In Homage to the Bride: How to Heat Up, But Not Burn, Wedding Toasts
By the time the big day arrives, the Bride might think she’s exhausted her list of worries. Between the bride and groom, they’ve arranged for the transportation, finally finished the guest list (until cousin Ronny brings his buddies for the free alcohol), taken care of the out-of-towners, and finished the bridal party roll call before the ceremony.
Everyone is accounted for, though one groomsman is already sweaty and smells like Irish whiskey. And how has a bridesmaid misplaced her flowers within 10 minutes? Oops, false alarm. Found them in the ladies’ room.
Minor hitches aside, for the first time in months, the bride (and groom) can take a deep breath because they’ve covered everything in her wedding checklist. Now, it’s time to enjoy what should be the best day of her life!
Well, there is one more little thing. It’s probably nothing. Not worth a second thought.
Or is it?
It’s the speeches at the reception. The best man and maid of honor are presenting their toasts to the audience. The anxiety may come flooding in. Which stories will they tell? How will the crowd react? Will people be bored, or worse, offended? Will we be unfairly judged because something that happened years ago is brought up tonight?
HOW DO I STOP THIS?!!!
If You’re The Bride…
You have a right to be concerned about the toasts. For one thing, you’ve spent too much time and money preparing for the special day to have it come apart during an obnoxious speech. Also, you may want to make a good impression with your new spouse’s friends and family. Almost just as bad would be boring, forgettable, “snooze-fest” toasts that elicit no emotional connection from the crowd.
But your worrying should be over with. Here are a few reasonable requests you can make to both speech-givers before the wedding to help you sleep easily:
- Request (or demand) that the toaster doesn’t say anything downright mean– This day is to honor you and the love of your life, not to give your best man/maid of honor a platform to grind an ax or settle an old dispute. There’s no need to be mean in a toast.
- Request that the toaster avoids saying anything sexually suggestive to the point of discomfort– Do you remember watching movies with your parents as a kid? Brief sex scenes could be a little uncomfortable, though sometimes a bit funny when they were in the room. But every once in a while, at least in our household, I’d get stuck in the living room watching a 10-minute steamy sex scene, cringing and squirming along with my folks, wishing it would end. That’s the barometer I use for telling saucy jokes in your speech. A little is ok, but too much doesn’t do anyone good.
- Request that the toaster limits the stories of drunken escapades– I get it, some of our best stories were created after we knocked back some drinks and got into mischief. However, there’s a difference between mixing in one or two memories to add humor to the speech and painting the bride/groom in a bad light. Your best man/maid of honor should respect this difference.
If You’re Giving The Toast…
Never forget through this process that your #1 objective is to honor the bride & groom.
Of course, you want to entertain the crowd, but that’ll come naturally if you’ve prepared and poured your heart into the speech.
Whether you’re looking for one more piece to complete your toast, or you’re staring at a blank page unsure where to start, I’m here to help. If you follow the steps below, you’ll be set up for a smashing success. I call them the Five Critical Cogs to an unforgettable wedding speech:
- The Opener– Whether it’s with one word, a quote, memorable anecdote, open-ended question, or another dynamite idea, you absolutely must grab the audience’s undivided attention right away!
- Honoring the Past– You are closer to the bride & groom than most people in the room, and you can offer a unique perspective.Pull a few favorite memories from the vault and share them.
- Present and Future– Give a few words about the bride & groom’s relationship and what you see for them in the future (keeping it positive, of course).
- The Significant Other– Do not skip this or I’ll come after you! Seriously, though, if you’re the best man, don’t ignore the bride in your toast. Same for you maids of honor. Make sure to acknowledge the groom’s existence in an interesting and memorable way.
- The Big Finish– This is your mic drop. It’s the funniest story, the poem/short story that best sums up their relationship, or your sincere final statement before asking the room to raise their champagne glasses.
I delivered my first wedding toast in 2012. It was my brother’s wedding, and while I didn’t know it at the time, I was following the steps above. The result was an all-rhyming poem of a speech that had the crowd and (most importantly) the bride & groom rolling in laughter with my Big Finish. If you’d like to see that toast in its entirety, pre-order a copy of Wedding Toasts 101 today and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.