This past weekend, one of my best friends celebrated her marriage to the love of her life. She had asked if any of her bridesmaids wanted to give a speech at the ceremony, and I responded facetiously with a joke about reading a crazy story we’d written as teenagers. The truth is, I didn’t think I could do it. I had cried when she called me about her engagement. I had cried when I looked at her engagement pictures. I had cried when she asked me to be a bridesmaid. I had even cried in the car just thinking about how I would start a speech. (I am sort of crying now.) There is no way I trusted myself to not cry in front of over 300 people when I spoke about how much I loved her.
Needless to say, I did not give a speech this weekend. (I was, as predicted, too busy crying.) But that doesn’t mean I didn’t write one. What follows are a few words I put together about how much this woman means to me and how happy I am to see her married to her soulmate. Names have been changed because this is the Internet, yo.
Link, I’m going to tell you an incredible story, the story of how I met your wife. No, you’re not being punished, and, yes, this could take a while, but I’ll try to keep it shorter than nine seasons…
Thirteen years ago, before I was this stranger with a microphone, I was an awkward middle schooler. It was a transformative time in my life–not only because I had just turned 12 and learned about leg-shaving and outgrown all my Limited Too clothes. Those events certainly played a role in my life, but there was another milestone, more important to my growth and development than exists in any health & wellness textbook: I had just watched Lord of the Rings for the first time, and I was dying to find someone to share my obsession. Fidgeting with excitement, I tried to get the attention of the girl in front of me in homeroom. She turned around in her seat, and there she was, the beautiful Zelda, my future best friend.
“Hey,” I began tentatively, “have you seen Lord of the Rings?”
“Yeah,” Zelda responded, a short but sweet invitation for me to elaborate.
“The elf dude is hot,” I said, and we both giggled in affirmation.
It was not my most eloquent moment, I’ll admit, but there it was. Those five words sparked a friendship that can hardly be described, though not for lack of stories. We began eating lunch together at a table with seven other girls, making just enough people to give everyone a name from the Fellowship. We, of course, were Merry and Pippin. We ran cross country and track together, and sang songs from the movies as we warmed up for our races. Sometimes we pretended to be orcs or Gollum…in public. This is how unbelievably amazing it was to have met Zelda. As a middle schooler, I had no idea (or just didn’t care) that I was weird, because I had found a kindred spirit. We passed each other notes, wrote strange stories, and went trick-or-treating dressed in costumes only we could decipher. Middle school is a tough time for any kid, but I was lucky. For the first time in a long time (quite possibly ever), I had a best friend. That made becoming a teenager remarkably easy.
The Return of the King hit theaters just as middle school was ending. I don’t remember how many times we had each seen it by the time we managed to see it together, but it was enough that we could quote it, and the old ladies in front of us had to turn around multiple times and ask us to pleeeease be quiet. It was an important moment in our lives. We didn’t yet know that Peter Jackson would create three more movies in the franchise that had united us. We were about to go to different high schools, and that was a little scary, too. To make our imminent parting less sad, we began calling my school “Gondor” and Zelda’s “Rohan,” mirroring the separation of Pippin and Merry in the movie. It worked. We knew no matter how far apart we traveled, we’d always find each other again.
It makes sense that, as we got older, we made new friends–even new best friends–and had new experiences that we didn’t share. Despite the ever growing distance between us, I knew that we would always be there for each other. I went to Zelda’s performances; she visited me in college. We no longer called each other every week, but we messaged almost daily, sharing things that made us happy or sad or scared or confident. We couldn’t always sit on the same couch or frolic in the park like we used to, but we offered each other advice and unconditional support. No matter what happened, I knew I could always talk to Zelda. That made becoming an adult a heck of a lot easier.
So, why am I telling you all of this? Well, Link, I wanted to tell you how I met your wife before I told you something about how you met your wife. At that moment, Zelda and I were about as far apart as we had ever been. I was in Europe, and she was in Florida. We were both in our early 20s, and our messages had increasingly lamented our inability to find love. Because I am a historian by trade, I have archived most of my digital conversations, and the moment I learned you and Zelda were going to be married, I knew I could find something good to share. Humor me, Link, because I looked through years of Facebook messages, and I found this, sent only weeks before meeting you:
“Some day a guy we like will think its cute how dorky/awk we are, and that guy will probably be the one we marry.”
As you saw in those adorable home videos, Zelda has an uncanny ability to predict the future. A few weeks later, she told me she’d met a boy that wanted to take her to Harry Potter World. I’d like to pretend that I knew immediately that you were The One. The truth is, I’m more jaded than that. Leslie Knope (aka, my spirit animal) once said that when a couple gets married, two single people die. I couldn’t have agreed more. It took a few years of stalking Zelda’s pictures on Facebook and actually meeting you before I realized how wrong I was. When I look at you now, knowing what I do, I see two people who compliment each other in all the best ways. I see a devoted couple whose lives are beautifully enriched through knowing each other. But, perhaps most importantly, I see a pair of kindred spirits who each think it’s undeniably cute how dorky and awkward the other is. Together, you are very much alive. Together, you are perfect.
I cry when I think of how important Zelda is to me. She is, after all, my Merry. Despite my many stumbles and flaws, she has remained my friend. When I was younger, she taught me how to use the Internet, how to order Chipotle, how to be kind, and how to love myself. Now that we are older, she continues to be an inspiration. She has far surpassed me in life’s journey, and I can no longer offer much advice for the future, so I’ll just say this: The number of people gathered to celebrate your marriage is a tribute to her warmth and compassion. The fact that she has chosen to love you, Link, is a tribute to your own kind spirit. I wish you both the best and many happy returns.
With all my love,