It’s June so summer is almost here…and that means wedding season has already arrived. I’ve attended two weddings so far and will be attending even more over the next few months. It’s here, so get ready.
With wedding season (or really wedding decade, if we’re honest), comes wedding toasts. While some jump at the chance to speak in front of a crowd, most of us feel nervous about public speaking. Combined with all the emotions from the wedding, a mild case of the butterflies can multiply into a major anxiety meltdown.
I was first thrust into the limelight of honored with giving a wedding toast when I was asked to be Maid of Honor for one of my best friends. Having never been in a wedding before, I had never given a MOH speech and I was not prepared! I tried recalling speeches from past weddings, but the truth is I forget most of the speeches unless they are truly HORRIBLE. After stressing a bit…I consulted an expert, my roommate’s boyfriend at the time (now husband) who had given many wedding toasts. Armed with his advice, and after practicing on many many friends, I was able to give a heartwarming toast to the happy couple.
Since my first speech, I’ve given a few others and just finished giving two at weddings last month. Of course, each one is different depending on the couple, but I’ve developed a formula based on my experience and the advice I’ve received from friends and fellow toasters along the way. I still get a bit stressed out, but at least I have a plan!
If you have been bestowed the honor of giving a toast, don’t be scared! You can do it! Follow these tips for congratulating the happy couple on wedded bliss.
1. Keep it short and sweet
One to two minutes tops is ideal. It sounds short, but when you listen to someone speak uninterrupted for one minute, you realize it is actually a long time. I remember in Model UN we usually set the speaking time for 30 seconds to one minute and most delegates had to yield their time to the chair (they didn’t speak for the full minute). People’s attention spans are not that long to begin with and have only been made worse by social media and smartphones. Be brief, but impactful.
2. Introduce yourself
This may seem simple, but not everyone in the wedding will know who you are and how you are connected to the couple (college roommate, childhood friend, coworker, sister, cousin etc.) The speech is your chance to reveal more about the bride and groom and that includes the important friendships (you!) in their lives.
3. Focus on a few memories
You don’t need to share every detail of the bride’s life story or your friendship. In fact it’s probably best if you don’t. It can be hard to narrow it down, especially if the bride is your sister and you do have a lifetime of memories, but pick a few specific and meaningful episodes that represent who she is and why you’re so happy for her and her new husband in their marriage.
4. No heavy roasting
We all have those embarrassing stories about our friends and family, but try to keep stories on the funny – not mortifying – side. It’s their big day and you don’t want to embarrass them in front of all their friends and family. What works well at a bachelorette party or in a one-on-one conversation doesn’t always translate to a speech. You can tell entertaining stories, but it’s best not to humiliate the couple on their big day.
5. Think about your audience
Inside jokes and obscure reference may not resonate with the audience filled with family, friends and even coworkers who come from different areas and have different backgrounds. Grandma or their boss may not understand Softina, the importance of “the beacons are lit,” why you have “No intention of going to Azkaban,” or why you’re asking “Is that bad?….doo-doo-doo.” * If you have to spend a significant amount of time explaining a joke, you might want to reconsider sharing a story that everyone can easily relate to and understand.
6. Plan ahead
You don’t have to memorize your speech word for word, but don’t wing it. Have some sort of plan. Use notes or email yourself a copy of the speech. Practice at least by yourself and if you can with another person. Without practicing, you risk choking up or aimlessly drowning on and on (remember point # 1).
7. Speak from the heart
At the end of the day, people want to feel appreciated and your friend will be happy you said some kind words on her behalf. You don’t have to give the most memorable speech that will go viral on YouTube. Just be yourself. After all she asked you to share at her special day because she likes you!
There are so many emotions and so much activity happening on the wedding day, it’s unlikely the couple, let alone the guests, will remember exactly what you say. The most important part of the wedding is that the bride and groom are happy and that you shared a heartwarming story they can cherish as they begin their new life together!
All photos taken by A Lively Fancy at weddings.