This weekend I served as last-minute officiant for the wedding of a friend. On Wednesday, I was asked if I could fill in for a wedding to take place on Saturday. I had availability, I wanted to help out, I said yes!
In all, it was an awesome experience. I am really glad that I could help out…and Krista and Trevor are clearly fantastic together. I was a bit nervous that the short notice was going to be a problem, but cramming a lecture into my head on short notice has become par for the course for me; by Friday, I was golden.
By Saturday morning, I was less golden. For nearly two weeks, I have been having what felt like a constant, low-grade asthma attack—like someone was applying uneven, firm pressure on my chest. Uneven, firm, completely-unaffected-by-Albuterol pressure. By Friday night and early Saturday morning, my “asthma” had become a phlegmy mess replete with a slightly wet cough, extreme shortness of breath, and a deeper, more rumbly, more difficult to hear speaking voice. Pneumonia was sounding more and more like a possibility.
Because—and this is the important bit—what every public speaker needs immediately before speaking is to lose the ability to talk for any length of time without becoming dizzy from lack of oxygen while at the same time losing any ability to make audible sounds with his or her voice.
I spent the last hours before the ceremony trying to change my natural pattern of speech to allow for breathing breaks, lest I lose consciousness mid-word. Ger even admonished me, at one point, not to pass out during Krista’s wedding. That, as Carl is fond of saying, is my least favorite thing to do.
Ultimately, I made it through without passing out. I was quiet (Ger says that at the back of the room, she could hear that I was speaking, but could not hear the precise words mostly, which is precisely the effect that having a sick-induced low, rumbly voice generates), and I had difficulty remembering what to say while at the same time remembering to change my cadence and take breathing breaks, but it came off well and both the bride and groom seemed happy.
There was an awkward moment, however, early on where things got dicey: I forgot to take a breathing break, so midway into the next clause I suddenly got slightly dizzy. Concerned about losing consciousness, I paused as soon as I could, which was not at a very natural breaking point. It wasn’t at a natural breaking point, but it was just before I was going to have to use the names of the bride and groom.
JUST before. Like, two words before.
I blanked for what felt like a half hour but was instead exactly long enough for all gathered to notice, before I pulled it back together, remembered where I was in my spiel, and soldiered onward.
Not, as it turns out, my favorite way to speak in front of people.
As I said though, I consider it an entirely positive experience and I hope that they were genuinely as happy with their wedding as they appeared to be.
Because I’ll want to find it later, here is the text of the ceremony that I wrote. I’m not a super sappy sort of guy, but I feel like it said the things I wanted it to say and didn’t come off either too cliche or too casual: both concerns I had going into this.
(For the record, I did not, in fact, forget to get the last name!)