The Bride and Groom aren’t the only ones who get nervous before a wedding. The Best Man, Maid of Honor, parents and step-parents, siblings – and anyone else who feels compelled (or has been asked) to give a wedding toast may have some serious wedding jitters as well.
What is a Wedding Toast?
Toasts are a wedding tradition. After the ceremony itself, the toasts offer a very personal way for the most important members of the wedding party, family or friend group to take a moment and honor the sacred event as a group, and to send the bride and groom into wedded bliss with a loving message of well-wishes.
Creating that loving message of well-wishes, however, isn’t an easy feat so we’ve put together a few guidelines you can use if you’re planning on giving a wedding toast, or to give to those you’ve asked to write a wedding toast in your honor.
Things to keep in mind: a perfect toast shouldn’t last for more than three or four minutes. Even that is on the longer side, so you better have a super awesome toast if you’re going to stretch it out that long – and you better be one of the only toasters. A one- to two-minute toast is more ideal.
Finally, remember that a toast is designed to honor and bless the nuptial couple…so make sure yours fits into that bracket. Keep the “razing” and “heckling” for the bachelor or bachelorette parties…
Who Gives a Wedding Toast?
Typically, a wedding toast is given by the Best Man, the Maid of Honor and one parental representative from each half of the couple. Fathers have been the traditional “parental toasters” but that has changed with the evolution of the modern family. Other typical wedding toasters include:
- Close friends
- Mentors or a representative from your workplace
If you’re having a city hall wedding or civil ceremony, you may have a non-traditional guest list altogether, in which case you can ask anyone you like to perform a toast.
Sometimes, a bride and groom open the toast floor up to anyone else after the key players have given their toasts – but this is a risky business. Keep in mind that this portion of the evening can drag on forever (especially if some guests have had more booze than others). If you have a very small guest list, opening the floor is fine. Otherwise, let certain guests know ahead of time if you’d like give them the opportunity to create a toast.
7 Dos and Don’ts of Giving a Toast
There are only two kinds of good toasts: those that are serious but heartfelt and those that are tastefully humorous and heartfelt. Anything else typically falls into the Totally Boring or Totally Tacky categories, both of which you want to avoid.
Therefore, here are 7 Dos and Don’ts to think about while you’re writing your toast:
- DO: Write a toast from the heart. Try to inject a certain amount of genuine caring, love or tenderness into your toast. Everyone likes a laugh, but when a toast is all one-liners and recaps of hilarious moments from the past – it starts to lose its panache. Make a point of connecting to at least one member of the bridal couple and honor what it is that makes them special and your sincere wishes for a future life of love and happiness. Then connect the two and focus on what makes that couple great – even if you don’t think they’re great and have to stretch your inner-truth a bit.
- DON’T: Make it all about the laughs. As mentioned above, we all like a little laugh but a wedding toast shouldn’t be a substitute for a stand-up comedy act. A tasteful joke here and there is fine, or recapping a humorous moment from the past that helps to illustrate a characteristic of either or both spouses is fine, but make sure to say something on the serious side as well or else the toast becomes brash.
- DO: Write a toast that is personal. You wouldn’t be giving a toast if you didn’t know at least one of the wedding couple members pretty well. If you don’t know the other half of the relationship, that’s fine. In fact, that’s great because odds are one or two or more of the guests don’t know him/her either. Sharing some personal (respectful) insights into the bride and/or groom will help others to have a better sense of who their friend or family member is marrying. Plus, personal toasts are more touching. Again, do your best to share a little bit about each person if you can, but make sure to include a story, thought, feeling and/or anecdote about the two as a couple. This wedding isn’t just about one person or the other, it’s about two people merging their lives so inclusion is always a good thing.
- DON’T: Share moments that are humiliating. There is a fine line between funny and quirky embarrassing moments and shameful or humiliating ones. The former are fine to include in a wedding toast, the latter are not. Remember that the audience may include elders, children or parents that haven’t seen all the sides (sometimes literally) of the bride and/or groom that you have, and it’s better to keep it that way.
- DO: Wish them well no matter what. Let’s face it, we’re not always in agreement with who our loved ones choose as their life partners. However, the wedding toast is not a time to express that. No matter how hard it is, remember that at the core of this moment in time are two people who care deeply for one another and are making a very special, personal and honorable commitment in front of their favorite people. Even if you can’t stand your best friend’s fiancée, or your soon-to-be sister-in-law, you still owe it to the person you love to rise above and say something nice.
- DON’T: Share any memories that involve ex-partners. Even if your friend/relative is still good friends with an ex, or maybe their current partner is even friends with the ex, it’s still best to leave any former flames out of the wedding toast. If some of the best or funniest memory includes an ex, leave the ex out of the story. For this one day, both halves of the wedding couple and their guest list get to believe they are the first, best and only partner each other has ever had.
- DO: Write it down and/or practice it. Unless you are a practiced public speaker, write your toast down and have it handy “just in case”. While you may not normally get nervous in front of a crowd, emotions may surprisingly get the best of you. Hangovers, lack of sleep or pre-wedding cocktails can also get the best of you. Not only is blanking in the middle of a toast embarrassing and awkward for you, it robs the wedding couple out of their toast – and makes the guests squirm in their seats to boot. If nothing else, jot down a bullet point list of things/memories/jokes you want to get in there so you have a roadmap to steer by if your mind goes blank.
Remember that the wedding toast is a “Rite of Passage” within one of life’s grandest “Rites of Passage.” Even if the wedding is very small and intimate, or the reception consists of dinner for four at a nearby taquería, the wedding couple still deserves a nice toast to send them on their way.
Finally, don’t forget to initiate the toast – Cheers!