6 Expert Tips on Giving the Perfect Wedding Speech or Toast
Short of being asked to take on custody of someone’s children, being offered a chance to speak at a wedding — whether because you’re part of the wedding party or simply a special part of the couple’s life — is pretty much one of the biggest honors you can receive. Your words of wisdom and congratulations will be caught on film (still photos! video! Snapchat!) and, more importantly, will be a key part of the way the newlywed duo remembers the occasion. Plus, you’ll be in a position to make an impression on the rest of the guests who have been invited to share in the festivities. It’s a big deal!
(It’s a big deal, but don’t panic. We didn’t mean to make you panic.)
You’ve totally got this gig under control, but it never hurts to consider some advice. Since peak wedding season is upon us, we’ve turned to public speaking and lifestyle experts for their thoughts on how to execute the perfect speech or toast. Scroll down for all their insight, then prepare to pop some bubbly in celebration of your flawless moment in the spotlight.
1. Know your audience. Don’t make the mistake of failing to take the crowd into consideration when gathering your thoughts for the big moment. Family members or friends of the couple’s parents are likely to be less amused than you think they’ll be by your off-color jokes, so tread lightly. “Avoid inappropriate anecdotes or stories that seem like a hit in the movies but in reality are uncomfortable when there are grandparents present,” cautions Varsity Tutors’ Jennifer Hester (who has actually tutored clients before a wedding speech IRL). “You’d use a different language speaking to your colleagues [than you would with] friends, so be mindful of who you’re addressing.”
2. Touch base with the hosts. Chances are that if you’ve been asked to be part of this special day in such a public way, the couple of honor already trusts you implicitly, but it doesn’t hurt to check in with them about your speech, especially if you’re concerned about how it’s coming together. Business and lifestyle consultant Kerri Moriarty notes that many couples are investing a significant amount of money in a videographer to capture their wedding day. Since — no pressure — your remarks might be saved on video for decades to come, it could be worth your while to confirm what their expectations are. “While it may be frustrating if [they] really want to control the toast,” Moriarty agrees, “keep in mind it is their celebration and it’s better to make them happy than to push back.”
3. Introduce yourself… within reason. The guests at your BFF’s wedding don’t need a full history of your relationship, but it will be a little awkward if you immediately launch into your well wishes for the happy couple without at least some context. Ghostwriter Kelly Epperson (yes, she has ghostwritten plenty of wedding toasts!) suggests a straightforward one-minute explanation of who you are and why you hold the mic. As soon as that’s finished, get right back to the business of celebrating the guests of honor.
4. Less can be more. It’s often good advice for bright makeup and leopard print, and it’s just as useful when it comes to giving the perfect toast or speech. Speaking coach Ian Hawkins tells us that perfectly scripted wedding remarks should last just five to seven minutes! “Beyond 10 minutes, you’re testing the audience’s patience,” he cautions. “You’re not the star of the show!” (We’re pretty sure any bride will echo that.)
5. Plan for a balance of scripted and spontaneous. Tartan Weddings founder Lisa Bauer recommends that you memorize the first few lines of your toast or speech but then leave some room to let things flow based on how the guests are taking in what you have to say. After you’ve drafted those concrete lines, you can write down the other topics you want to cover as bullet points so you have a loose outline and don’t find yourself standing in front of the head table with a totally blank mind.
6. Don’t overdo it with the humor. “Find your natural funny,” encourages speaker, strategist, presentation coach, and consultant Laurie Richards. “If you’re not a joke-teller, this probably isn’t the time to try to be a stand-up comic. Use your natural sense of humor.” Making the audience laugh is important — but not at the risk of making people uncomfortable because you’re trying and failing to get that laughter. Describing a funny-but-appropriate memory might be a good place to start.
Have you ever given a speech at a wedding? Tweet us how you prepared @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)