My youngest brother, Zack, married a wonderful woman named Julie in July 2022. Below is the speech I gave at their rehearsal dinner. It will become quickly obvious why I was not asked to speak at the actual wedding.
Hello everyone, my name is Emily and I am Zack’s older sister. Older, but not old-EST, sister. That would be Steph. Steph is the one who is old.
For further context, my husband, Eric, will be officiating the marriage ceremony tomorrow, and since he has paid the great state of Connecticut $7 in order to obtain a “minister’s parking permit,” I guess that makes me the minister’s wife. Which makes the amount of cursing I’m about to do feel super weird, and I’m sorry.
As many of you know, Zack is the youngest of four children, and for those of you who are familiar with math, you understand that four is a fuck-ton of children.
Four kids is particularly excessive when it’s clear your parents were done, mentally and energy-wise, at two. Mom and Dad were already exhausted when the third, Jeremy, arrived, and by the time Zack was born, they had completely thrown in the child-rearing towel. It’s unfair, though, to say that Zack was raised by wolves, in that it’s insulting to wolves.
If you look back on the huge archive of home videos my parents recorded in our youth, you will see the births, first crawls, steps, words, and generally all major milestones in my, Steph’s, and Jeremy’s childhoods. What you will NOT see is any evidence of Zack’s existence. Then, suddenly, after a long gap in video recording, he makes his home-movie debut, at roughly age 3. What happened prior to age 3, no one knows.
Zack was left to fend for himself, which explains why on brother-sister camp visitation days I’d find him roaming the perimeter of Lake Winnipesaukee in a bathing suit that wasn’t his, wearing one teva, covered in weeks-old temporary body tattoos and smelling like washed up pond scum. It also explains the ‘fro hairstyle he rocked all through high school as DJ Cue, the creepy trunk of worms he kept in our basement, and the fact that he owns nary a shirt with sleeves.
What it does NOT explain is how he landed someone like Julie.
Which leads me to the thesis of this speech– how DID Zack land Julie?
I have a 3 year old at home and, you know kids, how they’re cute but pretty dumb? Well recently Nora heard us talking about “Uncle Zack’s wedding” and she asked me “but who is marrying Uncle Zack?” And please note, Julie and Zack have been together since before Nora was born, stay at our house together often, and one is rarely seen without the other.
“Well,” I asked Nora, “Who do you THINK would be marrying UncleZack?”
“I have NO idea” she replied, echoing all our sentiments.
“Well, who is he always with?” I asked.
“Oh- Aunt Julie!” she answered excitedly.
“That’s right!” I said.
And then, after a long contemplative pause, she asked “But who is MARRYING him??”
Because even this doe-eyed child, at the ripe age of 3, knowing essentially ZERO things about the world, deduced, quite reasonably, that there was no CHANCE her exceedingly normal and lovely Aunt Julie would choose to marry her under-showered, over-tanned, crazy Uncle Zack.
So why DID Julie choose Zack? To unpack this, I’m going to list a few popular reasons why a person would choose to bind her life to someone for eternity, and see if we can pinpoint Julie’s exact mindset when she agreed to marry a man whose feet, on a good day, resemble oven-roasted cauliflower**.
Number 1: Did Julie choose Zack because he’s charming?
To dispute this theory, allow me to tell you the story of how Zack and Julie met. My siblings and I were in the car on the way to our cousin’s wedding when I saw Zack perusing Julie’s dating profile. “She’s cute!” I declared. Write something good.”
“I’m just gonna write ‘hey’” he replied, at which point I told him if he wrote “hey,” I would throw his phone out the window to be shattered like the soul of any human who thinks “hey” is a good opener.
After suggesting that I quote “calm my tits,” Zack asked if I had a better idea. We happened to have just stopped in the middle of upstate nowhere and purchased some random roadside dried fruit (hashtag pre-covid), which led to a debate over the all-time best dried fruit. It was a LITTLE out of left field but totally authentic, so I told him to tell her of our argument, and ask her which dried fruit SHE thinks is the best. Of course, this worked like a charm.
And even though Zack weirdly and aggressively declared that her answer of “apricot” didn’t count because apricots are only available in dried form, which is, you know, abso-fucking-loutely not true, it’s this extremely charming little question that sparked their love story.
And it was MY question.
So no. Zack is not charming.
I am, though.
Number 2: Did Julie choose Zack because he’s romantic?
Another story comes to mind. After a long process of designing the perfect engagement ring, Zack finally got the finished product in hand, and then asked my advice on how to propose. At the time, Julie was in Florida with her entire family. I told him it would be awesome if he took a spontaneous flight to Florida and proposed in front of those closest to her. I said it’d be super romantic if he declared that once he got the ring in his hand, he simply couldn’t wait a second longer to start his life with her.
To which Zack responded, “yeah…she’ll know that’s not me. Whatever dude, I’ll just do it in the apartment.”
So no. Romantic he is not.
Number 3: Did Julie choose Zack because he is physically irresistible?
A few months ago Zack texted me, and I quote, “Dude. Be thankful you didn’t get Dad’s hemorrhoid gene. I got a real boysenberry goin here.”
Number 4: Did Julie choose Zack because he comes from a good family?
As you can already tell by how many times I’ve said “fuck” in this speech….no.
Let me tell you a little story which I think perfectly illustrates the juxtaposition between Julie’s polite, sophisticated, thoughtful nature versus our family of straight up bozos. A couple years ago while vacationing with us in the Outer Banks, Julie worked hard collecting a bevy of shells on the beach, which she then meticulously arranged next to the dining room table for everyone to enjoy. We all know Julie’s amazing eye for detail. It was a true work of art.
Later, Julie entered the living room visibly annoyed– which is rare form for Julie, so I knew something must have really pissed her off. I asked what was wrong and she explained that she had laid out all these shells for decor, and then when she left the room, (air quotes) *SOMEONE* (which was Julie’s polite way of saying “Jeremy”) just threw a bunch of empty take-out trash over them. She didn’t see it happen– only walked in later to find her shells covered by a pile of greasy Duck Deli boxes.
It was impossible for her to understand how anyone could be so clueless. I nodded in agreement and assured her of two essential truths– yes, her frustration was warranted, and yes, Jeremy is an idiot.
And I know this may seem like a small, random example of the kind of shit Julie has to put up with when dealing with our family, but I think about this incident ALL THE TIME when I contemplate how Julie is going to survive a lifetime of us.
I also think about it all the time because it was actually me. I threw the boxes on the shells. Honestly, Julie, I didn’t even notice they were there, and then when I saw how upset you were I was too scared to fess up, so I did what I’ve been doing since age 6– I lied and blamed it on Jeremy.
So no– Zack does not come from a good family.
All kidding aside, I’ve known Zack since his first day on earth. And I can assure you, Julie, from the bottom of my heart, that in picking Zack as your life partner, you have made an extraordinarily okay choice.
But no, despite how much I love to mess with him, in reality Zack is one of my favorite people on earth. My first instinct when he was born was to be fiercely protective of him (because, as noted earlier, no one else was), and he and I have maintained a very unique and deeply bonded relationship ever since. I’ve given Zack advice on everything from career (which he ignored, rightfully) to dating (which he took, wisely) and to this day he still turns to me in moments of doubt and paranoia, which for Zack is all of the moments.
At some point, he will realize what the rest of my family picked up on long ago- I know nothing! Zack is, in fact, the one who knows things. And does things. He is the family knower and doer, and believe me, we need one. We honestly could not live without him. And I mean that literally, because we would straight up starve.
But I also mean it figuratively, because he’s proven to be so much more than just the family dingleberry. The truth is, we know exactly why Julie chose you, Zack– you’re hilarious, you’re thoughtful, you’re real, solid, good human to the core. You’re incredibly intelligent but in the least intimidating way possible, and you’re all heart.
And the great thing about you, Julie, besides your warmth, sweetness, sophistication, and just overall incredibly-pleasant-to-be-around-energy, is how you enhance all of Zack’s best qualities. As your partner, he is his best self, but at the same time, and this is what I love most about your relationship– you absolutely allow and encourage him to be 100% himself, in all his absurdity. And of course, he in turn allows you to be YOURself, in all your glorious and endearing nerdiness.
So cheers to this amazing couple– may they double down on their love as consistently as Zack doubles down on butter. May their desire for one another last as long as it takes Zack to get to the point. May Julie love Zack with as much unbridled passion as she loves bricks.
You two just keep doing you. And Zack, my baby brother, from the bottom of my heart, congratulations on landing this most fabulous, gorgeous, kind, patient, phenomenal woman. You will have, undoubtedly, the most beautiful life with Julie.
Just don’t fuck with her shells.
**(It was an unfortunate coincidence that oven-roasted cauliflower was on the menu that night)