My would-be speech to a cousin on his wedding day...


One of my cousins recently married, and I had prepared a little tongue-in-cheek speech to help celebrate the occasion. I ultimately decided not to read this aloud during the ceremony; I was shy, and didn't want to intrude on the more emotional speeches given by others at the time. I therefore shared this with my cousin in the days that followed.

I've changed the names here to spare my relatives' dignity...but they know who they are.

Evening, everybody. I get a little nervous with public speaking, so I had to write down a few notes to rely on. Hope you don’t mind. I just wanted to share a few profound words of wisdom to my cousin before he ties the knot.

(Adam awkwardly fishes through his pockets and pulls out a sheet a paper.)

Here we go… My little speech is right here. I spent a lot of thought on it.

To my cousin Bob: What's best in life…

(Adam scrutinizes the page and reads:)


To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women.

(Adam looks up at the crowd, blushing.)

Sorry - wrong speech. That's actually dialogue from the 1982 motion picture CONAN THE BARBARIAN, written by John Milius and Oliver Stone. I don’t know why I have that written here, but as I seem to have forgotten my original speech, maybe we can learn from the wisdom of Conan and see how it may apply to your marriage.

FIRST: Crush your enemies. Now obviously, please don't take that line literally. I hope you don't have any enemies. And if you do, I strongly urge you not to go out crushing them, even if you drive a really big car. Think of all the car detailing you’d be responsible for. Besides, “enemies” is a strong word, so let's think of this in a slightly more metaphorical way.

Opposition. Life challenges. Hurdles you'll come across. Things that are unexpected. You're no stranger to such things -- you've had your fair share already, I know. You and Michelle have had to grow up a lot sooner than most. You lost your fathers -- something I can relate to now these past few days -- and you've had to shoulder a lot of family responsibility in their absence. That couldn’t have been easy, and I admire you both for that more than words can say.

I'm not that much older than you, Bob, though I look and feel positively ancient. But take it from me: don't make some of the mistakes I've made. Don't let bitterness consume you. Move forward -- ever forward. This is a new chapter in your life, and and you and Michelle are the co-authors. Make the pages ahead fun and exciting. Make them beautiful. Make them wondrous.

SECOND LINE: See them driven before you. And this, too, is something we can view in a more metaphorical light, Bob.

Be driven. Whatever your ambitions, however great or small, don't lose sight of them. Life has a sinister way of tossing a lot of distractions in our direction, and its easy to get lost in the daily routines that come and go. And that's ok -- just don't give up on your dreams. The richest lives often belong to those who somehow manage to reach for the stars AND live on the earth. You should try to do both, so long as you can gauge what’s most important when the times comes.

People often say DREAM BIG. I used to think that way, but now I know better.

Don't dream BIG, Bob. Dream WELL.

Know your life's priorities. Do what you can to be happy, while holding your head high, and being mindful of others' happiness.

Be true to yourself. Be true to your conscience. And honor the faith of all those who've believed in you over the years.

Be good to each other. Talk, share, laugh, cry...but most important of all, be willing and ready to LISTEN to each other.

So often we're eager to have our say, to dish out advice, that we lose sight of the value of simply lending an ear. Silence can speak volumes.

(Adam turns the page over and scrutinizes a handwritten note at top:)

And whatever you do, for the love of God, don’t cover yourself in ridiculous tattoos!

Oh, wait – sorry. That was a handwritten note intended for another cousin. Forget I mentioned it. It’s too late for them, anyway.

OK, where was I? Oh, yeah, what is best in life…the value of listening…etc…etc…

By that token, let's move on to the third and final line of Conan's stoic wisdom: Hear the lamentation of the women.

Now Bob, this line you'll have to take more literally, I'm afraid, especially where Michelle is concerned. You're going to have to do a lot of listening...as well you should, because Michelle seems like a very smart, special lady. Try to respect each others' freedom. Being together doesn't mean you have to march in step all the time. You are each your own person, and at times will need your own independence. You're going to have your differences and disagreements. Try to be patient, try to be tolerant, and, above all, forgiving.

So Robert…if Michelle wants to spend a weekend hanging out with her friends, or traveling, or window shopping, or whatever it is Michelle likes to do, extend to her the trust and freedom to let her be her own person, as well as your wife.

And Michelle…if Bob wants to spend a guys’ night out partying with loud, obnoxious friends over more than a few drinks…if he should come home late one night, looking a little disheveled and out of it…if he lets himself go, or if he doesn't take out the trash or mow the lawn...just roll with it, tell yourself it's OK, and deprive him of any conjugal visits for the next three months.

(I specifically phrased that in a way so any young children present couldn't understand.)

To my other recently married (or formerly married) relatives…I bet right now you’re secretly thinking how grateful you are not to have had me deliver a speech at your weddings. But that’s OK. I was probably too busy pigging out on hors d’oeuvres, anyway.

Ms. Michelle Stratton, I hope you know what the heck you're getting into. We’re a crazy bunch, but you probably figured that out already. So welcome to the family. We love you.

Blog Archive