Don't Burn the Toast, Pt. 1: CONTENT

We've all heard that public speaking is people's number one fear.  And we've all known people who can't help but make an ass of themselves when you put a microphone in their hand.  For these reasons and many more, weddings toasts can be tricky, but we're here to help.  Let's start with the basics...

The basic formula

When toasting the wedding couple, the only things you really need to do are:

  1. Say something nice about one of them
  2. Say something nice about the other one
  3. Say something nice about the two of them
  4. Ask everyone to raise their glass

It really is that simple.  So, for example, 

When Deblina and I were in high school, we had some great times and to be honest, she helped me through some pretty rough times, too. She was always so sweet and patient, not just with me but with everybody. That’s just the kind of person she is.

So that’s why I was so happy when she met Billy Jo, who is not only smart and funny but also so loving and supportive of Deblina. I really couldn’t ask for a better person to marry my best friend.

And when you see them together, you just know they were meant for each other. So please raise your glasses and join me in toasting BJ and Deblina Chakraborty!

See how that works?  Of course, variations on the basic formula are fine but be sure to include at least those elements.  If you do you stick with those you can't go wrong.  And yet, you wouldn't believe how many ways people manage to screw it up...

Stories & anecdotes

Yes, it's always disarming to start with an anecdote.  It makes things more personal and gives a sense of your relationship to the couple. So by all means, if you have a story that really sets the tone you're going for, let 'er rip.  But please, for the sake of all that is good and decent in the universe, keep it classy!

Some of our best times were studying at the university library.  Good times!

Some of our best times were studying at the university library.  Good times!

I'm sure you have plenty of epic stories about things you and the groom did back in college, but maybe this isn't the best time.  Here's your rule of thumb: If it involves excess drinking, drug use, vomit, criminal activity or sex, save it for the after-party.  In fact, don't even imply that stuff.  We've seen more than a few best man speeches that included something like, "We used to chase a lot of girls together and well, let's just say we had a lot of fun [nervous laughter]".  Use your head, dude--- your buddy's new bride is sitting right in front of you.  And her parents are right over there!

Jokes

If you've done any googling at all on the subject, you've come across a few one-liners that are sure to kill at any wedding reception.  Do a little more googling and you'll find that those few one-liners are literally the only ones out there.  Which means everybody uses them and they're pretty overdone.  Nothing wrong with that,  but I think you can do better.

Now, some people are very funny.  Most people are not.  So, just as a matter of statistics, you're probably not that funny.  But you're probably kinda funny sometimes, so stick with that.  When in doubt, err on the side of sincerity and sentimentality, and leave the stand-up comedy to the pros.

Timing (or, How much is too much?)

Here's another rule of thumb for you: People would rather hear a short and sweet toast that is genuine and from the heart than a long-winded, self-indulgent harangue.  Brevity, after all, is the soul of wit.  So if you've prepared something ahead of time, take a little more time to do some editing.  And if you're winging it, have an idea ahead of time what your main points are, then stick to them, raise your glass, and have a seat before you start rambling.  Everyone-- including you-- will be glad you did.

Summing up

Here's your TLDR cheat sheet:

  • Basic Formula
    • something nice about one
    • something nice about the other
    • something nice about the two of them
    • raise your glass
  • Keep it clean (I'm looking at you, Mr. Best Man!)
  • Keep it sincere, using humor only insofar as it is natural to you
  • Keep it brief

That's it!  You'll do great.  Anything we missed?  Leave it in the comments.

And stay tuned for Part 2, where we'll discuss logistics of the toast, like how to read from notes, proper mic technique, and not getting completely drunk until after your done.

Happy toasting!

Here's to you, old sport!

Here's to you, old sport!