Have you ever found yourself cringing during a wedding toast? Come on, you can admit it. I have heard lewd stories, bad jokes, and rambling on and on more times than I can count! But in my 100+ weddings I have also heard amazing toasts that had me wiping my own tears between clicks of the shutter! Good toasts combine a little laughter with a little joy and a little tenderness. Great wedding toasts have just the right combination of all three. And better still, great wedding toasts make for great photos. The laughter, the smiles, the tears of joy, the knowing looks…the toasts can really make a wedding reception. So here, from my travels through the world of weddings, I have assembled these basic tips to help you craft the perfect wedding toast.
- Start by introducing yourself and your connection to the couple. And avoid cheesy jokes here. This isn’t standup comedy, this is a heartfelt speech for your best friends. Strive for genuine and don’t stress about the laughs.
- Keep it to 3-4 minutes. Longer than that and people start looking at their watches. Or worse yet, you could hold up the food service, and thus the entire event. That’s a real bummer, trust me.
- Carefully consider the stories you tell. I like toasts that demonstrate how caring and wonderful the couple are as humans, and thus how perfect they are for each other. I very much dislike toasts that highlight mistakes they may have made or embarrassing things they did and said. Stories from childhood are great, especially if they are stories about innocence, kindness, thoughtfulness or generosity. Like the time your best friend stayed up with you all night because your cat had run away and you were sick with worry. Or the time your older brother let you hang out with his friends because he knew you were lonely. Or that time in fifth grade when your parakeet died and your best friend staged a funeral for him and invited the whole neighborhood. You get the idea.
- Don’t tell a story that involves anyone’s ex. Weddings are about new beginnings so leave the past in the past.
- Try not to read it. I know it’s hard – you’re nervous and everyone is watching you and listening to every word. But the best toasts are always done without a script. Even though they are rehearsed, they feel organic and from the heart. And without a script you can make eye contact with the crowd the whole time (which makes for better photos!)
- Turn and address the couple for at least part of it. I always look for photos where the person giving the toast is making eye contact with the people receiving the toast. It makes for a beautiful moment, so don’t just address the crowd, but speak to your friends.
- Remember to end it with, “So let’s all raise our glass…” And raise your damn glass! That is the photo I am looking for – all of the glasses in the air and too often the best man or maid of honor just sort of…ends the speech. Close it with grace. And give me the chance to make an excellent photo!