BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – What do you say when your daughter has just gotten married?
The father of the bride has top billing for the evening’s entertainment. The couple has knelt before the altar. The priest has given his blessing. The crowd has cheered.
Drinks have been served. The guests have finished their salad and the main course.
Setting up for the wedding
And now, the most dangerous moment of the evening approaches. If he makes a fool of himself, he will never forget it. If he embarrasses the family, they will never forgive him.
And what tone to take? Comedy? Tragedy? Light? Heavy? Serious? Or sentimental?
He must move along fast enough so that the guests don’t fall asleep. But he can’t shirk the weight of what is happening:
His little girl is leaving.
The beautification process begins
Your editor gave it his best. Here’s how it went…
Another Wedding Speech
Good evening. Welcome.
The title of my speech is taken from The Sound of Music. Many of you will remember it:
How do you solve a problem like Maria? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
Well… today is the day we finally solve the problem of Maria. From this day forward, she’s Adrien’s problem.
So, I begin by thanking you all for coming here to the wedding. You are all witnesses. And I want to give a special thanks to Adrien’s parents, Elisabeth and Richard. Thanks so much for bringing Adrien into our lives.
I’ve been telling everyone that since I have two daughters, and since I’ve already given a wedding speech for one of them…
…all I need to do is change the names.
So if you were here for Sophia’s wedding… well… this would be a good time to visit our superb portable toilets.
I’m just joking…
And I should thank our wedding planner and all the people who have worked so hard to put on this wedding… setting up porta-potties… the tents… gardening… organizing. There was so much activity around here. Yesterday, it looked like we were planning an invasion of Normandy…
It was a lot of effort… and I am grateful to all those who helped pull it together… especially to our own Supreme Allied Commander… our family’s own Dwight D. Eisenhower, my wife Elizabeth, who masterminded the whole campaign…
…and thank God I don’t have another daughter.
Rules of Engagement
I was just in Dublin, Ireland. I told the fellow I was with that I was going to America to give a wedding speech. He said he was just at a wedding where the father of the bride went on for two hours.
“It was terrible,” he says to me, “but fortunately, it was an Irish wedding… and they kept the bar open the whole time.”
Well, don’t worry, I’m not going to go on and on. I’ve got the speech down to an hour and a half. No more.
And at this very moment, Elizabeth has her hands on the power cord. At the first sign of verbosity… or senility… now or later in life… she has promised to pull the plug.
And it’s not going to be the same speech. That speech was the subject of much… shall I say… literary criticism.
Yes… I was put on notice. I was given three rules for any future speeches at family events:
1. It’s not about me. They really didn’t have to tell me that. I know. This is about… about… oh yes… Maria… my daughter.
Oh, I remember the exact moment Maria and I first bonded. We were standing on the front steps of our house in Baltimore. Elizabeth had just come home with our new son.
And Maria knew she had competition. She was no longer Elizabeth’s only child. She was no longer the baby of the family.
And so, we stood on the steps. And Maria, not quite two years old, took my hand, looked up at me… and I knew exactly what she meant to say:
“It’s just you and me now, Daddy.”
And it’s been like that ever since.
2. My second rule… I am not to go into a rant about COVID-19… or the Fed’s monetary policies.
This restriction, too, was completely unnecessary.
But if it weren’t for the COVID, we wouldn’t be here.
That’s right. The lockdown policies were meant to keep people apart. But somehow, in the middle of the most severe part of the lock-up, Maria and Adrien got together.
So I say thanks to Governor Hogan for shutting down the entire Maryland state economy so Maria and Adrien could meet.
3. Now, the third rule imposed was the silliest of all. I am not supposed to mention Nietzsche.
I wasn’t going to mention him anyway.
And yes, he wrote that “God is Dead,” so he seems kind of out of place at a Christian wedding ceremony.
And all we know for sure is that Nietzsche is definitely dead. He went crazy, as German philosophers tend to do, and then died in 1900.
And now, with those rules firmly implanted… like a harpoon in a whale… let’s go on.
To the Rescue
Adrien seems like a great guy. Just two weeks ago, we were at a cocktail reception together. Our grandchildren were playing in the pool. And I was talking with Adrien and our other son-in-law, Ryan, about the Fed’s monetary policy, when I noticed that our granddaughter, Dorothy, had somehow gotten into the deep end of the pool and was disappearing below the water.
So I’m sure you can all appreciate the social dilemma in which I found myself. Naturally, I didn’t want to interrupt the conversation, especially since it concerned the Fed’s monetary policies.
But I saw the bubbles coming up from little Dorothy’s mouth… and I thought I should say something.
And so, when a pause in the conversation finally came, I let Adrien know that the niece of his soon-to-be wife was drowning in the pool behind him.
Adrien swung around, and in a single motion, drew her up out of the water as if she were an Atlantic salmon. In other words, like a real pro.
But I’m going to focus on Maria. I know her so well and can give you a clear assessment of her strengths and weaknesses.
I’m going to pass over the drugs and alcohol… and that movie she made that’s on the internet. She was young. She needed the money. So let’s put that behind us.
Maria came along when we were still renovating our house in Baltimore. There were tools all over the place… Cans of paint… Wallpaper.
We really weren’t prepared for a baby. We didn’t even have a crib. So we just pushed aside the chisels and box cutters and laid her down in an old toolbox. Next to the table saw.
Her first toy was a chalk line.
And it’s how Maria and I got to be so close. I’d go to work and just take the toolbox with me. When I needed a nail, I’d just fish one out of her mouth.
That’s probably why, to this day, Maria has a good work ethic.
And here’s a tip for Adrien. When you need a birthday present for Maria… try a gift card for Ace Hardware.
But it was clear almost from the very beginning that Maria was destined to be an actress… a singer… and yes… a drama queen.
Growing up, every scene was either a tragedy or a comedy…
But fortunately, Maria grew up in France, where corporal punishment was still permitted. She probably didn’t get as much spanking as she needed, because I thought I had to put on a uniform… But it didn’t matter; she was a very good girl. And besides, I always had her right where she wanted me.
When we were still living in the countryside in France, Maria was ready to go to what we would call high school, and what the French call “college.” The place where the families we knew sent their girls was a boarding school – the Union Chrétienne – in an old stone convent in Poitiers, run by the Sisters of Everlasting Severity. Or something like that.
The girls wore blue and white uniforms. They lived in such cold barracks, it would have given a Spartan soldier the shivers. And they were not allowed to talk with each other after 8 p.m.
I asked Elizabeth, “Do you think this is going to work for Maria?”
“Well, it works for all the other girls. They complain about it, but they get used to it. Maybe they even like it.”
A few days later, we took Maria there… dropped her off… and waved goodbye. She had tears in her eyes, but she bravely went into the school. She was about 13 years old.
No phone calls were permitted. But three days later was the first day parents could visit. Before I drove up to see her, Elizabeth warned me that Maria would complain… but we should remain firm, like the other parents… and let her get used to the place before considering a change. Besides, there weren’t many options.
Well, I got to the school… and Maria came running out, in tears…
“Daddy, Daddy… You’ve got to get me out of this place.”
But I held firm. For about two minutes. Then, I told the head mistress that the school really didn’t suit my daughter… and Maria came home with me.
Flying the Nest
And now, Maria has grown up. She has passed through the difficult years… the larval stage… and has emerged as a beautiful, responsible adult.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say the metamorphosis is complete. But she has wings… and I confess…
…that after so many years together… when I feel the brush of those wings upon my cheek… and I think of her now flying away with Adrien… I have mixed emotions.
Fortunately, she is not flying far away… The young couple are moving in next door to us in Baltimore.
And now, I see Elizabeth reaching for the power cord, so I’m going to wrap up by giving them some advice.
Nietzsche was pronounced insane in 1889 after the famous “horse incident.” He was walking down the streets of Turin, when he saw a teamster beating his horse. Nietzsche flung himself around the horse’s neck, burst into tears… and refused to move. Finally, a priest and two butchers had to pry him loose.
Here’s a quote: “Logic and reason have no role in a happy marriage.”
Nietzsche didn’t say that. I said that. Nietzsche never got married; so he didn’t know. Instead of marriage, he chose insanity. And he never regretted it.
And here’s a takeaway for both Maria and Adrien from the horse incident: There are bound to be some rough patches ahead.
No… don’t get out the whip.
Just throw your arms around each other… and don’t let go until you get psychiatric assistance.
There. I hope that helps.
The beautiful bride beneath the veil
Thanks to one and all.
P.S. Here’s a video of Maria serenading her new husband…