Wedding toasts. Hopefully this phrase brings to mind happy memories and not the emotionally jarring variety. Whether you’ve stood before the mic yourself or sat on the receiving end of an unforgettable/excruciating/uproarious speech (take your pick of adjectives), there’s no denying that wedding toasts are an important part of the bride and groom’s wedding day. With that in mind, we present to you the cardinal rules of wedding toasts: the do’s and dont’s for all you courageous speech writers. Feel free to take notes. Your audience will thank you.
Tell a story.
As the best man or maid of honor (or bridesman or male of honor, cause we won’t discriminate), this is your chance to share a story of the bride and groom. Talk about that time the bride and groom almost got married in a thatched roof cabana after one too many margaritas in Mexico. Talk about that Canadian road trip you all took together that culminated with bears scaling your car. Talk about your first impressions of the bride or groom (be nice, please.) People love a good story, and chances are you’ve got plenty of good material that’s accumulated over the years. Time to tap into it.
Test-drive your toast.
Before you stand up in front of a couple hundred expectant, staring wedding guests, practice your speech in front of a smaller audience (your best friend counts, your five year old cousin who enjoys skittles and boogers doesn’t.) Encourage your listener to offer constructive criticism. Are you talking too long? Are you wading too deep into obscure details? Are you relying too much on inside jokes? Are you speaking from a place of honesty and sincerity? This is your one opportunity to fine tune all that needs fine tuning so don’t treat this like your ninth grade Shakespeare essay and wing it.
Make eye contact.
In a utopian wedding world, we could all deliver speeches from the comfort of our flashcards, free from the fear of glazed eyeballs and scrutinizing expressions. But with discomfort stems personal growth so take a deep breath and get growing. Reference your notes when you need a quick reminder of your next talking points, but don’t be overly concerned about reciting your speech verbatim (after all, most people haven’t read your speech anyway!) Make eye contact with the bride and groom, cast your eyes around the room (fixing your glance on smiling faces if that helps), and remind yourself that this is just one big party. You’re not being graded.
Get sloppy drunk.
While it’s perfectly acceptable to grease your speech wheels with a glass or two of champagne, your aim here is to give a toast. Not to get toasted. Certainly there are advantages to pre-toast drinking—like increased feelings of confidence and photo-ready rosy cheeks—but unless your goal is to reeanact Steve Buscemi’s scotch-induced coyote howls al la “The Wedding Singer,” you’re better off steering clear of the bar until after you’re free from the speech spotlight.
Cry your mascara off until you look like the Joker from “Batman.”
Sentiment and tears have their place in every wedding. This does not mean that it’s okay to stand before the bride and groom and ugly cry the ink right off your note cards. Sure, everyone will smile anyway (especially the bride and groom who will appreciate your brave gesture), but what you don’t see are all the hands under tables awkwardly fidgeting with their wedding favors in reaction to your emphatic displays of affection and runny makeup. If you feel yourself getting emotional, pause (it adds dramatic effect anyway), take a deep breath, and pick up when you’re ready. Oh and if you need vanity to keep you in check, just think about this: an almost-cry photographs way better than a full-fledged sobfest.
Try too hard for a laugh.
Most of us love a hilarious wedding speech, but splitting pant seams should not be your ultimate goal. If you’re a natural comedian, great! You’ll have no trouble speaking from the heart and eliciting some chuckles along the way. Added points to you if someone at the head table snorts. But if you’re no comic, go ahead and save the standup routine. The entire point of a wedding toast is to honor the bride and groom, and your speech should reflect that. A simple, eloquent speech will be remembered just as fondly as one that comes with a punchline. Promise.
Tell us: what’s the most unforgettable wedding toast you’ve ever heard?