WILTON, Connecticut. In this leafy suburb of New York, it is possible to go for months without seeing one’s next-door neighbors, says A.J. “Tony” Ward, a long-time resident. “That’s what two-and-a-half-acre zoning will do for you,” he says with a mixture of pride and chagrin. “It does make it hard when you need to borrow a glass of white wine for a recipe.”
“See? No animal sacrifice–just like I promised!”
That sense of privacy also leads to isolation, however, creating feelings of suspicion between members of different religious denominations. “I really didn’t know many Presbyterians growing up,” says Emily Hawkins, an Episcopalian. “Until I met my sweetie, I thought they had horns and cloven hooves,” she says with the easy laugh that won the heart of her fiance, Jed Montrose, an investment banker.
“Well of course I want my golden to go to heaven with me!”
But couples who cross the religious border line between Protestant denominations often find their lives complicated by doctrinal and social differences, says local marriage counselor Pamela Winthrop. “Episcopalians tend to split their investments 60% stocks, 40% bonds,” she says. “Presbyterians tend to be more conservative, and limit stocks to 55% of their portfolios, max.”
“He bought me a large-cap mutual fund for Valentine’s Day!”
That sort of fine distinction may seem trivial to an outsider, but to one inured to the folkways of a particular Protestant church, they can seem like a sea-change. “When I was a little girl service started at 11:00 sharp, right after Sunday school,” says Melinda Hall, a Presbyterian who married a Methodist. “Now we don’t start until 11:30, and my stomach growls so loud I have to suck on Mentos mints to make it to coffee hour!”
Religious leaders applaud the new willingness among young WASPs–white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants–to reach across denominational lines in search of romance, but caution that cultural differences can make the early years of marriage harder.
“Presbyterians tend to prefer paddle tennis,” an outdoor game played with short-handled wooden paddles on heated courts during the winter, says Rev. Creighton Abrams of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Old Lyme, Connecticut, “while Episcopalians are more likely to play squash,” an indoor game played with long, badminton-like racquets. “If you don’t get the eye-hand coordination of a mixed marriage right, you can end up giving your spouse a nasty shiner.”
Snake handling Baptists
One thing the three wealthiest Protestant denominations agree on, however–you don’t want to “go Baptist,” a reference to the Protestant sect favored by low-income Americans. “It’s no wonder those people are so fat,” says Ellen Waldorf. “All they ever do for exercise is snake-handling.”