Once again we find ourselves at the height of wedding season. And for anyone—like me—whose brother, sister, child, or friend is making their vows in the near future, it means the prospect of a giving a wedding speech is on the horizon.
Some of us are naturals when it comes to speaking to a group—maybe you do it regularly for work or you just have a way with words. Perhaps, when it comes to weddings and special occasions, you often find yourself hoping someone will ask you to, you know, just say a few things. (My own father is definitely one of these people.)
For the rest of us, the idea of giving a very important speech on what is arguably also the most important day of two people’s lives inspires all manner of negative reactions—pressure, stress, fear, worry, anxiety, frenzy, obsession, dread…have I left anything out?
But don’t let the fear and worry get the best of you. (And whatever you do, do not guzzle a bottle of bubbly right before you take the mic and wing it.) Delivering a memorable, meaningful, and all-around well-received wedding toast is totally possible for even the most nervous of public speakers. You just need to do a little planning, set realistic expectations, and speak from the heart. Let’s break it down.
A Good Toast Takes You on a Journey
Whether you are speaking at the engagement party, rehearsal dinner, or main event, all wedding-related speeches can follow a basic blueprint.
- Warm up the audience
- Draw them in so they’re invested in your story
- Build their energy level
- End by leading everyone in an enthusiastic toast. Hooray!
First, make sure to introduce yourself. Write everything down. You can fill your speech with any kind of storytelling you want. If one approach doesn’t inspire you or fit with the personalities of the bride or groom, try something else. Forcing a romantic story about a no-mush couple doesn’t fit; neither does a funny anecdote about two serious people. But illustrating the wonderfully opposite personalities of each person, and how they ultimately work together, is great.
Here are some questions to get the ideas flowing. String them together. Inject a little color, a little drama, a little revelation. Bring it all back to the happy outcome that brings you here today.
- Who are you and how do you know the bride/groom?
- What is your unique perspective on what the bride/groom was like when you first met? (If you were children, this can be particularly insightful for guests who’ve known the couple only as adults.)
- What happened when the other half first popped onto the scene? What were your first impressions? (This can be an opportunity for humor, depending on the specifics.)
- How has the relationship evolved, in your view, into something wonderful?
- Were there any moments of action/adventure/drama/excitement in the relationship or in the path to marriage that can be shared? (Only things that are public record and you have bride/groom approval to talk about.)
- What sort of future do you envision for the bride and groom? (Use specifics based on their interests.)
Let’s Put It All Together
Now that you’ve collected your thoughts, you can start to shape them into a story. Take the facts and add in a little perspective or emotional insight. Here’s an (completely fictional) example. (I’ll be brief here just to provide a basic outline, but feel free to add more details to round out your own.)
Hi everyone, my name is Danielle Cantor, and I am the best friend of the bride. Lucy and I have been best friends since the third grade, when we used to ride the bus to school together every day and spent countless hours conspiring over secret clubs, the dramatic world of Barbie, and how to perfect our own choreography to Debbie Gibson.
When a person is your closest companion in the world for so many years, you forget how things came to be–you don’t reflect on how much joy she brought to your childhood with her carefree sense of adventure and her warm smile. Or how much more bearable high school was with a trusted confidant to exchange notes with between classes–who could be counted on to lighten the mood when you were down and celebrate your brightest moments, big and small, with full enthusiasm. [We’ve just warmed up the audience.]
And you certainly don’t view every crush or boyfriend as the potential “one,” because, let’s be honest, we’re women…lots of boys come and go through the years! So when Lucy first told me about Linus, I didn’t think anything much was different…until after their first date. I’d never seen her so intrigued, amused, drawn to and equally annoyed by any other person. The post-date dissection lasted for days: He is really cute. But I think he knows he’s really cute, you know? Did I tell you what he said after that? Isn’t that hysterical? What do you think he meant? Will he call? Who cares if he calls? I really hope he calls. Or not.
Thankfully for me, he called. And the intrigue didn’t stop there–which, to me, is the most wonderful thing about Lucy and Linus’s relationship: They find each other endlessly fascinating, provoking, and amusing. Whether they’re on a spur-of-the-moment road trip or creating a playlist for a backyard barbecue, they make each other laugh while also making the most of each moment together. [We’ve drawn them in and they’re invested.]
So when Lucy called me a few months before the wedding and was completely freaking out about the whole plan and how monumental everything felt and how crazy Linus was making her about choosing a band and neglecting to shop for a suit…I didn’t worry that my typically carefree, always positive friend was losing it or even truly unsure about whether this marriage should happen. I asked her, “What does Linus say about everything?” She huffed through several very typical, wonderful Linus-isms. And then she said, “I mean, really it was so funny. And infuriating. What do you think he meant? I don’t even care what he meant. Do you think he’s really the one?” [We’ve built the energy level.]
And I replied–as you all might have replied–“Lucy, the only thing I am sure of is that no one is a better fit for you than Linus.” And so here we are today, toasting the delightfully intriguing, provoking, and amusing couple. Raise a glass with me as we wish many more happy moments of adventure, fascination, and true love to Lucy and Linus. Cheers! [Hooray!]
Now that you’ve got a great story to share, let’s work on how you actually tell it and review some toasting errors to avoid. Read How to Give a Great Wedding Toast, Part 2.
Still feel like you need a little help polishing your words? Give us a call.
Related: How to Write Your Own Wedding Vows