The Do’s and Don’ts for a Successful Toast
When you edit for Merryweather Films, you spend a lot of time sifting through speeches and toasts to find the best soundbites for wedding videos. Over the years we’ve watched countless speeches, and we’ve seen it all - the good, the bad, and the ugly. The quality of the toasts at your wedding can have a surprisingly significant impact on the tone of your reception. If you’ve ever seen a terrible toast, you know what we mean.
The good news is that we’re here to help. We’ve compiled the collective advice of the Merryweather crew into a handy list of do’s and don’ts that you can pass on to your wedding party. You can’t control what people say at your wedding, but you can certainly guide them in the right direction.
Keep it short
The easiest way to suck the energy out of your speech and bore the crowd is by making it too long. A guest at a typical wedding will sit through at least three toasts during the reception, so you should be aware of how long you’re asking your audience to sit in their chairs attentively. After all, the reception is supposed to be the fun part of the day!
Talk about their relationship
This idea may seem simple, but it’s often an afterthought or overlooked entirely. The whole purpose of the day is to celebrate the love and commitment of two your closest friends, so try not to let that concept get lost in your speech.
Make it about them, not about you
While it’s perfectly acceptable to talk about the relationship and history you have with your best friend, that’s not what everyone is celebrating. Give some brief context of your relationship, pepper in an amusing anecdote or two, then move on to the couple. It’s always nice to hear about how two people have grown together from the perspective of a close friend.
Get a second opinion on your jokes
If you’re not a standup comedian and you’re planning a hysterical toast, it’s probably worth trying out your jokes on a few friends first. In fact, even if you are a standup comedian, it’s probably a good idea. There is a fine line between hilarity and inappropriate at formal events like weddings. Keep in mind that the guest list might include older relatives and coworkers, not just your good friends, and remember that it’s a wedding, not a roast.
Use paper, not your phone
This is a more recent phenomenon that we have witnessed which is becoming more and more popular, and we hope to do our part to stop it. Take the time to print out your speech on a piece of paper. No one has ever looked good speaking in front of a crowd while squinting at their phone to read, and a piece of paper won’t die, freeze or randomly scroll five paragraphs ahead in the middle of your toast.
Thank the host
Not only is thanking the host and the couple a classy move, but it gives you an easy way to begin or end your toast. There is really no situation where this should not be done.
All too often we hear a toast that begins with the dreaded phrase, “I’ve never been great at winging things, but here goes nothing!” If you don’t regularly speak extemporaneously to large crowds, you shouldn’t expect it to go well when you try it at a wedding. Do yourself a favor and keep the happy couple happy by writing some words on paper.
Overindulge before your speech
As tempting as the open bar at cocktail hour might be, it’s a good idea to take it easy on the booze (at least until after your speech is over). Everyone will appreciate the fact that you aren’t slurring your words or rambling away on tangents, and you’ll save yourself some serious potential embarrassment.
Use inside jokes
Try to resist the urge to reference stories that will not resonate with the larger audience. Guests at weddings don’t want to watch you giggle about something that makes them feel excluded. You’ve already been given the honor of speaking at the couple’s wedding, so everyone already knows how close you are.
Talk about old relationships
This is one of those subjects that should always be avoided as a general rule. Save the clever jokes about ex lovers for the bachelor and bachelorette parties. Past relationships can be a very tense subject for some couples and potentially other guests at the wedding.