“Dad, do you want to make a toast at the wedding?”
And so it begins.
By which, of course, I mean, it begins for me. For Anna and Colby, it began more than seven months ago, with a “knee-down” proposal outside a beachfront Venice (California) restaurant, and the presentation of an engagement ring so dazzling it made the ring I gave Dr M…wait, I didn’t give Dr. M anything. I simply proposed, and, after accepting, she spontaneously selected a treasured keepsake, my Dad’s Masonic lodge ring that I kept in the night table beside my bed as an engagement ring. I didn’t even know you needed an engagement ring to propose.
Dr. M’s involvement in the upcoming – September the Third – celebration, began shortly after the proposal, with a series of dining-room vettings of wedding planners, beginning with a man who had ramrodded Larry King’s most recent nuptials, during which, after a quick “handshake and hello”, I retreated to the bedroom, as if I had something up there to do, which I did. Hide.
(The final nod went to a duo team of women more in sync with Anna and Colby’s proclivities, who were also, thankfully, considerably cheaper.)
What was I hiding from? Let me skip the rationalizations and go straight to the truth:
(I know that’s “ouchy”, but what can I tell you?)
I judiciously abstained from all the preparations, though my involvement was continually solicited.
“Dad, do you want to go to the food tasting?”
“Dad, Mom and I are going wedding dress shopping. Do you want to come?”
“What do I know about wedding dresses?”
“Dad, there’s a wedding cake tasting. (Followed shortly thereafter by, “Dad, there’s a ‘Margarita’ tasting.) You wanna go?”
“I don’t think so.”
History, if they bother with such matters, and they certainly have better things to do, could understandably describe my performance in the wedding arrangements as “lazy” and “disinterested”, but as history often does, the subtlety – read: real explanation – would be entirely missed.
Though I was aware of the slights I inflicted by constanty turning Anna down, the fact is, I have very little to contribute to wedding dress or “Margarita” selection. It would also be true that I generically don’t like it when my opinions are shot down, even in areas of acknowledged ignorance. I take no pleasure in “I like that one.”, “Dad, you don’t know what you’re talking about” interactions. They offend my sense of pretend authority. And they put in question the reason I was asked along in the first place.
But now I’m being asked directly if I want to make a toast at the wedding. A request that, frankly, though a father offering a toast at a wedding is the norm, comes, in the context of this wedding, as somewhat of a surprise.
For two reasons. One, I know, that Anna’s preference in this matter would be to have no toasts or speeches whatsoever. I know that, not through intuition, but because, early in the preparation stage, Anna specifically weighed in on the matter, saying,
“I don’t want somebody hitting a glass to get the people’s attention.”
What Anna wanted was an uninterrupted, blowout celebration of a casual and non-traditional nature. A dominating influence was a beachfront wedding Anna and Colby had recently attended. As she enthusiastically described it, after the “I do’s” were said, a man named “Feather Beard” who has been ordained, I don’t know what, for the ceremony, played the “Wedding Song”, Love Me Tender on the ukulele. The wedding guests were then invited to spend the night sleeping in tents at a nearby park.
Well, we would not be going that far. But we would be having the ceremony at a small public park, a two-minute walk from our front door, followed a reception, designed to Anna and Colby’s specifications, in our decorated and freshly landscaped back yard. There would not, I believed, be any speeches.
Apparently, however, Anna had been dissuaded of that notion. It was explained to her that a wedding was more than celebratory party. It was a life milestone, both for the couple and their respective families and communities, and it needed to be structured accordingly. In this regard, though in few others, Anna surrendered her preference to convention.
The second reason I believed I was off the hook in the speechmaking department is that I knew, from experience, how Anna felt about me and speeches.
When Anna graduated from Middle School, I was invited to deliver the “Commencement Address.” (I had recently made a splash with a monologue at her school’s high profile fundraiser.) I replied to the invitation, saying that before I gave them my answer, I needed to check and see what Anna thought about the idea. I asked her. And she said,
“Dad. This is my moment. And I don’t want you taking it away from me.”
So, no Commencement speech from me.
Ipso facto, I am thinking, a wedding being exponentially more significant than Middle School graduation…
And yet, here she was, asking me if I wanted to make a toast.
“I’ll do whatever you want me to do.”
It’s a tough assignment. To make a good speech, but no too good a speech. Of course, that was my fake concern. My actual concern was that I would stink up the place, a fear that roused me last night at two-thirty in the morning, my heart pounding loud enough to wake up the people next door.
My mind flooded with things I might say. But, uncharacteristically, I did not did not rush to my office and write my inspirations down. Writing stuff down meant, as Steve Martin announced memorably in The Three Amigos, “This is real.” A fact I was close, but not entirely ready to acknowledge.
Yet, with that middle-of-the-night awakening, struggling over the wedding toast I have committed myself to make, it is clear that the wall between me and reality has been irrevocably breached.
Now it truly begins.