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Help! My Oldest Friend Won’t Give a Toast at My Wedding

Dear Bintel Brief,

I have a dilemma concerning my upcoming wedding.

During the reception we plan to have five or so guests of honor give toasts. I asked one of my closest childhood friends how he would feel about being one of the toasters and I immediately sensed an unexpected ambivalence on his part. Once I got over the initial sting, I asked him about his apparent reluctance. He told me that while he was very happy for me he was not in a great place himself; he was somewhat ashamed to be single, and he did not want to call attention to his plight. He wanted to keep a low profile, and giving a keynote toast would put him uncomfortably in the spotlight.

Now I’m wrestling with a choice. Part of me wants to assert the importance of our lifelong friendship and of my wedding day, and to try to convince him to “get over himself.” And the other part feels I should back off, to respect his desire to be seen but not heard on my wedding day.

Your two cents?


Ed Koch Replies:

Dear Burnt Toast:

Your close friend has a problem — his single state. You would like to assist him and, in my opinion, you would be injuring him were you to talk to him seeking to convince him to “get over himself.”

His feelings appear deep-rooted and you don’t appear to have any professional qualifications to lend him the expert aid he may need. For whatever reasons, he feels that he is a failure because he is not married. Even though you and I understand that marriage, as good and important as it is, when it is successful, is not necessarily the answer to a person’s problems.

So don’t put any pressure on him to engage in the public toasting. Instead, why not arrange some dates for him. The best way, if he is too shy to go out on a blind date, would be to have a small dinner at your home after your marriage and invite him and a female friend separately, making sure the number in attendance is small enough — perhaps 6 or 8 people — that he is bound to talk to her. If the first attempt fails, try again and again.

All the best.

From 1978 to 1989, Edward I. Koch served as the mayor of New York. Koch, the second Jewish mayor in the city’s history, is an author of more than a dozen books, including “The Koch Papers: My Fight Against Anti-Semitism” (Palgrave, 2008), written with Rafael Medoff. A longtime advocate of Catholic-Jewish dialogue and relations, Koch also co-wrote “His Eminence and Hizzoner” (William Morrow, 1989) with the late John Cardinal O’Connor. The former mayor is a partner at the Manhattan law firm Bryan Cave.

Send a letter to the Bintel Brief at [email protected]. Questions selected for publication will be printed anonymously.

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