‘Tis the season. Of weddings, that is. The prospect of giving a wedding toast need not spoil your enjoyment of the day. There is a wealth of helpful information on the internet, but I did some research for you, to get you started.
Traditionally, wedding toasts are given by four people: the father of the bride, the groom, the best man and the maid/matron of honour. Nowadays, many couples depart from tradition with other speakers and even guests invited to offer their congratulations. As I recall, even I said a few words at my husband’s and my wedding.
Putting yourself in the audience’s shoes, and especially in the shoes of the one receiving your toast, will give you a guide for creating your speech. Think about what makes it easy for you to engage with the speaker, and what turns you off. Here are a few basic tips.
- Be brief. Under five minutes. An audience never minds if a speech is short, but they sure don’t like it when someone goes on and on.
- Be kind. Of course you want to be amusing, but never at anyone else’s expense. Poking a little fun is fine, but be careful with your humour. Remember that parents and older people will be present, so don’t be risqué. Prince Harry, in his speech at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s reception, referred to his brother, Prince William, as “the Dude”, but apparently, and wisely, edited out a remark about Kate’s having lovely legs. It would have been in poor taste, especially in that company! If you are not comfortable telling jokes, don’t feel obliged to do so. Your positive tone and the smile on your face will be sufficient. Never divulge anything that the recipient of the toast would prefer not to be general knowledge. It’s a toast, not a roast.
- Be focused. Craft your speech with a clear structure – a beginning, middle and end. If at least half the people present don’t know you, begin by briefly describing your relationship to the couple and saying something positive about the wedding ceremony. Focus the body of your speech on the bride and groom. What occurs to you about them as a couple? What are their shared interests? Are there a few anecdotes you can tell about how they met or about their engagement? Finish your speech on a high and hopeful note, wishing the new couple a happy, healthy and prosperous future.
- Be authentic. Don’t be afraid to let your loving feelings for the couple show. After all, the whole event is about love, isn’t it?
- Be prepared. Don’t imagine that you can wing it. Know what you are going to say and practice it, several times. It doesn’t matter if you don’t say exactly the words you had planned, but by being well prepared, you can vary the way they come out without losing your way. People who ad lib well are those who are thoroughly prepared in the way it was intended to go.
- Make eye contact. To begin, meet the eyes of the person you are toasting, but you don’t have to stare at them the whole time. Look around the room and make eye contact with other people in the audience. Return your eyes to the subject of your toast several times during your speech, and meet his/her/their eyes as you finish with “To (name of the bride) and (name of the groom).”
- Speak sober. Contrary to what you may have heard, drinking champagne does not make you more clever. You want this speech to be something that everyone, including you, looks back on with pleasure, not embarrassment. Go easy on the booze, at least until after your speech.
The best speakers are those who genuinely enjoy connecting with their listeners. Bear in mind that everyone present is there for the same reason – to celebrate the new couple. They are already your friends. You are all on the same team. Prepare well, then reach out to your audience and enjoy giving your well wishes.
** What do you think? Is there interest out there for workshops and/or coaching on giving a great wedding speech?
Here are a couple of websites you may want to visit:
Write and Give a Great Wedding Toast
Order of Toasts and Toasting Etiquette