Speaking in front of ANYONE can be difficult, let alone a room full of people you barely know. But that’s exactly what you’re expected to do when you give a wedding toast. Not only do you have to sound good, but the speech is actually supposed to be sentimental…and funny…and inspiring. No pressure!
So, what makes a great wedding toast? And what topics should you talk about (or more importantly, not talk about?) if you’ve been asked to give one? We spoke with Pete Honsberger, author of the book, Wedding Toasts 101, about his personal dos and don’ts when it comes to crafting the perfect wedding toast, below.
What’s the biggest mistake people make when writing (or reading) their wedding toast?
The biggest mistake people make is to forget (or disregard) what the toast is really about. The purpose of the wedding toast is to honor and entertain the married couple first, the audience second, and yourself third. If you actively prepare this way, you will put in the preparation time, instead of waiting until the 11th hour. You’ll have fun with it, because your goal will be to make the bride/groom laugh and tear up, rather than making yourself feel good. And the funny thing is, being in it for them rather than yourself will end up making your toast more memorable.
If you find yourself stuck mid-toast what’s the best way to stop yourself from freezing?
This may be slightly different for each person, but here’s what works for me in speaking situations:
-Look at the couple and smile. Silence in a speech has never killed the speaker. Don’t be afraid to let a word or phrase hang in the room for a few extra seconds while you get yourself back on track. When you have the microphone, it’s your room and you have the right to pause to gather your thoughts.
-Same thing goes if you feel yourself starting to cry.
-Close your eyes for an extra long blink and repeat a familiar phrase to yourself at least twice. My go-to is “Head Hands Feet, Head Hands Feet. This reminds me to keep my head up looking at the crowd, be in control of what my hands are doing, and position my feet how I want them. Then, go back to work.
-“Have I mentioned how amazing you look?” (Gesturing at the couple). Go in with a phrase in your back pocket that you can pull out at any moment. Compliments to the couple are always welcome.
Is there a secret formula to writing the perfect wedding toast?
Glad you asked! There’s a formula that’s only a secret if you haven’t read Wedding Toasts 101. Here are the five elements you must include for the perfect wedding toast. I call them the Five Critical Cogs that make the wheel go ’round…without even one of these components, your toast won’t be complete:
1. The Opener – Grab the audience’s attention from the moment you’re handed the microphone. This can be a captivating story, one-liner, well-known quote, sincere moment, or even misdirection to set up a joke.
2. Honoring the Past – Take the couple–and the crowd–down memory lane with a few stories of your history with the person you’re toasting.
3. Present & Future – What makes you proud of your loved one right now, and what do you see the couple accomplishing from this point on?
4. The Significant Other – This person is 50% of the relationship, so they deserve more than 5% of the wedding toast. Don’t forget to share relevant tidbits about their relationship, how you’ve gotten to know this person, and even a funny quirk or two about them together. For example, her favorite food is french fries, but he is allergic to potatoes.
5. The Big Finish – Bring the house down by saving your best story, joke, or sentiment for last. This is your mic drop moment. Spend time crafting your final line before “And now please raise your glasses…”
When it comes to sitting down and writing your toast, where should you start?
Pull out your phone, or a stopwatch, or even a tomato timer. Set for 30 minutes and start the timer. This introduces a sense of urgency to be productive and get started.
Then, map out a framework for the toast. If you don’t have your own framework in mind, literally write the Five Critical Cogs on a document with space between each.
Then, move to stories/memories of the person you’re toasting. If you’re having trouble, pull out your phone and scroll back through pictures and videos from years ago. This is guaranteed to jog some older memories get your wheels turning.
Write the bullet-point version of those memories into wherever they fall within the headings (the Cogs). This is sometimes intimidating at first, but you’ll find yourself getting excited about the stories you can recall and things will snowball. One memory will uncover another, and then that will lead to another and so on. Give yourself plenty of material, and remember that you can always chop it down if it’s getting too long.
After the timer sings, you decide whether to continue or stop for the day. By now, you’ve got momentum and your blank page is a distant memory.
SEE MORE: How to Pick Your Wedding Colors
What’s the #1 topic you should always stay away from during a toast?
Whether or not you approve of the significant other: Light, good-natured roasting = Good. Talking Sh*t = Bad.
This is not the time to comment on your gripes with their relationship. Making light of their quirks is fine, but questioning their future success isn’t. If you can avoid it, too, please refrain from “Rules For Marrying My Friend/Sister/Brother.” Audiences have heard that before, and you’ll make a much bigger impact if you deliver all of your lines from a place of love.
Remember, this big day is about them.
Are you writing a wedding toast? How are you feeling about it?