16 September 2014

Lord of the Rings

Have you ever witnessed love? True, deep, eternal love? I have. And not just in a fluffy manner of speaking. No; I've gone on file at Zurich's civil registry office. A little while ago, I have put my signature under my dear friends' wedding papers, attesting that they have freely and genuinely chosen each other.

In doing so, I delivered on the most essential, and formal, task that the happy couple had asked of me. When they put it to me a year earlier, I felt flattered, cajoled, but also somewhat unsettled by the request to be their best man. As the following twelve months were to prove, this role comes with a number of responsibilities, and with expectations that are different from what they would be in Canada.

When I started talking to my Canadian friends about the role bestowed upon me, they nodded approvingly. "You'll be great", they said, and "I'm sure you'll be very funny".

I was confused. Why would I be funny? On the contrary, I was meant to be button-down, organized and meticulous, for together with the bridesmaid, I was to be the chief organizer of proceedings before and on wedding day.

As it turns out, one of the key deliverables of a best man west of the Atlantic is a witty speech at the wedding reception. That was news to me - and fortunately, it is still unknown to those who are now husband and wife. Speechwriting therefore was not required, for the few announcements on wedding night were acts of improvisation.

Preparing for the big day, however, was not. The Swiss, with their fetish for perfection, expect wedding ceremonies to run like clockwork. Ceremonies, food, entertainment, transportation, surprises, everything is supposed to happen smoothly. Bridesmaid and best man are to make sure that it does, so that the happy couple can enjoy its day with friends and family.

Living up to this expectation takes a bit more than just signing a piece of paper. No surprise that, in the months preceeding the big day, the bridesmaid and I spent a fair bit of time on preparations. Me being overseas did not make things easier, though thankfully the bridesmaid was both understanding and very supportive under the circumstances. Once ready, we could simply run through the script on the day itself, and except for a few minor hick-ups, things went according to plan. They even said YES at the right moment.

Of course, some expectations of a best man remain the same. Inevitably, I found myself putting together, and drinking through, a bachelor's night one day this summer. Knowing me for longer than my sister does, the groom had a good idea of both my organizational and party aptitudes when he picked his best man. His liver, and his in-laws, must have been equally thankful for his choice.

Here and there, being asked to act as the best man is a big honor. It caught me by surprise, it touched me, and it made all the prep work a pleasure. And when it became too much, I simply delegated, not even shying away from child labor: The all important task of providing the wedding rings at the right time was dramatically executed by... the bridesmaid's toddler.
And they wore them happily ever after.

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