I lost count of how many weddings I’ve photographed somewhere around 300, and that was a couple of years ago. So, let’s just say I’ve heard my fair share of wedding toasts.
In all those weddings, there have been some truly memorable toasts. Speeches that touch on the nostalgic, the funny and the emotional in one artful roller coaster ride that ends with glasses raised high. I’ve also witnessed plenty of truly terrible speeches. Odes that went awry for a myriad of reasons, most of them truly avoidable.
So, whether you are a recent graduate of Toastmasters, and have your public speaking game down to a science, or you almost didn’t agree to be the Best Man because of this obligation and your fear of the microphone….I’ve got you covered.
I’ve learned there are some general guidelines that can help ensure your success no matter what. I give you 5 simple rules for a great wedding toast:
Rule #1: Don’t start with “For those of you who don’t know me…”
Half the room doesn’t know you. It’s a given. You don’t have to point it out. Just find a clever way to introduce yourself that doesn’t make the room question if they should feel bad for not knowing you. Something like “We are all here because we know Annie is truly awesome. I figured that out back in the fifth grade when she offered to be my doubles partner at tennis practice.”
Rule #2: This speech is a toast, not a roast.
You have enough hilarious and embarrassing stories about the groom to put on a full stand-up routine during salad, no doubt. But this is not the place. ‘Oh, but this story is too good not to share…’ is what you are thinking right now. If it involves the subject of your speech being drunk, drugged, naked or any other state of being they wouldn’t want their boss to know about – then it, in fact, is not good to share. (Save it for the bachelor party.) Keep stories on the wedding day to those that honor the subject – talk about their kindness, how much you admire them, a valiant moment.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: would you want YOUR Grandma, Dad or Boss to hear this story about you? If you hesitate for a second, cut it from your script. This is the #1 way people go wrong with a wedding speech.
Rule #3: Write the speech on paper.
Don’t read your speech from your phone. Just don’t. It will never look as classy as reading from a piece of paper. Plus, a piece of paper won’t powersave and turn off, requiring you to enter your passcode and refind your spot….
Rule #4: Make sure you end with an actual toast.
Whatever you say, make sure it ends with a call to raise glasses and toast in honor of the couple. I can’t even tell you how many people forget this part. It is why you are talking! To offer a toast! And it’s the easiest ending for your speech – you don’t even have to stress about it. Look over your three main points and tie it all up: “So if you could all raise your glasses, to a couple with tenacity, spirit and above all else, abundant love!”.
Rule #5: Practice, Write it out, Have a plan.
Something like .165% of the population can get up there, grab the mike and just wing it with incredible eloquence and charm. Chances are that’s not you. (So sorry, I’m right there with you) Preparation is everything here. Give this real thought. Write out some notes, make an outline. Write out every word and rehearse it if you have to.
When I was Maid of Honor for my sister, I totally dropped the ball on the speech. Like, big time. I realized it the night before that I hadn’t even given it a thought yet, and I was really out of time. I grabbed a quote that was printed on a coaster and tucked it into my purse. On the morning of the wedding, I tried to think of a few stories. But like all wedding mornings – it was total chaos and “quiet reflection” wasn’t really available. Suddenly, we were sitting at the head table and the moment was about to come.
I had to make peace with the fact that I had nothing. So, I threw caution to the wind, took the mic, and winged it. I said I had stories planned but was changing my plan (I didn’t), I described (terribly) what it meant to be such a close witness to their vows. (Which was a heartfelt moment but didn’t come out that way -because, no planning) Then I stumbled thru the quote in my purse that I didn’t remember accurately, so that sort of didn’t come out right either. Everyone smiled, raised their glasses (I got that part right), but I knew in my heart that I missed a great opportunity. And I still regret it.
So, don’t be me. Follow the rules. Get it right. Everyone appreciates genuine effort.
Do these five simple things and you’ve nailed it!