Our son Anthony and our new daughter-in-law Chelsea were married September 12 at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Manhattan. It’s time to share more of the story that has been unfolding here since they announced their engagement. I described the synchronicity in their meeting–their origin story involving Forrest Church and Match.com here.  And I described the Vaughn family tradition of rhyming poems as toasts here. So the first thing several people asked when I returned was, “How did the toast go?”

Well, we changed our plan. FaceBook friends had some helpful advice when I asked for suggestions on giving toasts. We thought of doing a sonnet but gave up that idea.  For one thing, neither Stuart nor I had ever written a sonnet of any merit. For another, poems were a Vaughn family tradition, not a Showalter tradition.

So we wrote a short dialogue as our toast. Here it is.

Toast, September 12, 2009

Stuart – We join with Kate in thanking the Vaughn family for making this day so special.

Anthony, early-on there was something in your laid-back, easy-going disposition that led me to give you a nickname: “Son-Shine.”

Shirley—I loved that name. And I loved watching the two of you together. Once, Anthony, when Dad was taking you for a bike ride down the street, and I was looking at both of you receding in the distance, I burst out laughing. It was like, “Honey, I shrunk the kid.” The little Stuart looked so much like the big one.

Stuart – But you, Anthony, are no clone of me. You have grown into your own man. You are an entrepreneur — now a social entrepreneur — using your considerable problem-solving skills and technology expertise to help other people. Anthony, we are proud of you and we love you.

Shirley – And we are so delighted that you found, courted, and are now married to Chelsea. Your love for her has returned the spring to your step and the light to your eyes. You did not make the marriage decision lightly, but you have made this commitment today with a level of wisdom, humility, and maturity that we honor and appreciate.

And Chelsea, your warmth, intelligence, curiosity, and courage charmed us from the beginning. Your spirit is deep and wide—and all of us Showalters can use a good dose of your incredible organizing skills. Chelsea, we love you.

Stuart – Chelsea, we treasure you as our new daughter and Kate’s new sister. You have our son, and, hence, you have our sonshine. Here’s to a long, fulfilling, and joyful life together.

Toasts are not a Mennonite tradition, since most Mennonites of our generation and earlier were, or are, teetotalers. But for one who loves life stories–memoir!–toasts are wonderful.  We heard about Chelsea the straight -A student with the best science project on seashells ever–and her brother coming after her who claims he had the worst ever. We heard about Anthony the quiet one in the room who somehow makes it safe for others to reveal more about their inner lives than they expected to do. From Anthony’s sister Kate there was the story of watching the Frugal Gourmet and then experimenting in the kitchen afterward–along with encouragement to keep on taking risks in life and in cooking. Chelsea’s sister Vanessa encouraged the newlyweds to learn from their parents, and her parents capped off the toasting with a rollicking rhyme fest that brought the house down.

Here are two slideshows that only take a few minutes to watch and tell more of the wedding story. The first one (photos I took) depicts what went on behind the scenes.  The second slideshow, with much better photographs (including the ones in this blog post) taken by photographer Lowell Brown  shows the wedding and reception itself.

Stuart and Shirley speak at weddingNothing compares to the joy one feels when one’s children are deeply happy.  As Stuart and I walked Anthony down the aisle moments before the Vaughns escorted Chelsea, all hearts were full. The members of this wedding have pledged themselves to support this marriage. The hearty “we will!” that came from the congregation was the best toast of all.

What memories of weddings or toasts do you have to share? Any words of encouragement or advice for the bride and groom–or for their parents?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Susan Neufeldt on September 17, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    I loved the story, the toast, and the slide shows! I can see how happy everyone was at the wedding. Coincidentally, Forrest Church was a friend of my sister's at Stanford, and I met him at a Unitarian meeting. He profoundly affected some parishioners at our Unitarian Society who came from New York. Though the others were good, I found your slides most informative, especially with everyone's names attached.

  2. Gutsywriter on September 17, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    They will have a happy marriage and how nice of you to welcome Chelsea into your family with so much love. I almost cried as I thought of myself, one day going through the same as you with my son. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Betty on September 18, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Congratulations on the new daughter in law and to the happy couple! I enjoyed the slide show and it looked like a great wedding!

  4. shirleyhs on September 19, 2009 at 11:17 am

    @Susan. Thanks for offering another Forrest Church connection. This man's life is so connected to others! And thanks for your appreciation of the slide show. These things to take time to make, and the reward comes from knowing that others enjoy them and that they will preserve family history. Call it my form of scrapbooking, although I make scrapbooks also. Maybe another blog post??@Sonia. You are going to experience three amazing weddings yourself some day, and you will be a great Mother of the Groom every time. One big benefit–daughters!@Betty. Thanks for chiming in. I miss your blog, but I'm so grateful you are still reading mine.

  5. ladaqeciv on September 24, 2009 at 12:04 pm
  6. Chelsea on September 27, 2009 at 1:11 am

    Thanks so much for this, Shirley, and everything!!! I loved that toast, and it was wonderful to be able to read it again. I teared up! We are really looking forward to seeing you all again in two weeks in PA and three weeks in OK.

  7. […] sweet toast at the reception by Anthony’s parents. Anthony’s mom wrote about it on her blog and it definitely made me tear […]

  8. shirleyhs on September 29, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Chelsea, so good to know you and Anthony are safely returned from your honeymoon. I wish I could be with you in PA (Stuart will be), but I have a conference in LA that weekend. I certainly will see you in Tulsa, however. I really look forward to exploring the place that formed you and means so much to you and your family.

  9. shirleyhs on September 30, 2009 at 4:01 am

    Chelsea, so good to know you and Anthony are safely returned from your honeymoon. I wish I could be with you in PA (Stuart will be), but I have a conference in LA that weekend. I certainly will see you in Tulsa, however. I really look forward to exploring the place that formed you and means so much to you and your family.

  10. […] nine months ago, we were celebrating our son Anthony’s wedding to Chelsea in Manhattan. I wrote about the toast we gave at that wedding then. Yesterday, I posted the blessings Stuart and I offered to Kate and […]

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