How to: Your Wedding Toast
Your parents and wedding party members aren’t the only ones who should say a few words at your wedding
. Let your guests know how much you truly appreciate them with these tips for making your toast the talk of the party.
You’ve just declared your love and devotion to each other in front of a crowd of your nearest and dearest—now it’s time to show your wedding guests some love too. Your toasts at the reception give you the perfect opportunity to let your wedding guests know how much you cherish them for sharing your wedding day with you. Seize the moment: Even if public speaking isn’t your strong suit, you’re more likely to feel sorry for not speaking than for saying a few simple words of welcome and gratitude. Here’s our guide on what to say and how to say it.
An opening act
Letting your bridal party members open up the floor is a good plan—it gives you a minute to compose yourselves, and your guests a chance to get settled. Traditionally the best man serves as the toastmaster and the maid of honor comes next, but whatever’s most comfortable for you and your wedding party members is best. After that, the two of you are on. These days, many parents also choose to toast before or after the couple, especially if they’re hosting the party.
Look for inspiration
All eyes will be on you as the newlyweds, but you’ll still need to engage your audience. While many toasts often start with a quote or poem, don’t feel that you have to read one—treat it more as a speech to thank everyone for sharing the day with you. To loosen up, you can start by putting a spin on the tried-and-true tale of how you met or the proposal—anything light to get your guests laughing. Tell a story about your new spouse that always makes you grin (but nothing embarrassing!). Or describe the first time your parents met your intended if it was offbeat. Not only will it get wedding guests smiling and nodding, it’s also the perfect transition into heartfelt thanks since you’ll have their full attention after a humorous story.
Keep it clean
Don’t get carried away—while you should speak slowly and clearly, you shouldn’t do so for more than two or three minutes or you may lose your audience’s attention. Less is always more—especially when two people are speaking. In the same vein, keep it simple. It’s nice to tell a quick, illustrative anecdote, but launching into anything too lengthy makes it hard for guests to follow. If you choose to share a story, it should be general enough for every listener to understand. Leave out any inside jokes or slang (unless it’s in such wide use that everyone will get it). Since you’re thanking all your guests, you want your speech to feel inclusive. But whatever you do, don’t bring up anything raunchy! Truly embarrassing anyone (even if it’s not mean-spirited) isn’t fun to see or hear; nixing the four-letter words is also a must. Another potential pitfall: drinking heavily before giving your speech. It’s a toast, not a roast—you’re thanking people sincerely for traveling and spending money to be with you on your wedding day. If public speaking makes you jittery, having one glass of wine to calm your nerves and boost your confidence is okay. But chances are, telling the people you love that you love them will come naturally, and your heartfelt thanks will get them smiling and nodding.
Practice, Practice Practice
While your toast should feel natural and genuine, you aren’t going to suddenly start plucking meaningful lines out of thin air. It takes some rehearsal to appear unrehearsed. (But remember, you’ll be in front of the friendliest audience possible.) Anything that seems overly performed, or using words that aren’t in your everyday vocabulary, will sound stiff—and might cause you to stumble. Once you’re holding the mic, you can’t (or at least shouldn’t) whip out a stack of note cards—you’ll need to remember what you’re going to say. Once you’ve sorted out your speech and which one of you is going to say what, recite it aloud together—a lot. The first few times you do it, find the spots where you stumble or skip words and either delete or rewrite them. If you’re worried that last-minute butterflies will leave you tongue-tied, jot down a few key words or phrases on a small piece of paper. Not sure what to do with your hands? Holding a glass solves that problem right off the bat.
When you take your stand, do a quick mic check. (Pro tip: Most microphones are made to sound best at a distance about equal to that between your extended index and pinkie finger.) Keep your general outline in mind and stick to it. This isn’t the time for improvisation that may be misconstrued and read as disrespectful. And rather than getting into future arguments about who was and was not thanked (or sounding like you’re tearfully clutching an Oscar), keep the thank-yous broad: both sets of parents, family, brand-new family and friends. End on a high note by memorizing the last thing you’ll say so that you can raise your voice and deliver a clear ending. No one will know to raise their glasses if you trail off quietly. And take the time to look around the room and make eye contact with key players. Letting the impact of your words sink in creates a lasting, honest moment with your nearest and dearest.
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