Wedding toasts and speeches — I hear a lot of them. A great one can make you a rockstar, and delight the bride & groom for years to come. A bad one can have you reduced to a tiresome fool on The Gong Show. A recent poll concludes OVER HALF of brides wish they could re-write their Best Man’s toast. For a time I used to think the bumblers were usually just young Groomsmen making their first ever public speech, but I was wrong. Genius (or embarrassment) comes from all age groups and genders. Never wing it — emotions and alcohol will conspire against your greatness. Just use this simple plan a few days before the event and practice your speech out loud.
The top 3 tips for an Awesome Wedding Toast
1. Keep it short & happy — 300 words, max. That’s about 90 seconds at a normal pace, with a few pauses for laughs and applause. Use a word processor to count the words. Ideally, it is short enough to remember without notes, but having it written is fine — as long as you look up from your paper (never read from an iPad or smart phone) regularly and make eye contact with the room. Also, if you’re not an accomplished public speaker, keep the thoughts bright and optimistic. Only the most talented toast masters can turn a story about a death in the family or other tragedy into a positive and uplifting finish.
2. Keep it couple-centric. I’ve heard so many toasts where a best man will ramble on with all these wild stories about the guys and their worldly adventures, then ending with a short “… So, now you’re getting married — she’s a great gal. Congratulations!” Ouch, that leaves an impression that another one bites the dust and it was nice knowing you. Save those sorts of speeches for the groom’s birthday, or out with the guys on a special event (it’s ok to toast anytime). An awesome wedding toast is about the bride & groom together, as one unit. Tell old stories only if it directly relates to how your friend will be a great partner in marriage: “We were hiking in the reaches of Utah, and after I broke my leg, the groom carried me on his back for miles, so I know he’s committed, loyal and determined!” Women make this mistake too, just as often. Sure, it’s cute that you and the bride used to dance in her bedroom to Britney Spears as pre-teens, but how does that relate to her new life as a successful marriage partner?
3. If you’re stuck, borrow a quote. Anything you want to say, a famous person with crafty word skills said it before. Thanks to the internet you can easily find the perfect sentiment. Pick just one, and use it as your punchline at the end. This is not a position of weakness, rather one of strength. You’re showing you have class, are resourceful, and well-read (even if you found it on an internet search).
I love wedding toasts and speeches and have heard so many great ones. Do I have a favorite? The one that had me laughing the hardest was from a maid of honor who read a series of eMails exchanged between her and the bride during the course of the couple’s meeting, courtship, and eventual commitment. Imagine if some of your eMail messages were read out loud at a wedding reception — the things girls say to each other, wow!
Another favorite came from my own father at my sister’s wedding in the late 1970s. He remarked at how pleased and delighted he was that his daughter married a great man named John. And that, coincidentally, another one of his daughters ALSO married a great man named John. His finish: “See, I was raised during The Depression and all any family on my street wanted was a house with TWO JOHNS.” Brought the house down, and is still remembered all these years later.
So make your toast awesome. We’re listening.