How to Write and Deliver the Best Wedding Toast
Have you been asked to give a toast at an upcoming wedding? Taking the microphone at a wedding reception is a significant moment. You want to be proud of your performance and the wedding guests - especially the guests of honor - want to remember your toast as a positive experience, too.
Before we go any further, let’s get some misconceptions straight.
This is not a speech. You won’t need to speak longer than 2-3 minutes.
This is not public speaking. This is a private “invitation only” event where everyone shares a direct connection. Nobody’s going to critique you...unless you bomb (but you won’t).
This is about the guests of honor, not you. The more you talk about others, the more you’ll be admired.
This toast should wrap up with...an actual toast. Revel in being the one who invites every guest to raise their glass to the happy couple.
You’ve likely heard a few toasts in your day. Sometimes, they nail it! The whole room is riveted and quiet, eagerly awaiting the next words. Sometimes, the whole reception is bored, checked out, on their phone.
So what is the difference?
If you get nothing else from this, get this.
You need the confidence that carries you past the initial nervous-stage, and that only comes from preparation (not alcohol). If you’re the kind of person that “wings it”, the only person you will impress if you deliver a great toast is yourself.
Timing and delivery is a close second.
Knowing when to deliver a punchline or when to shut up and let a moment happen will elevate you to the upper echelon of toast givers.
Step One: Write the rough draft.
Write the points you want to make and the story you want to share. Don’t worry about timing, editing, ordering, or delivery at this point. Just focus on the gist.
Not sure what to say? Tom Haibeck, author of “How to Make a Great Toast”, suggests talking about:
How they met
Growing up with the groom/bride
Why they are your best friend
Words of wisdom
I would recommend adding scripture, if that feels authentic to you, or a quote that you can expound on, and mentioning the moment you realized that they were perfect for each other.
What really matters is that you are yourself.
Step Two: Edit for time and message.
As an editor, you often need to remove some really great content. Whether it’s to stay brief, stay on message, or stay out of the dog house, don’t feel bad that you have to edit. Feel great that what you’re keeping is gold.
Think of what your main story is and start with something from the story that grips the listener and makes them want to hear more. It should be quick, positive (never negative), and appropriate to the audience. No swearing/naughty talk.
If it works, wrap it up by taking the listener “full circle” back to your main point.
Don’t worry about saying “for those of you who don’t know me…” because you’ll have (hopefully) just been introduced.
Don’t say anything that would make guests worry about you. Admitting you’re nervous or being self-deprecating isn’t necessary, and wastes time.
Remember that you were invited to speak. The couple thinks you are worthy to represent them well. Make them proud of their choice.
Keep the focus on the guests of honor.
Never mention divorce, past relationships, or breakups.
When your message has been honed down for brevity and clarity, put the key points on note cards with text large enough you can read from arms distance.
Pat yourself on the back. The hardest part is over.
Step Three: Practice.
Where the hard work pays off.
You’ve created a great toast that you’re proud to share. Now, make sure that everyone else enjoys it, too.
Time yourself. Remember to keep it between 2-3 minutes.
Do not read word for word (it sounds like it’s being read, and usually insincere)
Do not read from your phone. It looks bad on camera, and it looks bad in real life.
Get honest feedback from a trusted friend.
Don’t be afraid to edit if needed.
Step Four: Showtime!!
Look at guests and smile.
Take a deep breath.
Do not feel rushed. When you rush your words, the listener becomes nervous and starts to anticipate the ending. Help them enjoy your words.
You’ve done the work. You know your toast will be short and sweet.
Stand by the couple (unless directed not to) and look at them as you speak to them.
Hold the microphone fairly close to your mouth. The DJ can turn you down if it’s too loud, but if they turn the mic up too much, it could cause feedback.
Wrap the toast with a toast. Have everyone raise a glass and celebrate the couple.
Bask in the satisfaction of delivering a quality toast for your dear friends.
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