The Best Man's Speech in Penang.
Marriage Ceremony
Reception Penang
Football Match
Wedding Warmup
Koh Phi Phi
Reception Jamaica

When Mark made the great honour of asking me to be his best man, of supporting him during his wedding in a five-star resort in Penang, vacationing with him and JiNee on Koh Phi Phi afterwards, followed by another reception and two week vacation in the tropical paradise of Jamaica at Christmas, my first thought was “What’s in it for me?” I knew this was going to be a special wedding when I received the invitation. It’s certainly the first time I’ve ever been embossed. 

With such a special wedding, when I heard thanks early for travelling great distances to be here, in my case this falls somewhat on deaf ears. I would like to thank Mark and JiNee, and JiNee’s parents allowing us to join you in sharing your hospitality and generosity which you’ve shown us here tonight and also for introducing us to your culture and traditions.
You could say that this wedding party is a bit like the football world cup, except that this time Jamaica gets to takes something home. 

Despite the obvious appeal of the wedding, though, Mark was a little nervous that so many people would not make the trip out here. In fact, he was so worried that he devised a plan to entice more of his friends from Europe to come here. It is a plan so simple and yet so cunning. He simply sent a post card to all his single friends, on which he had written all the names of the 30 or so single women who would be at the wedding. So, for you ladies in the party tonight, if you find yourself talking to a single European man later this evening, I ask you to be aware of the circumstances under which he accepted the invitation and his motives for speaking with you.

As we have heard already, people have travelled from all over the world to be here today. This global feel is not too surprising, though, if you know a little bit about Mark and his background. Not everyone here knows that Mark was born in Nigeria, spent part of his childhood in Lebanon, in Egypt and in Jamaica. He moved to Switzerland for “finishing school”, Mark then did his degree in Edinburgh, in Scotland, and began his working life here in Malaysia before moving to Singapore.

I first met Mark when he moved to Switzerland to attend “finishing school” when we were about 13 or 14. Mark arrived in our school in the middle of a winter, and I was asked to look after him on his first day. All I remember about that day was Mark complaining that everything was so cold, and that he said he was fantastically skilled at both football and French. It turned out that those statements were based on a Jamaican benchmark.

We both lived in the same small village called Borex, and quickly became good friends largely due to our love of sports. Mark and I played other sports together, basically everything that was on offer. In fact, not many people know this, but Mark was actually a tennis champion when he was about 16. If I remember correctly, in this particular tournament, Mark’s reputation had preceded him and he was seeded straight into the semi-finals, where he quickly made light work of his opponent, a precariously talented 12 year. His opponent meanwhile struggled through his semi-final by defeating, if I remember this correctly, his younger sister in a pitched battle motivated mainly by fear of defeat and face-saving rather than skill. Mark wasn’t going to be denied his finest hour on this glorious Swiss summers day, and I recall that Mark played superbly in the final to narrowly defeat his foe. And that is why Mark will be able to tell his grandchildren that he was once the Borex junior tennis champion 1986… and why I won’t. 

Mark also learnt to ski in Switzerland. To those of you here who’ve never seen Mark on the slopes, I expect you’ve heard stories about his ability. As most of us here tonight are familiar with Mark’s ability to spin a yarn, or embellish a story, I’d like to take this opportunity to set the story straight. Mark is by far the best skier I have ever known...  who was born in Nigeria. 

Since those school days in Switzerland, we’ve stayed in touch despite being half-a-world apart much of the time. I visited Mark several times when he was in Edinburgh; I’ve travelled with him to Jamaica, to the US, to Malaysia previously, to Thailand, to India, and through several European countries. This is a very poor way to illustrate that my friendship with Mark has broadened my horizons. And I’d like to thank Mark for being that friend and for exposing me to those experiences. 

And now Mark has chosen a bride, opening a new chapter in his life. He finally asked JiNee’s father for her hand in marriage to which I believe the answer was ‘what took you so long?’ Mark and JiNee met working together as architects in KL, and I have met JiNee several times before. 

I hope, JiNee, I’ve not I’m not made a mistake mentioning that we’ve met before, as there was a period of time when Mark and Jinee may or may not have been “dating” before this was officially known to JiNee’s family, and I know that this was the source of some confusion and I for one was never sure where things stood. But I guess that at this point, on their wedding day, its safe to mention “Mark and JiNee” in the same sentence and I’d like to invite you to please feel free to photograph them together at any time. 

JiNee came to stay with me in Germany for a weekend, when we discovered the black-forest together. Whilst we were driving through southern Germany, I distinctly remember JiNee effortlessly guiding the conversation to the subject of dieting. It only occurred to me later that JiNee didn’t need a diet, of course, and only then when I thought a little harder did JiNee’s subtlety and charm strike me, that the whole conversation had really been for my benefit. 

I know family is important to many cultures, but particularly so in the Chinese culture, so I won’t prejudice Mark's chances by speaking any longer or more truthfully. Mark and JiNee, I hope your marriage brings you many happy years together. I hope that wherever your marriage takes you together, that you are blessed with the design of many grandiose buildings and a small football team of children. To Mark and JiNee!

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