Follow these Three Simple Steps to Writing a Classy Wedding Toast
Key Point 1 – Describe your history with the person you are standing up for / representing (e.g., your best man / made of honor). Share a well organized and illustrative story that has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Develop the characters in your story (e.g., you and your “BFF”), using vivid examples. It’s OK to have fun here, but be sure to say something to establish the credibility of the person – remember, this is NOT a roast, it’s a toast! Note: humor works well if you’re funny. If you have to ask yourself, “Am I funny?”, most likely, you are not. Avoid jokes at nearly all costs. Typically, someone is at the butt of a joke, and taking into account all demographics at the wedding, you are bound to offend or insult someone’s aunt (and never hear the end of it at future family gatherings). Self-deprecating humor on the other hand works very well, even if you are no Will Ferrell. Another source of timely humor may be to tap into a shared experience among the crowd. Two examples of spontaneous and playful humor from my own experience include:
- When our hired band didn’t show up to play the wedding march at our ceremony, one of our guests pulled out his phone and found “Here comes the bride,” getting a collective laugh from the crowd.
- During the ceremony, there was a resounding clicking sound of cameras (amplified by the absence of music). My husband Don, being the joker that he is, pulled his camera from his pant pocket, and snapped a photo of the audience.
Bottom line – Stick with a genuine and heartfelt opening, providing the necessary back story of your relationship to set context for listeners.
Key Point 2 – Describe what you’ve come to learn about your friend’s significant other. If relevant / applicable, describe how the relationship between you and your BFF’s wife or husband has developed. What do you appreciate about this person? See the paragraph above re: humor. Compliment this person, and be authentic about what you say. If you feel yourself having to force a compliment, your audience (at least the people who know you) will see straight through your feeble attempt.
Bottom line – Draw on your observations / experiences of seeing these lovebirds together; how do they compliment one another?
Key Point 3 – Describe what you see for this couple’s future. You have at least two options for closing the speech:
- Discuss the couple’s future goals of sailing around the world.
- Include a personal vision – For example, my husband’s best man said he looked forward to being called “Uncle Jay,” which implicitly states his hopes to be involved in our children’s’ lives in the future.
Bottom line – Keep your toast short and sweet – plan to spend 60-90 seconds in each key point (approx. 3 -5 min. total).
- Practice– saying the speech several times in a variety of ways so that it sounds conversational. Deliver it one – three times a day for a week leading up to the big day. Practice in front of a live audience for feedback whenever possible.
- Be conversational – use bullet points and / or key words to gently remind yourself of what to say next – this keeps your delivery conversational. Avoid memorizing or committing to specific words. Allow yourself the flexibility to let it come out the way it comes out. You don’t have to marry the speech, you just have to deliver it effectively.
- Simple strategy – create a key word outline to speak from but beware, when you write your notes out word for word, you are far more tempted to read, losing audience engagement. You might not need notes but it can be comforting to have them as a reference if needed.
KP1 – My history with _______
KP2 – What I’ve learned about _______’s sig. other
KP3 – Vision for the future
That’s it, cheers!