Chances are you’ve been to a wedding, and while you may have heard a great, amazing toast of honor, you’ve probably also sat through a painful toast or two.
If you’re fearless & have no problem speaking in front of crowds of people, then YES, this post is still for you (especially the don’ts.)
If you are wanting to go curl up in your room until the wedding’s over because public speaking terrifies you to no end, this post is also for you (see the do’s!)
We have had to edit a lot of toasts (and deleted a lot of them!) so sit back and take some notes. Here’s how to make a great toast, how to make sure your friends’ wedding reception is an awesome memory instead of a painful moment, and how to make sure you end up on their wedding video.
A toast is the raising of a glass to take a drink for good health or prosperity. Over the years, speeches have been often added before a toast during significant events or gatherings. Traditionally, these speeches are about the person or people the toast is being given to, and nothing more. At a wedding reception, it’s typically the best man and maid of honor who propose a toast, and usually near the end of dinner – but let the couple and DJ decide when the toasts should be given!
People are at this event for no other reason than to witness and celebrate the union of a couple they know. You may very well be the most interesting and important person attending this wedding reception, but your job is not to help people get to know you, or your friendship to the bride or groom. Your job is to propose a toast to the bride and groom in their new union. So don’t talk about yourself. If you want to speak to admirable qualities you have seen in the bride or groom, that’s great; but you should continually steer the focus back on them as a couple. You may be best friends with the groom, and not know the bride very well – that’s ok, but you should still try to keep the focus of your speech on the two of them, their relationship, your support of them, and their new marriage.
The bride and groom chose you to give the toast of honor at their wedding reception. You do not need to state this fact, and you do not need to convince the audience of your closeness to the bride or groom, or of your level of friendship to the bride or groom, or of your worthiness to be delivering the toast of honor to the bride and groom. The audience will accept the fact that you are, in fact, proposing the toast of honor. So, as stated above, you don’t need to qualify your friendship to the bride or groom as part of your toast.
Like we covered above, don’t talk about yourself. If you want to mention a great memory with the bride or groom, that’s fine! But if your toast is made up of 7.5 minutes of all your memories with either the bride or the groom, and then concludes with 10 seconds of “…anyway you’ve been a great friend and I hope you guys have a great marriage and a happy life together”… well, you just spent 7.5 minutes talking about yourself and only a few seconds on this new couple everyone is celebrating. And it sounds a bit like you’re trying to convince everyone they should have married you instead. By all means – bring up awesome memories if they are fitting. But try to continually steer the focus of your speech back to both the bride and the groom.
Sam, I’m gonna let you finish, but Kanye had one of the most cringeworthy impromptu interruptions to a thank you speech of all time. We may never what that man was under the influence of when he interrupted Taylor Swift as she accepted a Grammy, but we do know there have been around 1,234,543,234 speeches gone horribly, painfully wrong due to the person being very, very intoxicated. If you’ve been asked to give a toast at a close friend’s wedding, own that responsibility and don’t put yourself in a situation that could cause some actual regret for you and them for a long time (or possibly the rest of the bride and groom’s life). Seriously, drink responsibly if you’re planning to give a speech.
“Today I don’t feel like I’m losing a sister, but actually that I’m GAINING a brother.”
“Ok so here’s the part of the night where I get to share some embarrassing things about my friend/brother/sister…” [audience gives obligatory courtesy laugh]
The older I get, the more of a fondness I get for all things cliche and cheesy, but if you’re going to use cliches in your toast, try to spin them in a new way. And please don’t make a joke about how you get to embarrass someone.
Seriously. If it’s a Christian wedding, the pastor already did this. If the toasts are before dinner, you’re doing the Gospel a disservice by starving people to preach to them. If the toasts are halfway through dinner, people are full, have to pee, and want to dance. I’m not at all saying not to mention God. If it’s a Christian wedding, especially, God is a pretty big part of it. But your job in giving a toast is to speak a blessing over the newly married couple and their life to come, and then to invite everyone else in attendance to join with you in raising their glass or speaking this blessing over them.
I’m kind of hitting this one over the head 4 times, but keep it focused on the bride and groom as a couple. If you are sharing something that happened when the groom was 3 years old, make it quick and make sure it ties in to what you’re about to say about the bride and groom.
As stated above, what this really boils down to is you asking everyone in the room to join you in wishing blessings, happiness, prosperity, etc on the bride and groom, and maybe also letting them know you are thankful for the impact they’ve had on your life and the lives of others who may be there, as well as how happy you are to see them now married. This should really be 30 seconds to 2 minutes tops. Go beyond that and there’s a good chance you’re probably hitting the don’ts that are listed above. And also as stated above, people are usually either waiting to eat or waiting to pee, eat cake, or do some other awesome celebratory action when the toasts are happening. So keep it short and the crowd will appreciate you!
I can’t say this one enough. This is the the focus of the whole day. As a videographer, I edit a lot of toasts, and I will tell you right now that I cut out every bit of a toast that is not about the bride and groom. Even if it’s a funny story about your friendship, chances are it’s not going on the wedding video. We are here to talk about the bride and groom, and everything in your speech should be focusing on or supporting that.
You should acknowledge the hosts of the party (and know who they are – it’s not always the bride’s parents!) and how great a job they’ve done on the wedding. They’ve put a lot of time, money, and energy into this, and it’s good and also somewhat customary to bring attention to that and honor them for it. It should also be pointed out that traditionally, the host(s) should always be given the opportunity to address the crowd before anyone else. The DJ should know this, and this should be planned accordingly, but check on that detail before you give your speech or propose a toast.
We often turn to cliches when we can’t think of anything else to say… you should have enough time to prep for this, but if you’re set on using a cliche in your speech, just try to say it in a new way.
There is mysterious power in the words we speak. Our culture knows by now that the old adage “sticks and stones” is NOT true. But the opposite is also true – positive words, encouragement, and speaking blessing is literally life-giving. If you’re a christian, we believe that “there is life and death in the power of the tongue”. All throughout the Bible, you see examples of people speaking both blessings and curses over those around them. These people aren’t just speaking empty air – speak life and blessing over the couple, and mean it.
This is a day that new vows have been made. Consider making your own commitment to help support those vows you just witnessed. You are, in a sense, a spokesperson for the crowd who has come to give witness to this wedding. It would be ok to speak appropriately on their behalf. It could be as simple as “Everyone in this room is here to celebrate with you, to witness this commitment you’re making, and we are here to stand with you in these vows you’ve taken today and to help you when you need it.”
The goal of this blog post is not to ruin all your plans for a toast, or to convince you not to make a toast. You’ve got this. Just remember, say nice things, keep it short, and keep the focus on the couple. If you do this, the audience will LOVE you, the bride and groom will be encouraged and thankful, and people like me will have 500% more content to put into their clients’ wedding videos! So go out there and propose the best toast this romance-obsessed world has ever seen.
People have varying opinions on this. Some wedding parties may actually be cool with this (you just need to know your bride and groom) – just be aware that 95% of the room will become VERY uncomfortable, tense, and a bit worried if someone stands up at a wedding reception and says “Actually I’d like to say something real quick”. (The father of the bride may also legitimately contemplate charging and tackling you). Not to mention, depending on the DJ, they may be very protective of the microphone anyway. If you do decide to do this, be sure that you truly do make it very quick, and that you only say real, meaningful, and nice things that are focused solely on the married couple together. And, as stated above, DEFINITELY don’t do this if you’re drunk. Also, note the point above that it’s traditionally considered very rude not to allow the hosts (i.e. bride’s parents) the opportunity to make the first address to those in attendance. So IF the family is cool with this and IF you only have nice things to say, you should at least wait until after the hosts have spoken.