Traditionally in the U.S., on the night before a wedding, the bride and groom will host all of their closest friends and family (and out of town guests) for a dinner which is usually followed by speeches / toasts.  The speeches are meant to give the people closest to the bride and groom a chance to talk to the soon-to-be weds’ best attributes in addition to toasting the prospects of a happy future together.

If you’ve been to a wedding, you know that while most of these speeches are given with the best intentions they are often only meaningful to the people getting married.  The remaining friends and family are either filled with angst about the speech they have to nail or bored because of the exhaustively long string of inside jokes that they don’t understand.

Admittedly, even though I was aware of the downsides of the traditional rehearsal dinner structure, I still wanted my friends to speak highly about me to my new father and mother-in-law.  And my wife was indifferent. So we carried on the somewhat insufferable tradition.

I attended a close buddy’s wedding a few years ago who took a completely different approach. My buddy was also aware of how painful wedding speeches can be to almost everybody involved (except himself and his soon to be wife).  So when planning his rehearsal dinner he kept the speeches in but flipped responsibilities.  Instead of friends and family talking about him, he and his wife took that time to speak about the qualities that made each of the guests special to them.

While I can’t remember most if not all of the takeaways from the speeches at my wedding, I remember everything my buddy said about each of his friends at his.  And I bet he does, too.  That simple but powerful and selfless gesture set the tone for the weekend as he turned one of the more self-involved human traditions into a warm and fulfilling celebration with loved ones.  Pretty cool.

Thanks so much for your time.