Advice For Making Toasts

Advice For Making Toasts

Problems with Toasts – The two main problems I have seen in poor wedding toasts (which amount to at least 75 percent of the wedding toasts I have heard) made by the best man or other men in the wedding party are:

  1. The people giving the toast have already had too much to drink and
  2. That they are trying to be really funny for some reason.

Why is this?  Probably because most men find it hard enough to talk in front of a crowd sober, let alone trying to come off as personal and gracious.  Even some FATHERS have tended to be rather stiff or joking when they are talking about their “little girl” leaving home forever.

Women on the other hand have no problem with this, but they do have two other problems:

  1. Speaking up with a microphone so everyone can hear it and
  2. Becoming so emotionally overcome that they have to stop every 20 seconds  to compose themselves.

Yes, sometimes men get emotional too and sometimes (usually not) they are very soft spoken, but hey, if I had to talk about the men, I have to be equal with the women and besides, actually all four could be from either sex.  The point is, you need to speak up and at the same time try to control the tears and shakiness in your voice.  Read on for just how to do this.

Microphone Use – My pet peeve.  Probably because as an entertainer I use them all the time and it bugs me when people use them improperly.  So here are a few tips on how to use a microphone without looking silly. 

First, hold the microphone at chin level.  Not chest level, where it does no good, and NOT right in front of your mouth.  This isn’t a rap song and people need to be able to understand you.  Also, don’t turn your head to the sides without moving the microphone with you.  If you do, people will miss words.  Act as if the microphone is attached to your chin, wherever it goes, so does the microphone.

Nervousness & Emotions – Here again is something you need to prepare for!  Especially the women asked to speak.  If you are nervous, just keep your eyes on the bride and groom.  They are your friends, people you’ve probably known for many years.  Just talk to them.  If you start to get emotional, simply put the microphone down to your side, take a really DEEP breath, exhale (don’t forget that part) and bring the microphone back up to your chin.  It works!!  Really!!  Oxygen is the best cure for nervousness and emotional feelings.

Starting your toast – This is VERY important.  It’s best to have the Emcee or DJ introduce the first person doing the toast and if they do so properly they should already have quieted the audience down so they will pay attention to what you are saying.  If not, sometimes clearing your throat (over the mic) or even actually asking people to please be quiet for a moment.  The important thing is, get them to be quiet.  If people are still talking, just look at them and don’t say a word until they quiet down.  Believe me, others in the room will start ‘shushing’ them soon enough.  Quiet means that folks are now paying attention and that everyone can hear what your saying a whole lot easier.  I even had a best man, who waited for about 30 seconds while others talked still, actually walk over to the offenders table and stand next to them, when they finally quieted down he said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt your conversation.”

Always write it out - Some people will do things “off the cuff” and that’s fine if you are an accomplished speaker, but it still could be dangerous if you don’t have written down what you really want to say.   Even if you plan on making it LOOK like you’re ‘winging it’, write it out ahead of time and practice, practice, practice!  Then, when it comes time to speak, if you feel confident, leave your notes in your pocket or hold them in your hand at your side.  But have them there just in case!

If you want to write something up and simply read it from the page/cards, that’s fine too, but if you practice by reading it 10 times, over and over, most of it will be in your head and it won’t sound ‘monotoned’.  If you don’t practice it several times, you may find yourself sounding like a Telegram… like “Hello (stop)… My name is John…(stop) I..am..here..(stop) to..welcome..you..all..(stop) to..Jim..and..Shirley’s..wedding.(stop)”  Just stop!!  It shouldn’t take you more than about 30-60 minutes to practice it TEN TIMES.  Aren’t the bride and groom worth 30-60 minutes?

Keep it short – When you write it out, take note of how LONG the toast is.  How long it takes you to read it all.  Generally, if you’ve written out more than a half page, it’s probably too long.  Remember the famous words: “Short and Sweet” and use them when writing out your speech.  Make it short and make it sweet.  THAT will work best!  If it takes more than 3-4 minutes, it’s not a toast, it’s a story.  Save that for later.

Comedy?  Not!  - Remember, what YOU think might be a funny thing to say doesn’t mean that it won’t embarrass the bride and/or groom.  You should never say things like “I remember when Bob and I went spring break to Las Vegas and Bob got soooo drunk and then he…. “  Well, you get the picture… It might be funny to you, but to most of the people (including us vendors) it probably screams “ouch!” if you get my drift.

Advice For the Father of the Bride and/or Groom – I don't know why more mothers don't give toasts, but they don't and it's a shame.  Anyway dads, you need to welcome the guests and relatives, maybe even pointing out those that you know traveled a long distance to attend and tell them how much it really means to you and your wife (and/or ex-wife) that they have all joined you for this joyous occasion.  You also need to welcome your new son-in-law (or daughter-in-law) and his/her family into your own family and be sure and tell his family how much you love(or like if you’re so macho you can’t use the love word about another man) their son and how you know he will take care of your “little girl” from now on (leave out the “or else” part).

Advice for the Bride and Groom – You might want to say something to your friends and family after all the toasting is done.  Much like the advice for the fathers, simply welcoming people for coming, etc. is fine.

Religion – If you are not religious, try to stifle your atheism for a minute and at least find someplace in your toast to include something like “may you both be blessed” or “I know you’re both blessed” or such.  It won’t kill you and it doesn’t mean you are religious, but it might mean a great deal to those that are!  

If you are religious, you can include the old Jewish legend that, after creating the world, God had so much time on his hands that he decided that, to keep busy, he would spend each and every day matching up brides and grooms.  Then say, “And today we are all gathered here to celebrate some of God's best work." If it is a Christian wedding, you can still use it; just tell folks that it is an old legend.  If anyone asks where you read/heard about this legend, just ask them if you can get them another drink and change the subject or tell them you read it on the internet or someplace.  You don’t have to mention it’s a Jewish legend.

Everything in between – Speak from the heart!  Tell them how you always knew they were perfect for each other, things like that.  Talk about the love they have for each other, how perfect they are for each other, stuff like that.  I once heard a best man say to the bride and groom, “Susan, I always knew that Tom would marry you.  I just didn't know your name or your face until the day he first introduced you to me.  But I always knew it would be you; I knew it would be someone who would love his humor and his kindness, his loyalty and his passion in the things and people he believes in, his energy and strength.  You were not only made for each other, you were made only for each other. And it is my deepest hope and desire that you always remember, in the words of Oswald J. Smith, “You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.”

Another one that was short and sweet, “A happy person has something to do, somewhere to call home, something to hope for and someone to love and I am happy to tell you all that Bill and Diane are the happiest people that I know.”

Something like that might work too.

Ending the toast – Something to remember, at the end of the toast make sure you have a glass with “toasting material” and make sure you RAISE the glass and ask everyone else to do the same.  Too many times I have seen the best man doing a toast and at the end he just sits down or hands the microphone off to someone else and nobody else seems to know what to do.  Do they drink?  Do they wait?  Is it over?  The raising of the glass and drinking signifies the end of that persons toast (or at least it should).  Oh, and NEVER end a toast with “Let’s party!” or “Alright, time to rock and roll!” or such.  It’s just tacky.

©Alan McKenzie 1/12/2005 – Advice for toasts