Open Mouth, Insert Foot

It always looks better in movies – the gracious tinkling of silver on glass as the room is called to order, the misty-eyed introduction, and the resounding applause to the closing hug. On the big screen, the parental wedding speech looks like a beautiful way to celebrate a child’s nuptials.

In real life, you know that the neighbors are just waiting to quote your one offhand, inopportune, remark for the rest of eternity. To speak at a wedding means that all eyes – your nearest, dearest, and those whom social conventions forced you to invite – are on you. That thought frightens off most would-be speakers. Even those who aren’t afraid to speak are terrified of saying the wrong thing. A few soft-ball jokes and your in-laws storm out. A displaced noun and you’re no longer speaking terms with the formerly-happy couple. Speaking at your child’s wedding is only for the brave of heart – or for the silver screen.

By general consensus, wedding speeches have gone the way of gift-tables. In the present day few parents take the opportunity to address the crowd. However, there will always be someone who wishes to have their screen-star moment. That person, usually the father of the bride, will stop the band, hold up the mic and wait for silence. He will then begin speaking of his love for his daughter, the wife and family who have made his life a bed of roses, and the great respect he has for his new in-laws. He’ll praise the new son-in-law to the skies, usually beginning with “I could never have imagined, when I first met this boy, that we’d be here today at their wedding.” The crowd will then flinch, the first of many in this five-minute speech. He will talk in terms general and specific, sprinkling his stories with personal anecdotes – mortifying to his child – and perhaps a few gleaned from his new in-laws. He will conclude with a smile and a glint of tears, looking around for the child who is carefully avoiding his gaze. Beaming, he’ll thank everyone and sit. If only the curtain fell then, you’d never hear his wife sharply asking what he thought he was doing.

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1 Comment

  1. And then there was the wedding I was at (not Jewish) where the best man gave the speech, noting that his friend had really been smiling a lot more lately and attributing it to the regular sex… And yes, this was *at* the wedding. Dead silence in the room. Highly memorable.

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