The Wedding Toast, 1990

I am from England, as is my daughter. While it is a father’s customary duty to cover his daughter’s wedding celebration, the only demand I made from a financial position, before I was going to be made a poor man, was it should be held as an ‘English style’ wedding. This was not a problem with the groom’s parents since Irish wedding celebrations are similar. Other than some minor subtleties, both parents sit at the head table with the bride and groom, and the father of the bride makes a speech. The speech is meant to be lighthearted, funny and of course truthful.

However, many of our American guests were quite startled by this experience because the speech has nothing to do with ‘how-we-are-losing-a-daughter-but-gaining-a-son’ type of speech. The whole exercise has everything to do with ridiculing one’s daughter with some embarrassing moments during her upbringing.  If she turns beetroot red in the face, hides behind her hands, kicks you under the table or tries to hide behind the flowers on the table while the entire guest holding their sides loudly laughing—then you know the objective has been was accomplished!

When “Heidi” was eleven, her mother was in London showing off our new baby son to her parents. One day Heidi came out of the bathroom looking a bit shaken and said, “Dad, we have a problem, a big problem.” I asked how big of a problem (thinking the toilet was backed-up or something).

“It’s a ladies problem,” was her response. “We have to go to Walgreens.”

“When?” I asked while in the middle of laying down a carpet and, in a loud voice, she shouted “now” in a deadpan manner.

Next thing we were in the car going to Walgreens and I was thinking, why do these emergencies always seem to happen when my wife is not around? Why couldn’t Heidi wait another two days when her mother would be back home and take care of things then? We parked outside Walgreens and as I was walked to the entrance Heidi was nowhere to be seen—she was still in the car. I went over to her and told her to come on. “No, dad, you go”.

“You’re coming in with me,” I said, feeling a little irritated.

“No, I’m staying here and you get what I need.”

“No Heidi, you’re coming with me.”

“No dad, you go.” We were trading “Yes, you are” and “No I’m not” back and forth was like a tennis match and it was getting us nowhere.

Now I’m getting a sense that I was on the losing end of this deal. I opened the car door and said “Heidi, get out of the car”. “No dad, you go.” I reiterated my demand several times but firmer each time and then she had the nerve to say, “Dad, what part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?” I then started to realize she was a little frightened, perhaps feeling awkward and obviously very conscious about her plight. Okay Heidi, please come in with me show me what you want and I’ll pay for it while you come back to the car. “No dad, you go.” “You don’t have to come to the register with me and no one would know you are with me.” “Nope, I’ll stay here” was her only train of thought.

“Heidi, I have no idea where they are.”

“Yes you do, just go along the back aisle and that’s where they keep them – you can’t miss them.”

“Heidi, I have no idea what type you need.”

How about this incredible response she gave, when children deep down really believe their parents do know everything! “Of course you know what I need – you’re my dad!”

I now knew the situation was firmly in my hands. I went in and I could not believe all the different brands, types, sizes in colorful packaging stacked all over the place! They have more choices then the cereals displayed in Stop & Shop! A woman behind me (I assumed she worked there as she had a white coat on) must have thought I was a weirdo or something because she kept looking round at me giving me strange looks while I was trying to understand each brand’s instructions with my tiny reading glasses.

After what felt like 15 minutes, which is a very long time when reading instructions on things you have no idea about; I eventually gave in and asked her for help. She gave me one almighty look, then said she didn’t work there and swiftly left!

I always thought someone going beetroot red was simply a phrase highlighting the net result of total embarrassment but I can assure you it is for real! My wife had no inkling of what I was going to speak about even though she had pestered me for months.  Later that evening, many guests made a beeline for me, shaking my hand and saying it was the best speech, period (pun not intended), they have ever heard and I too must have had balls to go down that route.

Two years hence and people are still talking about it!

—Mike Young, North Haven, CT

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