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My daughter got married recently, and as father of the bride, I had two responsibilities: to escort her down the aisle, and to give a welcoming speech at the reception. The walking part turned out to be relatively easy – minimal slippage. The rest was more difficult, what with my fear of public speaking; so I figured, if I had to go through that, why waste a good speech?

And so I’m printing it as my column. Reuse and recycle, people:

Welcome to all of you: Two families that have become one, friends, those who have come a long way, and those who have sneaked in for free cake. Welcome to the family, Bo – I believe I did warn you about us. I’m very pleased to see you all here today.

Charis has brought a great deal of light into my life. In fact, I don’t recall her ever turning off a light switch … but this is in no way a complaint. It can be a dark world, and we need all the light we can get. There is, of course, no greater light than love, and there is no greater expression of love than two people who choose to spend their lives together.
On a personal note – and I can do that, because it’s my speech -- I’d like to point out that I’ve had some very difficult jobs:

I worked on a worm farm, for two dollars an hour.

As an unarmed security guard, I once spent twelve dark hours guarding a telephone company tower in the middle of nowhere, during a strike. What I would do if the strikers showed up I don’t know, because there was no telephone at the telephone tower.

Presently I take 911 calls from people who are having the worst moments of their lives, and have absolutely no desire to hear me say “calm down”.

As a firefighter, I once had a ceiling fall on me inside a burning building. Well, twice. No, three times … you know, I’m beginning to see why the other firefighters are avoiding me.

But the most difficult job in the world is raising children. The hours are long, the working conditions can be horrendous, and I, the employee, actually had to pay to do it.

The worst part is, you never know if you’re doing the job right. You could liken it to a lifelong pursuit of education, except there’s no final test, no diploma, and if your kids do become good adults, you never know if it’s because of your efforts, or just a happy coincidence. You agonize over the smallest decisions and you worry about how to pay for the big ones. And on your death bed, you’re still wondering if you did it right.

After all, for most people this is your only real chance at immortality. Naturally, I’d rather be immortal by not dying, but that’s not one of the choices.

If you’re serious about doing it right, parenting is the most difficult job in the world. It’s also the most rewarding.

Charis, I don’t know if your mother and I did it right. I know we tried. I know we raised a daughter who’s bright, responsible, and caring. I know we’re very proud. If you’re my final exam – then I passed.

Of course, I’m still taking Jillian 101.

There are many things I planned tell everyone about the bride, but her sister made me take that
stuff out. Apparently editing my speech was one of Jillian’s duties for this weekend. I had an entire chapter just on teaching Charis to drive.

Instead, I’ll simply give Charis and Bo two bits of advice:

First, get away at least once a year. Take a long, relaxing vacation from your regular life. I suggest one of you go in July, and the other in August.

Second, learn something every day. About yourselves, about each other, about the world around you, about TV trivia, whatever. It may seem strange, but learning is the brain’s exercise. Learning leads to knowledge, and knowledge is power. We care when we learn. We’re inspired, and we gain riches far more important than money. You’re going to go through some rough times ahead – life will do that – but the more you know, the better you’ll be able to handle it. After that, love really is all you need.

So ladies and gentlemen, please join me in toasting the happy couple. I wish them success in all they do, and a long and happy life.

The most important person there, and the bride:
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Okay, seriously, the most important people there:
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The father-bride dance. The DJ is my brother-in-law, who Fort Wayne residents know as Chris Cage of WMEE, 97.3. He's already been paid, so the free publicity isn't a form of trade. (To your left you can see Charis' step-father manning a tripod mounted video camera. No, that wasn't uncomfortable.)
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The grandparents. Left to right, my stepfather, mother, and grandmother; Charis' birth-grandmother, leap_to_faith, Bo, my ex-wife's birth mother, my father, and my ex-wife's father, who also officiated. Yes, you do need a scorecard.
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On the right is the bride's sister and right hand wedding girl, jillyh2009, along with her friend Ashley. In the center is jillyh2009's uber-adorable stepsister, Megan.
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I knew you'd all want a picture of the cake. Sadly, I didn't get one while it was friggin leaning; but the wedding party fixed that before the ceremony.
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( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 26th, 2006 09:57 am (UTC)
Awwww - so cute and lovely dress and cake. Loved the speech - I hope they all laughed in the appropriate places!
Oct. 26th, 2006 10:37 am (UTC)
laughing in the right places
Oh, jeez, how could I have forgotten that story? There was one inappropriate place where they laughed, when I said I was a firefighter. I couldn't figure out why, and later learned that at that moment Charis' flowers got too close to a candle and burst into flames! No damage, but the timing was perfect.
Oct. 26th, 2006 10:19 am (UTC)
I don't know if you look serious or terrified walking Charis down the aisle. She appears to be taking it all in her stride.

If that's the scorecard for immediate family members, I'll just run now before you start trying to outline all the cousins, aunts, uncles and sundry in-laws and my head explodes.

Oh, and Megan is uber-adorable.
Oct. 26th, 2006 10:33 am (UTC)
Isn't she, though?
I was oddly un-terrified, considering how much I hate being the center of attention. Mostly I was just trying not to trip.

Both sides of my family are of the big-family southern Appalachia variety, and when you combine that with various divorces and re-marriages -- well, I could outline them all myself, and I'm one of them.
Oct. 26th, 2006 12:04 pm (UTC)
It looks like you all had a really good time and lived to tell the tale. Congrats!

Raising kids is hard. All the good things in life are hard.
Oct. 27th, 2006 06:01 am (UTC)
good things in life
Living to tell the tale was my whole purpose for the weeks living up to the ceremony. :-) And yes, raising kids is enormously hard, but well worth it.

Of course, chocolate isn't hard. Well, it's hard on the body, over time ... never mind.
Oct. 26th, 2006 01:33 pm (UTC)
That' a great speech and it looks like it wa a lovely wedding
Oct. 27th, 2006 06:02 am (UTC)
The wedding went great; I guess the more pain you go through before, the better things work during. As for the speech, I have a DVD of me actually giving it, but I'm afraid to look.
Oct. 26th, 2006 04:53 pm (UTC)
Congratulations to Charis and Bo - and to you on getting through the day without falling over and a great father of the bride speech. I laughed. Great pics - looks as though a wonderful time was had by all.

(And really - a worm farm?)
Oct. 26th, 2006 07:17 pm (UTC)
Yay! Good speech Dad-of-the-bride!

You have two good looking daughters, a good-looking son-in-law, and a very pretty step-step-daughter, or whatever! And what a lovely cake - was that really a little fountain under it?

And your family makes 'rabbits friends and relations' look few in number!

Thank you for sharing.
Oct. 27th, 2006 06:22 am (UTC)
Yes, that was a real fountain under the cake -- good catch!

Megan is actually my ex-wife's husband's daughter, so strictly speaking she's not related to me. She's that cute *all* the time, but in the flower girl dress, with her hair done up, she stole the show.

Just about everyone else *was* related to me -- those Appalachian Kentucky/Tennessee families tended to get big even without factoring in divorce and remarriage. My mom actually had her husband and TWO ex-husbands there; that accounts for 8 kids, all by itself!
Oct. 27th, 2006 07:44 am (UTC)
speaking she's not related to me.

That's why I reckoned it took at least a couple of 'steps' - I have a friend who was widowed young, and her second husband calls her first set of in-laws his 'mother (and father)-in-law-in-law' - and I rather like that way of extending the relationship, so I 'borrow' it!
Oct. 27th, 2006 08:19 am (UTC)
That's a great idea! I wouldn't mind step-stepping her, or her brother; although I don't much like their father. (From what I've been hearing, they don't either.)
Oct. 27th, 2006 06:12 am (UTC)
yep -- a worm farm
A bee moth farm, specifically; the lady raised them in the basement of a garage and sold them to fishermen. It was ungodly hot down there ... Bad as the economy was -- and this was in the early 80's -- I quit when she tried to cut my pay to $1.50 an hour.

I can't guarantee the speech was as good when spoken as it was when written. My ex-wife's husband videotaped the whole thing, but I'm not thrilled at the idea of watching myself.
Oct. 26th, 2006 09:37 pm (UTC)
Lovely speech - good mix of humour and serious! The couple looks so happy. And everyone looks fabulous! *g*
Oct. 27th, 2006 06:14 am (UTC)
It was a wonderful time from the moment the ceremony began onword. Before that -- pure hell. :-)

I sweated bullets over that speech.
Oct. 26th, 2006 11:37 pm (UTC)
I really liked your speech. And your daughter looked beautiful.

A leaning tower of cake? That would have been interesting to see.
Oct. 27th, 2006 05:58 am (UTC)
Sadly, no one got a pic of the cake before it was repaired. All those cameras, and we missed the biggest story of the night ... :-)
Oct. 27th, 2006 09:06 am (UTC)
I really loved your speech and those are gorgeous photos. Boy, is your family complicated but everyone looked wonderfully happy. Glad it was such a good day.
Nov. 3rd, 2006 09:42 am (UTC)
Did my reply to this not get through? I just stumbled across it and noticed that, while I read your post and replied to it, nothing's under there. I'm not ignoring you, I swear!

Yes, my family is very complicated, and not in a good way. Ah, but you know how crazy we hunters can get ...
Oct. 29th, 2006 01:16 am (UTC)
That's a great speech, and the parts about raising children are as funny as they are true. The couple are adorable. Thanks for the pictures.

Oct. 29th, 2006 02:14 am (UTC)
I was very happy to share them!
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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