The wedding speech

13331134_10156934534890048_7403586522810695843_n.jpgI still have one guest post left, an original story by James Wylder that technical issues prevented me from running Saturday and then laziness/post-wedding cold issues prevented me from running today.  It will run sometime this week.  

This is the speech– lightly edited to change names– that I gave during the wedding ceremony.  The most amazing thing about this wedding?  It POURED all day long.  I got as angry with a bride as I’ve ever been when I found out she’d declared that we were going to “risk it” and we were going to be outside for the ceremony.  My entire script and my entire speech were written in ink on paper.  It was going to be a disaster, and I already had a cold coming on. 

The ceremony was at 5:30.  At 5:00 the skies cleared to a perfect blue, and not a drop of rain fell for the entire evening.  I ad-libbed the word “miraculous” into the first couple of sentences of the ceremony, and got a wave of applause from the crowd.  I cannot believe the weather worked out the way it did.

And I will never doubt my sister-in-law’s word again.  🙂

When my brother first asked me to be the officiant for his wedding, I agreed to do it immediately, but on one condition: I got five minutes, during the ceremony, where I could say whatever I wanted—and neither he nor <his wife> got to see the speech beforehand.

They have absolutely no idea what I’m about to say.

Manic laughter.

This is an odd position for me to be in as a writer.  Authors strive to write words that are remembered.  I remember one sentence from the speech at my own wedding, and I’m pretty sure that the only way any of you are going to remember a word I say is if I screw something up.  I’ve had nightmares—literal, actual, sweaty nightmares—about standing up here and getting Sarah’s name wrong.

(Note: the bride’s name is not Sarah.)

I slaved over this speech, though.  These words that I’m saying to you now represent the fourth draft.  The first contained fifteen swear words, one of which was in Russian.  The third was virtually nothing but references to movies and hiphop music.  The second was an attempt to take my responsibilities as officiant Very Seriously—and I actually have those words capitalized in print—and is probably best not spoken of.

I don’t do earnest and serious all that well.  I do pop culture references quite well, but those of you who don’t have The Princess Bride memorized probably won’t appreciate a speech strewn with references to blessed arrangements and rodents of unusual size.  And while “prepare to die” has probably been used in reference to marriage at some point, you won’t be hearing it from me.

I’m going to come back to the movie in a moment, though.  Be ready for it.

My wife and I just celebrated our eighth anniversary a few months ago.  Compared to our families, we’re amateurs.  Our parents—my brother’s and mine— have been married for 43 years.  My wife’s parents got married in 1971.  And the <bride’s family> are not slouches at this either; Sue <bride’s mom’s maiden name> became Sue <bride’s last name> in 1979.  So while there are a lot of people who have had more experience at being married than I have, we’ve been lucky to have a lot of good examples around us to look up to.

So if I have some wisdom to pass along, it’s this: To the outside world, the two of you are now one person.  You will have disagreements in private.  If you don’t, it’s probably a sign that your marriage isn’t as healthy as it could be.  But outside your home, it needs to be the two of you united against the world.  Your first responsibility to your spouse is to support him or her against any and all external challenges.  To be a rock even if you feel more like gravel.  Even—perhaps most importantly—when you disagree in private.  This will become even more important in the future when your children enter the picture.  Remember: you chose your spouse on purpose.  You got to pick each other.  The kids were something that happened to you.  Back each other up: at all times, against all comers.  Forever.

In public, you are one.  In public, it is you against the world.  In public, make it the truth: that when all is lost, there will be you.

But back to the movie.

The Princess Bride actually does contain some great advice for marriage in it, despite the fact that the famous wedding scene contains only one willing participant.  It’s a phrase repeated endlessly at the beginning of the movie and also the final line.

(To bride and groom)  You know what I’m talking about?

The bride did.  I don’t know for sure that my brother heard the question.

“As you wish.”

At home, learn the phrase “as you wish.”  And use it.  Frequently.  There will be hard days.  There will be days where both of you get home sick and tired from work, and you will realize that you need to lay your own burdens aside, because your partner’s needs are greater.  You may both be too tired to cook.  Dig deep, and be the one that goes and gets Chinese food.

Did that sound like a ridiculous example?  Half of my disputes with my wife are about which one of us is going to go get dinner.   Learn “as you wish.”  Figure out a way to divide chores so that each of you is doing the work that you were most likely to do on your own anyway.  But when the other needs you to do theirs?  Again, remember those three simple words:  “as you wish.”

The floor will need to be vacuumed.  The bills will need to be paid.  The lawn will need to be mowed.  When the kids come, the diapers will need to be changed and one of you will inevitably have to decide that that day you will be the bad cop.

You will both have days where you need comforting.  You will both have days where you are sick or hurt and need help.  You will both have days where you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will murder someone and go to jail with a smile on your face if you have to leave the house again.  And you will both have days where the thing you need most is a firm slap on the side of your head and a reminder of all the things you have in your life that are going right.

Learn those words.  “As you wish.”  And remember what you are really saying when you use them.  “I love you.”

I could not be happier to be standing here right meow.  I love you both.  But this is where it gets official.  Are we ready?

And we moved to the “I do” part.  About half a dozen people in the crowd caught the meow.