I was Best Man at my brother’s wedding last week. I think that perhaps the only reason was because Mia asked Ken to make me Best Man—Ken knows better. While my family does love me, they know that I am highly erratic at best.
Let’s put it this way: When I was seven years old, my Mom took me to Kennywood. The parking lot is just the other side of the freeway and there is a short tunnel under the freeway to get to the entrance on the other side. That day, my mother gave me a ten dollar bill in the parking lot. When we got to the other side (about 20 yards later), I had lost it. We went back and looked for it and it was nowhere to be found.
Is that the sort of person you should be entrusting your wedding rings to?
Researching the Toast
Well because I’m just about the worst Best Man ever, I decided to at least get the toast right. This meant a lot of research on the internet. I read and archived many websites and then read them when I was in San Diego and what I found out was…
There are a lot of really bad Best Man Toasts.
Many are so full of inside jokes that nobody can relate to. “Ha Ha! This is me laughing out of politeness.” The other ones are canned. You just insert your own names into the blanks and run with it. In a day full to the hilt of clichés that during a cliché moment (the Best Man Toast) one should give a speech full of chichés is… *shudder*
Geez, he’s my brother. He saved my life once. Does he really deserve this?
Things I learned
I did learn a couple useful pieces of advice:
- Don’t read your speech. (I already figured this out from seeing a previous toast.)
- Stand up straight. (Not really relevant in my case as the wedding planner messed up the timing of the speech against my suggestion.)
- Speak loudly and clearly. (No problem for me.)
- Be simple.
- Don’t ramble. (I failed miserably at this. I timed my speech at 3.5 minutes and it ended up being 7.5.)
- Introduce yourself as not everyone knows who you are. (Also be sure to introduce the other pieces of your story as not everyone knows who they are.)
- Thank the parents of the bride for hosting.
- Be funny but not humiliating. No “ex-girlfriend” comments. (Duh! Though I broke this rule. Sort-of.)
- Keep it balanced. (I found out later that this isn’t important since there is a Maid of Honor Toast and a Friend of Bride Toast.)
- Mention how beautiful the bride is.
- Finish with a toast.
- Don’t forget to drink after toasting.
- Ideas: How they met, How the groom has changed.
- Practice. Practice. Practice. (I had no time for this.)
So I alighted on a simple plan:
- I would start with a many of small stories and then prune out the ones that are redundant.
- The stories would be true and unique. Not the “chance brought them together, and there couldn’t be a more perfect match.” Here that? That’s the sound of me gagging.
- I would somehow relate the stories to one another.
- I would remember somewhere in it to thank the bride’s family but not necessarily at the beginning because that is too trite.
- I would remember to mention how beautiful the bride is, but in a non-traditional way.
- I am definitely not going to read the toast from some card. This meant trying to memorize enough it during the brief spells I had when I wasn’t taking photos.
The actual toast
Here it how it actually came out (audio file (8.5MB/7:24)):
You can compare to the actual written (and annotated) speech at the end. Now through the miracles of RSS attachments and WordPress, I guess this makes this my first “Podcast.” Hurray for me. (Thank you, Caitlin, for extracting the speech from the wedding video.)
The stuff in bold below are talking points I memorized so I could go from one part of the speech to the next without having to look at my cue card.
Best Man Toast for Ken & Mia’s Wedding
Excuse me. I am Terry Chay,3 the little brother of the groom, Ken Chay, and perhaps the worst “best man” ever. Why? When my brother and I were in college and graduate school, I would call home and my dad would say, “You know when your brother calls,4 he always asks about you and if you are doing okay,5 but you never ask about Ken.”
That’s because I always depended on my brother. When we were kids, I would never wear a hat to school. Every winter I would be crying at the bus stop because it was so cold and every winter, my brother would always give me his hat6 so I could stay warm—that’s the sort of person the groom is.
Our mom would often repeat this story. I’m sure she’s looking down from heaven right now, smiling. If she were alive, I can imagine how happy she’d be that Ken is marrying Mia. She’d probably be ribbing Dad right now saying how she’d always knew Ken would marry well.
My dad worried about Ken.7 He once told my brother, “Ken, when you were a child and we’d go see a baseball game, we’d have general admission tickets and you would sit in the first seat available. I don’t want you settling for the first girl you find, you’ve got to wait for the best one.” Well, Dad, Ken took your advice, and waited, and waited. I bet you were starting to worry. Good thing the perfect girl, Mia, came along!
Perhaps I should explain how the bride, Mia Chung, and my brother met. A few years ago, we were eating our traditional Christmas Eve dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant8 (we are, after all, a family of men). By a happy coincidence the Chungs came in while we were having dinner and we exchanged greetings. After dinner, Ken suggested to Dad that we wait for the Chungs to finish9 and have tea with them next door. We did and Ken and Mia hit it off immediately like it was destiny…
I want to go further back. Dad and Dr. Chung are golfing buddies. Dr. Chung would say, “You know, Seung, Mrs. Chung is always complaining that our daughter has never met your son. You should introduce them.” My father said, “That won’t work. Ken would smell a matchmaking attempt and get turned off. But you know, we like to go eat Vietnamese…10 I can call you before we go out and you can happen to meet us there.”
So, we should thank Dr and Mrs. Chung and my father for bringing the happy couple together, without their knowledge. Because sometimes, destiny needs a little nudge.11
One more story. When I was four and my brother six, Uncle Francis grilled him on his mathematics. “What’s 5 + 3?” “8!” “What’s 10 + 4?” “14” “What’s 13 – 11?” “2.” “What’s 6 + -3?”12 a long pause because me brother hadn’t learned negative numbers. “3?” he guessed. My uncle became very frustrated. He then got very clever and said, “What’s the Six-Million Dollar Man plus the Bionic Woman?” “Love?” my brother responded.
It is because of responses like that and taking care of me that I’d say, “Mommy, Kenny is “next to God,” but looking at my brother and his beautiful wife Mia, I see I had it a bit wrong, he’s next to a Goddess.13 And I thought I’d never be prouder of my brother than on that day when he confounded Uncle Francis, but again I am wrong. Seeing him here with Mia and her wonderful family, I say with conviction that every day from now will only make me prouder to have such a wonderful brother and be welcome in such a wonderful family.14
Every one of us, let’s raise our glasses and toast. Here is to the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman,15 Ken Chay and Mia Chung! (Remember to drink to my own toast.)