Thanks to smile.benpancoast.com
If you're "the writer" in your circle of family and friends, you understand that you're the go-to for any and all writing related needs. Speeches, eulogies, toasts, birthday cards, Christmas lists --- it's what you do. Especially if you're being trained to do it.
But every so often, even a writer has to stop and figure out how to write. Because every so often, you're called to be the Best Man at your best friends' wedding. No, the apostrophe is not grammatically incorrect. Two of my best friends in the world fell in love and got married. This past weekend. And I was the Best Man. Which sounds simple enough. Make sure Groom is locked and loaded. Get Groom to church on time. Carry a ring. Don't lose ring. Stand tall and proud. Witness. Sign papers. Give a speech, a toast in fact to their very happiness, in front more than 100 of their closest and dearest friends and family. Oh, and did I mention that my two best pals happen to be accomplished writers with MFAs of their own (the Groom has two just by himself) and the Groom was my Best Man just two months ago and gave a fraking amazing speech off the cuff (people choked up -- it was that good). No pressure.
So how does one pen a wedding toast?
First, it helps if you have lots of warning. I've known about this since late 2010. In fact, in the time from when I was asked to be the Best Man to when I actually was, I found time to get engaged and get married myself. So finding some time to put ink to parchment or pixel to screen should not have escaped me.
But there we were, the weekend of the wedding. On the road to the venue. And I had no idea what to say. What do you say? Sure, the standard platitudes that cover friendship, a funny story, respect, and admiration for the bride and the groom's luck at finding her. That all seems good. No matter what I wrote, however, it didn't sound right. It didn't feel like enough. And perhaps that because there are times when you simply cannot, in one speech, sum up two people, their love, and the amazingness that is them.
So, to return the favor from one Best Man to another, I took the microphone and I winged the whole speech. Honestly can't recall half of what I said, but I remember I made sure not to actually look directly at either of them until the end of the speech to ensure that I wouldn't become an emotional unstable twit in front of everyone there. If anyone is supposed to cry on the wedding day, it's the mother of the bride, maybe the maid of honor, and maybe the bride herself (though I'm happy to report that she held it together on the day after a beautifully emotional rehearsal wedding the night before).
Brilliant advice this is -- basically, DON'T WRITE a wedding toast. Just do it. Yeah... that's probably not what you wanted to hear. But consider it. Think about it. I made notes, I mulled it over, I ran versions of it in my head. But the closer I got to having to deliver this toast, the more I realized that I could have penned the most eloquent, prize-worthy opus, and it wouldn't have felt as honest or as real than getting up there, taking the mic, and speaking straight from the heart. Pure, unfiltered admiration for two people who inspire me in their commitment, passion, and love for one another and who, through that love, make each other better in every way.
Just understand that if you're ever asked to give a toast for someone at something as important as a wedding, that you make sure it's someone (or two someones) that you love deeply and stand behind. It's a big honking awesome responsibility to be the person who lifts that first glass and leads an entire room in wishing two people everlasting happiness --- so just remember, it's not about you. It just feels that way for like three seconds, but really, while the room might be looking at you with that microphone, they are thinking about the happy couple. They are ready to raise a glass. And as long as you don't faint and remember why you're there --- to honor your friends and their love --- you'll get through it.
And if the "speak from the heart" approach sounds like rubbish to you, there are lots of sites online with actual tips that include a play-by-play of how to construct your speech (from intro to light joke to complimenting the bride to roasting the groom to etc.). But I'll vouch for from the heart. Because for me, until I was standing there after the wedding and really got to see them together as husband and wife, I couldn't have come up with anything better before that moment. Sometimes you just need to be in a place, in a situation, in order to figure out how to handle it. This was my third best man speech I've given over the years, and the only one I didn't write. And I will probably never write another.
Nearly every week at Ohio University, I have the awesome privilege of writing a 3-5 minute play for something the MFA writers like to call MADNESS. Because it can be. "It" is actually our Playwrights Production class that all the grad writers at OU take every semester while in the program. You can read more about Madness at www.ohioplaywriting.org (our news blog and archive), but the short version is: Producer announces theme on Monday. Writers write to theme. Friday night, a show goes on. 11 new plays. And then it all begins again on Monday.
This week, I'm producing/hosting the night, so I have challenged my writers to tackle "NAKED" as their theme. What does it mean to be naked? How can you be naked while still wearing clothes? Just got all their scripts and I'm now tasked with ordering the night, crafting my own piece, and putting up a night of theater at 11pm tonight. With that said, I must log off and get back to producing. I'll let you know how it goes!
One of the great benefits of the Ohio University MFA Playwriting program is the weekly MADNESS production that happens almost every Friday night during the school year. What is Madness, you ask? Week after week, on Mondays, we're presented with new and exciting themes (which stem from the mind of whichever playwright is producing that week) and then on Fridays, we each present a five minute play.
Dylan Combs and Emily Auwaerter
Now in my third year of the program, I've penned more than 50 of these short pieces. I'm assembling them into my own madness for 2013 (a greatest hits of sorts). Until then, I'm posting some of my favorite plays here on my site. They are all about five-minutes in length and two-character pieces. Quick reads all. Take a gander. We don't record madness, but I am considering mounting video versions. Just need to figure out how best to do that. Until then, reading the old fashioned way will have to suffice. Enjoy!
Photo by Hannah VanBrunt
Thoughts. From my brain. Anything to do with how we tell stories and the stories we tell each other. Literally and figuratively.
Writer. Husband. Father. Effulgent dreamer. A Fightin' Irishman (@NDdotEDU '01). A playwriting Bobcat (MFA in Playwriting, @OhioU '13). I write plays. I'm a geek. I wanted to be an astronaut. I go places in my head.