If you've ever been the maid of honor or best man at a friend's wedding, then you know just how much pressure you feel when it comes time to raise those champagne glasses. Making a good wedding toast is tough to pull off. It needs to have the right amount of humor balanced with the appropriate kind words and well wishes. And not everyone chosen to be No. 2 is well-versed in public speaking. So, we've compiled 10 tips to help you overcome your fear of public speaking and become a memorable toastmaster.
Know Your Audience
Before you write your toast, you should have a good idea of who is going to be attending the wedding. If it's a destination wedding with only close friends and family, you can afford to be a little more personal. But if the guest list tops 400, keep in mind that lots of inside jokes and stories may not go over too well at a really large wedding. It also helps to know if you need to be aware of any sensitivities with extended family. The last thing you want to do is inadvertently offend the groom's Great Aunt Myrtle.
Don't Overdo the Humor
One thing you want in your wedding toast is some humor. The goal is to have people laughing and enjoying themselves. Toasts have a good chance of going sideways because the toastmaster was basically doing a dry run of his burgeoning stand-up comedy act. Try to stick to amusing anecdotes rather than jokes, and keep the family impersonations to a minimum. When it comes to the old "war stories" from the college days, remember that your goal is to make people smile and laugh, not cringe. The event belongs to the bride and groom, so try not to upstage them.
Watch the Alcohol Intake
The biggest factor that will send a well-intended toast south, and fast, is imbibing in too much bubbly, wine or beer. And heaven help you if there's a full open bar. Liquid courage helps you face a large audience, but it can also result in you becoming the butt of the joke. You need to know your limit and stay well under it until after you give your toast. If you have trouble managing these things at fun events then enlist a friend to help keep you in line.
Balance is Key
A wedding toast with nothing but funny stories and jokes may sound good in your head, but at weddings, people also love the sweet sentiments. The ideal wedding toast will start out with some funny personal stories about the bride and groom, and then seamlessly segue into the journey of their relationship, culminating on their wedding day. If you make them laugh and then pull out their tissues, you've done a good job of finding the right balance.
Practice Makes Perfect
Unless you're a supremely gifted public speaker, it's ill-advised to try to wing your wedding toast. Chances are, your improvisation will end up rambling and well over the acceptable time limit. A well-crafted toast is like any story -- it should have a beginning, middle and end and should be somewhere in the neighborhood of two to four minutes. So, be sure to spend a little time working on your material and practicing in front of the mirror.
Get Some Help
You may not be a good writer, and possibly, you're even a worse public speaker, but don't panic. There's no shame in enlisting friends or family members to help you with your material and delivery. Or, you can opt to go the route of short opening remarks, confessing to not being the best speaker, and then defer to others to fill out the remainder of your toast. Chances are the guests will find it endearing and appreciate your efforts to do something out of your comfort zone.
One easy way to make sure your toast gets good marks is by avoiding the classic toast clichés. If you go to a Web site to get inspirational or meaningful quotes about romance and "forever," then you're probably going to come across as unoriginal. In fact, using an oft-used cliché will have the opposite effect of what you intend -- guests will likely disengage and emotionally divest. It's tough for your heart strings to get tugged the 20th time you've heard the words "dance like no one's watching and love like you've never been hurt."
Manage if Necessary
Depending on how large or formal your event is, you may be called on to serve as toastmaster in the more traditional sense of the word. Some of the duties as a proper old-school toastmaster might be announcing the entrance of the wedding party, calling on others to toast, and leading the charge for traditional wedding practices like the throwing of the garter, the first dance and the exit of the bride and groom.
Toast, Don't Roast
There's a line, and it's really not even a fine one, between roasting and toasting. We've all probably been at a wedding where the best man has had a little too much to drink and falls into the TMI zone. It's so common it's become a movie cliché in itself. If you want to tell some amusing stories, then you should do so, but rarely at the expense of the groom, and absolutely never at the expense of the bride. Be sensitive to the fact that this is a very special day for almost everyone there, and it's always better to keep it light.
Speak From the Heart
Even if you've taken our advice and written and practiced your toast ahead of time, you always want to make sure you deliver the material emotionally and earnestly. Reading from a piece of paper will always disengage you from your audience, so if you stick to the sentiments rather than the script, chances are, you'll end up regaling guests with a much more natural version of the toast you wrote and practiced. Just look everyone in the eye and speak from the heart, and you can expect a successful toast.
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- "Maid of Honor Speech." Bridesmaid101.com. March 6, 2012. http://www.bridesmaid101.com/maid_of_honor_speech.html
- "Wedding Rehearsals + Brunches: Toasting 101." Theknot.com. March 6, 2012. http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-planning/rehearsal-dinner/articles/wedding-rehearsals-wedding-brunches-toasting-101.aspx
- "Wedding Toast Tips: Leave Wedding Guests Speechless." Theknot.com. March 6, 2012. http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-planning/wedding-reception-planning/articles/wedding-toast-tips-leave-them-speechless.aspx?MsdVisit=1