Have you ever been at a wedding and found yourself cringing during the toasts? 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 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. Any shorter than that feels like it lacks substance. Longer than that and people start looking at their watches.
- Carefully consider the stories you tell and stay away from stories that include humiliating personal details or could offend people. Stories from childhood are great, especially if they are stories about the groom’s or bride’s innocence, kindness, thoughtfulness or generosity. Like the time your sister 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. The goal is to demonstrate how caring and wonderful these two people are together, and thus how perfect they are for each other. You’re not up there to highlight the mistakes they may have made.
- 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.
- Turn and address the couple for at least part of it. Keep it simple, but you want to let the couple know that you stand behind them and are happy for their marriage. Turn to them and say something really thoughtful like “I am so happy for you,” or “You are two of my favorite people,” or “I can’t imagine either of you without the other.” Use your own words, of course!
- 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.