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On Bended Knee: The Speech

18 Jul

So far with On Bended Knee, the process of planning for a grandiose wedding has been described by the groom of said wedding.  For this installment, perhaps the penultimate one, we toss it over to the P.O.V. of someone set to stand behind the groom on his big day, and take a look at the art and science of the wedding toast.

When it comes to making a wedding toast, it seems like there’s a basic formula that everyone should follow if they want things to go over well.  This formula would be the science aspect of the speech.  After you’ve got the formula, though, there is a lot of room to add your own personal touches, and many directions in which you can take the overall mood of the speech.  This would be the art of the speech.


The first place to start is the formula.  The core components of a great wedding speech can seem pretty simple.  So simple that it can be easy to take them for granted, and this is where a lot of aspiring speechmakers fail before they get within sight of the microphone stand.  The speech can’t soar if the building blocks aren’t there.  So what are they?  In no specific order:

1)  Humor.  The piece of advice to ‘start it out with a joke’ has pretty much become a cliche at this point, but that doesn’t diminish the truth at the core of it.  No one likes someone who’s serious 24/7, and it’s always a good thing for the speaker to show the crowd that they appreciate the lighter side of life.  Also, one of the quickest ways to a woman’s (or man’s) heart is a sense of humor.  And for all the single speakers out there, a well-timed joke or two is going to go a long way towards your dance floor prospects.

2) Appropriateness.  This one is coming right after Humor for a reason.  It’s always necessary to remember that the wedding toast is not just for the bride and groom.  While that story about that one drunken night at the Tallahassee Nudist Colony might be really funny to the three of you, it’s not something that’s going to go over well with Grandma Jean at Table 2.  There are people of all ages and backgrounds at these weddings, and it’s not your party to ruin with an unfortunate dick joke.  So keep it tasteful.

3) Selflessness.  A speaker should never forget that they wouldn’t be at the mic if it wasn’t for the two best-dressed people in the room.  This is the bride and groom’s Special Day, and the wedding toasts should reflect that.  There’s nothing wrong with sharing some of the personal connections you have with one or both members of the Happy Couple, but stop the personal sharing there.  Nothing sucks the happy air out of the reception hall quite like a buzzed Best Man going off on a tangent about how his own marriage ended in a swirl of quaaludes and baristas.  Keep the spotlight on the two beautiful party people in front of you.

4) Brevity.  Keep it short and sweet.

5) Emotion.  There’s a lot to remember when prepping the wedding speech, and there should be a lot of thought put into what words will be said, but the one thing that shouldn’t be overlooked is the emotional importance of the moment.  The wedding speakers have been selected to take a supporting role in the Happy Couple’s Big Day, and that usually means that there are some strong emotional connections there.  Those emotions should shine through bright and clear in the speech.  Ideally, there will never be another chance to say some wedding-specific words to these two people, so the speech should reflect that.  Leave it all on the table.  Tastefully.


The art portion of the speech is where a confident (or foolhardy) Best Man can shoot for the moon – trying for five-to-seven minutes of transcendental oratory greatness.  As long as the basic parts of the aforementioned formula have been followed, there’s plenty of room for some personal flourishes to set one speech apart from the thousands that have come before it.  To create something that people talk about, that builds a cult following through social media, and eventually cements itself into the modern cultural lexicon as a point of reference for all future wedding participants and attendees.  In order to achieve this with a speech, there needs to be some serious brainstorming time spent beforehand, and then even more time spent practicing after that.  There’s nothing wrong with thinking on your feet once you step up to the podium, but this isn’t sketch comedy.  Everything should be tightly timed and thought out beforehand, not improvised on the spot.

The ideal result of this timeless speech would be that every wedding attendee is doubled over in laughter, sobbing uncontrollably, or going through some combination of both, by the time said Man drops the mic.  If a wedding speaker puts the time and effort in before the Big Day, are these results guaranteed?  No, not at all.  Truly great wedding speeches are rare things – the products of preparation, effort, heart, good timing, and perhaps a little magic.  It’s easy to be good if you put in some effort, but it takes something special to be great.  So keep that in mind, but by no means should the elusiveness of a great speech deter future speakers from aiming for the best.  Shoot for the moon, and you might fall among the stars.


On Bended Knee: A Sweeter Honeymoon

11 Mar

Known as the dessert of the wedding cycle, a honeymoon is a tradition of passion that sends two newlywed souls on an adventure designed to shock the mind with high levels of pleasure. Including access to 24/7 buffet carts, this mandatory post-nuptial journey of temptation shares one other thing with the city of Las Vegas, the need for an unbeatable motto. The famous “What happens here, stay’s here” slogan has helped countless travelers manage the weight of the loose morals they detrimentally buried themselves under the previous evening, highlighting the need for a honeymoon motto that can match your desired level of intensity, relaxation, or sport.

Travel branding is not a new concept, and serious “T-Branders” practice even when they they run local errands. Jess Sullivan, a prize winning bamboo farmer and pioneer of T-Branding, recently stopped by Swanky HQ for an interview. Following his punishment of 200 push-ups for interrupting our weekly hot yoga session, the creative discussion got on track and produced the perfect honeymoon branding strategy.

DS: “T-Branding is a confrontational practice. The few people who do not think you are crazy argue that you cannot brand the idea of a trip, much less an experience that varies from person to person. How do you manage to capture it?”

Jess:  “Whenever and wherever the opportunity exists to further define individuality, especially in a less expressed medium such as Travel, ignoring this urge would be to defy my human nature, something I haven’t done in 43 years. Understanding the tangibility and allure of nature’s weave is the basic framework for succeeding in T-Branding.

DS: “Aren’t vacations supposed to be enjoyable? Why do we need this notion of T-Branding?”

Jess: “I spent 1975-1990 on the open seas, and the only way I have remembered one port town from another is by word associations. I select the finest memories from each destination and patch them together to form a permanent memory. Give it a try, ask me to remember any city and what I did there.”

DS: “OK,  Astoria, Oregon?”

James: “Police chase on the beach, hazy underground adventure and treasure”

DS: “That sounds a little bit like the plot of the movie, The Goonies.

Jess: “Only superficially, I released my Astoria, Oregon T-Brand in 1985, and the producers of Goonies blatantly ripped it off without any recognition towards my original experiences.

DS: “Wow, despite sour grapes with The Goonies, it seems as if T-Branding has worked well for you.  Since Honeymoon season is coming up, do you have any advice for couples seeking out the perfect T-Brand?”

Jess: “T-Branding is about matching your expectations with reality. It is important to start the trip with one motto and then use the positive energy you captured from your experiences to mold your brand into an unforgettable mantra. Regardless of where people visit, the idea is to leverage your T-Brand to amplify enjoyment, capture memories and connect with your new life partner.”

DS: “Jess, we want to thank you for showing up today. Your phenomenal explanation of T-Branding hopefully has tipped the scales in favor of this new and exciting travel novelty.”

Jess: “No problem at all, I love spreading the good word. Visit for my personal branding videos, and other helpful tips.”

On Bended Knee: Stag Festival

21 Feb

The mild frustration experienced by most men when faced with another engagement announcement on their Facebook news feed is not driven by anger or jealousy, but because they now have to scroll a bit further to find those new Cancun photos from their sister’s best friend’s college spring break. This indifference to weddings is a derivative of Bro culture’s loud techno beat of a message that forbids thinking of anything other than beach time and sales. However, the secret manly thrill of a wedding announcement appears in the form of what is known to many as a bachelor party and experienced by few as a stag festival.

The dotted line that separates a bachelor party from a stag festival is best walked sober, teased while buzzed and then crossed while fully intoxicated. Historically, these nights end at the intersection of camaraderie and foolishness, with little room for negotiations.  It is all about inner reflection (hallucinogenics), fasting (beer and red meat), and finally psychotherapy sessions with those friends who are closest to you (drunk wrestling). To plan a stag festival that rivals the barn-burner your Grandpa hosted in 1954, check out the tips below.

1) Location

Just as the dimensions of an art canvas dictate the magnitude of the final masterpiece, the location of a stag festival sets the final temperature of the celebration. Be it a wet and wild weekend in the Keys or a secluded wilderness retreat, some factors should be noted before selecting a locale.

  • Choose a mild weathered environment. A great portion of all stag festivals should occur in the outdoors, be that a dance patio or a bonfire, and unplanned bouts of hypothermia dampen any celebration. Nice weather also means that the deep-V and sleeveless shirt crowd can continue to define fashion for the rest of the crew.
  • Proximity to emergency services. To a sober 26 year-old, a 5ft tall bonfire is only a novelty. But, after a few wine coolers and a dip into the party favor bag, this same fire becomes a dance partner that won’t quit.

2) Activities

A bachelor party without bare skin is like a Baseball game without the boredom. No matter what the groom says, there must always be temptation. Now, before our female audience starts with the scathing letter’s to the editor, Dan Swanky’s is only offering tips, not unzipping your fiance’s pants. With that in mind, put whatever spin you would like on these PG-13 rated suggestions:

  • For those who have pockets as deep as the Marianas Trench, it isn’t that big of a stretch to try and replicate The Hangover. The places and people involved are less important than the utter insanity and arrests that will inevitably occur. The worst thing that can happen is that someone documents the event in real-time, so it is important to confiscate all media devices. Additionally, block off at least 2-3 days for an event of this magnitude, leaving enough time to make amends with the County Judge.
  • The classic poker night can be a great activity for a Stag Festival.  The classic poker night, when the balding 54-year old card dealer is replaced with a nude 23-year old card diva, can be a great activity for a Stag Festival. Also hire a “chef” of similar persuasion as your “card dealer” to deliver snacks and drinks throughout the evening. Unlike last year’s corporate retreat, this is the perfect opportunity to mix gambling, alcohol and high brow sexual harassment.

On Bended Knee:

6 Feb

Only serious events require serious websites and it is no surprise that a DOT COM is a mandatory wedding accessory. Custom URL’s, hosting plans, page design, font design (sigh), pictures, links, and even custom scripts are all required, but the resident Steed likes to cut corners and sign up with Tumblr or WordPress, that way he can spend less time programming and more time photoshopping that 6 pack of abs into his summer photos.

Despite being the business card of wedding planning, a website does not need to be all Brooks Brothers. Tropical, floral and nautical are all popular styles that can steer a website away from 1995 Powerpoint and down the highway of pleasing visual aesthetics. Love anecdotes, sepia toned glamour shots and a few Rush tracks playing on loop in the background is just a little hint of what we all expect.

A majority of effort should go into connecting with visitors, sharing your story and digitally celebrating blissful matrimony. With some encouragement, a seasoned computer jockey can bang this website out in a few hours. The use of a pro really is recommended, but, if you just watched Hackers, and are feeling ambitious, there is no better time than now to get your fingers dirty. Grab some 5 hour energies along with your MacBook pro and prepare to get creative.

On Bended Knee: Dirty Secrets

26 Jan

A recent non-scientific poll ranked wedding invitations as the #3 most anticipated piece of mail, right behind Netflix DVD’s and plain brown packages shipped from these 18 states. This fact, combined with the recent lag in movie quality, puts a lot of pressure on the newly engaged to design a visually stunning card.  Here are some pro tips to make sure your invite is the most sought after item since Mitt Romney’s tax returns.

1) Theme. The only thing better than regular nightclubs are themed nightclubs, and the same can be said for wedding invites. Here are some example to get the creativity flowing:

  • Vintage Parisian Hostel
  • Downtown Seattle Alley’s
  • Jurassic Park meets The Ten Commandments
  • Crossing The Border

2) Photo.  A photo isn’t common with invites, but Aunt Maj hasn’t seen your pearly whites since you accidentally texted her that nude picture in high school. Show her that you have matured, and met someone other than your second cousin, with an updated portrait. Just be sure to watch the nip slip.

3) Colors. Regardless of the theme, you can be liberal with your color palette. The only thing that looks better than a black background with a gold glitter overlay is, well, nothing. Flair also goes a long way, so be sure to adorn with sequins, rhinestones, or just a light dusting of beach sand.

4) Font selection. The dangerous world of font design is best left touched with a 3 foot pole. If you majored in font architecture, and are skilled enough to still be in the game, hats off to you. Otherwise, stick to an easy to read cursive font that shows your potential guests you are sophisticated enough to not use Arial Black but you respect them enough not to really care about fonts.

On Bended Knee: Putting the Gift in Gift Registry

4 Jan

(Editor’s Note: On Bended Knee delivers the gritty details of wedding planning straight from those with their ears to the pavement.)

Dan Swanky’s values the blessed union of love and scorns its deterioration into a glorified birthday party for two. But in all reality, unless you are Ron Swanson, the idea of a joint birthday party probably ranks high on your bucket list. The opportunity to select your gifts in advance does damper the surprise element, but there is no greater joy than unwrapping the 12-inch buck knife so graciously gifted by Aunt Maj.

Selecting items for a registry can be intimidating. Thread count issues aside, the real dilemma lies in the potential conflict between the bride and the groom. Who get’s to decide on the sweet swag that will adorn your new abode? If you are the groom, your bride to be has already created lists of most items you will need until your future children graduate from college. With these lists in hand, along with a few drinks of your choice, it is time to get creative.

The best thing a man can do with his registry is make sure his bar tending needs will be taken care of indefinitely. Quaffers, muddlers, jiggers, and shooters all make excellent presents, so be sure to stock up. Also, if you are like most men, you secretly enjoy preparing a 10-lb sirloin tip roast from Bill the Butcher but you would rather not nitpick over best crock pot. Select the items YOU want from the lists, add some outdoor items for necessity, and round out your man registry with one extravagant but obviously necessary item. Return the completed list to your lady, enjoy the next few seconds of peace while she peruses, and hopefully accepts your dirty work.  If not, compromise is the fruit of marriage, so get some practice in before it is too late.

On Bended Knee: Band or DJ?

19 Dec

(Editor’s Note: On Bended Knee delivers the gritty details of wedding planning straight from those with their ears to the pavement.)

Band or DJ?

The fading memories of high school dances are subtly enhanced by a seductive rhythm playing on repeat from the depths of a time we would rather forget. This subconscious harmony was the product of a fledgling DJ who still, 10 years later, uses lines from “Bye, Bye, Bye”  to attract women at bars that we haven’t frequented since they took our fake ID’s. Compare that memory to the pinnacle of live concerts (Dave Matthews Band at The Gorge to be precise) and the choice for wedding entertainment is obvious.

The only real objective decision is between a cover band or the local alt rock all stars. Both types of groups provide a unique atmosphere, however the choice is honestly best made on personal preference. Be sure to remember that intoxication of the performers plays a major role in the success of the event, although it is safe to say that regardless of the drug buffet provided, as long as alcohol is involved the night will go off without a hitch. Most modern day Wedding Singers prefer a few bumps of White Elephant before taking the stage, however if a Bohemian Cover Group is selected they might prefer top shelf grass, at a minimum.

Song selection is also a major component of every wedding. Most performers have an endless catalog of love ballads and mindless rock anthems to softly swoon party guests into near psychosis. We suggest tossing out all previous lists and requiring your band to learn new material. This encourages a minimum commitment to your gig and if they fail to play your requested songs you can always maximize cash flow later on in small claims court.

A few tips:

  • Grooms, be sure to note the slow songs in advance so your best men have an opportunity to get the best partners before Uncle Trent realizes he isn’t at his usual dive bar on his usual Saturday night.
  • Brides, be sure to brush up on your rebuttals, as you will be forced to dance with no less than 10 different men on your special night. No, not Prima Noctra.
  • Ultimately, music is the mood of the party. A mix of slow and fast beats sets the stage for an unforgettable occasion.

On Bended Knee: Spreadsheets vs. Blood

22 Nov

(Note: On Bended Knee delivers the gritty details of wedding planning straight from those with their ears to the pavement.)

“Sign it in blood” is a saying of yesteryear that refers to a serious and unbreakable pact that if broken, is punishable with certain death. The few people alive today that still practice the literal meaning of this saying probably reside in the high violence unit of your local private prison. Other dying relics of a better time include soda fountains, free speech and as this post refers to, the US postal service.

Compiling a guest list is a tough but necessary process for every bride and groom. Modern spreadsheet applications offer a blank canvas for even the largest extended families, but what happens when a technology inept mom attempts to spearhead guest list management? The answer is literally in the details.

I told my resident tech neophyte “build the list in excel and send it to me and we will edit it from there.” A week passes and my daily ritual of idling impatiently near the mailbox for anything of substance is rewarded with a large manila envelope, holding a custom sized printout of the guest list in progress. Proving once again that the worth of the US Postal Service will last only as long as those who continue to use it.

On Bended Knee Rule #2: Details, details, details

On Bended Knee: Respect is Now Served

16 Nov

(Note: On Bended Knee delivers the gritty details of wedding planning straight from those with their ears to the pavement.)

Expect nothing but the unexpected, as that is the essence of planning a wedding. The minute you assume that the thousands of dollars you hand over to Don Kess Catering is a green light to cease worrying about the contents of the duck bisque is the minute you fail as a  professional human being. I am sure your biggest worry is the use of salted vs. unsalted butter, but that extra salt might be coming from a more natural source.

True, you can buy respect from your catering staff, but for those of us not in the 1%,  it is earned through back alley blunts and double shots of bourbon in between prep of the hor d’oeuvres and the main course. As long as the job you are paying for is getting done, why shouldn’t a wedding be a celebration for everyone involved?

On Bended Knee Rule # 1: You can pay a man to cook you dinner or you can pay a man to be a man, while cooking you dinner.

On Bended Knee: Intro

16 Nov

This is the official diary; the word in stone; the history that will be told for generations about a love born bathed in inhibitions yet evolved into a rare South American flower untouched by time.

On Bended Knee is an attempt to capture, as best words can, the flurry of mysticism that is wedding planning.