This post originally appears as a guest post on the Weddingistas blog.
Being chosen as a groom’s Best Man or a bride’s Maid of Honor is truly an honor (as the name implies). It’s a title that one receives when they’ve meant the most as a friend to the bride or groom.
Of course, once the emotion subsides it gives way to the fact that being a Best Man or Maid of Honor comes with great responsibility – not the least of which is the Wedding Toast.
To ease your nerves and make your Best Man or Maid of Honor speech go as smoothly as possible, here are ten tips for a successful wedding toast:
- Avoid Inside Jokes and Ultra-Personal References
I know that you’ve known the bride or groom for nearly your lifetime and have countless stories under your belt that, had everyone been there, would have the guests rolling in laughter. However, they weren’t there. Thus your inside jokes will fall on deaf ears and could result in just a few awkward laughs. Instead, make sure all your jokes/stories/references are relevant, appropriate, brief, and can be understood from those ages 8 to 88.
- Position Yourself Wisely
Receptions are held at a wide variety of locations, and the layouts are different at every venue. When delivering your speech, make sure you’re standing in a place where all the attendees can see you. Also make sure that you’re not standing too close to the actual speaker system, as it will result in feedback (that loud squeaking noise). Finally, don’t just stare at the newlyweds as you speak. Make sure you turn your body to address all sides of the room, turning every few seconds or so (though not in the middle of a sentence).
- Keep it Brief
This is usually common knowledge, but it’s easier said than done when you’re trying to encompass years, if not a lifetime, of friendship or kinship into just a few minutes. However, there is a necessity to keep it brief. You’re rarely the only speech (see #10) and the first course is often served after the toasts are done, so you’re keeping the hungry guests from their food! My suggestion is 3-5 minutes. Any more and the audience’s interest will wane.
- Come Prepared
Some people are super-comfortable with public speaking and that’s impressive, but that doesn’t mean you can wing-it. If you’re not prepared, your speech is almost guaranteed to NOT resonate with the audience. No matter how comfortable you may be, come prepared with your speech. You don’t have to have it written on paper (especially since you shouldn’t be reading), but spend a generous amount of time developing the story sequence, which brings us to our next point…
- Craft Your Speech Like a Storyteller
Like a good book or movie, an engaging speech will have a framework that ties it together. As you gather ideas for your speech, start putting them together in a timeline of sorts and find ways to relate them all. Don’t just start by telling funny college stories, then explain the first time you were introduced to the significant other, then talk about an embarrassing fact, and finish with a blessing. Give it a distinct beginning, middle, and end, and NEVER wing-it.
- Don’t Read Your Speech
I may not get 100% agreement on this, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to read (verbatim) during a wedding toast, or any presentation for that matter. Your focus on the paper creates a disconnect between you, the audience, and certainly the newlyweds. I suggest writing it out fully first, but once you’ve practiced it enough, break it down to a few main points and practice delivering it without the full-draft until you get it just right. It is okay to hold an index card with your bullet points during the real speech to keep you on track. It won’t be 100% accurate vs. your written draft, but that’s okay – it is far more engaging than reading it.
- Practice, Practice, Practice
No presentation/speech related post can exist without an emphasis on practice. It’s the only way to ensure a smooth delivery of your wedding toast, and the only true method to minimize your fear of public speaking. The more you practice, the more the delivery and content becomes second nature. Sure, you’ll still feel the nerves before you speak, but it’s your faith in your preparation that will help you provide a smooth delivery. I would also suggest practicing on a friend or family member who is close with the newlyweds who can give you honest feedback according to the other tips I’ve outlined.
- Remember, It’s NOT a Roast
No matter how much dirt you have on your friend or relative, this is not a roast. Jokes and the slightly embarrassing story are okay, as long as they’re appropriate for all audiences. However, completely embarrassing the newlyweds or addressing taboo subjects like religion, age, education, or otherwise should be avoided.
- Thank the Families and Friends
Often overlooked, make sure you thank both families for everything they’ve done to get the newlyweds to this point. You don’t have to stop at just the parents either – go ahead and than everyone for their role in raising such great people and for bringing the couple together in matrimony and sharing in this special day.
- Limit the Number of Speeches
This is #10 because it’s actually not the responsibility of the Best Man or Maid of Honor, but the newlyweds themselves. There are typically only two speeches – the Best Man and Maid of Honor toasts. But sometimes there is more than one BM/MOH, or the parents insist on speaking, or even the bride or groom want a chance on the mic. While I’m sure these speeches are meaningful and mean a lot to the newlyweds and those who speak, I can’t promise you that your guests feel the same way as they sit and wait for their food.
Hopefully these tips will make your Best Man or Maid of Honor speech all the more memorable and fun.