I’ve always considered myself a good speech writer and deliver. There’s something performative that I can take from my training and apply it to when I stand before conferences or at events to deliver a speech. Writing the speech for my sister’s wedding was a different story. I can write about theatre and the arts until I am blue in the face, but to speak about someone so close to me, and the journey she was about to embark on with her husband was challenging.
In some faint attempt at doing some research into writing wedding speeches (as if the Internet would actually have the answer to something so personal!), I came across the following quote:
“Giving a great speech about someone you love is like giving them a present you know they’ll adore”
This became the stimulus for the speech I eventually came to write for my sister and my brother-in-law. It may start with a slight curve-ball, but by the end I think I managed to give them something that truly they could cherish, like the wedding vows they had said earlier that day.
The Gap Between the Words I and Do
I was recently at an old work colleague’s wedding. It was the first wedding I’ve attended as an adult, and to say that I was apprehensive would have been an understatement. “What do I know about weddings?” I thought to myself as the invitation arrived. Not knowing what to expect, and knowing that I would be attending with her family, and her friends, and the chances of me knowing anyone was slim I had a nervous anticipation towards going, I even contemplated making excuses to avoid feeling uncomfortable.
At the ceremony itself, I slid to the back, knowing that there were more important people – her family and her close friends – that needed to be closer to the service and the big day than me. But as the ceremony began, and I saw my friend standing there with her eyes beaming, and the biggest smile imaginable across her face, I lost all sense of nervous anticipation and became elated. There was my friend embarking on a new life, telling the man that she loved that she was his present and his future, and that against sickness or health, she would always be there and I was part of that.
The registrar was also conscious that the ceremony they were conducting should not just be for those getting married before them, but also for those gathered around them. Gesturing to her family, her friends, to the ones at the back, like me, the registrar called forth our witness for the bringing together of these two people. We, all of us, together in that ceremony become the beginnings of a new life for the husband and wife.
Looking on at my friend I realised that my presence at her wedding was just as valuable as the family and the close friends she had around her. That together, all of us present were part of the future that she was making with her husband, and that together, we all loved her.
The ceremony made me realise that a wedding is not about the bride and the groom (sorry Kay, sorry Mike), it’s about a shared moment between everyone in a room with the two people they love and care about.
We, as those present, are part of the circle that forms the wedding bands on the fingers.
We, as those present, are the gaps between the words, I and Do.
We, as those present, are the continual gift after the dress and suit is packed away.
We, as those present, will love, care, and honour this day because we, as those present love and care and honour you both.
Today is a celebration of your marriage but it is also a celebration of everyone here and the love we have for you both. And today I may have had a nervous anticipation at the thought of attending, but it is not through an unknown, it is through a nervous joy of seeing everyone here coming to celebrate the present and the future of two people I truly love and care about.
Whether we’re family, or a friend, whether we’re a bride’s man, or the icing on the cake, we are here for you, always, and forever.
Because we love you, Kay, and we love you Mike, always.