I have given three wedding speeches in the past and some have been more successful than others. My first wedding speech was certainly a little sloppy?....well you judge for yourself.
My sister and I had just spent a truly amazing week in Istanbul. Rest and healthy living were certainly not on the agenda and we were returning to the UK desperately in need of vitamin C and sleep. My friend's wedding was in the afternoon following the morning flight home. The speech I was to deliver had not been considered at all during my time in Turkey and on the plane, I decided to write a poem about the fantastic couple Jack and Jackie (last name: Frost - no kidding). I can remember the first two lines:
When Jackie first showed me Jack
I thought she was joking
This provoked a ripple of laughter but other than that, the rest of the 'poem' was overshadowed by just four words.
On the plane my sister had suggested the line, 'Jackie has got elephantitus' and I had written it down. It made sense. Jackie had a huge elephant collection. Everyone of significance in her life - including her future husband - had bought her an elephant. In the primary school she taught in, it was general knowledge that she loved elephants, so at the end of every term she had to make way for yet another herd stampeding into her house. She had elephants on the wall, knee-high ones on the floor, on the shelves, in her kitchen doubling as utensils, in her bedroom and several boxes of the less appealing ones in her loft - no exaggerating. The elephant situation had got a little out of hand. Truth was, however, she actually and sincerely hated elephants and I was the only one with this insider information. She did not understand how she had got herself into this predicament but also felt it would be insulting to point out her dislike to everyone who had lovingly added to her collection. So, I thought I would save her on her wedding day. Yes, indeed, I would be the brave person to stop this whole silly business so she could walk around her house without continually bumping into elephants.
And I did. I started my poem and there were some noises of people being entertained. And then I got to that line,
'Jackie has got elephantitus.' and it was at that point and only that point that I realised what I had done. I remember a thud of silence in the room and my sort of boyfriend at the time looking up at me with a smile - a smile that was kind of saying a painful, 'really'?
You see Jackie wasn't exactly petite.
And then I did some panicked getting-out-of-the-hole digging that failed miserably and I looked like an arse. I was pointing to the banner I had made (that had an elephant on it) and saying jumbled inarticulate things like:
'no...what I mean is...no....the elephant thing....um....I need you to know she hates elephants.....that's what I meant...arghhh...I wasn't implying....no...'
Later that evening more people, including my sister, turned up for the evening ceilidh. My sister recounted how she had said to an elderly aunt that her sister had given a speech. The response she received was a filthy look and a turned back!
Fortunately Jackie (who reminds me PERSONALITY-WISE of Dawn French) is the absolute opposite from lacking a sense of humour. I am not sure what she thought I was up to and we only spoke about it in a bantery type way afterwards but she didn't appear to hold anything against me and we remained great friends. Sadly she lives in Cornwall now. I don't think it was this incident that drove her there but it is a long way away.
But the 'story' did not end there. A year or so later, my Tassie mate Louise sent a journalist friend to stay with me for a night - as this friend was over researching her geneaology (this took her to Great Yarmouth). We had a lovely evening together. We shared lots of stories - the elephantitus one being one (her court case up against Stephen Biddulph being another). And being a writer, she went back to Australia and turned my story into a short story -not the wedding bit - the teacher with an unwelcome collection of elephants bit. I believe she had it published in a magazine. She sent me a paper copy - minus the ending - because I guess she was scared I would try and publish it too (she had hand written 'copyright' on every page). I still have it somewhere and I would love to know how she ended it.
Needless to say, I did more planning for wedding speech number two and it went well. I probably over-planned wedding speech three, but it was still an improvement on wedding speech one - but I guess that's not saying a lot!