Sometimes life throws you a curveball. Last weekend I got back from a friend’s wedding where I took a swing at one such curveball, which came in the form of a wedding speech. A few days before the wedding, the bride contacted me and asked if I would be willing to do a speech after the ceremony, as she and my friend, the groom, had someone on the bride’s side doing a speech and they wanted someone on the groom’s side to do one also. I was not expecting this and was completely unprepared, but accepted anyways. Panic started to set in, but I had a chance to be a blessing to my friend and was determined to take a shot at this simultaneously honoring and frightening opportunity.
I began my speech planning where most quests begin these days, on the Internet. There I found many websites with tips on making a good wedding speech. These tips were very helpful and I got some ideas on the general format of a speech, but as I read more I came to the realization that I couldn’t just mimic some speech off of the Internet. It needed to be my speech, not someone else’s. With that conviction, I opened a Word document and started to outline the speech. The opening and closing sections were fairly straightforward; I would open by introducing myself and thanking everyone who helped make the wedding happen, and I would close with a Scriptural blessing followed by a toast. The body, however, went through multiple revisions over the three days that I pondered the speech. Ideas came and went. Paragraphs were written, rewritten and sometimes thrown out altogether. I originally had a few jokes in my speech, but they just weren’t meshing with the more serious tone I was developing, so they eventually were all dropped. The night before my departure I was looking at the final draft of the speech. I wanted to do some more work on it, but I was out of time, so I printed the speech and put it in my backpack. With the busy schedule I had leading up to the wedding I knew that at this point only slight revisions could now be made.
Sure enough, over the next two days I had almost no time to work on the speech or even memorize it. I flew out to Chicago and got busy helping with the wedding preparations. Working on the wedding arrangements occupied my days and social events claimed my evenings and nights. On the day of the wedding I took one last look at my sheet of paper. One sentence had been reworded but that was the only revision I had been able to make. With time having run out, I stuffed the sheet of paper into my suit pocket and departed for the wedding venue.
The wedding ceremony itself was a mixed bag of emotions. On one hand I was overjoyed and proud of my friend but there was also this feeling of nervousness and dread hanging over me. The ceremony, glorious and beautiful, came to a close and I got to see my friend officially become a husband. Everyone then went downstairs to where the dinner was and we all took our seats after a few minutes of standing around and socializing. Sitting in my seat I pulled out my sheet of paper and read through my speech over and over again, hoping to get a least part of it memorized before my time came. A little while later the wedding DJ announced that the bride and groom would be making speeches along with two of their friends, and that was my cue to head up to the front. The bride and groom both made short speeches and then the bride’s cousin delivered her speech. With the cousin’s speech done, the microphone was handed off and all eyes were on me. I didn’t have my speech memorized, I could feel my tongue already starting to stutter and a distinct sense of panic was coursing through my entire body, but there was no turning back. My mouth opened, one word followed another, and I gave my speech. I introduced myself, thanked those involved in the wedding, talked about all the years I had known my friend and how he had grown as a man, told the story of my last visit to see him and seeing the relationship he had built with the woman who would become his bride, congratulated the couple, blessed them, and then proposed a toast. Everyone raised their glasses and drank, and then the applause started. The bride and groom both hugged me and thanked me for the speech and then I returned to my chair, nerves frayed beyond reason.
For much of the rest of the night I was fielding praise from other wedding guests. There wasn’t anything particularly great about my speech and my lack of oratory skills were clearly on display while I delivered it, but it seemed everyone was in love with my performance. I couldn’t square my perception of the speech with everyone else’s. In my mind I gave a mediocre speech that had been hastily prepared and spoken with little skill. It seemed everyone else had heard a moving speech spoken from the heart. The truth is probably somewhere in-between. Maybe it was a good speech, or maybe everyone was just being nice to me, but if it blessed my friend and his bride and brought joy to those in attendance, then I guess that’s all that matters.