By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, Ed.D.
You’ve been asked to give a wedding toast. Now what do you do? Maybe you’re the best man, Maybe you’re the maid of honor. Or maybe you’re a family friend or relative. No matter what your status, when you tell guests to raise their glass, what you say does matter. Feeling a bit nervous? Relax. We’ve got you covered. Here are some tips to take the stress out of the process and ensure you’ll give an unforgettable wedding toast that everyone will remember.
Before you begin writing, start compiling some stories, anecdotes, and other compelling tidbits about your relationship with the bride or groom. When you began writing the actual speech pick one or two good stories to include. Avoid stories about ex-significant others, drunken incidents or anything that has the potential of embarrassing the couple. Remember to toast to the couple’s future, not to the “good old days.”
Write your toast on index cards
Do not rely on your memory when you give the toast. Either write your speech word-for-word or outline the major points in bullet points on index cards.
Practice your speech until you’ve smoothed out all the rough edges. Read your speech out loud to a trusted friend or family member and let them give you constructive feedback. If you repeatedly stumble over a word or sentence then delete what is giving you trouble. If it isn’t working then try something else. Rewrite when necessary.
Keep it short and sweet
The best toasts are given straight from the heart. Some turn out to be funny and others may be sad, but the one thing they all have in common is they pay tribute to the couple. Time your speech. Do not give a toast that is over 5 minutes at the most. No one wants to hear a toast that rambles on and on.
Talk about the Couple
Don’t talk about yourself. It isn’t about you. While the stories you tell will probably include you as a central character keep the focus on the couple. Talk about the first time you met your friend’s new partner. Talk about how the couple is an important part of your life. Make it personal. Make it your story. Make it unique. Don’t talk about your own marriage or don’t mention previous girlfriends, boyfriends, or spouses in a wedding toast. Don’t talk about the cost of the wedding or wedding gifts. Don’t talk about confidential information that the couple might have told you.
Include an ending
End your toast on a high and happy note. Ask the wedding guests to raise their glasses and join you in wishing the newlyweds good wishes and a healthy and prosperous future. Something along the lines of “Now let us toast the happiness of Sam and Sherry. . .to Mr. and Mrs. Exline” will work. Let guests know the wedding toast is complete by adding your favorite clean down-the-hatch phrase, such as Cheers! Salut! or L’chaim!
Find out when toasts will be given
Always check with the wedding emcee or someone in charge as when you will be giving your toast and in what order. You want to be prepared.
Not everyone at the wedding will know you. Take a deep breath and then introduce yourself. Say how you know the bride or groom so they have a better understanding of your relationship to the newlyweds.
Skip the jokes
If you aren’t a stand up comedian, then forgo the jokes and keep it straight. While you may have the urge to be funny, remember that your words will be set in stone.
Don’t drink alcohol until after you give the toast
Never give the toast if you are drunk. Period. Refrain from alcohol until after you deliver your speech.