I was recently given the great honor of playing a large role in the wedding ceremony of two good friends. I also gave a toast during the rehearsal dinner. I’ve copied both speeches below, as well as the best man speech I gave at my brother’s wedding one year ago.
Welcome and congratulations to everyone who is here today, to witness and celebrate the uniting of Julia and Luke in marriage. I think we can all agree, that they have a beautiful and special love that has been cultivated and shared over the past six years.
As we stand here today, just a few miles from the majestic Appalachian Trail, I am reminded of Julia and Luke, as they are both avid, experienced hikers, rock climbers, runners, and world travelers. Yet, tonight, Julia and Luke, you are novices; (Pause) embarking on the first step of your most meaningful journey yet; your new life together.
Fortunately, you are not embarking on this voyage alone. You have the support of your loving parents, Annie and Robert, Nancy and Steve, siblings Rachel and David, your extended families, and all of your wonderful friends who have traveled long and far to celebrate this joyous occasion.
I’d like to take a bit of time to impart some wisdom that I’ve gathered from spending so much time with my dear friends Julia and Luke. Wisdom about hiking, about life, or perhaps about both. Here it goes:
Lesson number 1: Know your partner
Julia, Luke, you first met when you were RAs, resident advisors, of Few, your junior year at Duke. It was no coincidence that you were both drawn to and assumed this leadership position specifically geared toward helping others. Your young relationship grew through study sessions that often involved a bottle of wine, late night conversations that left you tired the next day, and rock climbing. Even then, you both pushed each other to new heights, literally. You enjoyed your first outdoor rock climbing trip together. It was on this trip that you established an ongoing pattern in your relationship: Luke, you continue to stretch Julia to her limits, and Julia, you reign Luke in from doing anything too dangerous.
Early on, Luke pushed Julia a bit too far while mountain biking in Duke Forrest. Julia tripped over a root and bloodied her knee. And much to Luke’s relief, Julia dusted herself right off and got back on the trail.
Lesson number 2: Maintain balance and have Fun
In order to maintain balance on the trail and also in life, you will need unique personality traits suited for different situations. Yes, you are opposites on the Meyers-Briggs personality type test! But you both know that this works in your favor. Life is always a balancing act, and together you do this so well.
For example, Luke, you are more reserved and you rely on your intuition. Julia knows what to expect from you: you’re consistent, loving, and stable. But never boring! You surprise her by being unpredictable, and Julia finds this quality delightful.
Julia, you are outgoing and spontaneous. You understand the world through sensing. You are a hard worker, serious, and ambitious. But sometimes just plain goofy. And Luke loves this about you!
Lesson number 3: Pack Enough Food
Julia is well known for her “hangriness”, a condition in which being hungry leads to being angry. Luke has gotten good at spotting this, and carries around his “hangry pouch” with some snacks and spare change just in case. It has saved the day on more than a few occasions. And this is just another example of how one takes care of the other.
Lesson number 3: Leave No Trace
Pick up all your garbage! But Julia and Luke, you both go one step farther than this classic outdoor mantra. Julia, you have an incredible social conscious, and Luke has a lot of respect for what you have accomplished in your life, from your work in global health in college, with developing countries at Google, and now with adoption at Binti.
Early on in your relationship, you bonded over reading Half the Sky, a book that is a call to arms against the oppression of women and girls in the developing world. You both share a deep concern for the world around you.
Julia, Luke told me that you have more compassion and empathy for others than anyone he has ever met. You care a lot about people and can deeply empathize with those from all backgrounds.
Lesson number 4: When the trail diverges, don’t be afraid to take the alternate route
Hiking for days on the AT might get monotonous. It will be boring at times. But remember that you are on an adventure!
Julia and Luke, you bring energy into everyday activities with each other and make them exciting. Luke, you told me that even going to the grocery store can be a thrill with Julia when you realize that it is an experience you get to have with someone you love.
When first greeting each other, you enjoy a big hug, say “Sweetie!” “Honey!” and do a celebratory dance. Every day you do this. Taking something mundane and elevating it into a meaningful moment.
Lesson number 5: Know Where You’re Headed
Perhaps most importantly, Julia, Luke, you share fundamental values and a common view on the world. You know the kind of life you want to live. You value experiences more than material possessions. Having come from such loving families, you recognize and place extreme importance on family. You respect each other. You appreciate the richness of life, and are able to savor it together.
In the words of Dr. Seuss, “You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way.”
Julia, Luke, continue to enjoy each moment together, make every day an adventure, and spread the incredible amount of love you are feeling right now throughout the world. Congratulations.
Hello everyone! How are you all doing? What a nice dinner. And Asheville provides the perfect backdrop: A special place for a special weekend. Big congratulations to Julia, Luke, the Chou’s and the Chapin’s. Who’s excited for tomorrow? I know I am!
I first met Julia and Luke through my former roommate, Alec who worked with Luke at Accenture. Where’s Alec? Hi Alec! Knowing I was new to San Francisco, Julia and Luke welcomed me into their wide circle of friends right away. As you know, their organizational skills are legendary. They organize the much anticipated annual trip to Yosemite National Park, with about 20 amazing people, many of whom are here tonight. Hi Everybody! I know we all love to hike, but still, it’s nice sometimes to be within 20 feet of Julia and Luke, and to actually be sitting down. Resting. It’s strange. So I have Julia and Luke to thank for so many friends in San Francisco, and I know many of you here tonight can say the same.
As my friendship with Julia and Luke grew, they offered more than their ability to plan a really good hiking trip. They quickly began to offer me advice. Good suggestions, really. Perhaps unsolicited - but things I probably needed to hear.Get a new pair of glasses, Julia and Luke told me. Why? I only had them 10 years! But Julia, you were right. (turn to Julia) I needed a new pair. I did that, and updated my mid ‘90s look – which I still contend is a good look by the way - I was quite the fashion plate in 2nd grade. And now I trust them with all of my sartorial decisions. That’s why I, and my fellow groomsmen, have no trepidation at all about wearing the…. Salmon….colored… bow ties… that Luke has so graciously provided for us. Nope, no. Trepidation. At. All.
So, speaking of salmon, that reminds of the first time I met Mrs. Chou. Where is she? (look around the room for a while) Oh, there she is, hi Mrs. Chou! It might be time for another new pair of glasses. Anyway, I don’t know if you remember, but you were preparing a lovely dinner for us, and I had said that I like my salmon well done. Well, you must have taken me a bit too literally, as, next thing we knew, the salmon was ON FIRE. Luke was lightning fast with a water bottle to put it out, and as it happens, the salmon was not only unharmed, but delicious. You’re not catering the wedding dinner, are you? Just kidding! Mrs. Chou, like Julia, is a fantastic cook.
Joking aside, Julia and Luke are such generous friends - giving with their time and energy. Just a few weeks ago, Julia and Luke spent two hours with me thinking through a job decision. It takes special kind of people who are willing to spend so much of their time to help - let alone just a few weeks before their wedding day!
I feel grateful to have met Julia and Luke, and that I have been able to forge such a strong friendship with them. A big congratulations, and best of luck in the future. Let’s raise a glass to Julia, Luke, and a lifetime of health and happiness!
###Best Man Speech
Hello everyone! How are you all doing tonight? Wow! Is this a fantastic party or what?? Big thank you to Les and Denise. And how about that Hora? I think I may work that into my gym routine. [note to reader: the Hora at this wedding was 45 minutes long] For those who don’t know me, I’m Andy, Danny’s brother. Sorry to say - there’s only one of me [note to reader: my sister-in-law is one of five]. Mazel Tov to Jen and Danny, the Sterns, my parents and extended families. It’s been such a great day so far. And we are still going strong!
Any younger brothers out there? Well you may kick me out of the “Union of Younger Brothers” for saying this, but I feel very fortunate to have such a great brother like Danny. We have a ton in common, and love spending time with each other, especially on the golf course. And believe it ornot,until Jen entered Danny’s life, I was the source of one of his greatest pleasures in life. Beating me in a round of golf was truly pure joy for Danny.
(As an aside it doesn’t happen that often anymore, right Dan?)
But, really, none of that typical silly big brother stuff from Danny. No wedgies, noogies, wet willies, swirlies… no E’s in general. No, he was much more crafty than that. He made it SOO tough on me. I had to follow in his HUGE footsteps - How could I measure up to Danny? He was untouchable - academically, athletically, musically, comically - nobody makes me laugh as hard as Danny - even vertically and in every other way imaginable. And now he has set the BAR SO HIGH, matrimonially, by marrying the incomparable Jen that I may have to take up pole vaulting to get over this high bar.
I first met Jen when she came to our house for Shabbos dinner. I was immediately struck by how comfortable both Jen and Danny were with one another. And Jen’s level of comfort with Danny carried over to the rest of the family. It’s amazing how quickly and how well Jen fits in with our extended family.
But before Jen was a part of our family, there was an episode in the Jen and Danny courtship in which I played a small role, that I’d like to share.
I asked Danny how things were going with Jen, and he said, well, there is one thing, that Jen has been doing repeatedly, that the Granowitz family simply DOES. NOT. DO. So what was it? Jen eats popcorn……… at. the. movies! I said Danny, we’re the crazy ones here! Most people eat popcorn at the movies.
Now, a few weeks later Jen and Danny went to the movies with Grandma Ida. It turns out that Grandma Ida enjoys popcorn at the movies just as much as Jen! And this is just one small part of a special connection between them.
It doesn’t take great powers of observation to see how right Jen and Danny are for each other. The wonderful qualities that they share are there for all to see: solid family and religious values at the core. CHECK. Academic excellence and professional achievement. CHECK. Athletic and good looking. CHECK CHECK. Caring and fun loving leaders to their younger siblings. CHECK. Luckily, both Jen and Danny are smart and perceptive enough to have seen this as well.
Earlier in the week I was talking to Jen, and she thanked me for taking care of Danny before the wedding. I said no problem - thank you for taking care of Danny for the rest of your life!
I can’t begin to say how happy I am to have Jen join our family. I love spending time with Jen and Danny, I think largely because they love spending time with each other. Let’s raise a glass to Jen, Danny, and a lifetime of happiness! le Chaim!!
Special thank you to my parents who helped immensely with these speeches.