My Toast to Caroline and Ross

A speech is like a woman’s skirt: it needs to be long enough to cover the subject matter but short enough to hold the audience’s attention.

Nora Ephron

Tradition dictates the groom’s family organizes the wedding rehearsal dinner for the families and members of the wedding party. Such was the case for Caroline and Ross’s wedding, though The Pretty Blonde and I were challenged by, A) the wedding was taking place 3,000 miles from Moraga, and B) our knowledge of restaurants in the Providence, Rhode Island area encompassed a pair of burrito dives and a falafal takeout joint.

We settled on The Waterman Grille, a popular riverfront bistro situated along the Seekonk River in a former bridge gatehouse dating back to 1871. The restaurant’s outdoor patio was the perfect space for the what was essentially a casual outdoor cocktail party. Everyone was expecting one of New England’s patented 90 degree/90 percent humidity days, but lady luck gave us a dry, cool, and cloudless night. I would have tipped God a c-note if I had seen him.

As father of the groom, I had two duties. One, pick up  the check. And two, deliver the night’s first toast. For months I thought about what I wanted to say, and I had spent the prior weeks putting my words down on paper. I rehearsed my toast a dozen or so times, and spent hours in a fruitless effort to commit it to memory. I can’t remember the name of the street I live on, much less recall a 300-word toast.

Below are the words I uttered that Friday night. Since I’ve recently started crying during car commercials, you can imagine how many times I choked up delivering this toast. An over/under of six would be a good bet. Enjoy.

“Hello everyone, and welcome to Caroline and Ross’s wedding rehearsal dinner. My name is Lee Geiger, and I am the father of the groom. Next to me is my wife, Anne Geiger, and if you’ve done the math correctly that would make her the mother of the groom.

I’ve been waiting 26 years to deliver this toast, ever since a newborn Ross Geiger was placed under one of those amber-colored maternity lamps like a freshly made Big Mac, and the first words I ever uttered to my firstborn son were, “HE’S GOT RED HAIR!” So please forgive me if I get emotional. I’ve also worked very hard on this toast, so feel free to suck up to me and laugh at my jokes or tear up at my wistful remembrances.

I’d first like to acknowledge the bride’s marvelous parents, Ann and Charles Kelley, and commend them for not only raising an amazing daughter, but for doing a wonderful job planning a special day for everyone to enjoy and for Caroline and Ross to remember forever. It’s been a tremendous joy getting to know the Kelley’s, and I knew we’d all get along on that very first night we spent together at their vacation home in Scottsdale, when as the clock approached midnight we all decided to put on our swimsuits, grab our wine glasses and jump into a hot tub. Anne and I looked at each other from across the steamy water and happily concurred; these Rhode Islanders sure know how to have fun!

To honor Charles, tonight I’m wearing loafers without socks, something men on the East Coast like to do. I’m going to be brutally honest with you, Charles…I don’t get it. Not only do my feet hurt, but the smell too. I’m just saying.

Ross and Caroline both grew up with brothers, and I want to take this opportunity to introduce them to all of you. Keith Geiger, Ross’s younger brother, flew up this morning from Orlando and is Ross’s Best Man. Andrew Kelley, Caroline’s older brother, lives in Providence and is one of Ross’s groomsmen. Later on tonight, Keith is going to advise Andrew on the best way to get under his older brother’s skin, while Andrew is going to educate Keith on the surest shortcuts to torment a little sister.

At this point I’d like to give a special shout out to Caroline’s Maid of Honor, Kerry Radigan, and thank all the other bridesmaids and groomsmen for coming this weekend. Take it from those of us born before the invention of the microwave oven; when all is said and done, there is nothing more important to a happy and fulfilling life than friends and family, and the fact we’re all here tonight says how much we all mean to Caroline and Ross. And the fact you spent a week’s pay on bridesmaid’s dresses and tuxedos says how much they mean to you.

Now onto the wedding couple; Caroline and Ross. Pardon me while I reach for a tissue/handkerchief.

Ross, your mother and I have watched you grow up from a precocious, sweet-tempered little boy into a mature, intensely-focused young man, a true gentleman who values family, integrity, character and decency. As you have shown us throughout your entire life, you conduct yourself with good-humor and poise, and your respect for others is only exceeded by your own humility. Mere words can never adequately express how proud we are of you.

And that pride extends to the women you’ve chosen to become your life partner. Caroline is more than just a bright, beautiful, and engaging young lady; she’s your equal, a strong, confident woman of conviction and grace. She dearly loves you, and she’s paid you the ultimate compliment by agreeing to take your name. You were wise to ask her to marry you, and you were damn lucky she said yes.

Certain couples are meant to be together, and the two of you are blessed to have found each other. You’re like peanut butter and jelly, peas and carrots, (hold up my glass), gin and tonic. Or as Ann Kelley would say, nine holes of golf and wine. But anyone who knows either of you can tell just by looking at either of you; you two are in love, and it doesn’t get any better than that.

So now, courtesy of an open bar and an obscene amount of delicious food I’m paying for, I get to offer you both some sensible fatherly advice.

You two are about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. Always remember to communicate with each other, to respect each other, to lean on each other, and to trust each other. Take if from your mother and I; marriage requires more effort and patience than you ever could have imagined on your wedding day. And like most things in life, it’s the little things that matter the most; the unexpected flowers, the chocolates next the bed, the foot rubs in front of the TV, the surprise meatloaf on your birthday. And here’s the best part. As your spouse evolves as a person, as surely as two bright, strong-willed and well-educated people will, you get the wonderful opportunity to fall in love with them all over again…and again…and again.

And now, while the night is still young, let’s raise our glasses and give a toast to Caroline and Ross.”

2 Responses to My Toast to Caroline and Ross

  1. Charlie Kelley says:

    Lee
    Thanks to you and Anne for an awesome rehearsal cocktail party & dinner! The food was great and as anyone who knows you would not be surprised to hear, the wine was terrific as well. Your toast was perfect and you really looked like a true RIer without those socks (saves on laundry as well).
    How lucky we are to watch as our children enter the next stage of their life and to meet so many of their wonderful friends who when they go on to be world successful we can sit back in our rockers and say we knew them when……Lee and Anne thank you for everything!

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