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Monday, September 01, 2003

Andrew Haas and Sarah Adams' Wedding Speech (Sunday, August 31st, 2003)

The wedding party - photo by Anna Lee

I'm not much of a speechwriter. But yesterday I was called upon as the best man of my friend Andrew Haas to deliver the best man's toast in his honor at the Landmark Center in St. Paul. For anyone who's interested, and to aid future best men who I know from experience are prone to scour the internet in search of ideas for their toasts, I make my speech available in full here.

Hello, I'm David de Young, Andrew's best man.

I'd like to welcome all the family members and other friends here tonight, and I'd like to say on behalf of the wedding party that we're sorry that our friend Dirk Balow can't be with us. Are thoughts are with him, and we wish him a speedy recovery from his illness.

Today is a fitting day for this marriage celebration, as it was on this day in 1888 Jack the Ripper claimed his first victim.

I'm not exactly an expert on marriage myself, only having done it once. But what is marriage about? Well, marriage is a sort of friendship recognized by the police. And what is at the heart of any good wedding reception? The food, of course. (Though it's been said that the most dangerous food a man can eat is wedding cake.)

Andrew and Sarah getting married marks the end of an era. Granted, it's been a much longer era for Andrew. . .

Some people might tell you that the institution of marriage has lost its seriousness over the years. But getting married these days is a far bigger deal than it used to be. Andrew and Sarah will likely be spending the next 40 to 50 years of their lives together. However, Sarah, if you'd lived a few hundred years ago, marrying Andrew wouldn't have been such a big deal because most people were already dead by the time they were Andrew's age. In fact, when Mozart was Andrew's age, he'd already been dead for FIVE YEARS!

Now some of you may know I'm a big English history buff and spend as much time in England as possible. This got me intrigued by a few ancient nuptial traditions. Has anyone been to a wedding where they tied old shoes to the back of the just-married couple's car? It was back during the reign of Henry the 8th that this tradition originated. Guests would throw shoes at the bride and groom, and it was good luck if they or their carriage were hit! Also in Anglo-Saxon times the bride was symbolically struck with a shoe by her groom to establish his authority. Brides would then throw shoes at their bridesmaids to see who would marry next. The contemporary use of the bouquet is just one example of the strides towards civility the modern wedding celebration has taken.

I promised I wouldn't talk about Andrew and Sarah's difference in age because when you get to the heart of it, age doesn't really matter. Some people will tell you that older folks are out of touch with the younger generation. But as our recent president Ronald Reagan said a just few years ago when he was debating Walter Mondale in the presidential election, "I will not make age an issue. . . I'm not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience." (And let's hope Andrew feels the same way about Sarah.)

I've never been a best man before, and I'm not sure how well I'm doing. At the bachelor party I managed to lose the bride's brother, and we only changed bars once! One can only imagine how many people I might have lost if we'd actually tried to paint the entire town. (David, I'm so sorry.)

But as far as my other designated duties I appear to be doing alright: The groom is here, his shoes are tied and ... (take a peak in Andrew's lap) . . . his fly is zipped.

I'll always remember the first time I met Andrew. It was 19 years ago this very week, Tuesday, August 28th, 1984, (again, back during the Reagan administration.) I was hanging around Gardner lounge at Grinnell College at what was called the "Optional Underwear Party," (Grinnell was a very progressive school) and had my eye on an attractive freshman girl. I was just getting ready to approach her when Andrew moved in, dashing my chances with her forever. According to my journal, I left the party, "feeling dejected, rejected and pissed." Of course I've forgiven him for this now.

Our relationship improved as we made a somewhat informal deal not to pursue the same woman at the same time. In time over the years I've come to know some of Andrew's most marked characteristics: his genuine generosity and wicked sense of humor. One Christmas years ago I remember him showing up at the CC Club with wrapped gifts for all his drinking buddies. He is also a living example of the saying, "If you want a friend, be a friend." Andrew knows who he wants in his life and makes every effort to let those people know he cares about them.

I asked Andrew the other day how he knew it was time to get married and settle down, and he said it really wasn't something he rationally figured out, but rather something he kind of just knew. Sarah told me she seemed to know Andrew was the one from their very first date. Both their responses exemplify a kind of knowledge that is far more real than intellectual. Charts, graphs, weights and measures probably should be thrown out when it comes to a marriage decision.

It's traditional for the best man to offer some sort of advice to the groom at this point. And I'd like to offer some advice I found on the internet recently that struck me as sound: Andrew, I know you're good at this, and the gifts you are receiving today from Home Depot today should come in handy with it. But always help Sarah with jobs around the house. I'm told there has never been one recorded case in human history, where a wife has shot her husband, while he was doing the dishes.

Before we close, I'd like to read an email that came today for Andrew. Apparently, this email was sent in 1940, but due to the internet congestion some of which was caused by the Sobig and Blaster worms, it was delayed for 63 years. It comes from a Mr. Thomas Stearns Eliot who writes from East Coker, a village near Yeovil, Somerset, in England.

Dear Andrew,

Congratulations on your wedding to Sarah Adams. I regret that I am unable to attend the ceremony due to the unfortunate reason that I died in 1965.

I've emailed Mr. de Young to read a few words from the second of my Four Quartets in your honor.

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

(From the second of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets)

I'd like to conclude with a toast to Sarah and Andrew that comes from Shakespeare's, Macbeth, Act III, scene iv: let us "Drink to the general joy of the whole table."

And congratulations!