Cue the “Wedding March”! You’re back for more. In the first part of our post on How to Give a Great Wedding Toast, we talked about how to shape your thoughts and memories into a memorable, meaningful wedding speech. Once you’ve nailed down what you’re going to say, it’s smart to think about how to improve the actual delivery of your toast. Here are a few tips, along with some fairly blunt suggestions on what to avoid when you momentarily take center stage.
The Art of Delivering a Memorable Speech
No matter your comfort level with public speaking, these tried-and-true tips improve anyone’s speech-giving game.
- Be yourself. Just as with writing your own wedding vows, honest feelings and thoughts shared in your own words will always resonate—with both the bride and groom and the other guests—more than overly formal, stiff language.
- Make eye contact and smile. Your toast is directed primarily at the bride and groom, but you can involve the audience in your story through good old eye contact and a warm smile—hey, a little flirting is not out of place at a wedding.
- Speak slowly and clearly. Notes are a smart idea, but resist the urge to bury your nose in a sheet of paper and not look up till you’ve hit “Cheers!” Do a practice run-through to pace yourself and make deliberate pauses between key points.
How to Avoid the Mood-Killer Speech
You’ll notice I said anyone can deliver a great toast. I did not say anyone can deliver a laugh-out-loud-funny toast, because, well, very few people can. There’s nothing worse than the silence that creeps over a crowd when your speech has let the audience down. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:
- Going too long. A toast is by nature brief. If you’re reading from more than one page of notes—or you can hear actual sighs coming from the guest tables—you are saying too much (and testing everyone’s patience).
- Drinking too much. Really, this rarely makes things easier and never makes them better. You might end up too sloshed to read your own notes, and you’re sure to go off on a couple tangents until…what were you saying? Oh right, time to offend someone with an inappropriate joke, and that reminds you how emotional you’ve been feeling about weddings in general… A couple sips to settle the nerves? Sure. A couple glasses? Just wait till you’re done—then you can celebrate your amazing performance.
- Making inside jokes. Forget the private references from high school or college. A wedding speech is meant to be enjoyed by all guests in attendance—not just the bride or groom. And to enjoy it, they have to understand at least 99 percent of it.
- Sharing anyone’s life story. Related to “Going too long,” this misguided approach to the wedding speech involves relaying the whole course of the bride or groom’s life right up until this very day. This is not only tedious; it’s not engaging or necessary. If you feel a little background is essential, just hit the highlights and then get down to the meaty stuff.
- Trying to be funny. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about wedding speeches: They should be sincere and meaningful, but they do not need to be a stand-up routine. Use this basic rule of thumb: If you have to “try” at all when it comes to being funny, then you are probably just not very funny. Stick to your strengths.
- Ignoring the other half. So…maybe you don’t love your soon-to-be in-law or BFF’s spouse. But it’s bad form to devote a long speech to how great your loved one is and then hastily note how much the other one lucked out in the deal. The wedding toast is about the couple together, so you better find something pleasant to say about him or her and why they make each other happy. Toast like you genuinely expect only happiness and keep your true thoughts to yourself!
All this said, some highly memorable wedding speeches are made without any regard for structure or protocol. I’d venture, though, that those lucky best men or parents or siblings who strike toasting gold without serious preparation are in the minority. If you know what you want to say, but need help getting it into words, give us a call.
And what should my youngest sister expect on her wedding day come October? She’s silly, eccentric, serious about work, obsessive about music and movies, a mush for animals, and a genuine people person–and she’s only one half of the awesome blend of characteristics Jacqueline and I get to talk about with this pair. How could we go wrong?
Related: How to Write Your Own Wedding Vows