Writing the Emotional Toast

“You know, someone once told me that… true love is… the soul’s recognition of its counterpoint in another. And I think that that’s a very rare thing in this world. And I think it’s something to be valued.”

Yeah, I’m talking about that level of emotionality for your toast. However, I recommend making it authentic to you and not recycled from a movie.  That was Claire (Rachel McAdams) from Wedding Crashers, of course.

It was just a movie, but that line saved her ENTIRE maid of honor toast from what began as a biting speech that was a little too far on the side of the roast line.

So, back to you.  What you’ve signed up to read right now is how to get real and sentimental.  And to get real sentimental.  Let’s look at the definition right quick:

“Marked or governed by feeling, sensibility, or emotional idealism” (Merriam-Webster.com).

This toast can include some humor and even a few friendly shots at its target, but is meant to invoke feeling above all else.  And I promise that if you read on, and put your own thinking into it, you’ll be the vocal messenger, the Paul Revere, that delivers this feeling to your loved ones and the entire audience.

If you’ve ever witnesses a sentimental speech done well, it briefly harkens you back to your childhood.  It makes you feel youthful innocence for a few minutes.  It makes you believe in love.  True love, even.  It reminds you that there’s beauty everywhere you look in the world.  And it builds a bridge of connection between you and the two individuals getting married that day.

Well, at least that’s what it does to me.

Funny toasts are the ones that get the most attention and go viral these days.  Nothing wrong with that.  Sentimental toasts, however, are able to provide a personal, raw, emotional experience where you say “damn, I didn’t know simple words could give me tingles like that.”  I think they go overlooked because many attempt to get sentimental and miss the bullseye, hitting the overall board without being able to connect their words with everyone in the crowd.  Almost all of these attempts are well-intentioned, but come up just a little bit short.

Here’s a crash course in a well-rounded and resonant emotional wedding speech:

  1. Go back to your own childhood. What are the examples of innocence and pure happiness that you experienced that you see in the couple?
  2. Imagine you had one more day to spend with the two people getting married, and that they only wanted to hang out with you for that 24 hours. Where would you go, what would you do, and what would you talk about?  Perhaps most importantly, what would you reminisce about?
  3. Ask yourself how many of these anecdotes will resonate universally with the audience. Assume there will be people spanning age 3 to 100 in the crowd.  What would all of them be able to relate to?  If all the stories are about texting and group chats, you’ll be shutting out a lot of people.  A rule of thumb is that 2 of every 3 stories, anecdotes, or tidbits should connect with everyone regardless of age or location.
  4. Think – really think hard – about the best advice you’ve ever been given. Better yet, write down the Top 3 pieces of advice you’ve ever received.  Then, choose which of those applies to this couple’s life and share it with them toward the end of your toast.

If you can sincerely share your most pure stories of happiness that involve weddings, love, and either or both of the marrying couple, you’ve got a hell of a start.  Then, transition into the “what if we had only one more day” conversation, choose mainly tidbits that are universally relatable, then relay your most helpful and loving advice, and you’ll go down in the pantheon of earth-moving sentimental wedding toasts.

And even better: The happy couple will never forget it.



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