A Wedding Toast

(This toast was delivered at the union of Jessie Yarrow and Breton Birkhofer in San Francisco on Oct. 19, 2019)

Hi, I’m Russ Yarrow. I’m a very lucky man today because I am the father of this beautiful bride, Jessica Jane Yarrow.

My wife Kit and I want to welcome everyone here. After more than 15 years, it still feels like Kit is my bride. She is certainly my rock, my north star, and much more. Thank you, sweetheart, for everything.

As the father of the bride, I also want to recognize the mother of the groom, Suzanne Birkhofer. Suzanne, thank you for bringing Breton into the world and raising such a fine young man. We literally wouldn’t be here today if not for you!

This is a happy day and an emotional one. I’ll do my best not to cry, but I make no guarantees.

It’s been one of the joys of my life to watch Jessie grow up into the woman she is today.

From the day she could walk, she’s been curious and open to the world, always moving forward. I remember a day when she was 4 or 5 years old and decided she wanted to dress in my clothes to see how it might feel to be Dad. That image of her in rolled-up khakis, size 11 loafers and a belt that went around her waist three times will be with me forever. And her smile as she stood there showing off.

Jessie’s shown how determined she can be from an early age. It was sometime in grade school when she decided she wanted a dog. Her mother and I tried to put her off, but she would not be denied. At her school’s open house, the kids all displayed pictures of what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some kids were presidents, some firemen, some ballerinas. Jessie pictured herself as “Future Dog Owner.” That was the end of the negotiation right there.

When she joined Girl Scouts, Jessie worked her way through the ranks to achieve the Gold Award in 2007, the highest rank possible.

When she entered UC Santa Barbara, I went down to help her settle in her dorm, which was literally right next to the beach. My first thought was, “Uh-oh, here comes the 5-year plan.” Instead, she got her BA in 3-1/2 years. Determination.

When faced with a challenge in life – and yes, she’s had a few – Jessie has diligently and thoughtfully worked through it.

She’s demonstrated remarkable loyalty and empathy to family and friends. The fact that I see Julie, Allie and other lifelong friends here today is testament to that.

Add a wicked sense of humor, a love of adventure, genuine kindness and great beauty – and you have the woman we are celebrating today. I am proud to call Jessie my daughter.

So, Breton, you’re a lucky man. With Jessie, you have someone who loves you, who will be loyal to you, who will help you rise to the challenges you both will inevitably face, and who will help you laugh along the way. In other words, a true partner.

But Jessie is lucky too.

Kit and I have come to know Breton through their long courtship. We’ve grown to appreciate his intelligence, his humor, his ambition, his quiet strength. Plus, he has a killer 7-iron!

In fact, it was after a round of golf at our home in North Carolina that Breton made his move.

He offered to buy me a beer after the round, so we settled into the clubhouse. He seemed a little nervous, so I won’t say it was a complete surprise when he asked for Jessie’s hand.

But the way he did it – the utter conviction when he said how much he loved Jessie and what good care he would take with her – well that just underscored what a serious and substantial man Breton is. Kit and I could not be happier to have Breton in our family.

It’s often said that when your children find true love, parents find true joy. That’s certainly true for us, seeing these two together.

We have no doubt that Jessie and Breton will go on to build great careers, but they’ve already found the most important things in life – deep love and a real partnership.

One final thought as we prepare to toast these two.

We always say that people “fall” in love. I challenge that. I think people in love don’t fall, they rise. They form a double helix that pushes upward, always leaning forward, always toward the light. Kit and I have watched Jessie and Breton rise together from the moment they became a couple.

Today they rise a little higher. And may they keep rising together, forever and ever.

Please raise your glasses to Breton and Jessie Birkhofer!!



  1. Russ, thank you for sharing your loving speech to Jessie. It was a reminder to us just how precious love is. Whether it’s young love such as theirs or 46+ years like ours, it’s good to be reminded that love is all that really matters! We need to show it, own it and trust it!
    God bless you and Kit. We love you.

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