Only Ridolfi didn't write it. Instead, like more and more members of wedding parties, including brides and grooms, Ridolfi relied on the services of a professional speech writer to make him sound good. "I gave him the ideas and he put them into the right words. I could've done it, but it wouldn't have had the right effect," said Ridolfi, 35, a systems analyst who is better with numbers than he is with words.
Ridolfi's Cyrano was Alan Milevoy, founder of Words2touch (www.words2touch.com), an Internet speechwriting business headquartered in Riviere des Prairies. An electrical engineer, Milevoy got into the speechwriting business after he was laid off from Nortel. "I used to try and liven up my technical engineering presentations. That's when I discovered I had a talent for making speeches," Milevoy said.
Business has tripled since Milevoy founded Words2touch in 2003. He and an assistant write all kinds of speeches, ranging from graduation speeches to eulogies. From May through the end of summer, Milevoy writes one or two wedding speeches a week. Most of his customers live out of town, in places like Jamaica, England and Australia. And not all are as open as Ridolfi about having paid someone else to write their speeches.
One Toronto woman who got a little help from Milevoy nearly hung up the phone when she was contacted about this story. Apparently her husband had no idea she had not penned the romantic words she'd spoken at their wedding last summer.
Milevoy has plenty of online competition. Some sites provide readymade speeches that can be downloaded on the spot; others like PoemsToGo.TV and ThePerfectToast.com produce customized speeches like the ones Milevoy writes. Amy Gumley, founder of PoemsToGo.TV, employs a staff of six freelance writers. Nearly half of her business is in wedding speeches, toasts and poems. "A lot of people don't have the time, they don't know how to say it or they can't get it together," Gumley said in a phone interview from her office in Marlboro, Mass.
Founded in 1999, ThePerfectToast.com supplies nothing but wedding speeches. "During wedding season, we do an average of 150 toasts per month," said the company's founder, David Pitlik, a former television writer based in Santa Monica, Calif.
Like the speeches people buy from PoemsToGo.TV and ThePerfectToast.com, every one of Milevoy's speeches is custom-made. Clients fill out an online questionnaire or are interviewed over the telephone by Milevoy. He asks them to answer 15 to 20 questions about their relationship with the couple and to recall any funny or unusual anecdotes about them. Milevoy charges $84 U.S. for a two- to three-minute speech; the price goes up to $129 U.S. for a speech that runs four to five minutes.
Carrie Teeple picked Milevoy to write her wedding speech because she liked the sample work on his Web site. Teeple, 28, a London, Ont., secretary studying to become a French teacher, wanted to make sure the speech she delivered at her wedding last summer to Darren Isaac was perfect.
"I was thinking about that speech for over a year. I needed help planning it. I'm not very good at speaking in crowds. But it went really well - despite my nerves. I got quite a few comments from people saying it was really funny," she said in a telephone interview.
Milevoy likes to incorporate humour in his wedding speeches. "I try to start with something lighthearted or with something interesting. It makes people more open and engaged. I usually end off with the sentimental stuff," he said.
Mario Ridolfi's speech began with a few digs about his sister's klutziness - and his brother-in-law's habit of being a bit of a neat freak: "My sister Nadia is a bit of a klutz and has a habit of falling down a lot. She is the only person I know who has ever fallen to the floor during a job interview."
The audience cracked up when Ridolfi went on describe how he imagined his sister would walk down the aisle: "slipping, hitting her head on the floor, going unconscious and (being) rushed to a hospital before she ever made it there." Then Ridolfi shared his image of the groom, Nick Posteraro, preparing for the big day, "going through five tubes of Colgate toothpaste and rolls of dental floss to make sure his teeth would be at their sparkling best for the cameras and videos."
But what moved the audience to tears was Ridolfi's reference to his father, Ennio, who died two years before Nadia's wedding: "He would be very proud to welcome Nick into his family as his son-in-law and would be beaming with joy to see his 'little girl' starting this new chapter in her life."
For those who like rhymes, Milevoy can produce romantic verse - for an additional $10 to $15 per four-line stanza. Milevoy recently came up with this opening to a ditty delivered by the female best man at the wedding of a lesbian couple in England: "Liverpool is where the Beatles got their start/ However, today this city's spotlight shines on a matter of the heart/ A native daughter has pledged her life to someone with an interesting nose/ Michelle is a fun-loving bailiff who can strike a pose."
Milevoy includes two free revisions with every speech. The challenge, he says, is to make every speech sound genuine - and appropriate to the speaker. "You have to write in language people are comfortable with. You have to get in people's heads," he explained.
When Carrie Teeple read the first draft of her wedding speech, she asked Milevoy to make some adjustments. "Some of the big words didn't suit me," she said. Teeple's speech began with a crack about her husband's hair loss. But it turned serious when she thanked him and her parents for all they have done for her.
Teeple says she couldn't have written such a good speech without Milevoy's help. "I gave him ideas, but he put them together so it sounded elegant."
Stamford, Conn. plumber John Kocot is one of Milevoy's repeat customers. Milevoy wrote him a best-man's speech last summer and he is composing another one that Kocot will deliver at his brother's wedding later this summer. "My brother is a Star Wars freak, so Alan will be hitting on that," said Kocot.
Kocot's speech last summer went over well with his audience. "People complimented me afterwards," he said. But except for Kocot's wife, no one knows that Kocot hired someone to write his speech. "I didn't tell anybody. No one asked," he said.
What Milevoy likes best about his work is the opportunity to learn about people's lives. "Everyone has his or her unique story," he said.
So what's Milevoy's story? It turns out his gift for writing speeches helped land him a wife. It was when she heard him make a speech at his best friend's wedding that Rita Schipano fell for him. "My shtick went over well. After a few gin and tonics, things kind of clicked that night," he said.
The couple married in 2001 and now have an 18-month-old son. But Milevoy admits that like the shoemaker whose family wears worn shoes, he doesn't always have the energy to romance his wife with words. "Occasionally, I send her roses. It's sometimes hard to think of original romantic lines," he said.
Copyright © 1985 to 2010 CanWest Interactive Inc. or its licensors. All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of Monique Polak and The Montreal Gazette. Any further reproduction or reprinting requires the permission of Monique Polak and The Montreal Gazette.