I’m amidst The Wedding Years, that decade from 25-35 when one’s social calendar is consumed by weddings. I don’t view this as a good or bad thing—just part of the circle of life, as modern, Western humans.
In addition to open bars and chatting with crazy Aunts in the bathroom, one of my favorite parts of weddings is the toasts. These speeches are formulaic, but vary widely in terms of entertainment value and degree of uncomfortableness induced. My favorite, of course, are the highly entertaining, highly uncomfortable toasts. My least favorite, of course, are those that incorporate a cappella singing.
As a self-proclaimed connoisseur and critic of wedding toasts, here is my advice for the most common types of wedding toasters.
1) The younger sister of the bride:
This should be short and sweet. Say how much you look up to your big sis, and how you’re so happy that she’s so happy with Ryan. We’ll all tear up a bit because sisterly love. That’s all it takes to deliver a grade-A younger sister speech.
A poor execution is: The younger sister is in college. She’s 2-4 years younger, 10-15 pounds skinnier, and three shades fake-tanner than the bride. She babbles…
“…and after Katie went to University of Michigan I just knew I wanted to go to University of Michigan—go Wolverines!—and because Katie was in Delta Delta Delta, I joined Delta Delta Delta…”
And at some point she stops talking, but it’s unclear whether she stopped talking because the speech was over or because she was too overcome with emotion to continue. Either way, that speech clearly deserves a big fat D. Yet, I am astonished to see the rest of my table crying. What the fuck was moving about that speech? The woman to my left says, “you don’t understand because you don’t have a sister.”
2) The mother of the groom:
Talk about how adorably dependent your son is. Tell a funny story about how he still didn’t know how to iron a shirt in his second year of law school. Say how much you love the bride. Say how much you love them both.
For bonus entertainment/awkwardness value, add some blatant racist/homophobic/sexist subtext, like…
“… We’re just so happy that he found such a nice girl like Katie—someone who comes from a good family, you know, good stock…”
“…in today’s society with so many different types of families, it’s nice to see a good man, marrying a good woman, in a proper marriage, just as God intended…”
“…And I just know Katie is going to take care of him and keep the house in order while Ryan is off working so hard!”
The audience shifts uncomfortably in their seats, but will politely ignore the implications of these comments, like a fart in the room.
3) The frat brother best man:
This class of toast resonates best when the frat brother is sloppy drunk and thinks the toast is a roast.
“…before Ryan met Katie he was seeing so many chicks, we never thought he could settle for one! I mean, every night of the week, coming home with another woman. I mean, you know what I mean?”
We force laughs out of our constricted lungs, followed by big gulps of wine to ease the suffocating awkwardness.
“…and who here remembers his Asian chick phase?…”
Did he really just say that? Everyone in the audience wants to die.
“…and the night he met Katie, he was supposed to be my wingman. I was the one who noticed her, but he just swooped in there like a jackass and two years later, here we are…”
Katie is flushed and furious. She’s always hated Schmitty. She knew Schmitty would ruin the wedding. Oh man, Katie is going to kill Schmitty and it’s going to be awesome.
My favorite father of the bride speeches occur in instances when the father perceives his daughter’s partner to be inadequate.
A stern, erudite-looking man takes the microphone. He clears his throat.
“Katie has always been independent minded. When she was a little girl she insisted on dressing herself, which led to some questionable, eccentric outfits. As she aged, she continued to obstinately deflect our advice at every juncture—choosing a college, choosing a career, choosing to move in with Ryan after only knowing him for three months…”
At this point I’m drunk exclusively from tension-cutting gulps of wine.
“…but Katie is defiant and she knows her own heart. If she says Ryan is the man for her, then that’s what she says. To Katie, my beloved daughter.”
Come on Dad, at least she’s not marrying Schmitty!
5) The friend who wasn’t asked to give a toast:
After the planned toasts conclude, another guests stands on his chair. It’s Jonathan Fitzpatrick, a friend and rival of Ryan since their teenage boarding school days. He’s that spotlight-loving friend who does improv and a cappella and other such shit.
“Hi everyone, I wasn’t asked to make a speech, but I couldn’t let the moment go unseized. I have known Ryan for probably longer than anyone here, aside from his family. When I met Ryan we were freshmen, at tryouts for the tennis team at Exeter. I had a spot more or less locked down because of my drop shot…”
Jonathan drones on with a dull blend of self-promotion, Ryan-belittlement, and d-bag nostalgia.
“…I have such fond memories of our couples’ weekends on the Cape…”
“…you should have seen Ryan his first happy hour with the firm. I mean, Katie you know, Ryan is a great man, but he cannot hold his Blue Label…”
I’ve stopped paying attention. I’m texting. I’m scrolling through Twitter. I’m scanning the room for potential make out partners.
And then the unthinkable happens.
“Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba…”
The Zulu lyrics from the beginning of The Lion King, “Circle of Life,” jar me from my contemplative, make-out partner strategizing. WHAT IS HAPPENING?
“From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun…”
Justin is delivering an unsolicited, solo a cappella performance as a tribute to the bride and groom. The audience automatically begins clapping, thereby becoming culpable enablers rather than innocent bystanders.
“There’s more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done…”
He leaps down from the chair and takes center stage. This song is happening. It cannot be stopped. I slam my head against the table and leave it there until the gratuitous spectacle has ended. Welcome to the Wedding Years, a sometimes brutal part of the circle, the circle of life.
These savannah animals are really thinking, “just shut the fuck up.”