Speechwriter, how would you treat your clients if they weren’t paying you?

Should I have given my friend more help with his wedding reading?

For obvious if misguided reasons, friends and family members occasionally come to me for help in giving speeches or toasts. They usually leave disappointed.

Like Chris, my videographer friend who emailed me over the summer: "So, I have to contribute a reading to my wedding ceremony, but as I scour my book shelves, I've realize that I've never read anything that would be appropriate for a wedding. Shit, I don't even read poetry. Can you please save my ass and recommend something? I'd be overjoyed to have something read at the wedding that speaks to the occasion and I can respect. Even the name of some authors would help."

This is a good guy who has done me good turns in the past, so I wanted to help.

"It's gotta seem to everybody only something YOU would have chosen. A search of Murray's brain and the Internet turns up a lot of nice love poems, but none that say, CHRIS ___________ SHOULD READ THIS AT HIS WEDDING! … Honestly, I think you should write something—about the first time you fell in love, or some such—and read that. An original. But at the very LEAST I think you should read something that you and only you could have picked out. Have you ever written her a letter that you could read at the ceremony? Has she ever written one to you? Does she have a favorite poet or writer? Do you? Help a brother help a brother out."

"You're making me want to come up with something genuine, but I'm feeling empty at the moment," Chris replied. "I'll keep you updated."

I told him I was "here to help with the genuine," adding: "For the artificial, you can find a poem on the Interents as easily as I can." And to prove my point, I sent him e.e. cummings' poem, "i like my body when it is with your."

"This is my favorite love poem, but it will freak out your father-in-law."

"I've decided to dig and try to find something from scratch this weekend. I'll let you know what I find."

I missed the wedding. Just the other day I remembered to ask Chris what he ended up doing? "I picked a different EE Cummings poem. It definitely did the trick, and totally confused a couple of people too."

So, did I help my friend, or did I just leave him hanging? Speechwriter, what would you have done?

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