I did it. I did the Best Man speech.
I had been shitting it, mainly because I enjoy public speaking as much as I enjoy having my testicles nailed to a windmill in a hurricane but, in the event, I needn't have worried. I knew in my heart of hearts that it would turn out OK, but that didn't stop my brain from going into Needless Panic overdrive. My main concern was that I would tremble visibly, or that fear would crack my voice, or I would simply quietly wet myself in front of everyone.
Failing that, my imagination added 'fainting' to my mental repertoire of things that could go wrong, or else getting over excited and tripping into the bride's mother and inadvertently shoving her face into her dessert.
Instead, I stood up and delivered an okay speech to a crowd that responded fairly pleasantly.
This may or may not have been due to the fact that 50% of the guests were Muslim, thus were unused to the tradition of the bawdy Best Man's speech and, more importantly, were also stone cold sober. But more on that later.
I spent the weekend being embarrassed by tremendous hospitality and eating my own body weight in curry. I was the sole Jew in a house of Muslims and left wishing to whatever God there is or isn't that the entire planet should show at least 1% of the friendship and kindness I was afforded. Luke's family were equally fabulous, plying me with beer and cigarettes and behaving outrageously all weekend. His sister should be made a Dame for services to Persistently Having Fun.
We drove up to East Anglia on Thursday night to go to the Bride's family home. Sabina had a henna party which neither the groom or myself knew much about. Suffice to say, when we arrived, we were barred from entering by her sister and Auntie (who welcomed me with a Shalom, which I thought was a nice touch). Luke, as tradition dictates, had to pay to get in which I found terribly amusing. Luke was less amused as he handed over a tenner, only for Sabina's sister to say, 'Not enough. Keep going.'
£40 of Luke's money later, we were allowed in and escorted to the garden marquee which - disconcertingly - was stuffed with glamorous women in saris and cousins from all over Britain, France, and, for some reason, Sacramento. We had come straight from work and had on t-shirts and jeans, of which mine were ripped to buggery.
Then Sabina appeared, looking stunning in a red gown heaving with jewels. The next thing we knew, we were in something akin to a press junket as family members came up and filmed us and posed for pictures. This took about twenty minutes while I sat there wondering if I should be at the top table at all, and trying desperately to cover up the rip in my jeans.
After dancing to Bollywood hits til midnight, Luke and I went to sleep in a surprisingly flash caravan. Sabina's family, what seemed like about forty people, had the house. I'm still not sure where they all slept.
The following day was spent getting the hall ready, meeting Luke's family, feeling overwhelmed at yet more hospitality, drinking beer, and being unable to sleep as I mentally ran through the speech til 3am.
I managed to occupy myself on the day of the wedding by running around sweating profusely in a tux and looking like a casino bouncer. It didn't help that it was the hottest day of the year either, or that the bride was late and I had the registrar barking at me that she had another wedding to officiate in an hour, and Where is she?
It was then that I wished I'd updated my new phone with numbers as I'd had my last one stolen on Luke's stag.
Then, Sabina arrived in tears (I chose not to ask why and put it down to Generic Female Happiness, and not her Dad holding her up by ironing his trousers at the last minute), and my two mates married each other. I would've seen it in more detail, but I chose not to stand with the groom as I didn't feel I should - something I now regret - and noticed that all the front seats had gone. So I hovered at the back, unable to hear the vows as I sat in the screaming babies section. Then someone broke the serenity of the occasion with a violently loud phone jingle (me, I'm afraid) and, in the words of Ginger Spice and the other talentless harridans, Two became One.
I had to corral everyone out of the Town Hall, then had to scream at family members to pose for photos outside the ruins of a 1,000 year-old castle, where I severely sunburned myself.
I started to panic as our taxi escorted us to the reception hall, for that was to be the scene of my speech fiasco. Curry was served. I was repeatedly told to fuck off out of the kitchen by the caterers, as I was scurrying around in an ice bucket for beers for the white people.
I didn't eat too much wedding curry, as my appetite had vanished and had trouble keeping it in. Now public vomiting became a new scenario to worry about. Sat at the top table again, I ate to the sight of 130 people crammed into the hall.
Then I shat myself. Fear had constipated me for two days. An equivalent days' worth of curry had undone the damage. My anus had begun to seal over like a piercing minus its earring, and I was in agony. Once I had emerged sweating and exhausted from the cubicle to wild laughter from the groom and one of our friends, I had to about-turn and run back in for seconds.
Several people were now remarking that I looked feverish and appeared to be burning up, a likely combination of curry overdose, sunburn, fear, and the squits.
Back in the hall, Luke's Mum gave me some Kalms tablets so I would chill the fuck out. I had now bored everyone about how nervous I was, and that moment was approaching. Luke spoke first, quietly and sincerely, and presented various people with presents. I was quite touched and surprised to receive some aftershave, and a guidebook to Barcelona that apparently, I should've taken with to the stag.
Then a strange thing happened. I calmed down. I stood up to bizarrely rapturous cheers (and apparently went as white as a sheet), which will forever be implanted in the sparse 'Feeling Loved' part of my brain, and was cool enough to ad-lib that their welcome would prove to be an enormous anti-climax.
Then I ad libbed by thanking the groom for his 'Luke, warm speech', which was met with lukewarm laughter, and I made a mental note to stick to the script.
I got one paragraph in and inexplicably yelled out, 'I'm doing it, I'm actually doing it!', which bemused pretty much everyone, then I went on to offend the bride by explaining how they met, saying that I used to live with Luke, and work with Sabina, where "I was very fortunate to meet this fabulous, vivacious, intelligent, caring, and very, very beautiful woman,"
"and she knew Sabina."
I would've liked bigger laughs at that point, but one titter at the back sufficed. Everything else was a bit of a blur. The speech could've been a lot more raucous. After all, every single anecdote about Luke involves him getting mind numbingly drunk, breaking a body part, and vomiting, all pretty much a Best Man's wet dream. Sadly, I couldn't use much it. I thought it might not go down too well with Sabina's extended family. I did mention that he once pushed a garden roller into a hotel swimming pool, and overheard him yelling, "That never happened!" Much later, Ali casually told me that Luke did chuck a green frog waste bin over a cliff.
I could've used that.
I stuffed my face at the curry buffet with a vengeance a few hours later, hid a bottle of champagne for safekeeping later, and danced to Bhangra all night - well, most of the night. By and large, I was sweating profusely and had to make frequent stops outside to cool down and have a drink and a smoke with the pissheads (re: non-Muslims) outside.
The wedding was absolutely fantastic. Although I chose not to get too hammered out of respect for half the guests not drinking on religious grounds, I still managed it anyway. I was surrounded by so many friends and lovely family members who weren't actually from my family, that it even made me re-evaluate my decision to elope to Barbados rather than go through the bankruptcy and sheer panic of a normal wedding - if, of course, I actually had a girlfriend to marry.
One female guest approached me and talked at length about her spectacular tits, which I tried not to look at even when she kept mentioning them several hundred times. My friends later confirmed that she was single, which bemused me as she came with a mate of mine. Then one of Sabina's friends demanded I go back to the hotel with a whole bunch of them, but I declined as I was to be sleeping in a tent with Nothing Man.
Until Nothing Man decided to go back to the hotel, where he got laid. I had sobered up at this point, and was frankly knackered. Instead, I got a taxi back to Ali's and continued partying with a host of others back at his house. He passed out on the sofa so naturally, I drew all over his face with a permanent silver marker and covered his prone body with fruit. When I dug around my bag for my camera - my lovely, new, expensive camera I've only used twice - I realised I lost the fucker.
To date, I still can't find it. This means, Stag: lost phone, nearly lost wallet. Wedding: lost camera, nearly lost dignity.
I woke the following morning to a barbecue in the sun, and a small wedding reunion. Days really don't get any better than that. Of course, when the newly wedded Sabina and Luke turned up and confirmed that I had turned down at least two - maybe three - potential shags, I felt a little bit sick.
But I can confirm that speech-panicking aside, being Best Man is fucking brilliant. My friend's families are absolutely wonderful, I'm filled with joy and love for the pair of them, and I'm uncharacteristically moved by the whole experience.
Just don't turn down the sex.