7 Tips for Avoiding a Wedding Toast Disaster.
In theory, giving a wedding toast is easy. Just say a few nice words about the bride and groom, then ask the assembled crowd to raise their glasses.
But such toasts often come up short — or worse, become the low point of the wedding weekend.
Should you be asked to give a toast, there is no need for it to live in infamy. Here are a few guidelines with some memorable toasts from television and movies as examples of what to avoid.
1. Keep the alcohol at bay. Even Dean Martin sipped apple juice when performing.
If there is one common denominator for the world’s worst wedding toasts, it could probably be measured in blood alcohol content. Giving a good toast is tricky enough without trying it with half of your wits about you, so wait until afterward to enjoy your favorite beverage.
2. Don’t wing it. Think about what you are going to say long in advance. Then write it down.
“You should start writing a wedding toast months before,” said Peggy Klaus, a speech and presentations coach in Berkeley, Calif. And practice your toast in front of a mirror several times to nail the delivery. “If you don’t prepare, your nerves will take over, and it just won’t work,” Ms. Klaus said. Everyone needs an editor, and if you don’t have one handy, ask a friend or a spouse to play one for a few minutes and show them what you plan to say.
3. Keep it short and simple. No more than three minutes. (Lincoln finished the Gettysburg Address in less time, and that seemed to turn out O.K.)
“You basically want to tell one nice story about the couple and wish them well, and that’s all anyone wants to hear,” said Sarah Parker, who wrote a how-to book on wedding toasts. “But you should find time to identify yourself and your relationship with the newlyweds, and perhaps remark upon the beauty of the ceremony. “
Keeping it short will allow you to spend time polishing those few sentences that you will have to deliver.
4. Don’t rush it. Speak slowly and loudly enough for everyone to hear.
Nonprofessional speakers tend to rush through a speech, or talk so softly that many people strain to hear what they are saying — if they can hear it at all. Some speakers post a friend at the back of the room to signal whether the speech is being heard there.
5. Tell one story about the bride and groom. An embarrassing anecdote may be funny — but this may not be the time to share it. Try to say something the couple would enjoy hearing. It’s their day, not yours.
Some toastmasters seem to gravitate toward roasting the couple, rather than praising them. But sarcasm is overrated, and often focuses on shortcomings rather than strengths. Concentrate on what is particularly nice about the bride and groom, and try to celebrate that.
6. If you want to get fancy by staging a skit, singing a song or performing some elaborate dance, be careful. Most of us dance more like “Seinfeld’s” Elaine than the Jackson Five’s Michael. And remember who are the real stars of the show.
Ms. Klaus cautions anyone going in this direction, since she thinks it can be a little self-indulgent: “Remember, the toast is not about you, it’s about the couple.” And there is a risk of trying to do too much: There was a reason they kept a hook just off the stage during the old vaudeville shows.
7. Have fun. Think of giving a toast as a great opportunity, not a burden.
“It’s a gift to the bride and groom,” said Ms. Parker, the author of a book on how to toast at weddings. And if you do it just right, you may start a few tears running down their cheeks.