Monday, 12 May 2014

The Seventeenth Post : Best Man Speech (with additional notes)

Recently I was lucky enough to be asked to be the best man at my best friends (Male:Edinburgh based:over 40) wedding.
It was a big deal for me as its one of those things that should be on every guys list of things to do during a lifetime but I honestly thought that it wasn't going to happen for me. I noticed a wee while ago that most best men come from the same family, brothers or cousins usually, or from lifelong friends. Friends from childhood or school/uni or have known each other for decades and have been through and shared loads of those formative experiences together.

And I don't have that. Coming from a family that is notoriously bad at keeping in touch with each other has seen some tangled family ties loosen and erode over the half a lifetime since I moved half a world away from them and from any of the places where I grew up and went to school.
Added to the mild form of disconnect I feel to almost everything in the world, and the chances that anyone could see through the fog of distractions I distort into a barrier, it would be slim chance that anyone would have the patience to hang around long enough in my social circle for me to realise that we were friends, actually friends, and even slimmer chance to be good enough friends to even consider me as a best man type of friend.

I thought I’d have to add ‘Being a Best man’ to the list of things that just aren't gonna work out.
And then there was Ross.

Poor, foolish Ross. Ross who likes me. Ross who thinks I’m cool.  Ross who thinks we’re friends. Ross who asked me to be his best man.
I blushed when he asked me to be his best man, not because I was embarrassed, but because I was flattered in the extreme and honoured beyond belief. I spluttered and stuttered for a while before I, of course, said yes. But as we shook hands on it I held on looked him dead in the eye and told him that I will agree to be his best man until he picks someone else to do it. Someone better qualified. Someone who knows him better. Someone he likes better.

He said that there was no one else he wanted to ask and that I would be great at it. And he trusted me not to embarrass him too much. He said he thought i was cool.
Poor, foolish, deluded Ross !!!

I went on to tell him that it can't be a reciprocal deal as I’m already married, have no intention of not being married anytime soon, and on the unlikely event that I would ever find myself being married ever again I have already promised the best man duties away to someone else.

He was fine with this too claiming that he had already been best man twice before and had no intention of ever doing it ever again.
I went on to warn him that I would be doing my favourite wedding joke of all time ... I told him the joke ... he groaned, shoulders slumped, and turned away shaking his head.

Let’s skip forward some time and a lot of faffing around and Ross and his lovely fiancĂ©, Joanne, elope to Chicago to get married leaving everyone waiting for them at a reception which has now become an informal wedding party with a ceilidh band and D.J. planned.
A subtle enquiry from me regarding if anyone is still getting to do a speech gets a nervous reply of ‘There will be a microphone available on the night if anyone wants to make a speech.’ followed by a frowning face.

He’s beginning to realise his error.
I smile and deadpan ‘Good.’

Ross turns away. Brow furrowed. He has realised his error.

Below is the speech as written in the weeks before the wedding party. Once it was done and I read it through and out loud a couple of times I realised it was a little bit long. Actual running time was 26 min. Probably a bit too long and I sent out an enquiry to my facebook friends asking how long a speech should be. ‘A lot fucking shorter’ was the general response received. I sent out copies to people I trusted the opinions of and asked their advice and the replies all said that it was good. Just what was needed. But still I worried about the length of it. A couple of late night revisions trimmed it down to 25 min running time ... I’d put loads of effort into it, and I didn't want it to be a waste ... plus I liked it !!!
Fuck it. I’m doing it. The whole thing. Too bad if nobody likes it.

Some last minute confidence denting by my own good lady wife about the running time threw me off balance (“Google says that the running time for a best man speech should be no more than 7 minutes. Any more than that and you will lose the audience...  its not too late to back out you know.... I just don't want you to suck at it !!!”)  But I was ready and determined to do my best man speech.
Then I remembered the best pieces of advice I’d been given about it from my good friend Chris Rutherford (to whom, in the rare event that I should ever be married again, has already been lined up to be my best man.) He said I'd try and stay aware of the mood in the room. Don't be afraid to jettison material if you are winning. 10-15 sounds better. Nothing worse than a speech on an empty pint...

There were three steps up to the stage and as I climbed them I thought to myself ... Write a long speech. If it’s going badly, dump stuff and get to the end. If it’s going well, dump stuff and get to the end.
Play it by ear.

And that’s what I did.

A note on coloured fonts.

Black = was written in the speech and delivered on the night.
Pink = cut before I took the stage

Blue = dumped it while I was on the stage.


Well, let me start with a few housekeeping issues.
Firstly there are a few stag dou t-shirts left over from the big man’s big night and they are going at the heavily reduced price of only £5.

Bargain. White lettering on black t-shirt (I ad libbed ... “with the lettering “I’M NOT” on the front, which makes total sense when you're standing next to the stag coz his t-shirt said “IM ROSS AND IM GETTING MARRIED”. So, as you can tell it was a pretty crap joke that was only funny on one night of the world, and that’s already in the past !!!”) ... with all the important dates on the back ... just like a tour dates t-shirt. with the stag dou on 30th march, which just so happens to be mother’s day this year (and the start of British summer time), wedding on 18th of April, which just happens to be good Friday, and the wedding party on today the 4th of may, which just so happens to be star wars day ... so what we have here is a pattern of a guy who is so mental that important dates mean nothing to him.... OR ... a guy who is so smart that he picked dates that mean he will never forget them in the future !!!

There is one fatal flaw in his genius plan though and that is, he’s never remembered mother’s day in his life, so that that fucked, despite looking like a short bald ginger version of Chewbacca he's never mentioned anything about star wars to me ever, so that’s that fucked, and Easter changes its position in the calendar every year ... the next time good Friday will be on the 18th of April again will be in the year 2025 ... so , in short mate, your genius plan is fucked right up the shitter!!!
Nice try though. But as every married guy knows the only true way to remember your wedding anniversary is to forget it ... once!!! You’ll always remember it after that.

Anyway, back to the t-shirts ... only a fiver ... Good quality as I’ve put mine through the wash once and it just about came out with the print intact!!!
There have been a few enquiries on the sweepstakes/odd running in the book.

And yes it’s true, there is a book running on the marriage and the bookmaker asked me to give a quick reminder on the odds for those of you who don't already know...
We have ‘Happily ever after’ as the rank outsider at 1000/1

‘till death do us part’ 900/1
Meanwhile ‘murdered/suicide’ odds have been slashed, much more likely at 100/1

‘Golden wedding’ - some romantics in the crowd have foolishly picked this one to come in but perhaps they didn't realise that the golden wedding celebrates 50 years of marriage. 50 years people ... Ross will be 97 by that time.... assuming he's not buried by then that is. Mind you generous odds of 50/1 have suckered in a few of you novice punters so, that’s more fuel for the bookies retirement fund. Jamaica here I come ... hehehehe ...
Incidentally, did you know the name for the anniversary for being married 90 years is ‘stone’ and the traditional gift for your stone wedding anniversary is engraved marble or granite.

So, assuming that Ross lives to be 137 and is still married to the lovely Joanne, the traditional gift she will be giving him is a tombstone !!! So at least there's that to look forward to eh buddy!!!
Meanwhile, back to the odds ...

Ruby - 40/1
Silver - 25/1

10 years time - 20/1

Some people have complained that the odds haven't improved much between 10 years married and 25 years married and that’s because if you can stand something for 10 years you have probably grown numb to everything around you and see an additional 15 years of it as a blink of an eye.
As highlighted by the seemingly easier to reach years like

5 years - 100/1
2 years - 200/1

1 year - 10/1
Six months - 50/1 ... probably the tastiest of the odds.

Betting is suspended on ‘until the end of the best man speech’ - 2/1 ... could go either way that one, I’ve quite a lot to say and not all of it is good. !!!
And ‘Not even been married at all’ is even money and also the favourite at the moment, and coincidentally where my money is at too!!!

So if you fancy a flutter, seek out the bookie. And if you fancy a flirt check out the bridesmaids!!!

Before I start my speech properly I would like to say that I am quite nervous about public speaking. Please bear with me because it’s not something that comes naturally to me. In fact, this is the fifth time today I’ve risen from a warm seat with a piece of paper full of shit in my hand.
But let me just say that this is only the 4th wedding I’ve ever been to. The first was my own dads wedding to my step mother. Burrrrr. Cold day that was, the coldest on record in Australia, but I heard that hell was significantly colder!!!

I’m not saying that the place where I come from was a bit rural, a bit redneck but .... at some point before the wedding a groomsman went up to the bride's father and said,
"Sorry cobber, the wedding's off. some joker's upstairs rootin the bride and You've run out of beer".

A few minutes later he returns saying, "It's ok, blue, the wedding's back on. Someone's turned up with another keg of beer...”

When the bride’s father who it was that was rooting his daughter the groomsman replied that it was just  her cousin , which was perfectly fine in that part of Australia.

Just as an aside, I hedged my bets with the bookie that day and put a dollar on them lasting six months and another dollar on them lasting 7 years. In the end I came up short on both slips and even though they aren't together anymore, neither of them talk to me. But I don't talk about that very often.

The second was to a young Mormon couple I met when I first moved over to Edinburgh.
I didn't even know they were Mormons until I showed up at the wedding and found out that the bride wasn't pregnant, but her mother was.

Mind you, I shoulda known that he was a Mormon when I heard that, when checking into the hotel room on the stag night he asked the receptionist "I hope your porn is disabled."
To which the receptionist replied, "No. It's just regular porn, you sick fuck."!!!
When I was younger, I thought Mormons were lucky because of that multiple wife thing. I thought it must be great to have as many sexy wives as they wanted.
Then I got married, and after almost 20 years of marriage ... I just feel sorry for the cunts bastards.

Anyway, I somehow managed to fall out with him when I told him the old joke about marriage being a three ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering. (You have that to look forward to Ross, and Joanne !!!)  But what really led to my falling out with the Mormons was when I asked if Mormon husbands can get wedding rings that say "One ring to rule them all"?
I don't know if they are still together, or if he has any more wives’, because neither of them talk to me anymore. And I don't talk about that very often.

No booze at a Mormon wedding. And no bookmaking either.  Those boring bastards !!!

Then there was Jane and hutch. There still together. 5 years now. Lost money on those fuckers bastards too!!!
Boring bastards. Plenty of booze at their wedding and they were still boring bastards.

They still talk to me, but I wish they didn't !!!
And of course there was my own wedding. Yep, I did attend my own wedding and so did one of the prettiest red heads I’ve ever had the good luck to bump into outside the registry office who was game for a laugh and had a spare afternoon and who couldn't believe that I wanted to stay in Scotland.
I joined the “Married a feisty red head” club 20 days before my work visa ran out and still going strong almost 20 years later, so I guess the answer to what makes a marriage last is fear that the authorities might knock on the door and deport me any day now ... mind you, sometimes I think about ringing immigration and reporting myself !!!

(So, if Scotland becomes an independent nation Joanne has this fear to look forward to!!!) I wonder if that will influence Ross’s vote  come September!!!
After almost 20 years of marriage neither of us speaks to each other either, but I don't talk about that very often.

One of the other things that helps make a marriage last a long time is gaining a better sense of when to duck!!! Guys who don't duck are dead ducks.
I lost money on that fucking my own wedding too!!! Mind you happily ever after hasn't run out yet so my betting slip for that one is still good!!!

The other thing that helps a marriage last a long time is some heavy duty crawling every now and then. Top tip !!!
But I jest, I’m joking ... and a husband is living proof that a wife can take a joke. This is how we all know that Joanne has one of the best senses of humour around.

So the history of my wedding going experience is chequered to say the least, but the good news is that this is the first time that I’ve ever been the best man at a wedding, so that should fuck buck the trend !!! (buck... buck... what, I said ‘buck’ !!!)
But before I start the best man speech there are a few telegrams from people who couldn't be here tonight ...

The first telegram says “sorry we can't make it along today but we wish you all the best in your long and happy marriage together.”
From Bob Farken, Gail Farken,  Nanna farkin
And the whole Farken family!”

There is a telegram from the clinic. They say ... “it’s good news: you’re in the clear.” And that to Joanne.... so that is good news isn't it Ross!!!
There's another telegram from the clinic. They say ... “it’s NOT good news: and you need to go in and see them first thing on Monday.”
And that’s to Ross ... well that’s your evening fucked then isn't it !!! And yours too Joanne !!!

Moving on ... “Joanne, upon hearing of your wedding we cancelled your current order and have had to lay off five workers.
Congratulations anyway.
From Management and remaining staff, Energizer batteries.”

I’m sure Joanne will renew her subscription when the novelty wears off ... this time next week then !!!
Mind you, considering the previous telegram from the clinic perhaps you'd better get that supply of batteries on order again, eh?

I’d just like to read one from James, the landlord at The Blue Blazer, where Ross and Joanne like to go for a drink on the occasional night with a “y” in it:
Did you hear that in an effort to curb their drinking for a while Ross and Joanne made a rule that they could only go to the pub on days that had a “R” in them.... days like MondRay !!!

I actually remember in the early days of them dating, back when it was all based on alcohol, I said to Ross that you’d wanna be careful burning the wick at both ends. An old fella like yourself needs regular rest and you can't be showing up to work hung-over every day. But he reassured me that he’d been having less hangovers since he's started dating Joanne, probably based on the amount of sweaty exercise they were having together, late at night, if you know what I mean !!!
(A groan from the crowd caused me to add lib ... “hey, if I had to live with that mental image I don't see why you all shouldn't either !!!! )

... anyway ...

“Congratulations to you both. Sorry I can’t be there today but work’s work, and there’s a big crowd in for the football. Everyone sends their love, and the punters ask if you could send us a picture of the beaming bride and groom, mounted.” [pause, then look up] Surely just a peck on the cheek would do?’
“To Joanne,
I was devastated to hear you are now off the market, but all the best for your future.
George Clooney”

George is clearly someone who knows a good thing when he sees it. Mind you, I do wish he would just settle down and get married like the rest of us, the smug bastard!!! Missed your chance there jojo !!!
“To Ross,
I was devastated to hear you are now off the market, but all the best for your future.
George Michael”

ohm, George is clearly someone who can't tell an shit from sugar, which is why you should NEVER get him to make you a cup of tea !!! Clearly someone who can't tell his ass from an elbow ... which says a lot about his lifestyle I suppose.
Moving on, quickly.

“Marriage is like a beautiful tree - it starts off with a good root. From B & Q garden centres.”
“A honeymoon couple is like a kitchen table – Four bare legs and no draws. From D.M.F. kitchens.”

“Congratulations on your wedding. We hope that just because you are now married you won't stop coming to see us on a regular basis.
Love and best wishes from all the girls at After Eight club.'
... And that one was for Joanne ...

This one is for Ross though ...
“Why you no come back Bangkok?
Why you no send money no more?
The kids all miss you

And lastly, the big gun ...
I knew this day was coming late last year so I had time to send out a few requests to really big name celebrities and thinkers and world leaders and I ran into a brick wall with most of them but there was one awesome guy who actually wrote something to pass onto the lucky couple and that guy was ...

Nelson Mandela- ... “I can see a bright future for you both! Or is it just the white light...?”
But enough of that. Now, on to the best man speech proper. But before I start, let me just say that...

When I asked about for advice on what a best man speech should be like people said ... “A best man's speech should be like a mini-skirt; short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover the bare essentials.” and keep it brief because , ‘Brevity is, indeed, the soul of wit. And I explain this in greater detail on page 72 of my speech.
And whatever you do, don't mention the stag dou...

“When I first heard Ross was getting married I was overjoyed, and really looking forward to our special day.  ... The stag do…” finally, I thought, I get to go on a proper bloody stag night. I missed my dad’s because I was nine, the boring bloody Mormon didn't even have one and I dint go to hutches because, we’re not friends !!!

And then he asked me to be the best man and I realized that I’d have to organize the bloody thing myself and that took some of the shine of it for everyone I think.

But I think I did a good job and even organized a stripper, which, I’ve been told I can’t mention, which is a shame because HE was really nice.

Well, the only rule I was aware of for a stag night was that there are no girls aloud, and  ... there weren't any ladies there were there ... ?!!!

Who knew that DIDN'T extended to the striper as well !!! Mind you, he had nice legs didn't he Ross? Looked good in that dress. Bit confusing wasn’t it Ross? Still I’m glad you managed to persuade Joanne to wear the same dress for her wedding outfit!!!

People said, mention the catering and be a little saucy ... but don't be sleazy. Something like...

The wedding night should be like a good chicken meal -
- a little bit of breast
- a little bit of leg

.... and a lot of stuffing!

And I notice that Ross is feeding us a pig !!!  Don’t know what that says about what he thinks of his wife ... but ...  perhaps there’s going to be a little bit of spit roasting going on later !!! Let it be known that I will be happy to step in and rise to my best man duties !!! just sayin !!!
And what else has he fed us tonight ... salad ... I wonder if he’s going to get his salad tossed later tonight?!!!

 Onto the speech ...

So in time-honoured best man tradition, I will do my best to give Ross the most uncomfortable five minutes of his life. For the record, the most uncomfortable five minutes of Joanne’s life will be coming later on this evening, courtesy of Ross.

Ross has been really worried about this speech. So worried, in fact, that he's been tearing his hair out.

I’ve enjoyed myself so much tonight that I hope I get invited to Ross’s next wedding too. But to be honest, it’s more likely to be Joanne’s next wedding as she will probably outlive the old bastard.

 But the speech, the speech... let’s start the speech...

Let me start by saying that it’s been an emotional day, even the cake is in tiers !!!

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great privilege to stand here before you as the best man on the special occasion of Ross and Joanne’s wedding party.
I can honestly say that there is no other couple I would rather have late night discussions about the meaning of life, the concerns of death, the mysteries of the universe and, well, just about everything. No one I’d rather walk across small countries with or subtly subvert the language to include more hitchhikers’ guide to the galaxy references. And no two people I’d rather welcome into the “Married to a feisty redhead club” than the two of these amazing and wonderful people.

I haven’t been close enough to know all the intimate details of their relationship, although I have heard few that would make a Mormon blush, but I have been privileged to be able to be there right from the start when it was just a few random drunken fumbles with the cute redhead from front of house, to something more substantial that resembled a relationship.
I’ve been able to watch it grow from the seed of ‘like’ to the full grown flower of ‘love’ that is in perennial bloom before us all today. Fed by a rainbow of sunshine and optimism and alcohol and nurtured in a bed of deep lust.

I’ve seen it develop from ‘it’s nothing really’ to being something really, even if a proper label couldn't be attached to it. From fun time friends to more than that. From not talking about her to never bloody shutting up about her. From not girlfriend to clearly girlfriend and from not living together to shacking up.
One of the times I remember vividly was one time Joanne’s lease on the place was living in was coming to an end and she was worried about where she was going to move to next. I said to her “why don't you move in with Ross? He will probably say yes. And you could probably pay him the rent in various ways ... if you know what I mean... !!! Like cheque or money order. Stamps are also legal tender”

To which she replied ... “It’s not that serious a relationship.”
I must admit that I was surprised at that statement because that’s not how it looked like it was heading to everyone else, and I wondered how to break the news to Ross.

I needn't have worried though as the very next day they announced that they were moving in together.
I’ve seen it grow from only asking to marry her when he was drunk and being rebutted to deliberately staying sober on New Years Eve and asking her to marry him with the fireworks as the backdrop, and being accepted.

From not being married to being married (probably - no proof yet !!!)

I have being privileged and lucky enough to watch all these stages grow, develop and come to pass and hopefully I will still be close enough friends with both of them when this best man speech is done to be able to continue to watch their relationship grow through many more stages including the ‘Moving into a bigger flat’ stage, the ‘Getting a cat’ stage, the ‘Growing old together’ stage.

I know that some less than good stages have already been passed like the ‘Hiding morning breath’ stage and the ‘Sucking in the gut when she’s around’ stage (that is long gone) but hopefully you will be able to avoid the tragic ‘Going to the toilet with the door open’ stage, on their way to the happily ever after via ‘Actual love based on mutual understanding and respect’.

I believe they are already there myself. And if you believe it to please stand up and raise your glasses as we sing a verse of “happy marriage to you” ....

I made everyone sing it to the tune of “happy birthday”

TWICE !!!!

I even add libed “Just the Mormons” on the second sing through !!!

Then my speech was over.

I’d done it, managed to get through it.

I think it was a success too, people liked it. They laughed at the funny bits and became involved with the sentimental bits too.
And with the ripping out of the three or four pages in the middle brought the running time down to about 15 min.

And I think that Ross and Joanne are still talking to me too.


WIN !!!

Looking back, I think I regret jettisoning the stuff after the Mandela joke. There was an opportunity to bring back the “Are there any ladies here “ joke from the stag dou (because there were ladies on the stag dou, and even though they all wore bright orange knitted beards to hide themselves, it was all a little bit “Monty Python” ) ... and I would have liked to have seen Ross’ reaction to the male stripper/wearing Joanne’s dress joke and Joanne’s reaction to the spit roast joke too, but ... probably better for not being said at all.

The only other regrets I have are not being a bit quicker on the add libbing. For example, during the early bit of the speech when I mention the wedding party is on Star Wars day a cheer went up from a surprisingly large amount of people in the crowd, Ross came up and whispered in my ear “Lot of nerds in tonight.”

I shoulda slagged him off for that at some later point during my speech.

Also, much later, when I said “... but hopefully you will be able to avoid the tragic ‘Going to the toilet with the door open’ stage” ... Ross whispered in my ear “Too late. That happened last night.”

Shoulda cashed out on that one too !!!

Oh well. Never mind.

I’m glad that I had the chance to be a best man and that it was for such a great guy as Ross. I’m also glad I can now cross “Be somebody's best man” off the list of things that a bloke should do in his life and am glad that it seems unbelievably unlikely that it will never happen again.

Mind you, I’ve had a pretty good practice at it now .... Imagine what the next one would be like !!!

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