Giving a wedding toast can feel like a big responsibility, especially when you've attended enough weddings to see just how good (or bad) they can be. Here are six simple tips for giving a great wedding toast.
1) Quality over quantity.
I once attended a wedding where the mother of the bride took out a stack of index cards and began a recital of her daughter’s life story…starting with kindergarten! Contrast that with a recent experience where the matron of honor flung open an outsized paper scroll, as if she were going to tell all, but instead highlighted a just few cherished memories. One toast had the bride squirming; the other had us all feeling included in a very special relationship.
2) Don’t try too hard to be funny.
Unless you have a comedic knack and are comfortable speaking in front of large groups, don’t shoot for the toast equivalent of a stand-up comedy routine. Remember that most people at a wedding are already happy and enjoying themselves…and perhaps a little tipsy as well. You’re likely to get plenty of laughs without trying too hard to be funny.
3) Show your feelings.
There are many reasons why people hesitate to express their emotions. They may be nervous, afraid of crying too much, or they may not want to come across as overly sentimental. While hysterical crying may not be preferable to a flat affect, showing your feelings will help people relate to you. A good toast engages the wedding couple and other guests – finding a way to express your feelings automatically does that.
4) Slow down.
Don’t rush through your toast. Often a well-placed pause is enough to garner a good laugh. Similarly, slowing down will help you keep your emotions in check, letting you show your feelings without being overwhelmed by them. Slowing down gives others time to absorb the significance of your words and adds poignancy to your toast.
5) Be authentic.
You’ve been asked to give a toast or feel inspired to offer one because of your relationship with the couple. You can trust that your unique perspective is meaningful enough without worrying about adding bells and whistles. If you share with them a passion for poetry, perhaps you’ll include a short poem in your toast. If it’s a love of the outdoors or an affinity for old cars, let that come through. If it’s simply that you’re delighted to share in their wedding day, just say that. Being authentic is more important – not to mention memorable – than trying to be something you’re not.
6) Remember why you’re there.
Giving a toast can feel like a big responsibility, especially if you’re not used to public speaking. In thinking about a toast that will be witty, meaningful and memorable, it’s easy to lose perspective on why you’re there. Remember that as large as the toast may loom in your mind, even the best toast fades in comparison to the happiness of the couple and the joy of the day. Or, at least, we should all hope it does.