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Ask Team Practical: Wedding Toasts

It’s Ask Team Practical Friday with Alyssa! Hooray! Today we’re chatting about wedding toasts: how to structure them for your own wedding, and how to write them if you’re in the wedding party. We also snuck in a bunch of the best/worst/funniest toast moments the APW staff has witnessed (we’re not saying who’s seen what, least we have to go into witness protection), for your Friday enjoyment. So here we go. Wedding toasts, informative and entertaining:

“I have to write an MOH toast for a wedding and I’ve searched your archives for guidance – but I came up short. Am I missing something?”

Nope. We haven’t really had anything about the nuts and bolts of toasts. UNTIL NOW. (You have to imagine that last sentence in the movie trailer guy’s voice. It’s much more dramatic.) Let’s look at this from both sides.

I’m the bride/groom. Shower me with love and adulation!

  • Decide if you WANT wedding toasts.
  • If you do, decide who you want to give them. Anyone can give a speech, so don’t let Great-Aunt Lois tell you that your sister can’t give a speech because she isn’t in the wedding party. On the other hand, don’t pick people because they’re “soooo funny!” If you want “so funny,” hire a damn clown. Speeches can be entertaining, but it shouldn’t be a prerequisite. The prerequisite should be that these people are important to you.
  • Feel Free to buck the traditional toasting cast. Traditionally, the father of the bride, best man and then maid of honor all give toasts, with the groom giving the final one as a thank you to the guests and wedding party. (According to Wikipedia, which means it HAS to be true!) Riiiighhhht. So mostly men speak. Yeah. Clearly that’s not playing with the APW crowd. The only reason I mention this is because these are the people who probably think they have to give a speech. Talk to them early so they aren’t blindsided if you don’t want one, and know what your plans are if you do.
  • Talk to the people you love and make sure they are okay with giving a toast. Meg gave this advice, “We emailed the people we’d like to give toasts, and told them that if they wanted to give a toast to email us back. That took some of the pressure off, and allowed only the people who really wanted to say something to speak. And while part of us wishes everyone had decided to speak, the people who did pretty much made the wedding for us.” Think of it this way: what’s worse? Not having a toast from your stepfather or having to watch him struggle through a speech that he obviously doesn’t want to give?
  • Once you ask them to give a speech, back off. Seriously, let them do their thing and don’t bug them about what they’re gonna say. If you can’t trust them, you probably shouldn’t ask them.
  • Think carefully about having open mic wedding toasts. That sounds like a really good idea till it’s gone on for 45 minutes, and someone gets up and says, “I don’t know the bride that well, but…” Really? You don’t know the bride that well? Sit your ass down! (True story.) There are advantages to just picking people you do know well, letting them talk, and then getting on to shaking your ass, not sitting on it.
  • Sit back and enjoy it. You might never again hear the normally reserved people in your life say such openly adoring things. So pay attention.

Wedding Party: Crap, I already have to wear a damn dress and now you want a SPEECH?

A wedding toast is meant to be given in someone’s honor, a way for you to say a few words in celebration of the happy couple and to show your love and admiration for them. If the very idea of this fills you with dread, don’t do it. There’s no rule that you have to do a toast. If you just can’t, be honest about it and let the bride or groom know that it’s not that you don’t love them, you just cannot stand up in front of 100 people and speak. Do not let them bully/flatter you into it if you absolutely cannot give a speech. Explain that you’re mortally fearful, and then write them a loving letter instead (they can keep that forever, which is its own kind of beautiful.)

But if you’re going to do it, let’s talk about how.

  • Don’t stress too hard about this. Yes, it is important, but in the end the only people that will remember what you said in your speech to the happy couple is the happy c0uple. (Unless you do something like announce the bride’s secret pregnancy to the room. Also a true story! The APW team is here for you!)  If your speech is only okay, that is fine. It may not kill the audience, but as long as it’s honest and heartfelt, it will definitely touch the couple and make them feel loved. (Which is the point, right?)
  • Speaking of the point, remember that when writing your speech. You’re not the event’s hired entertainment, you’re giving a speech for the bride(s) and/or groom(s). Write your speech for them and about them. This isn’t about you, so keep the couple the focus of the speech and not some story that showcases how awesome you are. (You’re obviously amazing, you were picked to be in the wedding and/or give a speech. I just affirmed you, so you don’t have to affirm your damn self.)
  • Make it personal. Quotes and platitudes are safe bets, but the couple picked you because you’re you and you know them in ways other people don’t. Guests that love speeches feel that way because it’s wonderful hearing the personal stories and anecdotes about the couple. Make everybody happy by adding interesting stories about both partners individually and as a couple. However…
  • Keep your audience in mind. Yes, you’re writing the speech for the married couple, but there will be relatives and friends there that you don’t know. Even if the story about you two getting hammered on R&R and putting boob prints on university cop cars won’t offend the bride’s family, remember that her partner’s family will be there also. Make it heartfelt, make it fun, but stay classy. (And avoid lots of inside jokes, they make people feel left out.)
  • Don’t try to be funny. This isn’t to say don’t be funny, just that if you make that your goal, you’ll more than likely fall flat. One of the rules of comedy, right up there with the rule of three and “If it BENDS…“, is if you try to be funny, you won’t be. Again, toasts aren’t supposed to be about you and trying too hard to get a laugh will just be uncomfortable.
  • Keep it short. Shoot for 2 minutes, top out at 4. Less than that is rushed, more than that and people will start to shift in their seats and wonder when they get to drink.
  • The weird thing about extemporaneous speaking is that you need to know what you’re going to say, but you don’t want it to be too scripted. Keep notes of the main parts you want to say if it helps you, but try to be natural. On the other side of that coin, don’t put this off. You’re going to want to practice just to get comfortable and if you put it off or try to do it off the cuff, it’ll bite you in the patootie.
  • Don’t get nervous and drink too much before your speech. Nobody wants to see their drunken bridal party speech on YouTube.

Alrighty Team Practical, lay it on us! What are your tips for gettin’ your wedding speech on?

Photo of cassb123‘s vodka toast by D.A. Yates Photography & Design, from the APW Flickr stream.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh). We’re not kidding. It brings us joy. What, you don’t want to bring your editors JOY?!?

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