If all weddings were like the November Rain video, there wouldn't even BE an officiant's speech - Slash would just play a guitar solo and then everybody goes home.
Something you may not know about me is that I’m an officially ordained minister. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it’s possible to become a minister for a new agey Protestant denomination in Arizona in a matter of minutes, all without having to answer any tricky questions about whether you actually believe in God or not. Something else you may not know about me is that in less than a month I’m going to be using my Internet minister powers to marry my best friend to her fiancée.
I’ve known my best friend Kristin for a good nine years now, and she’s been with her fiancée Kyle for a good four years now, and on July 13th they’re getting married in a small town outside of Salem. In February Kristin asked me if I’d get ordained and officiate the wedding for them – both out of love for me and a desire to not have to pay anybody to do the job – and I agreed – both out of love for Kristin and a desire for as much attention as possible.
Agreeing to officiate your best friend’s wedding is really no sweat when the wedding is five months away. I seldom make plans more than a week in advance, so saying I’ll officiate a wedding five months down the road is like agreeing to buy somebody a beer at the first bar on Mars – it’s so far removed from anything in the here and now that it doesn’t even really make sense to worry about it.
It’s been four and a half months since Kristin asked me to do this for her, and I realize that now (or perhaps two months ago) would probably be a good time for me to figure out what exactly I’m going to say. What I’m learning from this process is that I’ll put anything and everything off until the last minute, right up to and including the speech commemorating the union of my best friend and the man of her dreams.
In my defense, things like this are pretty easy for me to procrastinate about – I had five whole months to write the speech at my leisure, and writing and delivering speeches is one of the only things I can be counted on to do properly. When Kristin and I were on the high school speech and debate team I wrote and delivered after dinner speeches on a regular basis, some of which won awards. Now I write two occasionally amusing blog updates per week. A five minute officiant’s speech delivered from a lectern with a script ought to be no sweat, right?
Now that the wedding is 20 days away, I can say with absolute certainty that it is not no sweat – it is, in fact, a great deal of sweat.
I think a lot of the reason people fear public speaking is because they’re afraid of humiliating themselves in front of a crowd. I think the reason I don’t have as much trouble with public speaking is because I know, due to my clumsy and awkward nature, that I’m going to embarrass myself no matter what, so I may as well stand up and get a few jokes in before that happens. In most cases, when you make a speech, the worst thing that can possibly happen is that you’ll make yourself look like an idiot, which, in the grand scheme of things, really isn’t all that terrible.
What I realize now that I’m staring the wedding in the face is that a wedding officiant’s speech is one of the few cases where there’s more riding on my performance than just my emotional well being or my chances at going to the state speech tournament.
If I screw up this speech, I’m going to screw up the most important day of my best friend’s life, in front of all of her friends and family as well as her husband-to-be’s friends and family. My poor performance will be immortalized not just on the wedding video but also in their families’ collective memory for the rest of their lives:
“Oh, Kristin and Kyle’s 20th wedding anniversary is coming up! Remember how beautiful the ceremony was?”
“How could I forget? The cake, her dress, the flowers… If not for that Truman guy it would’ve been perfect.”
“You know, it’s funny, I actually repressed my memory of the ceremony so I wouldn’t have to relive Truman’s speech.”
“It was nice of Kristin’s family to hire that special effects house to cut Truman out of the video and edit in Hugh Grant doing that monologue from the beginning of Love Actually. It’s really helped me recover from the post traumatic stress.”
I’ve known since February that this will be the most important speech I’ll ever deliver, but only now, as I scramble to start writing it less than three weeks before it gets delivered, do I realize how difficult of a task it is to put into words the whole scope of my feelings about my best friend, her fiancée, and the life they’re about to start together. I once got a bronze, Oregon-shaped medal for a speech in which I mimicked hovering over a toilet seat to explain my germophobia; this speech will have to be at least three times as good as that.
Yesterday I slathered on some sunscreen and went up to sit on my roof with a notepad to figure out what my speech was going to be about. It took me most of the afternoon, but by the time I fled back downstairs to avoid the clouds of mosquitos descending from the Hollywood Hills, I had scrawled the topic of my speech at the top of the page:
KRISTIN AND KYLE GETTING MARRIED IS A GOOD THING
Everything after this should be a piece of cake. I can probably wait another week or two to start writing.
Truman Capps is going to cry like a little girl for the duration of the wedding ceremony, by the way.