Over this weekend, I had the privilege of attending Caleb and Jordan Kemere’s wedding in North Carolina. Below, you’ll find a video of my toast to them as their best man as well as the original script of the toast (which the video differs slightly from).
Here’s the broadband WMV version of the toast video.
I wish both of them all the best on their journey together!
Original Script for Caleb and Jordan’s Toast
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. and Mrs. Walker, Dr. & Mrs. Kemere, family and friends, Caleb and Jordan. It’s an honor to be here amongst all of you to witness and celebrate this blessed union.
To be honest, I’m a bit nervous about this toast. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I thought I’d consult the Internet. I checked YouTube, polled FaceBook, and even considered working with a Nigerian banker who emailed me out of the blue with a great business proposition involving bank transfers. In addition to transcripts of great wedding toasts, he also offered to get me Viagra. Ringtones. A college degree from the comforts of home. Canadian prescription drugs. He’s apparently a very capable man. But in the end, I decided to set technology aside and do it the old fashioned way.
So just before this, I locked myself in a private, mostly quiet place to sit down and have a good long think about what to say. Here’s what I came up with. [Produce sheets of written-on toilet paper] Hey — I had to use what was available.
Caleb and I have known each other for 25 years. We went to the same schools from first grade through college. I almost followed him to grad school, but the required discipline and rigor were too much for me.
I’m pleasantly amused by the great misnomer “best man” when applied to me at this wedding. Of the two of us, Caleb is better in almost every dimension that actually matters. It’s he who has always been the Best Man. In our relationship, he was always the more generous, always the more grounded, the more profound. You might say this is only to be expected, since Caleb comes from a family of generous people. Through the years, my respect and admiration for him has only grown.
Caleb is full of grace. I’ve offended and wronged a good number of people in my life. Caleb has always forgiven me, not just seven times, but the proverbial 70 times seven times. I’m working hard to avoid that 491st offense. I hope this toast isn’t it.
Caleb has always been a Peacemaker. The only time I’ve ever had a gun pointed at me was in college, when we hatched a plan to buy some U2 concert tickets without needing to wait in line all night with the other students. Somewhere between setting off a campus building alarm and getting shouted at by hundreds of angry fans, I managed to get a gun pointed at me.
Fortunately, Caleb came immediately to the rescue. He, like any true man of honor and valor, made peace, using his bare fists and a spinning jump-kick that left three students hospitalized and put one student permanently in Cirque du Soleil.
Those who know Caleb know that nothing of the sort happened. Caleb made peace by befriending everyone. He even anticipated the need to bring donuts to smooth things over. If it wasn’t for his easy affability, things would have turned out quite differently for me that day.
Caleb’s most profound impact on me comes from his grounded view of the world. He once declared to me that he wouldn’t necessarily require his children to go to college. [To Jordan: This isn’t news, right? The two of you have talked about this?] I at first thought his declaration was ridiculous. But he eventually convinced me with his usual patient discourse. What, after all, does college teach about Justice, Mercy, Integrity, Kindness, Charity, Compassion? Isn’t Character what we should all want for our children, for even ourselves? Caleb reminds me to strive for these things, to question what I want and what I value.
I admire Caleb in all these ways and more. So much so, in fact, that when it came to my wife and me naming our first child, we were thrilled to name him Caleb.
All of us already know that both Caleb and Jordan are wonderful people. What, if anything, would I say if there was one additional thing I could convey? It’d be this: that marriage is supremely beautiful, far better than you imagine, even today on your wedding day.
But much talk these days might cause us to disbelieve that. First, many people have made it habit or reflex to complain about their spouses. "You know Jeff – never lifts a finger." "Sorry, guys, the ol’ Ball and Chain is making me stay home again."
Second, talk about marriage can often come across as Stern and Grave. It’s not that Stern and Grave is somehow wrong. Marriage is indeed a most serious responsibility. But it’s also a beautiful opportunity. I’d love to hear more talk that’s infused with the positive emotional conviction that naturally springs from relational happiness.
Here’s my shot at it.
I’ve been married 8 years. Marriage is positively the greatest everyday happiness in my life.
I have a constant companion to share life with, to amplify the joy, to dampen the sadness. With each year of marriage, I find deeper support and comfort, a solid emotional foundation to stand on.
Marriage is unconditional love made tangible. Risks seem less daunting, thrills seem more exciting. It’s supremely beautiful, far better than I imagined. And I had high expectations.
One piece of advice: I find that everyday grace is essential to marriage. Most of us want someone to accept us as we are. But we sometimes struggle to extend that same grace to our partners. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Gandhi said that. So strive to extend this grace to one another daily. I know you will.
Now, my desire for both of you is this: that eight years from now, that even thirty years from now, you will attend a wedding where the one thing you’d want to convey is that marriage for you has indeed been supremely beautiful, far better than you imagined even on your wedding day.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in raising a toast.
To Caleb and Jordan: May you enjoy lifelong happiness together, walking side by side, blessing others. May you daily extend a full measure of grace to one another, packed down, flowing over. May people one day say of you, “There was a blessed couple who did justly, loved mercy, walked humbly with their God.”