A Toast to a Toast

My friend Nathan is getting married in three days. As the best man, I have three duties: Throw him a party, get him to the wedding and give the toast. The toast — a tradition possibly as old as drinking itself — is one of the highlights of the reception dinner. No pressure, right?

Plato recounted elaborate toasts in his philosophical work, Symposium (which, incidentally, means “drinking party” in Greek). Whenever people were gathered for a special occasion with a glass or two of wine, people would drink to the health of their friends, loved ones, monarchs and virtues. The word “toast” comes from the 17th century practice of flavoring wine with, you guessed it, spiced pieces of toasted bread, but over the years the flavoring became more metaphorical. Words instead of soggy toast.

Today, it’s customary to toast the bride and groom on their special day, offering wit and wisdom for the first steps of their new joint life. This isn’t my first toast and it probably won’t be my last. And in all fairness, no one is likely to remember what I say, but I still want it to be good.

Where to begin? Meeting Nathan in eighth grade P.E.? Our awkward awesome high school years? The day he got a mysterious plate of homemade cookies from Danika (whom he’s now about to marry)? Hot summers basking on the red rocks in Sedona? Sailing on Lake Mary while a thunderstorm built on the horizon?

Or do I begin with wisdom? Insights into love are a staple of the wedding toast. But what do I know about marriage? Not much. I do know a few things about happiness and about what to do (and what not to do) when you’re in love. But, this isn’t about me.

Maybe it doesn’t really matter what I say. What matters is the day; the happy union of two people with a common future. If I can convey how glad I am for my friends, how much their friendship means to me and how great my hopes are for the days and months and years to come, then I can cross “toast” off my list of best man jobs.

The right words can do that, because the right words are transformative. They’re powerful. They’re a gift — my gift to Nathan and Danika on the day their lives change forever.

So, let’s raise a glass to the toast and to the guy who has to write it!

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I’m a writer living in Flagstaff, AZ and the last time I was someone’s best man, I wrote four drafts of my toast. This may take a while. If you have any hints, please comment or find me on Twitter: @jonnyeberle. Thanks for reading!

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