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When a wedding guest’s joke falls flat, is it worth getting riled up? Add to ...

The question

Recently, at our daughter and son-in-law’s wedding, a friend of the father of the groom told a long, drawn-out and very inappropriate joke, monopolizing the time for speeches. You may have heard it: It’s about a guy who goes again and again to buy condoms and aspirin to the point where the pharmacist finally says: “Son, if you hate it that much, why don’t you stop doing it?” The guest added his own punchline though: “And that is how the groom met the bride!” The implication for us was the groom trolled for our daughter who was a slut. We were speechless! The whole thing went over like a lead balloon. This guest didn’t ever approach my husband or I during the reception and I could not approach him for fear I would get too angry and emotional. My husband and I still have a very bad taste in our mouths. We wish we could just chalk it up to this ass being drunk – but we would really like him to know he corrupted the memory of our daughter’s wedding for us. Our daughter was not impressed, but I know she will not share with us how it impacted her for fear that we will say something to her new father-in-law and/or his stupid “friend.” How can we effectively send him a message to understand the hurt he has caused us while keeping our kids out of it? Are we too late?

The answer

I have three rules for wedding speeches: Don’t get drunk first; don’t try to “wing it”; never, ever do both.

I’ve seen whole reputations, carefully cultivated over a lifetime, go down the toilet like a struggling spider, when people ignore these rules, especially No. 3.

Those are my original wedding speech rules. Latterly, though, I’ve had occasion to make a couple of extra amendments.

Rule No. 4: Unless, in your day-to-day life, everyone is constantly telling you how funny you are, don’t suddenly try to be funny in a wedding speech.

I’ve read somewhere that 75 per cent of people think they’re funny. I think about 73 per cent of them are deluded. And the problem with not-funny people trying to be funny in a wedding speech is they tend to play the “I’m going to say what everyone’s secretly thinking but is afraid to say” card – and that (especially in combination with alcohol), along with a pinch of salty language – is a surefire recipe for disaster.

You can’t – especially if you’re a semi-peripheral character such as a friend of the father of the groom – know what such a diverse group of people is “secretly thinking.” Maybe, as was clearly the case here, what they’re secretly thinking is: “We hate you, you’re a jackass, put down the mic, you’re ruining the wedding.”

Weddings are too fraught and freighted to suddenly try your hand at open-mic standup. A far better policy: Keep your speech humble, heartfelt and (No. 5) brief. Brevity, baby – the soul of wit. I’ve seen people drone on and on, enchanted by the mellifluous, Mozartian melody of their own voices – while the audience squirms and seethes with hate. It’s the bride’s day, it’s not about you – especially you, friend of father of the groom. So keep it brief, get off stage and make way for the next speaker.

Sounds like this friend of the father of the groom broke most, if not all, of the above rules, so I’m not surprised you’re seething.

And what should you do? Nothing, IMHO. As always, there’s a chance I’m missing something here and it would be nice to have more details, but is it possible you’re reading this whole “he’s saying our daughter is a slut” thing into it? That he maybe meant nothing of the kind?

I suspect it’s quite likely he didn’t and would be shocked and flabbergasted to discover you thought that’s what he meant.

So yes, of course, you could have a conversation about it, and if you do, make it face-to-face.

Honestly, though? I’d be inclined to let it drift. It’s on him, after all. As long as you comported yourselves with grace and aplomb at the wedding, what’s it really got to do with you?

Don’t look at it as “he besmirched the wedding and corrupted your memory of the wedding.” Just smile quietly to yourselves and say: There’s one in every crowd, or guest list.

And as you suggest yourself, the bride doesn’t want you to say anything. Remember: It was her day. Don’t you besmirch it by causing a confrontation about something rapidly disappearing in the rear-view mirror.

No, if I were in your shoes, I would just inhale, exhale, let it go, and move on.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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