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You might wonder why a copywriting website has a wedding toast on it. I’m Susan Greene, a copywriter. When my son Ryan and his fiancée Kara were getting married, they asked me if I wanted to say a few words at the rehearsal dinner Jim and I were hosting the night before the wedding. I said yes, and as an experienced copywriter, I decided against “winging it” and instead wrote a brief speech.
I spent a lot of time thinking about my approach. I knew Ryan and his friends would expect more of a roast than a toast, so I chose a few anecdotes that I thought were entertaining and would probably get some laughs and concluded with a few heartfelt comments. Below is the wedding speech I eventually gave, although I’ve added in a few subheads to make it easier to follow in print:
Hello everyone! It’s so nice to see you all. Thank you for joining Ryan, Kara and our families on this special occasion.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Susan, Ryan’s mom. Ryan asked me to say a few words, which I’m happy to do. You’ll notice that I’m speaking at the rehearsal dinner, not the wedding. I guess Ryan feels I’m not quite ready for prime time.
I thought I’d tell you a bit about Ryan. I think by now everyone here has had an opportunity to meet him, but you may not know what he was like as a kid. So I’m here to fill in some of those blanks. Let’s start at the beginning.
Ryan was a fat baby.
I know that’s hard to believe looking at that lanky 6 ft. 3 in. body now, but he was in the 99th percentile for weight when he was born. A 9lb., 6oz. baby, born 12 days late, for which I’ve never really forgiven him.
When Ryan was born, I didn’t get to see him right away. He first went to the NICU because he was having some breathing issues. After a few hours, once he was stabilized, one of the NICU nurses came to my room and asked me if I wanted to meet my baby. Of course, yes! My husband Jim had gone home to catch a few hours’ sleep.
The nurse brought me to the NICU where there were about a dozen babies. Most were tiny little preemies who weighed 1-4 lbs. Standing at the threshold of the room, the nurse said, “Can you tell which one is your baby?” I think that’s a cruel guessing game the NICU nurses like to play.
I pointed at one baby with dark hair like mine, “That one?” Nope. Then another. Nope. Then I tried some of the bald babies. Nope. I literally guessed every single baby. Confused, I looked back at the nurse. She pointed to the elephant in the room and said, “That’s your baby!”
Oh my god! He was so big. He was Arnold Schwarzenegger in a room full of Danny DaVitos!”
Well, after a few weeks, Ryan quickly stretched out, slimmed down and he’s stayed a tall drink of water ever since.
Personality-wise, Ryan may appear to be gregarious and extroverted. You might be surprised to know he was actually a very shy kid. I remember walking through Sears once with him in my arms, and he would bury his face in me every time we passed by a mannequin. I think that’s when I knew he was seriously shy. And of course, once Jim and I figured out he was shy around mannequins, we began having fun with it. LOL.
Fortunately, when Ryan became a toddler we figured out a way to bring him out of his shell. If you put a ball in Ryan’s hands, he became fearless.
He would play catch or kick a ball with anyone, any place, anytime. And as he got older, and discovered competition, there was no stopping him. He loved playing any game with a ball especially if someone was keeping score.
Sports became the vehicle for him to meet people and make friends. And he got quite good at most sports, developing a special affinity for dodge ball. Ryan has won numerous dodge ball tournaments and has the trophies to prove it.
Kara, if Ryan ever tries to talk you into playing dodge ball with him, say “no.” Trust me, you don’t want to compete with him in that arena. He’s vicious.
When I think back over Ryan’s childhood, one memory that stands out is his Lego business. He would acquire used Lego sets and resell them for profit on eBay.
Ryan’s business started out small, with just a few Lego sets that he kept in his room, but it grew quickly. Pretty soon every room in our house contained bins of Lego sets, shipping boxes and styrofoam peanuts.
And it wasn’t long before we all got dragged into the business. He had Katie helping to sort and build Lego sets so he could take photos of them for his auctions.
He had Jim (dad) going to pick up collections he’d bought, using our minivan. And I was doing daily runs to the post office to ship out items that had sold.
On Sunday nights, Ryan would set most of his weekly auctions to end. He’d bring his laptop into the family room. Every time there was a new bid there were chimes. Every final sale produced cash register sounds. And every payment had the dulcimer tones of a slot machine hitting the jackpot. Our house sounded like a Las Vegas casino!
Ryan pretty much turned our home into his Lego headquarters. And because Jim and I didn’t want to stifle his entrepreneurial spirit, we supported him.
But no one was more thrilled than we when Ryan graduated college and got a “real job,” in a different state, one that didn’t involve warehousing Legos. Jim and I did the happy dance, “Yay, we got our house back!”
I’m happy to have this opportunity to tell you some embarrassing stories about Ryan, because as his mom, he has embarrassed me many times.
One time that comes to mind was at a restaurant in Yellowstone National Park. Ryan was about 6-years-old.
We had been hiking in the morning, and as a snack along the hike, Ryan had been eating a packet of candy called Gushers. In case, you’ve never heard of them, they’re like gummies, but when you bite into them, they squirt a bit of jelly into your mouth, hence the name Gushers. (They’re so gross.)
Well, after the hike, we were getting lunch in a restaurant. Ryan reached into his pocket and found one of the candies there. He then exclaimed way too loudly, “Hey mom, I’ve got a gusher in my pants!”
I wanted to crawl under the table.
Another time Ryan embarrassed me was a few years ago when Ryan was attending a trade show in New York City. It was about 7:00 a.m. when I received a text from Ryan saying, “Mom, turn on the Today show now!”
So I did. I don’t know if you watch the today show but the anchors sit at a desk and behind them is a big window where you can see the people of New York City walking by.
But on this particular day, there was Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer and Hoda Kotb discussing the day’s events, and in the big window directly behind them was Ryan holding up a sign that read, “Mom, stop leaving me voicemails. Just text me.”
Now let me shift focus to Kara. Unfortunately, I don’t have nearly as many embarrassing stories about her as I did Ryan. But I do have one. I bet Kara has no idea where I’m going with this.
I met Kara for the first time when she and Ryan came to our home in Orlando for Thanksgiving two years ago. Jim picked them up at the airport after a late flight. I was already in bed by the time they got home.
In the early morning, before anyone else was up, I just happened to be walking past Ryan’s room when the door opened and Kara came out headed toward the bathroom.
I said “Hi, you must be Kara, I’m Susan, Ryan’s mom.” And I went in for a hug. Kara looked at me with a deer-in-the-headlights expression and said, “Oh, we’re doing this?” So I said, “Yeah, we’re doing this.”
Later, Ryan said to me, “Mom, I can’t believe you pounced on Kara the second she came out of my room. All she asked me for was 5 minutes to freshen up before being introduced to you.” Well, I didn’t get the memo.
Ryan, Kara is everything Dad and I ever hoped you’d find in a partner – she’s kind, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s caring, and she’s beautiful. We finally have a doctor in the family. And Kara’s “boys,” Obie and Henry the Goldendoodles, are pretty terrific as well. What a great package deal you’re getting, Ryan!
We love you both and couldn’t be more excited for your future.
So please everyone, raise your glass and join me in wishing Ryan and Kara the two traditional toasts of my people – L’Chayim, which in Hebrew means “To Life” and Mazel Tov, which means “Congratulations!”