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Best Man Toast

posted at 11:01 am
on Dec. 4, 2001

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Best Man’s Toast to George and Naomi Stankow-Mercer

This is a transcript of what I remember myself saying the night of the marriage of my friend George to his financee, Naomi, in July of this year.  I had been a pretty visible part of the wedding—in the ceremony, moving people around, ushering, and at the rehearsal dinner.  I was the only male other than George in the wedding party, surrounded by 6 or 7 pretty girls in dresses.

I started off with a joke, but was heckled immediately by the bride.

“So, as I guess you all know by now, I’m the best man,” I said.

“You’re the only man!” shouted the bride. [Laughter]

“Thanks, Naomi. I appreciate the support.”

So, picture this: it’s 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning in my bed in Los Angeles, and I get a phone call. It wakes me up.

It’s George. He’s calling from Germany.

‘Are you awake?’ he asks me.

‘Yes,’ I say. ‘Are you?’

‘I don’t know. I just wanted to call because, well, I think I might be engaged.’

I said, ‘Let’s figure this out.  Have you been talking recently to a girl?’

‘Yes, her name’s Naomi.’

‘Did you ask Naomi to marry you?’

George says ‘yeah’ in kind of a soft voice.

‘Did Naomi say yes?’

He said “yes.”

Well, I’m no expert, but at this point I’m thinking it’s pretty clear he’s engaged.  But I’ve known George for a long time, and I figured there had to be something more to the situation.

You see, I met George at the Daily Trojan, the newspaper at the University of Southern California. We were both freshman, and both copy editors, and I had a terrible problem.  I couldn’t spell.  So I’d yell across the newsroom questions like “How do you spell phlegm? What about sheriff? How about maudlin?”

More often than not, George would be the first to answer—and he’d always be right.

George and I would have long debates on whether “this week” meant Sunday to Saturday or the next 7 days, and we’d try to figure out how many people you needed to write a headline about a riot instead of a mob—answer: it doesn’t matter because they take up the same space.

I introduced George to email, and he introduced me to Susannah, my wife, who is sitting here right now.  So George and I learned a lot from each other and became close friends.

See, so I knew that if George was confused, it had to be more than simple shock—he must have some reason for doubting the technical validity of the transaction. So I continue asking questions.

‘Did you give this girl a ring?’

‘Not yet.’

‘Did you kneel down on one knee?

‘No, she wouldn’t have seen it anyway.’

I think to myself, maybe she’s blind—and I then think, very clever, George!

Then I get an idea.

‘You didn’t propose in person?’


‘You have met her in person, haven’t you, George?’

‘Oh sure, we first met years ago.’

‘Where’s that?’

‘Well, she’s from Nevada and we were in the State Spelling Bee together.’

‘When was that?’

‘Grade 2.’

‘How did you do, George?’

‘She beat me.’

‘Just checking.’

At this point, I figured out that he was engaged, but I had a few more questions I wanted to ask.

‘Why do you love Naomi?’

‘She’s smart,’ he said.

‘You mean she’s a good speller?’

And he said ‘She cares about words.  She reads. The same books I do. (And you know George, so you know that means a tremendous range.)

‘She shares my values.  We come from the same place. We can talk to each other for days and always have something new to say.’

Since that phone call with George, I’ve watched them, and I’ve seen some other signs that these two people should be together.

They balance and stabilize each other.  Unless they’re behind the wheel of a car, in which case they support and goad each other into bolder and bolder traffic violations.

They are also teaching each other the delicate art of compromise.  Perhaps they both could benefit from this a little—I’ll let you be the judge.

But let me give you an example.

George took me out the night before my wedding. I told him that Susie and I still hadn’t decided what to do about our last names.  She didn’t want to become a ‘Smith’ and I was having a hard time with ‘Gardner.’ ‘Gardner-Smith’ sounded like a resume.  But George had some advice.

He was resolute that Susie should take my last name. ‘The woman I marry will take my last name. No question about it.’

‘What if she doesn’t want to?’

‘I couldn’t possibly fall in love with someone that didn’t feel the same way. We’d be too different.’

Now I thought it was odd that, on a clear evening like that was, I could still hear the rumble of distant thunder.  I didn’t think anything of it at the time.

But you can understand why, then, it is my sincerest pleasure to offer my congratulations and my best wishes for a happy, joy-filled marriage and a wonderful shared life together.

Please join me in a toast to this couple we are here tonight to honor and celebrate, Mr. and Mrs. Stankow-Mercer.


“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

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“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

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“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

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“I play with variables constantly.”

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“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

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