Here’s the speech I gave at Jo and Ben’s wedding – or something approximating it. I’ve not used the same words as I’ve not remembered them. I may have omitted a point or two – or added a couple – at the time. But this is close to it.
For those who do not know me, I am John, the father of the groom. It is not traditional for the groom’s father to speak at a wedding. There may be a very understandable reason for this. The father of the bride welcomes the party. The best man mocks the groom. Why am I speaking?
I’d like to formally welcome Jo to our extended family. Heather’s cousin, Tova, joins us from Haifa. My brother, Eric, joins us from Ottawa. Caroline, Heather’s sister, has come from Hamburg with her husband, two sons, their two wives and their four children. Jo has met them all, visiting Canada and Germany, and charmed them all. The first night she stayed at our house Heather and Jo stayed up chatting until 2am. As my daughter, Kate, has said, “we would be friends anyway”.
The story of my son’s adult life centres on Jo. We have known Jo for her entire adult life, a third of her life to date, since she was a teenager. The met during Fresher’s Week at the University of York where they formed a Converse All Star Mutual Admiration Society.
Ben’s first meal out with Jo and us together was to our favourite dim-sun restaurant in London. None of us knew that she’d never had that before. There she was, with her future in-laws, eating food she’d never seen before. She never let on how scary that was.
Jo lived with us for a year whilst she was taking her second degree. Heather, Kate, Ben and Jo were all living in the house and attending university. I was the token worker. During that time she learned to love dogs almost as much as she loves cats. She coped with living with two large dogs and her boyfriend’s parents for a year.
Here’s the anecdote I cherish. The two of them used to go to indie night clubs, catching night buses home, with the inevitable long traipse from the final stop home. Jo would be in unaccustomed high heels, walking back and it would become too much. Ben would lend her his socks. I picture a light mist, glistening pavements – Jo with her shoes in one hand, walking in Ben’s over-szied socks, and holding Ben’s hand in her other. There’s an image to conjure up to sustain them over the next 50 years.
Raise your glasses in a toast please; to Jo, the beautiful bride and to Ben, such a nice guy.
And now, over to the mother of the bride, so pay attention.