Isaac Huss has been to a wedding or two or dozens — here, he describes the wedding reception where his good friend, the groom, gave a vulnerable speech that surprised the whole room. Knowing the journey through love that the groom had experienced made his remarks all the more moving.
Whenever I think about my friends, Anders and Betsy, and how they ended up together, I can’t help but smile. There’s nothing quite like a good love story — and no good love story worth its snuff is complete without some adversity, and preferably some good, old-fashioned heartbreak. Their love story checks all those boxes.
Theirs was one of those classic happy, feel-good weddings, and as a groomsman, I had a front-row seat. It had all the trappings: a ceremony in the old, beautiful, local parish church; a hip and classy reception venue with an impressive spread and an open bar; and, of course, a huge dance floor with plenty of fun people to fill it.
And like every good love story these days, there’s gotta be a legendary wedding speech. This time, however, it didn’t come from the preacher, the best man, or even the father of the bride, but instead from the groom himself. Here, then, is my recollection of The Best Groom’s Speech Ever.
First, some background. Anders and I met in college and kept in loose touch thereafter, thanks to some mutual friends. But we became buddies, in large part, because of heartbreak.
Anders was moving back to the Twin Cities after medical school, was buying a townhome, and was looking for a roommate. I was living with a relative stranger on the cheap to save money for my impending nuptials — which I had recently called off. I wouldn’t wish a broken engagement on anybody, but gaining Anders as a roommate — and eventual best friend — was a hell of a consolation prize.
Anders, too, was coming off a life-altering breakup. His years-long relationship with Sally ended in large part due to differing religious beliefs. So when he met Brittany, he was impressed by her beauty, smarts, and emerging medical career — but he especially valued their shared Catholic faith. In a few short months, they were already discussing marriage together, and a short time after that became engaged.
And then, almost as quickly as it had started, it was over — Brittany called off the engagement.
Anders took it hard. He couldn’t help but think this was his fault, that he hadn’t loved her well enough, or he hadn’t read the signs properly, or that he had just simply moved too fast. As someone who had a front row seat to this man’s mourning, trust me: he was crushed.
But he was not defeated. A few months later, he began dating Ruby, with whom Anders similarly shared the same beliefs, goals, and aspirations.
Even as they formed a genuine bond, Anders was determined to go into this relationship with eyes wide open and not repeat his apparent mistakes of the past. He was very deliberate and made a point to wait to say “I love you,” even after he knew he felt that way. He wanted to make sure this love would last.
Anders finally decided it was time to make his declaration, but within a week, Ruby told him — in tears — that while she cared for him very much, she couldn’t return his love.
Suffice it to say, this was a new low for Anders. Here he had poured his heart and soul into relationship after relationship, being impressively pragmatic as he went and seemingly learning from his own mistakes and adjusting his pursuits accordingly — and all he had to show for it was a heart that had been broken over and over.
But then came Betsy.
Betsy was glam and gorgeous, real and fun. Anders and I had met Betsy together years before at my sister’s fashion show (yep, Betsy was one of the models) and we both had the privilege of becoming good friends with her, thanks to my sister as well as our shared membership at the old, beautiful, local parish church.
In some ways, it was seemingly meant to be. Anders had learned his necessary lessons (namely in humility) in his previous relationships so that he was better able to woo Betsy. Their relationship, from an outsider’s perspective (or even an insider’s/roommate’s perspective), was smooth sailing, from their first date to meeting the parents, right up until his proposal and their wedding day.
But it was on that wedding day, a bitterly cold Minnesota day in November, that we all got a little glimpse into how their relationship wasn’t exactly the foregone conclusion it seemed — but instead, the best kind of surprise.
After I gave a well-meaning but somewhat disjointed speech of my own (I was emotional, okay!), and his brother and best man did much better, Anders then took the microphone. He began by recounting how he had a bit of a rough go of it with a few previous romantic relationships.
Then he explained how he felt the need to recalibrate his expectations. Perhaps he’d been working with a naive idea of love or an overly romanticized picture of relationships and marriage, he thought — perhaps he’d never find his happily-ever-after. But that was okay, he said.
At this point, I’m thinking, Wow, Anders, it’s a bold move to even mention “previous relationships” in a speech at your own wedding, however vague. But now we’re talking about how maybe love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and that’s okay… Cheers! Yeah, I was a bit worried and more than a bit confused about where he was going with this.
He continued — indeed, he had thought he needed to not just recalibrate his expectations, but lower them.
“But then came Besty,” he said.
He realized, he explained, that it wasn’t so much his expectations that were wrong so much as he just hadn’t found the right woman yet. And when he did, he knew.
To this day, that’s the best speech I’ve ever heard a groom give. And I’ll be honest, it caught me completely by surprise. Anders has always been comfortable in front of a crowd, but he probably wouldn’t be accused of being terribly charismatic in that role. Instead, his strengths in this capacity mirror his strengths in life: focused and efficient.
There was, however, something different about this speech. This man loves things to be in order — he needs to be in control, and otherwise typically projects *success*. And here he was, sharing intimate details about a time in his life when things were disordered, out of his control, and he felt like a failure. On the happiest day of his life, he was vulnerably sharing about the lowest point in his life.
His example has given me a point of reflection for my own life, and in particular for my dating life. When we start out dating someone, we’re expecting to find happily ever after. Then when we don’t find that right away, and especially when we experience the pain of heartbreak, the instinct is often to protect our hearts even more. And to be vulnerable less.
Those three years of living with Anders were as rich and formative as most any time in my life, in large part because I got a front-row seat to watch him fall in love — and then get dumped in the most excruciating way possible. And then repeat the process. And then? Dare to fall in love again.
Anders’s speech, then, was something of a capstone to the formation I’d witnessed. The lesson? As C.S. Lewis once said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable” — which is scary, and even dangerous. There’s no way around it, as tempting as it is to try to protect yourself from heartache, or even to lower your standards.
But if you do want to find love — and I know I do — the potential for heartbreak is part of the deal. It will only make the love we finally find all the sweeter.