Anyone who’s ever been asked “Would you mind giving a toast at our wedding?” knows the feeling: holy crap, what am I going to say?!?!
For some of us, speaking brilliantly in front of large groups comes naturally. For most of us, the thought of giving a wedding toast terrifying. And with the world we live in today, with viral videos of crazy impressive wedding toasts, it can be a lot of pressure to get it juuuuuust right.
Since I love gathering a lot of different opinions for these tips of articles, I reached out to a few of my recommended vendors to get their input, too.
photo by Lisa Rhinehart Photography
One of my favorite wedding toast tips came from Alisa Tongg, a celebrant who we’ve had the pleasure of working with on a few occasions this year, including just this past weekend for the #McBorthwick wedding. The #DPNAK rule-of-thumb is to advise your toasters to try and keep the toast to five minutes or less.
But, Alisa very wisely says…
“First of all, five minutes is a long time to be talking. I think three minutes is a better goal. Think of all your favorite monologues or toasts on television or movies – even those aren’t clocking in at 3 minutes.”
On the other hand, Natalie from Birdhouse gives another GREAT point-of-view on throwing this rule right out the window:
“I know I will get slapped for this but I say forget the five-minute rule (unless you have legitimate stage freight, or are truly blanking, then, okay – five minutes will suffice). It’s stressful enough, thinking about what to say in a toast, and condensing your thoughts into a time crunch can sometimes make it all the more stressful. The most successful toasts leave the couple in laughter or tears – sometimes even both! – and that kind of a memorable, emotional rollercoaster is hard to achieve in five tight minutes.”
photo by Lisa Rhinehart Photography
Natalie also made a great point as to what to include and what NOT to include in your toast:
“Keep things succinct. And by succinct, I mean, let’s not deviate to sharing highlights from your entire life story as friends. Anecdotes are great, but if they are obscure (or embarrassing or gross) or are not representative of a quality or characteristic in the couple, leave them out. Anecdotes should not be inside jokes that only the couple will get. If you’re going to include them, write them as if you’re writing them succinctly for someone in the audience who is hearing the story for the first time. As a matter of fact, keep that in mind while writing your whole toast.”
Karla from Karla Korn Photography adds…
“Make sure you talk about your friend’s new spouse and how they match well. Sometimes the Maid of Honor or Best Man will forget to mention the new spouse altogether. Sort of awkward.”
Definitely awkward, Karla.
And Lisa Rhinehart, another great photographer who owns Lisa Rhinehart Photography sums it up nicely…
“I’d say to go for humor and heart and not be afraid to show emotion. Life is short.”
photo by Michael Pangilinan Photography
I also highly recommend practicing and preparing for your toast. It’s very easy to think “I’ll just wing it” but nine times out of ten, you’ll just end up rambling in circles and looking a little (or a lot) flustered. Everyone practices and prepares differently, but here are some ways that may work for you:
Alisa Tongg says:
“I would encourage anyone giving a toast to write out the points they want to make, for some it might be helpful to write an actual word-for-word script of what they want to say and how. Then the key to dynamic impactful speaking is to practice it and edit it with the first time listener’s experience in mind. When it’s time to perform the speech and give the toast, a simple card with highlights can suffice (leave the script at home).”
I really, really agree on leaving the script at home (I agree with all of it, but that’s a key takeaway). The more your audience feels like you’re reading from a piece of paper, the less authentic your toast starts to feel. Practice with your script, but be sure to just use bullet points when it’s game time. It’ll make a world of a difference and if you’ve practiced, it will just flow.
If you’ve really got stage fright, Natalie suggests another touching option…
“Consider making a video toast. This you can definitely keep to 5 minutes! We recently filmed a wedding where the groom’s twin brother had such an emotional message to share that he decided to film himself reading it and played it at the reception, instead. It was just as powerful and touching. If you do this, definitely consider enlisting some help. A good microphone and camera really go a long way. And you’ll need a projector for the reception then, too!”
(If you need some help, we can surely suggest some awesome people, like Natalie, who would be happy to do so.)
Finally, if all else fails, Alisa suggests:
“When in doubt, you can always finish with, ‘San Dimas High School Football Rules!’ or you know, ‘to the bride and groom’.”
And Natalie from Birdhouse sums it up well when she says…
“A toast is a once in a lifetime opportunity to share your thoughts & experiences with someone you love with a room full of people who love them, too. Out of everyone else to speak, they chose you. You! Take advantage of it. Leave the couple with a lasting impression of how much you care for them.”