Tag Archives: wedding

My Speech For My Brother’s Wedding

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.” 

He’s resistable.

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)



Real Story: A guest at our wedding is a friend of Ben Platt’s parents. This guest told Ben’s parents that “You Will Be Found” was our first dance song, and Ben’s parents told Ben, who then very graciously offered to autograph a photo for us.

Story I tell myself: Oh, NBD but Ben Platt reads and loves the blog. Huge fan of mine. He knows I love Dear Evan Hansen and that “You Will Be Found” was our wedding song, so he contacted our photographer and arranged this whole surprise for us because, you know, that’s the kind of thing celebrities do for their fellow celebrity friends.

Story I tell others: One of the two above, depending on how well I know you and your ability to fact-check.


We Love You Very Both

While there was a decent amount of ad-libbing and additional content in the live event, this is the general script of our wedding ceremony, led by our dear friends and fabulous officiants Gabi and Andrew. 

Opening Remarks (Andrew)

Welcome to the Main Event. Gabi and I are thrilled and honored to be presiding over tonight’s ceremony. How fitting that we’re gathered here, from near and far, to celebrate Emily and Eric, in the state for lovers. The famous slogan, Virginia is for Lovers, at its core, represents a love of life and a passion for travel.

We’re here to celebrate love and passion, to celebrate commitment, to celebrate friendship, and to celebrate family. Most importantly, this is a celebration of Emily and Eric, as individuals and together as one.

Emily, Eric. Look around. Everyone is here for you and your love for each other. Please take it all in.

Just before arriving to the chupah, the Jewish wedding canopy that symbolizes the home that you will build together, we, along with Emily and Eric, and witnesses Danielle and Eric, gathered to sign the Ketubah.

This important contract is your promise to trust and respect each other; to be open and honest; and to be loving and forgiving in a relationship of equality. It’s your commitment to comfort and support each other through life’s sorrow and joys, to honor your families and traditions, and help fill our world with peace and love.

About Emily (Gabi)

Emily is the funniest person that Eric has ever met. Her humor is matched only by her intelligence, beauty, and courage. She runs marathons and runs her own small business, yet always makes time for the important things in life: Family, friends, and Facebook.

As I look around this room, I see smiles from all parts of Emily’s journey here today. Em grew up on the mean streets of Potomac, Maryland, with countless summers spent at Camp Robindel (although Steve could probably count them). At Penn, Em expanded her horizons — making friends from Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey, and even one Houstonian (diversity). She became a scholar of Sociology, which led to a career in education, molding young minds as Miss Emily. It’s with an impressive balance of levity and gravity — and emoji — that she shares her thoughts and feelings with the readers of Emily’s Posts. But it is her dedication to family — the Sibling Dinners, her love of the Boog, the way she adores Big Steve and Charla — it’s those strong family values that make Emily who she is today and who she will become tomorrow.

When we asked those closest to Emily to describe her, we heard things like, “Em is a bundle of hilarity, awkwardness, sarcasm, and kindness rolled into one…. She is generous… She is compassionate… she doesn’t judge. She supports everyone’s journeys, no matter where they may lead…” And — our most popular answer — “she makes Eric the happiest we’ve ever seen him.”

About Eric (Andrew)

Eric is a lighting rod of excitement. When we were writing this, I asked Gabi, “Do think excitement is the word that best describes him?,” and without hesitation, she said, “Yep. He’s like a golden retriever that always wants to lick his owner’s face.”

But Eric is more. He’s personable, charming, and outgoing. He can talk intelligently about pretty much everything, and these are the exact reasons that make him Emily’s match.

And what he lacks in hair, he makes up in resilience, optimism, and perseverance – often in the pursuit of fun. (He once even tore his ACL just so I could use the handicap bathroom at a music festival.)

Cuddly but muscular, Eric has great values, great friends, and great moves on the dance floor – just wait – and Emily, like no one else on earth, you bring out his best.

About Couple (Gabi)

I know there are a few lawyers here tonight. Oh, excuse me, I’m sorry — I know there are a few DOZEN lawyers here tonight. So I feel it important to cite a little known statute – Federal Guideline 38.33 – otherwise known as Lerman’s Law, the rule that if something can go wrong, it will go wrong… for only Emily. It’s pretty much Murphy’s Law, but with greater anxiety and a lower tolerance for lactose. Sure, during our college years, we may have broken a few rules here and there, but the one Emily just could not escape was Lerman’s Law. For example, she takes an awkward step — most would maybe twist an ankle. Emily’s avian bones put her in a cast for months. Then there’s her travel record. Is there a suitcase lost or a flight canceled? You can bet it’s Emily’s. And in a city of 9 million people and 25,000 restaurants, Emily and Eric’s fourth date takes place at a table directly next to a high school acquaintance who blabs on about Emily’s dating blog… that she hasn’t told Eric about yet.

Yes, Emily started this relationship with a big ol’ secret. But Eric was not so innocent either. You see, Eric shares the same name with the lead character of Emily’s favorite TV show, Coach Eric Taylor of Friday Night Lights. When Eric learned how much this thrilled Emily, he rrrrreally leaned into the joke, an early commonality to bring the two closer together. The only problem? He was a liar. He had never seen a single episode. So for the next two months, Eric secretly watched all five seasons to make good on this white lie.

Secrets and lies. The foundation of any strong relationship.

Both of these stories happened in their earliest weeks together, yet each signals the most important truths for Eric and Emily.

First, their love is honest. Their love is free from judgment or shame. Each accepts and embraces the other’s whole being with eyes wide open. Clear eyes.

Second, their love is limitless, boundless, endless. They are overflowing with joy, laughter, friendship, partnership, music, and dance. In good times and in bad, their hearts are full.

It’s with great pride — and legal authority — that today we mark the official end to Lerman’s Law as Emily and Eric officially become The Taylors. The start of a new episode for these two – this one filled with good luck, in good health, with love and laughter. Because together — with clear eyes and full hearts — Eric and Emily simply can’t lose.

Acknowledgements (Andrew)
Before proceeding, we would like to make a few acknowledgements:

Thank you to everyone here today, loving family and loyal friends.

We would also like to honor Grandma Bibby, whose presence is certainly felt but isn’t able to join us here.
Additionally, we would like to honor the memory of:
Grandpa George
Grandma Betty
Grandpa Seymour
Nanny City, and
Grandpa Rusty,
whose spirit resides among us today. May their memories be an inspiration to us and always remain in our hearts.

Wine (Andrew)

Wine is the Jewish people’s symbol for joy and celebration; a symbol of the richness of life and the sweetness of love.

This Kiddush cup, passed down from Emily’s family, symbolizes you, Eric and Emily, coming together to share one life. Remember to fill it with forgiveness, understanding, appreciation, and wine. Lots of wine.

“Baruch atta adoni, ello heynu meleth ha olum, ba ray pre hagufan.”

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the Fruit of the Vine.

Now please both take a sip. As you share this wine together, may you share happiness and fulfillment from the cup of life.

It is my tradition, and Gabi now yours, too, to also have a sip of wine to thank God for giving us the opportunity to perform this mitzvah.

Shehecheyanu (Gabi)

In my family, on momentous occasions, we say another prayer – the Shehecheyanu – to give thanks for all the blessings in life that have brought us here today.

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam,
shehecheyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higianu laz’man hazeh.

Blessed are You, oh Lord our God, King of the Universe,
for giving us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this very special day.


Vows & Rings (Gabi)

Your rings are powerful symbols and constant reminders that your love for each other is never-ending and ever-lasting.

(Andrew) Eric, Please place the ring on Emily’s finger and repeat after me:

Emily, I give you this ring

As a reminder that I will love, honor, and cherish you

In all times, in all places, and in all ways, forever.

(Gabi) Emily, Please place the ring on Eric’s finger and repeat after me:

Eric, I give you this ring

As a reminder that I will love, honor, and cherish you

In all times, in all places, and in all ways, forever.

Breaking the Glass

(Andrew) It’s tradition at the end of a Jewish wedding that a glass is broken. It serves as a reminder that just as pieces of a broken glass can never be put back together, marriage changes the lives of individuals forever.

Throughout this ceremony, you’ve vowed in our presence, to be loyal and loving towards each other. Therefore, it is my pleasure to pronounce you husband and wife. Eric, take care of that glass, and you may now kiss the bride.

(Gabi) Throughout this ceremony, Eric and Emily, you’ve vowed in our presence, to be loyal and loving towards each other. We love you both and it’s our great pleasure to officially pronounce you husband and wife.

**Not in the script but best line of the ceremony from Andrew, and now unofficial hashtag of our wedding: “We love you very both”**


Jeremy’s Full Rehearsal Dinner Speech


For those of you who have known the Lermans for awhile, you know that Em and I are very close. In fact, I like to think of all my siblings as my best friends, which is why I have no qualms letting everyone know that, as close as Em and I are now, our relationship growing up makes the bitter rivalry between the Hatfields and McCoys seem like a mild tiff between two groups of hostile, gossipy Yentas. It’s for this reason that I have no choice but to roast her here tonight – in front of all her family and friends – because, to quote Phil Collins, “I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life. (Pause) Oh Lord.”

By and large, my childhood can be summarized as follows: Em would constantly kick my ass; Zack would stand by and watch, laughing maniacally. Were I to seek any sort of redress through my Dad, he would defer any and all claims of wrongdoing to my mom—after he was done laughing maniacally; and Mom would continue playing bridge or mah jong with her friends. If I was really lucky, the babysitter was home. To Steph’s credit, she would often try to help me, so long as she wasn’t busy pretending she didn’t actually have any siblings. If Em had me pinned to the ground, Steph would pull her off of me. If Em was being mean to me, Stephanie told her to stop. If Em called me ugly, Steph would say: “Em – that’s not his fault.”

To label this relationship a rivalry is really a misnomer, as it may mislead one to think that I ever actually had the slightest chance of coming out ahead. Whatever the situation, and regardless of who instigated what, Em always got the upper hand. And it’s exactly for this reason that, for many years, my favorite Em story is the time I cut off all of her hair.

It was the middle of the night, and all of a sudden a loud, high-pitched crying fit reverberated throughout the entire house. Because there is absolutely zero possibility of confusing the sound of Em’s powerful, high-decibel wailing with the softer, weaker cries of her fellow siblings, Mom and Dad immediately rushed to Em’s room. By the time they had arrived, all that remained was Em and the third-worst haircut of her entire life. I don’t actually remember any details of the incident, but I basked in it and considered the unwanted trim a crowning victory.

About a decade later, Mom once again told the story, but as soon as she finishes, Em claims to recall the story differently, and says, “Yeah, just so you all know, that’s not what happened.” Everyone looks around at each other, confused but wild with anticipation. Em continues: “What actually happened is that I cut off my own hair, and when I went to look at myself in the mirror, I immediately became so mortified by what I’d done that I began to cry hysterically. When Mom and Dad asked me what happened, I knew they’d be angry at me, so I blamed you.”

I must say, I really can’t help but applaud the sheer boldness and brilliance of Em’s actions, and I maintain that her eventual confession remains one of the greatest long cons ever devised. To this day, I still have yet to decide which part of this entire scheme is most shrewd: is it the fact that 6-year-old Em thinks to blame someone who probably couldn’t have even identified scissors in a lineup? Or is it the fact that, after waiting for a decade, she finally comes clean and takes responsibility for the act which she knows damn well had been the one and only remaining testament of my status as her formidable contender?

Now, most of you know my Dad, a.k.a. Big Steve. He’s a highly-trained lawyer. He graduated at the top of his class from GW Law, and continues to manage his own law firm. And my Mom, Charla. What many people here may not know about my Mom is that prior to her career in real estate she had a very successful career as an investigative journalist after graduating from UNC Chapel Hill. Both my parents have made a good living based on their abilities to ask the hard questions and the right questions; to collect and evaluate evidence; and to discover the truth based on facts.

And yet, somehow, Em managed to conceal her culpability in the haircut incident for ten years. Where were the questions that day, Mom and Dad? One would think that between an experienced journalist and a veteran super-lawyer, three-year old Jeremy might have gotten some due process.

In addition to the fact that Em almost always got away with her absurd behavior, another source of my resentment toward Em while growing up was my feeling that our parents never seemed to treat the two of us fairly. In fact, all the siblings mutually recognize that, in the hierarchy of child favoritism, Em clearly occupied the top position. And my parents clearly recognized that I felt this way growing up, which is why Mom used to read me a children’s book about a family with a brother and sister, both of whom would complain that their parents treated them unfairly. I don’t remember all the details or even the name of the book, but the main lesson I was meant to take away was that my belief that my parents favored Em over me was simply a matter of perspective, and that Em felt the exact same way I did.

And as I’ve gotten older, I have a much greater appreciation for my parents as being very enlightened and smart about the way they went about raising four kids. Which is exactly why, when I reflect back on my time growing up with Em, I occasionally remember that book and think to myself: “Why were my parents feeding me this horseshit propaganda?” My parents will continue to vehemently deny any and all accusations that Em is and always has been the favorite child, but I know it, Em knows it, and more importantly, the American people know it.

But if the favoritism was somewhat infuriating while growing up, at this point I can’t help but find its continuation quite comical. Consider the following e-mail from my Dad, who, along with his army of loyal TEP fraternity brothers, was engaged in a virtuous effort to raise $100,000 in order to fund the Ari Johnson scholarship, established in memory of our good friend Ari. The TEP brothers had thus far come up a bit short of the 100,000-dollar mark, and one of the TEPs suggested that ten more people make pledges of $564 to close the gap. So the Lerman siblings joined forces to collectively donate one of the $564 pledges, not only to honor Ari’s memory, but also to pay tribute to Big Steve, whom all of his children deeply love and admire.

So Em sends the following e-mail to Dad: “Dad: Your offspring and offspring-in-laws will combine efforts to make one of the $564 pledges, in honor of Ari and because we love our Big Steve! We’re so proud of your hard work, generosity, and heart, Dad!” My dad, clearly moved by the gesture, replied: “Thanks Emily. Beyond the call!”

“Ok,” I thought to myself, no acknowledgment of the other children and children-in-law. Really not a big deal, just standard operating procedure, and I genuinely didn’t feel slighted in any way by my Dad’s very minor oversight. Big Steve makes too many sacrifices for his children – especially this very broke graduate student – for me to get upset over something that is really about something much more important than me. And of course, it didn’t take the TEPs long to hit the $100,000 goal, at which point my Dad sent out a second congratulatory e-mail to all involved: “Thanks TEP. Plus Emily…and friends!!”

Dot. Dot. Dot. An ellipsis? Really? Now again, I’m really not one to get bent out of shape over this kind of thing, but at a certain point it almost seems like Big Steve is actually trying to stick it to his other kids. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly proud to be a lifetime member of Emily Lerman and her E Street Band, but even Bruce Springsteen had the decency not to insult the band with an ellipsis. And back-to-back no mentions? Even Casey Affleck remembered to thank big brother Ben the second time around.

Even though Em was clearly the favorite, I wouldn’t want to give off the impression that she was able to get away with everything. To be sure, Dad never had the muscle to punish her. She’s been playing that sucker like a fiddle for 35 years. It’s for this reason that, when it comes to the Lerman organizational structure, Mom is necessarily the highest-ranking officer. Do not be misled by this woman’s mere five-foot stature and seemingly calm, quiet reserve. When shit hits the fan, this woman is a force of nature – especially when you fuck with her coffee.

When we were kids, Mom’s most effective weapon in her arsenal was what the Lermans have come to know as: The Count to Three. Em has previously blogged about The Count To Three, but for those not familiar, The Count to Three was Mom’s verbal threat to her children that if they didn’t immediately stop engaging in their idiotic antics and do exactly as she said by the time she finished counting to three, they would surely regret it.

The three count proceeds in two phases. Phase 1 is what I like to call, The Announcement, during which Mom utters the key phrase: “I’m going to count to three, so you better do what I say OR. SO. HELP. ME. GOD!” The Announcement was usually sufficient to instill the fear of God into us, and at this point it was typically game over.

But on the rare occasion when the children were feeling bold enough to tempt fate, they ignored her initial warning shot, at which point Charla proceeded to Phase 2: The Count. “1…2…2 and a half…” The “2 and a half” was Mom’s way of signaling to the kids, “I am showing you mercy, which you mistake for weakness at your own peril.”

Surely many of you are wondering, what happens after 2 and a half? Nobody knows – not even Em. The Lermans had watched enough Disney movies growing up to know that when the Beast tells you never to enter the West Wing, you don’t fucking go in there. If Charla ever gets to three, you’re not where you’re supposed to be.

Even when Em and I were children, it wasn’t as if we were fighting 100% of the time, and even during these years of bitter turmoil we were still very close. After all, an abused puppy still loves his master. But when she wasn’t busy torturing me, Em was always very fun to be around, so long as she was feeling generous enough to let me hang out in the same vicinity as her. Even at that age, I always admired and looked up to my big sister, and that admiration has only grown stronger as we’ve grown older.

And the truth is that, in Emily, I see not only many of the traits and habits I see in myself, but also other traits I wish that I possessed or had more courage to exercise in the way that she does. The people closest to Em are familiar with her razor sharp wit and her unique ability to point out the hilarity of the absurd, the contradictory, and the hypocritical. It isn’t just that Em is incredibly smart, which she clearly is. There is a depth to Em’s intelligence that cannot be attributed merely to commonplace notions of intellect. She possesses a unique and even uncanny ability to sense what people are feeling and to genuinely empathize with their emotions to an extent unparalleled by anyone I’ve ever known. And while she may not know a damn thing about anything I study or about the details of my career, Em understands the core of who I am in the ways that matter most to me, and in a way that I can honestly say that nobody else in the world really does.

The source of these qualities that make Em such an amazing person and sister is often the very source of some of her most difficult struggles, which she has frequently spoken about, openly and honestly, with the kind of courage and determination that is so often lacking in the world around us. But as difficult as it is to see my sister when she’s in pain, what she may not know is just how inspired I am by what she is able to accomplish in spite of the obstacles.

And again, part of this is because, during these struggles, I see so much of myself in her: the perpetual self-doubt, the crippling anxiety, the fear that so often accompanies the continual change that life’s circumstances throw our way, and the sadness that threatens to overwhelm us as we struggle to come to grips with the possibility that so many of the big plans we ever dared to dream are all too often beyond our control. Time becomes more scarce, and the sacrifices we’re forced to make begin to weigh on us. Even with all the beauty and boundless opportunity the world has to offer, particularly for the people in this room, most of us can’t help but feel that reality as we experience it is not always easy, regardless of who you are or whatever your circumstances.

But being able to witness the strength with which Em not only fights her battles but also channels her energy into helping others fight theirs has been one of the greatest sources of inspiration in my life. Her efforts are, in my humble opinion, the very embodiment of heroism. And I think that, for Emily, one of the hardest things for her to deal with is that she never wants to disappoint those she cares about the most or feel like she might possibly be burdening them in any way. She wants to be the one helping and taking care of others – that’s just at the core of who she is.

All the Lermans take pride in bragging about how amazing and special our family is, and we make no apologies for doing so. But the truth is, as much as I make fun of Em for being the family’s center of attention – and believe me, I have no plans of rescinding this conclusion tonight – there comes a point where, as her brother, I feel compelled to admit that, in some of the most important ways, Em is the heart and soul of our family. She’s the one who makes the effort to remember all the stuff that no one else remembers. She makes sure to know what’s going on with everyone else in the family, whether it’s a big thing or something small that no one else can seem to keep track of. To be clear, unlike my parents, I love all my siblings equally. But when the family gets together and Em isn’t there, her absence sucks the air out of the room, and the difference in the family dynamic is palpable.

Despite most of this speech being dedicated entirely to Em, this isn’t just about her. Eric – What can I say, brotha? I can’t help but be very excited to have you join the Lerman clan. As much as I appreciate that Eric is a very funny and genuinely great guy, what’s more important is that he makes Em incredibly happy. No one could deny his love for her when they’re together, but what I also appreciate about Eric is how much he cares about getting to know the entire family and how seemingly effortless it’s been for him to find his own niche in the land of Lerman.

Watching him settle into the family brings me almost as much joy as I gain from witnessing his ability to absorb the torrential flood of shit that Em drops on him like a cascading waterfall, and to do so with the kind of grace and humility that Em will surely take advantage of for the rest of his life.

Don’t get me wrong, Eric is no pushover, and that’s one of the things I most respect about him. But believe me when I say that Eric is bound to run up against some hard limits. Many of you are probably familiar with the story of how Eric proposed to Em, but I’m willing to bet that none of you know the following details of the precise moment when Em and Eric mutually acknowledged that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.

It was the middle of the night, sometime before the engagement proposal, and Em was having trouble sleeping because she had suddenly come to the realization that she was ready to take the plunge and she was too excited to sleep. So Em gently shook Eric to wake him up. When he didn’t wake up, she shook him violently. When he gained consciousness, Em said to him: “Hey Babe, I think I’m ready.” “Ready?” Eric inquired. “Yeah,” Em said, “I’m ready to get married.” “Oh,” Eric said. Em could sense the hesitation in Eric’s voice, and wasting no time, she closed the deal the only way she knew how: “Eric,” she said. “I’M GOING TO COUNT TO THREE…OR SO. HELP. ME. GOD.” Mazel tov to bride and groom!

Just to Clarify

Jeremy gave a fantastic speech at our rehearsal dinner, which ended with the “real” story of why Eric proposed. It was a nod to Mom’s famous “I’m counting to 3 or so help me god” routine (which he had mentioned earlier in the speech). Excerpt here:

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It seems, however, that some people thought this is actually how things went down. Which is truly a testament to how absolutely absurd a human being people believe me to be.

Which is fantastic.