle consultant Ilene Rosensweig.

“If you’re getting married, then it means you found true love,” said Ms. Rosenswieg, “and that’s a new status thing.”