How to Give an Unforgettable Wedding Toast:
It's that time of year. Blissful wedded brides and grooms - and their attending families and friends - await the wedding toasts with a mixture of dread (the toast-ers) and glee (the toast-eds).
Whether you're the father of the bride - the best man or maid of honor - or that rogue relative who always wants to add his .02... it's a big moment.
If done well - it can be lovely, moving - memorable. If done poorly, it can be awkward, disappointing - and perhaps most commonly of all - completely forgettable.
Who wants to be forgettable at a moment like this?
Too often, the toast-ers, in an effort to fulfill a sense of obligation and to uphold tradition, find themselves in a situation they wouldn't choose for themselves, but for their beloved. There they stand, shaking in their boots/overly-expensive, dyed-to-match heels, giving a toast. So, given that most people abhor the idea of giving one of these toasts - and yet, give them we must! - I thought I'd pull together a short list of how to give a memorablea wedding toast.
#1. Keep it short. In my wedding, our best man talked for 31 minutes. I'm not exaggerating. (We went back to watch the tape and timed it.) Along with being LONG, it was, I should note, also sweet and funny. (As our guests guzzled table wine to entertain themselves while waiting for the stand-up routine to come to an end and the dancing to begin...) Most people's toasts hover around the five-minute mark (a far cry from 31) - and I think even that can be too long. So good news! A short toast! You can give a memorable and impactful toast in two minutes, but don't go past five. And, if you're going to use all of your allotted time and give a five-minute toast, it better be GOOD.
Which brings me to
#2: Tell a "moment" story. Not like a "remember that one time" story that ends up being an inside joke that only two of you get - but a [short] story with a purpose. A story that, after you tell it, will reveal something universal and true about this delightful human that you have offered (or been cornered?) to stand up for. The moment you knew that so-and-so and so-and-so were meant to be together; the moment you knew you were going to be friends forever; the moment you realized that your darling girl was going to some day grow up. They can be self-deprecating - and even respectfully bride/groom-deprecating...
as long as it brings you to this:
#3: Make a point that is yours to make: You don't have to say something profound, or even overly serious, but your story should lead you to the heart of something. A truth about your relationship with this person whose moment has come and who you want to honor in some small way. Your sincerity and clarity are all you need.
#4: Cue Your Audience Well: You have told this great story, you've made a point that is yours to make - and now's the part where you actually tell people to raise their glasses and do the deed. This is the simple part, right? Not always. It's up to you to cue the guests as to when to actually toast, and you don't want to stumble and fumble your way through.
You have a few options:
There's the classic - where you cue the raised glasses, and make a final statement, like: "Let's raise a glass....[everyone raises their glasses]... to the happy couple!" [Everyone drinks.]
Or the slightly more complicated blessing: "To Rob and Erin [you raise your glass, and then so does everyone else]..."may you have years upon years of joy and laughter like we've shared today." [Everyone drinks.]
And then there's the short and sweet/let's just get this over with: "To Brad and Ben!" [You run off, feeling slightly dazed, but people are all enjoying a glass of champagne - so no worries.]
Whichever cue you choose, the key is actually in your tone of voice. If you are clear about what you're doing, it will save you and them from the awkward ending.
Last but not least -
#5: Avoid the cliches. We all know this, but we panic when we don't know how to express to the people we love just how much they mean to us. We fall back on the easy stuff. It's not the worst thing in the world. People will forgive you for your lack of creativity and move on - because truth be told, they'd probably do the same thing. But c'mon! You can do better than that! Dig just a little deeper and don't settle for the easy fluff. It might mean you have to say something real - something that might scare you a little. That's good. The best talks should scare you just a little.
And remember - this is not really about you, so you can relax. It is about your beloved toast-ed - and you have a chance to let them know how much they mean to you. That is always a precious opportunity. Enjoy it.
For some light YouTube watching, enjoy this sweet wedding toast, that gets a lot of things right (and does a few things I wouldn't recommend). All in all, pretty good:
Sally Koering Zimney is a presentation coach, speaker and host of This Moved Me (a podcast and blog on the art of public speaking). You can find her on Twitter at @thismovedme, on Facebook, and running around town carpooling her three kiddos.