Ladies and Gentlemen.....and the other one.
For those of you who don''t know me, my name is Matt and for those of you that do.. well I can only apologise. My full name is actually ''Matt would-you-like-a-drink'' and if I meet you in the bar later, I''d greatly appreciate it if you could use my full name.
Before I undertake the customary duty of giving Ryan a not too uncomfortable few minutes it is part of the official duty of the best man to thank Ryan on behalf of the bridesmaids, Megan and Keira, for his kind words and for having them play a part of this really special day. I have to say they look wonderful and have done an excellent job. Indeed they are only eclipsed by the radiant Claire herself, who, I''m sure you''ll all agree looks absolutely stunning.
I would also like to say a special thank you to my fellow best man, Dan, for organising an outstanding stag do.
Those of you that have experienced attempting to arrange anything with Ryan will know that it is a monumental task. You think everything is sorted, everyone knows what is happening - where, when, who, how etc. You''ve just made the final confirmations with all parties involved and then he''ll ring you to say he forgot he was doing X with Y and can whatever we have spent days, weeks and sometimes months arranging be re-arranged? Of course we love him so we oblige.
This process can be repeated many, many, many, many times. He will be late, extremely late, if, that is, you are arranging to meet somewhere and then... only if he hasn''t forgotten completely to meet you in the first place. I know I am rambling a bit here but the singular words required to convey this torture by diary simply do not exist.
More likely than not though any hopes one has of the pleasure of his company are thwarted from the outset as he''s never in this bloody country and never in another one for long enough to meet him their either.
Even the stag do, the single most important occasion for the Groom, except for the wedding itself,.. of course but certainly the most important holiday he can have... except maybe for the honeymoon, even the stag do seemed doomed to suffer from Ryan''s need, but inability, to be in 20 different places at once to meet his demanding schedule.
However, once the date of this joyous day had been confirmed we had about 8 months to plan the stag week. For some bizarre reason Claire was not overly enthusiastic about getting rid of Ryan for that long but, still, 8 months is plenty of time to arrange a long weekend away anywhere.
Well, 8 months quickly became 7, became 6, 5, 4, 3 and so on and eventually time dwindled to really not much time at all. Ryan then realised that, with what little time he had left before this special day he would need it all to actually make all the necessary arrangements cars, cakes, clothes,... venue.. We eventually, with much haranguing, got him to commit to a date to enjoy his last days of freedom erm commit to a date to act silly and enjoy himself, carefree, before formalising his loving commitment to his adored wife and cherished son and accepting all the responsibilities that come with that commitment.
Ryan advised us that he was available for his stag do in early October.
To have planned a stag night would have been an extraordinary accomplishment. Organising a 5 day soiree that took us on a pub tour of 2 spectacularly picturesque countries and culminated in us bundling a World Rally Championship driver on live, international TV was a Herculean task. Thank you Dan, you did truly excel yourself.
Right! Back to my task at hand. It was a great privilege to be asked by Ryan to be his best man and I am both honoured and delighted, though now a little nervous, to perform my obligations.
Before I begin though, Claire, would you please place your right hand on the table and Ryan, please place your left on top of Claire''s. I ask that you please remain like that for the duration of this speech. I will reveal all in good time.
I have never been a best man before and I am not renowned for my speech writing. I shall, however, try my best ''cause Ryan said if I did a good job today, I can be Best Man at his next wedding, too!
I have to admit I found writing this speech a bit of a challenge. The inspiration was there and, from many years of rugby tours, there are plenty of anecdotes I could tell you. Unfortunately what goes on tour stays on tour and, with further thought, I realised the majority of them would only paint me in a bad light.
I did actually start down the traditional and assured route of writing a speech full of sexual innuendo but, when I accidentally spilled my beans to Claire recently, she told me to whip it out immediately... and a hasty clean up ensued.
So where does one begin for ideas?
The obvious place seemed to be the Internet so, with a multitude of resources at my fingertips, I dutifully began searching the web. After a couple of hours searching I found some REALLY good stuff on the net, but ....then I remembered I was supposed to be looking for Best Man tips!
I did actually find loads of ready-prepared speeches on the interweb but sadly none of them were about a couple called Ryan and Claire. So, back to square one, it was down to me after all.
I suppose the first thing the best man should explain is how he knows the groom. As we all here are either close friends or family of the happy couple I will assume you all know how passionately Ryan loves his rugby.
Indeed he was aghast to learn that Claire had booked today, today! when his beloved Ireland are going to lose to er, I mean play, France in THE WORLD CUP, she booked today just to get married. Jesus! How could she? They can get married any day he''s free in October!
Ryan was even further dismayed when his attempts to get a TV into this room failed. Oh, he tried. I do, however, have a strong suspicion he may develop a bit of an upset stomach between the hours of 20:00 - 21:30 that may cause him to be regularly absent from this room.
It is through rugby that Ryan and I know each other. We have both been playing at Chingford Rugby Club for almost 25 years and have been friends for the majority of that time. I say majority as we don''t get on so well now since he cheered England''s crushing defeat last week to S.A..
In fact it was more a delighted gloat as he had a 20-1 bet on the score line. So, drinks on Ryan. Oh, of course, they are! Cheers mate!
I digress. In 25 years we have grown up together, shared many amazing experiences and generally been through an incredible amount together. Fortunately none of them are here today. We can at least thank foot and mouth for something. There''s nothing I wouldn''t do for Ryan, likewise there''s nothing Ryan wouldn''t do for me. In fact we have spent most of our time as friends doing absolutely nothing for each other.
As I mentioned previously, however, rugby anecdotes are probably best suited for a rugby club and I certainly wouldn''t want to sully such a pleasant day. So, what other passions does Ryan have?.....Um unfortunately I don''t know that many stories'' involving blondes. Nor jokes. Oh by the way Claire, I love what you have done to your hair!
I earlier alluded that Ryan likes to gamble. And I''m sure you''ll all agree he has certainly picked a winner with Claire. He will, though, gamble and bet on pretty much anything at any given opportunity. And this leads me to a story from early in Ryan and Claire''s blissful romance.
For Claire''s 30th birthday, a long time ago now, Ryan, ever considerate, thought it would be a great opportunity for him to impress his friends with his beautiful young lady, for Claire to meet his friends sober and for their relationship to further flourish, as they do, through ones friends warmly accepting someone who means the world to you.
The restaurant was spectacular, the food exquisite and, better still, the evening was very relaxed and flowed gracefully. Ryan''s quick wit and charisma captivated Claire''s friends and Claire''s low cut top ensured we insisted he didn''t keep her a stranger.
The restaurant had a nightclub annexed to it and, after the meal, the girls hit the dance floor. The men opted to let the meal go down and get to know one another better over a few beers.
Let''s face it. Men are not great conversationalists. After a few nods, grunts, belches... chuckles, farts... a few more chuckles and a brief impromptu competition of trying to out gas each other it became obvious we were happy to just sit in silence, broken only by the occasion man noise...followed by the inevitable chuckle, and enjoy our beer.
Women will never understand that this situation is perfectly acceptable, desired even, by us men. But Ryan, being the truly caring man that he is, was determined to impress Claire and ensure everyone had not just a good time, but a great time.
Conversation was obviously not an option. Besides, Claire''s friends were not into rugby and none of us follow football so we had nothing in common anyway. Then Ryan was struck with a eureka moment group of guys + beers + table = ..poker!
Brilliant! 1 quick game of poker, how better to bond - man pitting his wits and prowess against fellow man, then we too could hit the dance floor and enchant the ladies with our magnificent shape cutting.
Poker, as you may know, is not a quick game. It''s a lllloooong game.
The music stopped and the lights came on and it suddenly dawned on Ryan that his noble and selfless effort at ensuring everyone had a great time might not have been entirely appreciated by his beloved. As this thought entered his head he looked up from the table and spied Claire.
Now I''m no body language expert but by the flairy nostril action alone as Claire came storming through the crown I could tell she was a little bit upset at seemingly being ignored all night. The blaze that flamed in Claire''s eyes as she spotted the cards confirmed Ryan''s fears that his good intentions had indeed been misunderstood. He concurred that she was not happy.
With grandeur he stood and with mighty bellow squeaked run! then scampered off as fast as he could to hide in the gents toilets. Unfortunately that golden rule that every mischevious child learns from their favourite teacher "if you can see me then I can see you" is very true and Claire was soon pounding on the door.
With a look of pure dread on his face Ryan turned to us, oh yeah - all us men folk were crammed in there too, he turned to us for hope, an excuse, and found neither. Bravely, after repeated threats by the manager to have him forcefully removed from the premises, Ryan un-barricaded the door and left the sanctuary of the male toilets alone.
It would appear that running away from one another is a common theme with Ryan and Claire and it happened when they very first met.
Ryan first gazed upon the beautiful vision of Claire in the very classy establishment of Branigans nightclub in Romford. Never being one to let a good thing pass him by Ryan immediately made straight for her.. via several pints, shots, cocktails and jugs of happy hour Dutch courage.
Suitably convinced he could not fail to enthral her Ryan approached Claire and let lose his full arsenal of mesmerising charm, deep philosophical yet profoundly perceptive observations of the world, he''s quick wit, self humbling humour and, of course, his pure animal magnetism.
Ryan, rightly sure of himself as he was, was still, I''m sure he''d admit, astounded that this gorgeous girl had been captivated by him for nearly a full whole minute.. as she queued, desperate, for the ladies. He would await her return.
Alas, for so it would seem, Ryan''s dogged stance in the ladies doorway could not have been diligent enough, he must have missed her exit, for after several hours the bouncers were ushering him out through a near deserted bar.
He comforted himself in the warmth and consoling delights of a kebabery opposite the club and studiously studied the shrinking cloakroom queue.
His goddess appeared and Claire, upon seeing this bounding donna meat and chilli sauce spraying oaf, took to her toes in the opposite direction. It was an obvious pretence at playing hard to get and Ryan, resolute a return would be secured on his investment of time almost a minute!, gave tenacious pursuit.
Being the supreme athlete that he is Ryan swiftly caught and held Claire in his firm, but gentle, iron grip. She initially maintained the pretence, protested and struggled but to no avail. Ryan then proclaim what he already knew to be true in his heart and would sweep Claire off her feet and into his arms for all eternity "SHUT UP! YOU ARE GOING NOWHERE!!"
If I''m to follow tradition it is at this point in my speech I should offer wise words of marital advice to Ryan and Claire. As I''m a hopeless singleton er a successful and eligible bachelor, l''ladies, I am perhaps unqualified to do so.
By following their hearts Ryan and Claire have found within each other their perfect companion, lover and friend. My only advice to them is to continue to be led by the heart.
Before I finish I can say with great satisfaction that this last 10 minutes or so I have given Ryan something to cherish. At the start of my speech I asked Ryan to place his hand on Claire''s. Ryan as my final role, it is with great pleasure that I have been able to give you the last 10 minutes in which you have had the upper hand on Claire. Now that you are married it will almost certainly be the last.
So now, ladies and gents, it gives me immense pleasure to invite you all to stand once more and raise your glasses in a toast for the Groom and his beautiful blonde, er, bride. We wish them well for the future. To love, life, laughter and happily ever after. Ryan and Claire