Chris is a friend I came to know years ago when he lived in a small town on the outskirts on Newcastle. We’d become close friends since we both shared a passion for self improvement. Occasionally we’d will each other on to do feat’s that neither of us would ordinarily ever do. We enjoyed the challenges, constantly pushing our comfort zone each week in new and exciting ways.
Regardless of these bonding experiences it still took me by surprise when on a random day at the beach last year he casually asked me to be the best man at his upcoming wedding. I was overwhelmed to say the least, and also a little petrified. Public speaking has always been my biggest fear. Because of a religious childhood I was forced to speak in front of crowds and (as a natural introvert) I absolutely hated it. Eventually I refused to have any part in it and (as well as a few other reasons) ended up leaving the church all together. The emotional scars remained though, negative anchored feelings associated with not only speaking in front of crowds but even being amongst large crowds.
“Chris, I really appreciate you asking me and I want to say yes, but I’m not actually sure I can. You know the main part of being the best man is giving the speech and I’m just not sure I’ll be able too.” I told him.
Clearly he had no idea how deep the fear was embedded since he simply laughed and replied, “Come on dude, we’ve done way more scary things than that, there’ll only be around a hundred people.”
‘A hundred people,’ I thought. That’s about the same amount as when I was a kid. I guess my trepidation was noticeable since he then proceeded to use every reasoning tactic available to convince me it would be fine and to just view it as yet another challenge.
It worked, or at least, it worked until I woke up the following day and realised what I’d agreed too. It’s such an irrational fear. I’m fully aware there is no legitimate danger, but still the anxiety was destined to remain for the following year.
A week after his proposal I got to work preparing the speech. That was the easy part. Albeit not to easy since Chris had no dodgy past apart from a couple of addictions that I didn’t feel comfortable mentioning incase it was a little to personal.
Eventually I got the speech perfected and timed myself rehearsing it. Four minutes was the average time. I felt that was acceptable, and more within my abilities than a ten minute rant.
The pressure was off a little, I was happy with how it sounded and could relax, maybe put it to the back of my mind for a while.
That’s exactly what I did. I put the dreaded thing to the back of my mind for eight months. Anytime it re-surfaced I’d have a sharp pang of anxiety and immediately replace the thought with a more pleasant one. I knew I’d need to start learning it soon though. I rationalized that if I waited until after the bachelor/stag party then maybe I’d have an extra story to add to it. Well that didn’t happen. If there’s a pictographic definition for the model citizen then Chris seems to be it. No flies on him. No nothing.
The bachelor party came and went, I won’t go into any details. I’m not allowed right 😉
Once that was becoming a blurry memory I got to actually rehearsing the speech. I told the speech to every woman, man, and dog. Sometimes several times to the same person (if you’re reading this then sorry about that).
Slowly it started imprint on my subconscious. Two weeks to go before the big day and I already I had half of it memorized. Not bad.
By the time the actual wedding day rolled around I was as prepared as I’d ever be. Must have said the thing two hundred times out loud. It’s not just the best man’s job to give a speech though, it’s also his responsibility to make sure everything goes smoothly on the lead up to the ceremony.
So there we were, the morning of his big day and he’s asking me to trim his nose hairs. I did my duties, got rid of the hairs, adjusted his tie and fastened his sporran. Oh, yeah, this was a Scottish wedding. Kilt’s were a necessity. Gotta admit though, them skirts are comfortable. I never felt so free.
Everything seemed to go pretty smoothly. Got to the church on time. Bagpipes playing as we arrived which I thought was a nice touch.
We’d rehearsed the wedding the night before so everyone knew their place and what they needed to do.
Then me and Chris were tucked away in this little office out back until his bride to be would arrive.
“Everything ok?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, “Well, no, not really.”
He’d started to go a rather pale shade of white. ‘Oh geez, he’s having a panic attack,’ I thought.
“It’s cool,” I told him, “everything’s gonna run smoothly, and once you’re out there you’ll be fine, you’re just anxious because we’re cooped up in this little room having to wait.”
I went over and opened the back door. Had I known there was a small paradise behind the church I’d have took him out there sooner.
Big deep breaths. That’s better.
He stood there for thirty seconds flat looking out at the river and listening to the birds chirping. Slowly the colour was coming back.
Then it was time.
Everything went just as rehearsed. The only hiccup was him sat on stage with his legs open. Not the best idea when everyone can see what’s between your legs. The minister of the church liked to be different and had the happy couple facing the crowd rather than having them stood behind.
So far so good. We were just getting to the, ‘Now pronounce you man and wife,’ bit when a shrill sound rang out from stage. Chris’s eyes widened in disbelief. The usher shook his head and looked to the floor. I looked on trying to figure out who’s phone was switched on.
Clearly it was the groom’s, the embarrassment was written all over his face. He managed to switch the infernal thing off as they went to sign the marriage license, and there was me stood there thinking, ‘Should I really have had to check if his phone was off?’
I put the thought to the back of my mind and followed them over to sign as a witness. The pen faltered making my signature look weird and fake but nobody grumbled. Then we walked out the church to an applause of camera clicks.
There was a champagne reception waiting for us once back at the function room. I guzzled three of the things to take the edge off. The speech was coming. I’d be stood there mic-in-hand in less than forty five minutes. The bride’s father had insisted on doing the speeches first so he could enjoy his meal afterward. I seen the logic but a couple more drinks wouldn’t have hurt.
Finally the microphone got passed to me. I stood there looking at a sea of pink faces. Done a quick self analysis and realised I wasn’t as nervous as I expected after all.
“Good afternoon everybody! For those of you that don’t know me, my name’s Glen and I’m the best man.
Which is great for me because I’ve never been the best at anything.
So first of all I’d just like to say a big thanks to Chris for giving me this special opportunity.
I’d also like to thank everyone that’s helped out to make the day so amazing, I think you’ll all agree its been a wonderful day so far.”
Most people were smiling and there were a few whistles echoed through the room. I was really starting to relax up there.
“As a token of my gratitude I’ll proceed with the speech by telling as many embarrassing stories about Chris as possible!
No no, the truth is, as you’ll probably know, Chris is very well mannered young man that rarely does anything to wild or outrageous, that time I woke up in Glasgow to the sound of running water only to look over and see Chris fast asleep urinating on the wall next to me was just a one off as far as I’m aware.”
The crowd erupted and roared with laughter. It was by far the funniest reaction to any jokes told from the previous two speeches. My chest puffed up and most likely a smug smile spread across my face, but it didn’t last.
“Speaking of toilet habits I won’t go into any details of how twelve of us managed to share a house with no bathroom after the stag party.”
Or maybe I heard a couple of sniggers from the table at the back where the majority of the stag party were sitting, but those smiling pink faces were a little more blank. It threw me, of all the times to have a brain fart this wasn’t it. I looked down to the speech, which, up until that point I’d said off by heart. It took about five seconds to find my place but each of those seconds felt like a minute. I’d went from hero to zero in one sentence but needed to carry on.
“Unfortunately I can’t really say anything more about the stag weekend, the law of the stag doesn’t allow it, and plus, Edinburgh police have advised caution until the charges are fully investigated.”
Hallelujah I got them back. There were a few guffaws and I was back on my feet.
“Ok enough of the jokes, it’s time to get serious.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they meet their one true love, their soul mate, the person that’s going to know and love them for the rest of their life.
That moment came for Chris five years ago. When he met me!
Jokes, I’m obviously talking about Chris’s lovely new wife Suzy. When I first met Suzy my impression was of a bubbly and friendly young woman. I could instantly tell that they were a great match. I think anybody here who’s been lucky enough to spend time in their company knows what a great couple they are.
So moving forward into married life; I can honestly say that Chris is a lucky guy, he’s leaving here today gaining a partner is warm and caring, and radiates gentle kindness wherever she goes …and Suzy, you’re lucky too, you leave here today having gained …a beautiful dress and some flowers!
I’m sure they’re going to have a blissfull marriage and we all wish you the best luck in the world for your future together.”
I asked everybody to raise this glasses and make a toast. As soon as that was done I immediately felt a euphoric sense of lightness akin to a rush of ectsasy. It wasn’t the champagne, it was the release of carrying that speech on my shoulders for a year. I could have leapt up and kissed Chris’s Dad on the forehead in that moment (he was sat next to me), instead I downed three more drinks and devoured the delicious meal that followed. My duties were over, all that was left was to seduce a bridesmaid, but there were only two of them and they were both taken. I shrugged and guzzled one last glass of fizz. Next came the ceilidh (pronounced kelty) some bizarre Scottish dance I’d never heard of. It looked like fun, but I just sat back with some buddies and spectated. Ok, one more drink. Before I knew it it was midnight and I was drunk. Chris and Suzy had already left. I shuffled my way to my own room and collapsed on the bed.
The next morning I woke up hang over free. No idea how that happened. My best guess was the Egyptian cotton covered pillows. I hadn’t really explored the grounds of the hotel so I want off for a wander. I didn’t get very far. Was half a kilometre up a country path when a deer came running at me full pelt. It took one look and fancied it’s chances ramming through a fence instead.
I realised why it was running, some big dog was behind chasing to sniff it’s arsehole.
Unable to get through the fence the beast managed to outmanoeuvre the doggo and legged it off into the distance.
Well that was the highlight of the morning. After that it was back to Newcastle and a flight to Prague the same day. What a life.