Giving a great wedding toast can be a bit overwhelming. Not only are you speaking in front of dozens, if not hundreds of people, but your audience is likely extremely diverse, spanning generations and including both fun-loving friends and conservative relatives. How to write a speech, then, that is both heartfelt and entertaining without being raunchy and overly cheesy? After listing to literally thousands of wedding reception speeches, both amazing and terrible, Hollywood Banquet Hall’s event planners have compiled a list of do’s and don’ts every Best Man or Maid of Honor should adhere to when giving their once-in-a-lifetime wedding toast.
When Giving A Wedding Toast, Try NOT To:
Say Something Inappropriate
While you likely know from hilariously inappropriate things about the bride or groom, it’s best to keep things PG when giving your wedding toast. Remember: this may be only the 3rd or 4th time the freshly-minted in-laws have actually met their son or daughter’s new spouse, and they might still be formulating their opinions. Don’t reveal anything that might get your brother, sister, or best friend’s marriage off to a rocky start.
Give Your Speech In A Group
Public speaking can be terrifying, sure, but that doesn’t mean that wedding speeches should be given in herds. Even if there is more than one Best Man or Maid of Honor—an increasingly common practice—playing hot-potato with the microphone can be distracting and often leads to a jumbled, disjointed-sounding toast. Better to brave the crowd solo and be nervous than to lose your audience to a poorly-given ensemble performance.
Include Inside Jokes
“Tom, do you remember that crazy night in Cancun…?” Yes, Tom probably remembers that night, but no one else in the room does. When giving a wedding speech, it’s a good idea to avoid references, jokes, or stories that people cannot relate to, even if you think your groom or bride will get a kick out of it. Practicing your speech on someone who doesn’t know the couple at all will help you determine what might be construed as an inside joke—if your practice audience doesn’t understand your references, neither will the real audience.
Speak For More Than 3 Minutes
Regardless of how intricate and detailed, even the best stories can be told, from beginning-to-end, in under three minutes. At Hollywood, we’ve witnessed countless speeches fizzle because the Best Man, Maid of Honor, or Father of the Bride wasn’t aware that his or her speech had droned on long-past its natural stopping point. If it helps, time yourself while giving your speech; if you go over three minutes, start editing!
When Giving A Wedding Toast, ALWAYS:
Practice, Practice, Practice
The biggest mistake a speaker can make, in our opinion, is thinking they’ll be able to just get up there and “wing it.” Even a couple of hand-scrawled bullet-points are better than nothing, but Hollywood recommends actually writing out your entire speech at least a week before the wedding. This will give you enough time to make revisions, get comfortable with the content, and practice, practice, practice.
Be Prepared To Cry
Weddings are an emotional occasion, and even the most controlled speaker may succumb to a fit of tears when looking into the eyes of their son, daughter, brother, sister, or best friend. While preparing for your speech, make note of the passages that tug at your heartstrings, and try to think of ways you can pull yourself together should the floodgates open. Remember: it’s totally okay to shed a few loving tears; there’s no need to continually apologize for it or say something cliche like, “I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.”
Put Your Speech To “The Grandmother Test”
Grandmothers are probably cooler than we give them credit for, but that doesn’t mean you should litter your speech with profanity or references to scandalous incidents. To ensure your toast passes the all-important “grandmother test,” avoid topics like: drug use, getting really drunk, getting arrested, past girlfriends or boyfriends, and any story involving a strip club.
Be Genuine & Speak From The Heart
Even if the wedding reception guests don’t know you, they’ll be able to see through a phony act or an annoyingly well-rehearsed comedy bit. The best wedding speeches strike a perfect balance between funny and heartfelt, and are always sincere and selfless. Remember: The wedding reception should revolve around the couple and their love, not serve as a venue for your terrible stand-up material.
If You’re Still Have Trouble Writing Your Wedding Speech, Follow This Formula:
Hello Everyone! It’s wonderful to be here celebrating [bride and groom] among so many loving family members and great friends. I would especially like to thanks [hosts of the reception, usually the parents of the bride and groom.] I first met [ name of bride or groom] at [wherever you met him]. I could tell right away that he/she was [deep compliment/funny insult]. Since then, we’ve experienced a lot together, including [list of things you’ve done together; an anecdote that speaks to his/her character works well here.] Things really changed when he/she met [name of new bride or groom]. With her [list a few good qualities], we could all see that he/she had found someone special. We always knew he was a great guy, but she/he really brought out the best in him. [Illustrate with an example or anecdote. If you remember when the groom or bride first told you they thought they had found “the one,” include it here.] Now [name of bride or groom], I must warn you, [name of bride or groom] has some strange habits that take some getting used to, like [include funny-yet-tasteful bad habits]. In closing, I couldn’t be happier that my friend/brother/sister has met such a great man/woman, and that they’re embarking on a new life together. Let’s all raise our glasses to many years of happiness to come. Cheers!