My son was recently married and several hours before the ceremony he announced he did not want to write his vows but wanted to speak from the heart and wing it. I had not thought to pack my “Speeches for Every Occasion” or “Choosing Calm over Panic” reference books along with my wedding finery.
The wedding day dawned warm and sunny, promising perfect weather for the celebration. He and I and my grandson relished a quiet morning visiting, listening to music he was recording for the reception and generally easing into the day before the inevitable chaos of preparations would prevail.
I was at his home, where the men were gathering to get their bib and tucker organized and ensure their checklists were complete before heading to the ceremony. It didn’t take long to realize that organizing a group of men and babies is like herding cats. By the time the last of six men and another baby had arrived, I briefly wished I was at the hotel where the women were prepping. But I’d volunteered to help ‘the boys’ so I let go of my carefully planned schedule and focused on capturing photos of the melee and helping where possible.
Around lunch time, amid searches for the marriage license, car keys and matching socks, alarm arose from the group when the subject of who would be delivering speeches was raised. No one was prepared. They wondered aloud what they should avoid saying. Who toasts the bride? Who is required to speak? Someone asked Google what should be included in wedding speeches. The father of the bride poured glasses of wine for himself and me as he reminisced about his daughter and admitted he could not get the image of his toothless, rowdy six year old little girl out of his mind or his heart.
We watched as everyone scattered, pens and paper in hand, finding solitude on the porch, the far end of the yard, in the basement and slowly settled down to getting their thoughts written. Quiet descended upon the house and my son sat listening to music with his headset on. It’s been said that where words fail, music speaks and I was hoping he was being inspired by what he was listening to. I suggested he at least make a list of points he would not want to forget on such a day. He told me they had no index cards left, on which to make notes.
The following few hours are a blur of busyness. I do remember wrestling a squirming toddler into his shirt, bowtie and new shoes and insisting he not be let outside to play. Pinning boutonnieres on everyone’s lapels went off without a hitch. The image of my son and grandson, both dressed and ready to go but my son fussing with his son’s hair, is etched in my memory forever. Somehow we all arrived on site with twenty minutes to spare.
With guests assembled, the officiant in place and the groom awaiting the arrival of his bride, the procession music signaled the ceremony was under way. Within moments it was time to exchange vows. They each voiced what was in their hearts. They spoke simply and lovingly of their hopes and promises for their life together. To everyone’s surprise, the groom pulled out neon green note cards from his pocket and read his vows clearly and solemnly. He didn’t wing it! He’d made sure to include everything he wanted to say. When the bride and groom got a little teary the rest of us did as well. It was a very proud moment for us parents, witnessing our children beautifully articulate their commitment to each other.
The speeches that followed throughout the evening were funny, emotional and joyful. With all the love in the air, it was easy to wing it when toasting the couple, thanking guests for sharing the day and guiding the evening’s program. But most speakers brought at least a brief note with them; a reminder of what they wanted to say the most, on such an important day.