My best pal, Houston Joost, got married this weekend. I had the privilege of serving as best man. It was an amazing weekend, and I’m thrilled for him and for Jenn Joost (nee’ Keeney).
My toast went over pretty well, so I thought I’d save it for posterity here. Note that I didn’t read this word for word, but it was in the ballpark. I generally prefer speaking extemporaneously, but in this case I needed something to fall back on if when I got choked up.
So here ’tis. I meant every word:
Good evening and welcome to this celebration of Houston and Jen’s marriage today.
For those of you whom I haven’t met, I’m Mike Orren, the dubiously-titled “best man.” As we begin our revelries, I’d like to ask you to join me in a toast to Houston and Jen.
I’ll start by saying a bit about my brother, Houston Joost. Now, I realize we clearly aren’t related by blood — he lacks my good looks, my charm and my modesty — but there is no other friend I’ve had in my 36 years that I think of as the brother I never had. Houston was the best man at mine and April’s wedding ten years ago, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to return the favor today. (I think I’m getting the better end of the deal… Our wedding was a smaller party and my bachelor party consisted of Houston helping me paint our kitchen.)
Several folks I’ve met this weekend asked me if Houston and I grew up together. I always answer “yes” to that question even though we didn’t meet until 1996, when we were nextdoor neighbors in a pair of shotgun shack houses near Downtown Dallas. Houston lived in the pink house, which made me wonder a bit about him, but we quickly became compadres during the time when I think you really “grow up” — during your twenties when you’re figuring out how to make a living, how to live on your own and ultimately, who you want to be. It’s during that time that you make your biggest mistakes; make your greatest advances and, in our case, have the most fun. You have all the rights and lack most of the responsibilities of adulthood, so it is probably the most unfiltered view of who you really are.
Now I’ve been reading up on the etiquette for wedding toasts, and a rare fit of good taste unfortunately dictates that I not elaborate too much on our misadventures during those days. But for those of you, including Jen, who missed out on that time, let me tell you what I’ve learned over the last fifteen years about the guy you just told “I do.” — and why you needent wonder if you made the right decision. (The warrantee period IS over, right?)
Houston may come across as a laid back and gregarious 96th-generation Texan (you go back that far, right? — Houston is the one who taught me the old Texas axiom “never let the truth ruin a good story.”)
But under that lighthearted demeanor, he is one of the most resolutely resourseful and determined people I know. I recall one night sitting on his porch when this English major — who was working a frustrating customer service position in his first post-college job told be that he thought he might go get a masters and doctorate in entomology. He said it with the same casual air as if he were announcing his intention to fix a sandwich. I had no doubt that he would do so — even picking up a Fulbright along the way for good measure.
Jen, anything the two of you decide to do — You two will see it through.
Houston and I bonded over music — evenings on our porches listening to songs that moved us. And later in the evenings, singing them. Loudly. To the chagrin of our neighbors. The common theme though wasn’t just songs, per se — but a passionate search for wisdom and truth in songs that ranged from early blues to modern dance hits. I encounter far too many people in this world who are dead behind the eyes — Houston isn’t one of them. He is a real man in the greatest sense, and his powers of perception and his constant search for what is real and genuine in a fast-food world will continue to enrich both your lives.
Houston is perhaps the only guy I know who I would class as a true romantic. He has a poet’s taste for love and I imagine that you’ve caught onto that, Jen. (That’s why we’re here, right?)
The rules of wedding toasts dictate forbearance from mention of past girlfriends, but suffice to say that although I’ve seen that romanticism in Houston as long as I’ve known him, and it has been my overprotective friends’ judgment that no one I’d seen him with — until now — was worthy.
When I say worthy, I’m not referring to Worthington, the young pup that Houston rescued from my surly cat after she was abandoned on my porch and for whom he’s cared nearly fifteen years, even as he moved around the world — an exhibition of his unfailing loyalty in the best and especially in the worst of times — something which I’ve been the beneficiary and which will also serve you well in the years to come.
When I say worthy, I am saying that when I first met Jen a couple of years ago, I quickly knew that she was Houston’s match. I haven’t known Jen as long as Houston, but there’s a natural shorthand when you see two people so well matched and I know that together, they will be one dangerous couple. You are both a perfect blend of silly and responsible; caring and driven; curious and cautious; romantic and realistic. When one swings to one of those extremes, I see the other counterbalances and brings a balance near the middle. That bodes well for your partnership and for all of us who are touched by you.
And so, we who are touched by Jen and Houston every day — raise our glass to you. Not to minimize what’s happened today, but this was a marriage that we’ve seen in your eyes for some time. This weekend is simply the party at which we come together celebrate your and our good fortune, and are reminded who and why we love. May your road go on forever and the party never end.
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