A Wise Man Once Said – Avoid This Wedding Toast

Weddings and the Web

Charged with the responsibility of developing music playlists to cover the band’s breaks at the nuptials of Very Very Good Girl and SportsBizPro this weekend,1 I was trolling the Internet for inspiration when I came across a number of web sites focusing on one aspect or another of weddings: advice about everything from appropriate gifts to inappropriate behavior, expositions on prevailing styles in wedding gowns and tuxedos, lamentations about guests who don’t RSVP but do show up at the adults-only, no extra guests please reception – accompanied by their six urchins, three dogs, and the guy who has been stalking the bride for the past 34 months – expecting to be fed and entertained, and so on.

I also found, of course, beaucoup wedding videos of the newly weds dancing, the wedding party dancing, the bride cutting the cake, the bride and groom exchanging vows, … and, most significantly for the topic of this post, the toasting of the newly married couple.

The Hugh Grant Wedding Speech Fallacy

In “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” Hugh Grant’s character is an affectionately bumbling bloke who awkwardly delivers a wedding speech that is sweetly salacious, droll as all get-out, and funny. This sort of scene has, I believe, seduced too many best men and others into the conviction that they too can bumble their way through an awkward toast that is witty to the point of hilarity.

They are, tragically, mistaken.

Hugh Grant and the others are – and this seems to have somehow gone unnoticed – actors in a movie, rendering dialog written by professional screenwriters to an audience of other actors whose enthusiastic, gleeful response is, literally, scripted.

In real life, bumbling, awkward speeches that aspire to sweetly salacious and funny are just bumbling and awkward.

The Fourth Kind of Lie

Everyone who has works in a a science- or math-based field has heard the sardonic explanation of the three kinds of lies: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics. I would extend that classic list to Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, and YouTube Video Titles.

Far too many of the wedding toast videos carry labels such as “Funny,” but this seems a venial inaccuracy or perhaps even no more than a matter of differing subjective judgments. Less forgivable are those with titles such as “Best Wedding Speech Ever,” “Wedding Toast (Best Toast Ever!!),”2 “Most Hilarious Wedding Toast,” “Funniest Wedding Speech Of All Time,” and many more of their ilk. The grandiosity is in bad taste and, worse, I was lured into watching some of these catastrophes by those titles, thus sucking away several minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

One putative joke featured in a number of these videos, however, stands out in this hotly contested field as the worst of a bad lot, transcending the question “why would anyone think this is funny?” to the more pertinent query, “why is this allowed to exist?”

The individual giving the toast, invariably a male and usually the best man, typically begins with “A wise man once said/told me/wrote,” which is a tad cliched but nonetheless a serviceable, classic opening. Continuing, the toast-giver reveals that the referenced but anonymous wise man has prescribed that the duration of the toast should be the same length of time consumed when the groom makes love to the bride. The speaker then pauses, utters a phrase signaling that his speech has now concluded (e.g., “Thank you for your attention. Drive carefully on the way home.”), and returns to his seat.

The mirth of this performance apparently lies in the notion that the groom’s lovemaking is completed very quickly, as was the speech.3

Among the many conundrums associated with this toast is the reaction of the audience. They indeed break into laughter, from which I deduce that, at many weddings, there is a significant amount of alcohol consumed prior to the toasts.

The Lessons

The bright side of this fiasco is that, now alerted to this deficit in our culture’s common database of comedic principles, I can, in keeping with the admonition in the Code of the Blogger to enlighten ones fellow (best) man, impart two messages to the populace:

Message #1
: Set-up lines can be farfetched but must be at least plausible enough that a listener willing to suspend disbelief can accept the idea that, in this case, a wise man might have said such a thing.

My own effort, Mother Of The Bride Wedding Toast,4 for example, includes this line:

Let me read you what a wise man once wrote: “You can marry, pursue a career, and raise a family – and after your children are grown with families of their own, your life can be even more spectacular. When you’re mature, love can be more intense, romance can be more fulfilling, and, yes, sex can be incredibly better than when you’re a newlywed.”

I maintain that one could easily believe that the mythical wise man could have written those words. If the set-up isn’t plausible, it’s just an excuse for the presumptive punch line. In this case, the “wise man once said” preface is, in reality, no more than the wrappings of a joke that allows one to utter a traditional sexual insult to the groom in the context of a post-wedding reception. At the bachelor party, the same remark, perhaps more crudely captioned, would have been hurled at the groom unadorned

One could as justifiably have announced, “A wise man once said “Any groom with the middle name of Roscoe has tiny genitals. Ladies and gentlemen, the groom’s middle name is Roscoe.”

Heck, why bother with a setup line? Why not just go with “Ladies and gentlemen, a wise man once said the groom is sexually incompetent?”

Come to think of it, those audiences in the videos might have broken into raucous laughter over that toast as well.

Message #2
: For the love of all that is good and pure, don’t use this horrid “Wise man said … groom is sexually inadequate” joke in your wedding speech. Destroy it before it invades the culture further.

This has been a public service announcement from the Heck of a Guy blog.

  1. See Matrimonial Music Mix Musings []
  2. I do admire the punctuational balance, the excess of the double exclamation marks being partially offset by the parenthetical embrace []
  3. One could argue that the joke lies in the fact that the speech and the groom’s supposed sexual powers are both disappointing, but this does not appear to be the intent. []
  4. The circumstances leading to this joke can be found at Mother Of The Bride Wedding Toast. The full toast itself follows:

    As Mother of the Bride, I want to remind my daughter and her husband that, although today’s celebration is the culmination of much effort, prayer, and hope on your part and on the part of your friends and families, a wedding is a beginning, not a conclusion. On the occasion of your marriage, you may well wonder what your lives will look like twenty or thirty or forty years from now.
    Let me read you what a wise man once wrote: “You can marry, pursue a career, and raise a family – and after your children are grown with families of their own, your life can be even more spectacular. When you’re mature, love can be more intense, romance can be more fulfilling, and, yes, sex can be incredibly better than when you’re a newlywed.”

    I know that this idea may sound too good to be true, but I’m here to tell you that it can indeed happen just that way. After all, I got married, I pursued a career, and I have kids who are now grown and starting families of their own – and sure enough, today I find love more intense, romance more fulfilling, and sex is not just better but altogether fabulous compared to my newlywed days. I’ve never been happier.

    Now, I certainly can’t speak for your father about how he feels. But, Who Knows? If it’s been this incredibly wonderful since our divorce for my lover and me, then it’s at least possible that he and his girlfriend are more contented as well.


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