Another wedding season is about to get underway, and we’re thrilled. It’s our fifth year telling wedding stories (nearly 100) and each one is so different and so special that it just doesn’t get old. Well, SOME things get a little old: The Chicken Dance, The Cupid Shuffle and that one “bro” at every wedding who thinks he’ll somehow look cooler on the dance floor with a drink in his hand (hint: you’re not).
As you can imagine, over the years we’ve seen dozens and dozens of wedding toasts. Many have touched our hearts, some have made us cry and a small few have made us cringe. If you’re in a wedding party this season and dread the thought of making a toast, we think we may have a few ideas to put you at ease. We’ve put together some hints, tips and warnings that should get you on your way. Hope these help!
PREPARE: Sometime in the week or two before, take a lunch hour and make bullet points of the things you’d like to say. There’s no need to write them out in full if they’re written on your heart and in your memory. Once you have the bullets, re-write them in an appropriate order. Carry those notes with you the whole week and glance at them whenever you can. DON’T WAIT TO START THIS PROCESS ON THE WEDDING DAY. It’s an honor to be asked to stand beside the bride and groom for their wedding, don’t disrespect that honor by throwing something together in the moment. Stay classy.
PRACTICE: Get a kitchen timer, a mirror or an audience. Rehearse your speech in its entirety. It’s best if you can memorize a few key points and then freestyle the rest. Nothing says “Someone else wrote this or I googled it” like note cards. But if you absolutely HAVE to have notes, keep them small and look at them as little as possible. An authentic if flubbed-up toast from the heart plays so much more earnest than a perfectly read toast from a sheet of paper.
CONTENT: Every good story is made up of parts. In the case of a wedding toast there should be five clear points: 1. Background (establish your relationship and the honor you felt being asked to be there). 2. Anecdote (an amusing yet meaningful story – resist the temptation to focus on yourself, recount your “wild days” together, or work-in an inside joke). 3. Comic Relief (a gentle jab or two is okay, but keep in mind that this is a special day for them and embarrassment isn’t part of successful recipe. Also, you’re only half as funny as people say and an eighth as funny as you think you are – This isn’t open mic at the corner pub, keep it brief and kind). 4. Turning Point (speak to your observations of the bride or groom once they met and fell in love with their future spouse. Talk about how you knew one was the perfect fit for the other). 5. Conclusion: (with your glass raised, invite the audience to join you in toasting the happy couple, wish them all the best in a way that only YOU could know).
TIPS: Here are some (hopefully) helpful tips to make your toast memorable (for the right reasons)…
- Keep it tight: A television commercial is 30 seconds long; at that length your words won’t seem heartfelt. Two or three minutes is a good length but only the most confident public speakers should go longer than three or four minutes. If you’re old, old friends or family, the temptation will be to retell all your favorite stories. Save that for the rehearsal dinner or gift opening. As soon as you start a second or third story with, “I remember the time…” you’ll loose the audience and the couple will start feeling the pressure of time.
- Keep it sober: In some circumstances, a little “liquid courage” just before the toast might be okay. Key word: a little. Full-on intoxication is a horrible idea and can never end well. Making a drunk toast reflects poorly on you and, more importantly, on the couple. Do the stand-up thing and refrain from excessive drinking until after your bridal party obligations have all been met. If you can tell you’ve had too much to drink prior to the toast, defer to the next wedding party member. If you’re a groomsman and someone else toasting who is clearly too inebriated, recruit some help and find a way to help them close gracefully, take the mic and finish the toast.
- Keep it positive: Don’t dwell on past difficulties or how there will be challenges ahead for any marriage. This is no place for tough love and will cast a pall over the moment.
- Bring tissue if you’re prone to get emotional. It’s okay (and often charming) to shed a few tears. It’s weird if you have snot running down your face.
- Don’t ever, ever start with “I don’t actually know the bride (or groom) very well, but…” If that’s true, find some time to spend with that person in the days before the wedding. A half hour walk around the block can be a wonderful first step in getting to know them and also give you an anecdote to use.
- Include both the bride and the groom in your toast. Keeping it two-sided helps everyone in the audience feel connected and tuned-in.
- Traditionally, the best man is expected to coordinate the toasts. More commonly, he gives the first toast, followed by the fathers, the groom, the bride, maid or matron of honor, the mothers and then family and friends if they’d like.
The toast is the perfect time to honor the bride and groom, highlight the magic of the event and keep the whole evening classy. Embrace your part, take it (mostly) seriously and you’ll come across as the gracious, charming and awesome wedding party member.
(We got a little help with these ideas from Real Simple magazine, Toastmasters and the interwebs)