I Propose a Toast!

August 19, 2008

I’ll admit it. The other day, while watching a wedding video, I shed a few tears. They didn’t come when the proud father of the beautiful bride gave her away, nor when the bride and groom exchanged vows, nor when the beaming couple were joyfully pronounced man and wife. It was at the beginning of the reception, during the damn toasts, that the waterworks began—and I don’t even know any of these people!

It’s true that many times, a well-written, heartfelt wedding toast will bring me to tears (then again, so can a commercial for cat food on the right day), but these people really had it down. The whole gamut of “man” speeches–the best man’s to the groom’s to the father of the bride’s–were original, personal, and profoundly sincere. You have to agree, it’s not every day that grown men (or women, for that matter) publicly declare their love/pride/admiration for another person/people in front of a room full of their closest family, friends, and acquaintances. This particularly fine display truly moved me.

Traditionally, several people at a wedding would make a speech or toast, specifically the three men mentioned above: the best man, the groom, and the father of the bride. Occasionally, the bride and maid/matron of honor would say a few words, as well. But times they have a-changed and many brides and grooms are choosing to do their own “thang.” These days, anyone can make a toast/speech at almost any time during the reception–as long as it is expected and (fairly) tasteful. (The rehearsal dinner is a better time for impromptu speeches.)

That said, if you plan to give a speech or toast at an upcoming wedding, how can you guarantee that you’ll produce a stellar delivery? Well, you can’t. (Sorry.) But there are a few tips that can get you in darn good shape. Here goes:

Prepare your speech ahead of time. Practice reading it aloud. Make notes on an index card if necessary.

Rehearse the first few lines as you wait to take the floor. You won’t stumble for your first words, and the rest will usually follow easily. If you don’t know all of the guests, introduce yourself first.

As I’m sure all of the gentlemen in the tearjerker video would advise, speak from your heart. It’s not everyday that you are given the opportunity to publicly acknowledge the people you love. Share memories and anecdotes. Create original material rather than borrowing from what others have done–how do they know what you’re feeling?

Be yourself. Remember that the wedding guests are rooting for you. Have fun and enjoy the moment.

If you feel fidgety, walk around a bit. Speak slowly and in the same voice as you normally do. Pause for laughter, if delivering a joke.

Keep it brief. The toast shouldn’t go on for more than two or three minutes.

In closing (or if at a loss for words!), lift your glass and toast.

Now for the DON’T list:

Don’t deliver a speech while drunk.

Don’t use R-rated humor or bad language.

Don’t bring up the bride or groom’s past relationships or money. (This is a toast, not a roast.)

Now that you have all of the basics, go forth and make some people cry!

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We want your wedding toast stories and videos! Did you or someone at your wedding follow all (or none) of the toast writing rules? We want to hear about it! Send your stories/videos to me at stephanie@whatsupmag.com.

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