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Here's to you! Nailing the toast...into the ground

Nothing sends shudders down my spine and puts me into a cold sweat faster than having to speak in front of a crowd. The bad news is that I have a big event coming up and there's no avoiding it. Trust me, I've tried.

I'm the matron of honor in my best friend's wedding. Bowing out is not an option, she won't let me. She's already told me that if I don't show up, she will find me and it will not end well. I'm thinking her threats aren't idle. She means it. The bride said she is actually looking forward to my speech. Fool.

I should have this down. This isn't my first rodeo. I was in 4-H, speech and theater in high school. I wasn't good but I tried. If I was smart I would have kept a written copy of past speeches that I could just tweak it and use for the next one. This is my fifth go-around for toasting the newly married couple...and each speech has had their own series of unfortunate events.

Let's see, the first wedding I couldn't remember the bride's name because I was so nervous. At another wedding the speech turned into a confession of all the shenanigans that the bride and I had gotten ourselves into over the years. That one was quite an eye opener for her new husband. Since it was after the ceremony there wasn't much he could do but shake his head and laugh awkwardly while I went on and on and on. If looks could kill, she would have had me in the ground.

The worst, by far, one was at my brother's wedding last fall. I called myself his brother (we don't have a brother) and then tried to recover by saying that the surgery had been a success. What?! The number one thing I've learned is that I need to stick to water or straight Diet Coke until the speech is done and we are well into the dance.

I obviously don't go into these speeches unprepared. I have notes to go off of but every single time things go astray. I usually start with how I know the bride and some of the memories I have of the two of us, then I try to incorporate a story of them as a couple. It's a very sophisticated formula and just like statistics, I don't get it. What I want to say isn't what I actually end up saying and I don't know why that is.

It's a fine, fine line - do you try to be humorous, or boring and sentimental? I usually go for the first and end up in a tailspin that is hard to recover from. I usually end up nailing the landing but it's usually a pretty close call with a few casualties along the way. When you look out at the crowd and they have a look of horror and shock on their faces it forces you to buck up and pull it together.

I wouldn't say I'm an overly mushy or emotional person. I joke with my husband that he should know that I still love him because I haven't informed him that anything has changed. I feel the same way about weddings and the bride that I am supporting. I'm there, usually in some dorky dress, shoes and jewelry that I'll never wear again, hair and nails done, while smiling and posing for photos. I shouldn't have to say anything! It's a given that they are important to me, otherwise I wouldn't be there. I flew to be in a wedding in Ohio when I lived in Fargo and when I was 17 weeks pregnant with our second set of twins I flew from Chicago to Fargo for another wedding. I never had morning sickness but on that flight I was SICK. That is love.

One of the problems with wedding receptions is that there is usually at least one type of video recording device present, usually with audio as a bonus. That means that my verbal diarrhea of a speech is going to live on forever. I haven't braved watching my latest and greatest from last fall - but maybe I better in order to get tips on what NOT to do for the upcoming one.

So, in closing, I'm available for your next big event. I have several formal dresses hanging in the closet to choose from and a costume jewelry collection that is a force to be reckoned with. It's sure to be the most awfully delivered speech ever, and at points you'll be wondering why you didn't pick someone else to bless your new nuptials praying I'll just stop and sit down. Maybe I should just do an interpretative dance to express my feelings and call it a day.