“Those who mind, don’t matter and those who matter, don’t mind.” – Dr. Suess
My Southern California, middle-sibling brother, Grant, brought an unknown, uninvited and previously unmentioned friend to the biggest weekend in my father’s life -- my sister’s wedding. The family was shocked. My sister could not believe it. With a flippant eye-roll, I contemplated the pros and cons of this very risky move and then came to the conclusive opinion that my brother made an ill-advised decision.
I didn’t know Donny, but I knew that Donny had picked the wrong weekend to join our fairly-functional, divorced family for my sister’s wedding. It wasn’t like we only had to tolerate Donny’s presence for a few hours, the man was actually planning to stay at my Dad’s house. You see, this was a destination wedding at my father’s home on the eastern shore of Maryland in Saint Michaels. Dad’s home had two bedrooms and a pull-out couch. The place was packed like Bellagio on New Years. Donny came for 72 hours with an all-access pass. Rehearsal at the church? Check. Rehearsal dinner? Check. Family section seating at the wedding? You know it. Best table for the reception? You have got to be kidding me! Check.
Prior to Grant’s declaration that he’d bring a dude named Donny as a date, the kid had never been east of Arizona. I had Donny pegged as someone who was looking for a free weekend of boozing with the bridesmaids and goofing with the guys. I was wrong about Donny.
Although I still don’t know a whole lot about him, I did learn a few things about Donny. In a family of strong personalities fighting for attention, Donny gave my brother the affirmation that all good friends should give each other. A hearty laugh, word of encouragement, or adolescent razz is what good friends are supposed to do. Donny is one of the best friends to my brother that he has ever introduced me to.
How did Donny do it?
Since the wedding ended and Donny kissed my Mom good-bye, walked my grandmother to the car, took my dad’s trash out, and contemplated a farewell speech at the breakfast brunch, I’ve been trying to figure out how he managed to win MVP honors at my sister’s wedding. After all, he wasn’t even on the guest list!
Without any real insight, I learned a lot by watching Donny’s communication style. Donny is a natural and I don’t think he planned his Wedding Crashers-esque (which was amazingly filmed some 500 yards from our wedding) moment.
“Donny, did you have a good time,” I asked already knowing the answer.
“It exceeded every expectation. I needed this weekend,” Donny answered.
Donny was a case study in how to win the room. Mind you, coming into the weekend he knew no one besides my brother. I observed a few communications tactics that Donny used like a pro:
1. He was confident and comfortable. A good looking guy, Donny was likeable from the start, but didn’t try to sell himself or shy away, like most would. He is comfortable in his own skin and it enabled others to like him.
2. He was humble. In the six-hour flight from Long Beach to Dulles, the same questionable thoughts I had must have been going through Donny’s head as well. Donny asked the right questions with Grant beforehand and didn’t try to upstage anything going on; rather he fit in nicely and provided comic relief anytime it was needed in the tense moments a wedding brings out.
3. He seized the moment. Toward the end of the reception, Donny commandeered an oversized martini glass from the bar and filled it with the evening’s libation. A few minutes later, he was in the middle of the dance floor sharing drinks with all-comers, at one point getting the lead singer of the band to partake. His timing was impeccable and he grabbed the momentum of the party.
My new cousin Donny ended up being a welcome addition to one of the world’s oldest celebrations -- matrimony. One of the best weekends of my life was made better by the golden bear from California who taught me that you don’t have to know a soul to be a success.