You can learn a lot about someone from the toasts that they give. There are some people, for example, who are skilled at giving witty and humorous comments, and generating a laugh with a zing. More than a few times, I must admit, I have been zinged myself with witty comments , choosing a comment that appeared proper and sufficiently pointed for the moment, but one with deeper meaning that invited further scrutiny and following up whose reward to the speaker and the listener was not unmixed. Nor am I the only person with such a nature, as there was at least one speaker at the wedding I went to yesterday, a slight acquaintance of mine from many years ago, who had a lot to say that was witty and light and humorous, but that pointed to more serious commentaries, on how it is that people are able to overcome first impressions through the sheer persistence of showing what kind of person they are and working through the inevitable trials and difficulties of life.
What struck me the most forcibly about the toasts I heard at this wedding, something I cannot remember ever hearing before in any wedding I attended , was the amount of deep feeling that went into most of the toasts, especially by the bride and groom. Both of the people getting married poured their heart out in their toasts, openly weeping as they reflected on the broken and complicated nature of their lives that took them to that point. It is one thing for a (formerly) single mother to have her daughter as a flower girl–at the religious ceremony for my mother and stepfather, my brother and I served in the small wedding party–but it is entirely a more emotionally charged matter for the bride to open that her family background led her to be incredibly wary about marriage and family, a wariness I can understand all too painfully well from my own wellspring of personal sorrows. It is one thing for people to joke about a skittish groom thought by friends to be a flight risk at the altar, and another for the normally emotionally reserved groom to openly cry as he wished that he had grown as much during the course of the relationship as he has seen her grow. I needed a box of tissues for myself, being more lachrymose than is probably good for me given the amount of ridicule and teasing I have faced over my own complicated emotional life.
Given that I frequently find my own marriage status to be the source of unpleasant needling and questioning about my personal life, it is little surprise that the striking emotional content of the wedding should leave me with some rather serious, and at present perhaps unanswerable questions concerning weddings and marriages and our approach to them. Is it better that we should enter into marriage with a triumphant sense of hope that we will be able to escape the problems that have dogged so many, or that we should enter with a grimly realistic understanding of the difficulties we bring into any relationship, but with an equally grim determination to honor the covenant that we are making with another person in the sight of God and so many witnesses? Is it better that a wedding be a fairy tale day to begin a hopefully lifelong marriage of two people walking together towards the Kingdom of Heaven or that it acknowledge the difficulties and brokenness of the lives that so many of us have known? I know, for myself, that I would never feel comfortable marrying someone unless I was confident that they would be willing to stick out and gut out the difficulties of making a harmonious life with me, even given all of my quirks and prickly nature and harrowing personal background. If I thought, even a little bit, that someone was a flight risk, and would be prone to months or years of sullen silence or taking up our children suddenly and without warning and fleeing to a faraway place, I would never consent to let a relationship develop anywhere approaching marriage. Nor would I ever want someone for a minute to be deceived as to either the level of commitment I would have at living up to my covenental obligations as best as I was able, at pursing open communication and reconciliation despite any difficulty, or as to the severity of what was being dealt with in my life. This could be a result of my own biases, though, and certainly I do not feel comfortable turning my own quirky and peculiar nature into a general law applicable or ideal for all people in all circumstances.
Love is a strange alchemy, in that it transmutes the baser elements of our lives into the noble qualities that others may aspire to have. Mere stubbornness can become a principled sense of honor. Horror and terror at the evils inflicted upon us can become a sense of divine fire against wickedness and injustice, and a brake on our own wicked proclivities that bring us into potential trouble. Our wary and cautious natures can become transmuted from mere shyness and timidity into genuine fine delicacy and sensitivity to the feelings and dignity of others. So much of our own nature can go wrong, but actions motivated by love and concern, and with a focus on dancing in step with our conversation partners, with friends and family, with parents and spouses and children, can turn even the most awkward and embarrassing aspects of our nature into something that is admirable and worthy of respect and beneficial in our own lives and those lives that intersect with our own. How then are we to develop this love and to forge it so that it may endure the fiery trials of our difficult lives, so that we may be hopeful enough to step out in faith, and realistic enough to appreciate the difficulties ahead without being driven into the darkness of despair at the task that is set before us?
 See, for example:
 See, for example: