So you’ve been asked to give a wedding toast. Congratulations! That is quite an honor, and the happy couple must care for you very much. However, we understand that preparing a speech is nerve-wracking for the vast majority of people. Public speaking is regularly listed as a top fear. Giving a toast can be intimidating whether it’s an intimate wedding of 20 or an elaborate affair of 800. Unfortunately, truly great speeches tend to not stick in people’s memories as well as the awful ones. The good news is that if you don’t know where to begin, we have prepared plenty of tips to get you through it, from the writing process to your final delivery on the big day.
- Keep it under five minutes, no matter how funny or touching you think the toast is. Under. Five. Minutes. The guests are either waiting to eat, dance, or enjoy cake at this point. This is the most important rule. If there are more than three people giving toasts, keep it even shorter. If the newlyweds give you a shorter time frame, stay within it.
- Be sincere, short, and sweet. "Unfortunately, super-long speeches are the norm. The problem with those is by the time you get to that emotional moment or the big punch line, no one laughs because they tuned you out 14 minutes ago," shares You Stay Classy Wedding People author Jason Drake. "And yes, reading from your phone sounds as bad as it looks. You can remember all 900 words to 'Ice Ice Baby,' but can't remember a couple nice things about your friend/sibling?"
- Don’t write the speech at the last minute. Jot down thoughts as they come to you and then take the time to structure it.
- It’s okay to read off the toast, but practice anyway. Have you ever done karaoke to a song you didn't have memorized? It’s still hard with the words in front of you! Delivery is key, whether you're hoping to make the crowd laugh or well up with tears.
- Briefly explain how you’re connected to the couple, even if you think it’s obvious.
- Try not to open with the dictionary definition of marriage, even if you’re doing it ironically. You’ll only get groans as a response.
- Stay away from inside jokes that will alienate the guests. If you want to be nostalgic, save it for the card you include with your gift.
- Avoid self-deprecating or insult humor, as it won’t play well with guests who don’t necessarily know your relationship with the bride or groom.
- Be sure to talk about both people in the couple, even when you’re closer to one. It’s awkward when the speaker goes on and on about their sibling and friend, with nary a thought towards the new spouse.
- Don’t get drunk before you give your toast. If you need a little liquid courage, stick to one drink.
- Keep it personal, but not embarrassing. No talks of exes or awkward dating stories, and stay family friendly.
- Be who you are: include jokes if you're the funny friend, and don't be afraid to get teary if you're the emotional one.
- End with an actual toast to the newlyweds, no matter how simple, so people know the speech is over!
For more tips, read the must-know rules for making a wedding toast, the dos and don'ts of making a maid-of-honor speech, and discover expert tips on how to make your reception the best party of your life.
Opening photo by Jay Lawrence Goldman Photography