If the wedding is less than a week away, and you’re reading this knowing you have to give a toast but have yet to write one word, do me a favor: Take a breath.
Okay, now here’s what you can do.
At a 30,000 feet above-the-ground view, pretty much every movie follows a similar structure. Movies (and plays, for that matter) take place in three acts. In the first act, characters are introduced, a plot or central thesis begins to formulate, and you move toward the meat of the story. The second act often brings the movie’s main conflict (i.e. a major challenge, a problem that needs solving, a journey, adventure, etc.) and the character(s) set in motion some solution to the conflict. Then, the third act contains the main twist(s), the conflict comes to a head, and the resolution fully happens, for better or worse.
Go ahead and break your toast into three (3) acts:
- Everything you want to say up until today
- The Significant Other and the future of the couple
- Closing remarks and Big Finish
What we’re looking for here are the answers to the following questions:
- What are your 3 most vivid and unforgettable memories of the person you’re toasting? In Don’t Burn Your Toast, I called this your BSF (Brother, Sister or Friend). List those under “Act 1” on a blank page, or on your Word Doc, or in the Notes App on your phone. Be as detailed as you can with these memories.
- What is one other memory of your BSF that makes you laugh? Find something that you didn’t cover in the 3 vivid/unforgettable memories. This can be as simple as a quirk, or as involved as a story.
- What is the moment you knew your relationship with your BSF was special? Boil it down to an age, an occurrence, a triumph or failure that brought you closer together.
The audience is listening partly for memories and jokes of you and your BSF. However, they really want to hear about your interaction with the couple and their future together. Answer these questions for this act:
- What happened the first time you met the Significant Other (the person your BSF is marrying, obviously)? Don’t just share your impression of him/her. Share the story. Where you were, what he/she was wearing, what he/she said, how the couple interacted together, and what you walked away thinking about him/her. Keep it relatively light.
- One thing you admire about The Significant Other. Talk about anything EXCEPT for physical features, unless you want your toast to go viral for the wrong reasons.
- What is the best/funniest advice you can give to the Significant Other for a successful life with your BSF?
You’re almost done, pal. Despite leaving this until the last minute, you’re just about out of the woods. In the words of Kevin McCallister, “This is it. Don’t get scared now.”
If you have a twist to your toast, now’s the time for it. If you’ve been building up to a haymaker joke the entire toast, unleash it. If you want to tie a bow on a loving, sentimental speech, bring the whole thing full circle with some closing words.
- Finish this sentence: “Which brings us back to today. I’ll close with…”
- Or finish this sentence: “But seriously, I couldn’t be more proud of [name], and here’s why…”
- Or fill in the blanks to this sentence: “Of all the memories, I hope that tonight is ____________________, and that tomorrow holds __________________________________ for you both. Cheers to _____________________________________ forever.
- Or do a quick google search for a movie quote, inspirational phrase, inside joke, or reference that will resonate with the happy couple and the audience.
There it is. Simple questions, honest answers, and an unforgettable toast written in the eleventh hour. Those answers, even if they are a list of bullet points, constitute your first draft. Next, you’ll need to put them in order (I’d recommend keeping Act 1 points in Act 1 and so on).
Then, sleep on it for a full night. In the morning, take a fresh look at the draft and adjust accordingly.
If you’re doing this the day before (or God forbid, the day of…) the wedding, take a half hour off from looking at the draft and go have a drink. Come back to it after minimum 30 minutes and do your final edits.
Remember, it’s not about how you start writing the speech, it’s how you finish.
Oh, I almost forgot: If you still want some additional help, you can buy The Last-Minute Toast template here for only $4.99. If the article leads you to the water, this template will shove your head under the faucet and turn it on full blast.