One of your favorite couples is getting married! If you’re close to one of the grooms, you might be asked to give a wedding reception toast. The idea of participating in such a spectacle might be euphorically exciting or torturously terrifying depending on what kind of person you are. On one hand, there’s no better feeling than getting a laugh out of a crowd. But on the other hand, public speaking can serve as a major point of stress for many people. Whether you’re a best friend, brother, parent, cousin to the groom, or part of the wedding party, we have all the tips you need to give the best toast in the history of great wedding toasts.
Speaking of the history of wedding toasts, they’ve been around for a long time and have a crazier origin story than you would probably guess. In ancient times, when people were at war with their neighbors, they’d often arrange for two members of the warring oppositions to marry in order to form a truce. (Blood is thicker than water, after all.) At the banquet table, the bride’s father would take the first drink of wine to reassure his frenemies that it hadn’t been poisoned. And thus, the toast was born!
You might envision yourself giving a run-of-the-mill wedding toast in a traditional environment, like a banquet hall or restaurant. But keep in mind, there are no rules for weddings, especially in this day and age. You might have to give your speech without a microphone or speaker system. Three’s always a chance that inclement weather could rear its ugly head right as you’re about to raise a glass and find the courage to start your speech. As you’re planning your toast, remember to keep in mind the possibility of ever-changing circumstances and the importance of remaining adaptive. If you do mess up, just remember, nobody will remember by the time they reach the bottom of their first drink, anyway. Have fun and try to only worry about the factors you can control.
Not all families were created with an equal sense of humor. One or both sides of the Groom’s new family might not be privy to dirty jokes or cussing, so make sure to take this into consideration before dropping an irresistibly inappropriate anecdote or delicately placed f bomb. If the Grooms give you the clear, though, let your freak flag fly! Comic relief can be exactly what people are looking for after an endless cocktail hour, and you’d be surprised at how many older folks can still take a PG-13 joke.
If you know that one half of the whole bridal party won’t be happy with a story from your glory days, don’t tell the story. It can be tempting to bring up your personal favorite memory with your loved one, but remember, it’s not your wedding and your friend has a partner to consider. If you’re going to go with a funny wedding toast, make sure it’s one that puts the couple in a positive light.
As an absolute rule of thumb, don’t go ahead with anything that gives you pause without running it by the newlyweds. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when taking a risk with your words or actions. Before you steal the show, make sure you let the bride and groom know what to expect. Odds are, they know who you are and will be stoked to hear your most candid, unfiltered sentiments, but in this case it is better to ask for permission than forgiveness.
Now that you’ve gotten all of the preliminary steps finished, you can start planning what you’re going to say.
It can be easy to share a story about you and the groom as kids, in school, or on a trip that speaks to your personal relationship with them. But remember – this is their wedding day, and to put it bluntly, nobody in attendance is there for you. That said, if this is your best friend’s wedding, childhood anecdotes can be a great addition to your speech as long as they’re well-placed and thoughtfully woven into the story of the couples’ relationship. Elizabeth Babinski of Liz Rae Weddings, adds, “Your speech should introduce yourself and how you know the couple. Their extended family might have no idea who you are!”
Here are a few fun ways to marry your personal friendship and the new union you’re celebrating:
Often, meeting someone for the first time can come with shattered expectations in the best and funniest ways. Discuss the lead-up to meeting your loved one’s future spouse, from the anticipation to a funny story from your first get together. Make sure your toast puts your pal in a positive light, but even more importantly, their future spouse.
When you meet the one, telling a person you’re close to is often one of the first things you do by reflex. If you fill the role of a confidant for the Groom, let the wedding guests in on his once-secret butterflies. The Grooms will also love hearing this tidbit from the early days of their relationship.
Since this couple is getting married, they probably have a lot in common and balance each other out fairly well. Tell a story from your companion’s childhood that somehow ties into the couple’s current relationship dynamic. For example, if your friend always said he was going to marry a guy who is a hopeless romantic and their soon-to-be-spouse fits the bill, go with that.
Most people write more formally than they speak. When it comes to spoken word, timing is everything and fragmented sentences are welcome; sometimes even encouraged. Great speeches are written very differently than great books. You might want to write in cues to pause, smile, sigh, or motion with your hands. This might seem like overkill, but speaking is less about what you’re saying and more about your delivery.
Studying speeches from folks who are famous for their public speaking ability is a good place to start. You can also just search “best wedding toast examples” or “funny wedding toasts” on YouTube for inspiration, naturally.
Saying a few sentences and calling it a night probably wouldn’t go over well, but making your speech too long is a surefire way to bore the crowd. When you’re trying to write and give a special toast, making your speech longer can seem like a good way to show you’ve put forth effort. But actually, you should focus on the quality of your words as opposed to the quantity of them.
Aim for a speech that is no longer than 7 minutes long, or about 1,000 words. In other words, a speech between 3-7 minutes is the sweet spot. You don’t have to memorize your speech, but if it’s shorter, you’ll find it easier to commit to memory and fine-tune to perfection.
As with any speaking engagement, practice is essential. Your bathroom mirror will be your best friend when it comes to rehearsing. As you watch your reflection from the comfort of your own home, you can practice smiling, hand movements, and flipping your notecards without anyone seeing you make a mistake. If you’re in the beginning stages of fine-tuning your speech, the bathroom mirror serves as a comfortable place to screw up.
Once you’ve become brave enough, read your speech for someone else as if it were the day of the wedding. (Really, put your heart into it!) It’s easy to become blind to your own shortcomings when you’re the only one seeing your work. An honest friend or colleague will be able to give you the outside perspective you need before the big day.
As a guest of honor, the wedding day is sure to be a blur for you. A couple of days before the wedding, make sure that you have the following things packed and ready to go:
Having two physical copies of your speech plus a digital version will ensure that you have backup in the event of any emergencies. You can never be too cautious when it comes to special occasions and your peace of mind.
Giving a toast at a wedding can be anxiety-inducing, but it doesn’t have to be. With these easy steps and tips, you’ll be well on your way to giving the perfect toast. So raise that champagne glass confidently and as always, cheers.