Have you ever given a wedding toast? Does the thought of standing in front of a lot of people make your palms sweat weeks before the event? Do you forget everything you ever knew about the bride or groom you are toasting? Believe me, you are not alone. You are probably an introvert and we don’t thrive on public speaking. If you can handle it without any sweat, well, you were made for the spotlight. You my friend, are an extrovert.
I love receptions where the best man and maid of honor give a short and meaningful wedding toast / speech. At receptions, people love being with the couple and their wedding party, seeing old friends, making new friends, and having a good time. As the most important wedding toast givers, the best man and maid or matron of honor can really help set the tone for the reception. Their wedding toast can bring joy and understanding to the event.
If you are the best man or matron of honor, your are a family member or best friend to the bride or groom. You have a huge amount of information to draw from. But there is a point at which you can say too much. And if you are nervous, too much can be disastrous.
Now, I give people credit. As I say to almost all my couples, people understand human more than they understand perfect. You can count on people being very understanding…few people on our planet like to get up in front of others and speak. But why give them a chance to be compassionate when they can applaud you instead?
First things first
A wedding toast doesn’t have to be long. It’s not meant to be a history lesson. Nor do they have to tell more than one or two light stories about your relationship with the bride and groom. Just tell something simple that explains what brought you close enough together to be chosen as best man or maid of honor. And if THAT story is complicated, just choose one or two points. You can leave out the WHOLE story.
You can also say too much, mostly out of being nervous. There were times when I spoke in public and I felt like five minutes was only one minute. Time and space collapse when you are nervous. So keep your remarks short and simple. The New York Times has some good ideas for Do’s and Don’ts in a wedding toast, and simple is one of them.
Accept being a bit nervous
If someone tells you just to be yourself, you’ll probably want to escort them to the door and slam it shut. I think it’s easier just to accept that you are going to be nervous and don’t fight it. Fighting nerves has always made it worse for me, and I have done a lot of public speaking! Here are a few general do’s and don’ts for a wedding toast:
- DON’T feel like you have to open with a joke. Forget that misguided advice often given by corny uncles; It’s better to lead with sentiment and sweetness rather than a gimmick that can fall flat.
- Stay sober. While it is a festive occasion and a glass of champagne or two may calm your nerves, you don’t want to slur your way through your toast. Save the partying until after your wedding toast is over to avoid any embarrassing lapses in judgment.
- Keep it clean. Avoid swearing or telling any stories that aren’t at least PG rated. There are likely elderly people and children in the audience that won’t appreciate that type of humor. You can tell funny stories about the bride or groom in your toast without lapsing into inappropriateness.
- DO open with who you are and how you know the bride or groom. Not everyone in the room is from her or his side, and it creates a sense of connection to you and what you’re about to say.
Follow these tips and you will deliver the perfect wedding toast for your good friends (the couple) and their guests.
Giving a Wedding Toast is an Honor
You were chosen for a reason. Remember the toast is not about YOU, it’s about the bride and groom. When you can step aside a little bit, the love and connection you feel for your friend or relative will come shining through. What you say will help make guests and the couple alike feel love coming through your wedding toast. Good luck!