So you’ve been honoured with the task to make a wedding toast at your friends or family member’s Toronto Wedding and you have no idea where to start. We asked the best expert we know, Tom Haibeck to help us help you, and he did. Here are the Top Ten Tips on Writing a Wedding Toast.
One of the most common mistakes people make is to procrastinate on the process of preparing their wedding toast. Scribbling down a few notes on the back of a napkin on the day of the wedding is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. You will start to panic (with the realization that you will soon be “on” and are no where near prepared). And that stress will carry right into your speech when you go live.
It’s About Them
Another common mistake people make is to ramble on about themselves (or to treat the experience like an audition for their comedy career). The wedding is all about the Bride and Groom. If you’ve been given the honour of speaking at their wedding, your job is to pay tribute to them as people; to celebrate their marriage and the bright future that lies ahead for them; and to be the class act that leaves the Bride and Groom glowing (rather than squirming and wishing they had never asked you to speak).
Personalize Your Toast
Rather than buying a pre-written (“canned”) toast on the Internet, use your own words to pay tribute to the Bride and Groom. Wedding guests (along with the wedding couple) love to hear “back-stories” about the wedding couple – such as your experience in growing up with the groom, what you learned about the bride as her college roommate, how they met or why they’re so good for each other.
Know Your Audience
Ask the Bride and Groom for some feedback on who will be at the wedding. In most cases, you’re probably dealing with a “G” (General) audience. Keep it light and have some fun with your toast – but if one of those anecdotal accounts would offend your Grandmother, don’t use it.
Start a Memory File
As you begin the process of personalizing your toast (and drawing upon those “back stories” and positive character insights on the Bride and Groom), be sure to record them as you go. Start a file or add notes to your phone—because if you don’t, those “speech triggers” may mysteriously disappear.
Write it Down
Once you have spent a few weeks letting those memories flow and jotting down some notes, plan to spend an hour or two committing your speech to paper. Start with a simple outline that lists your beginning, middle and end. I prefer to start off using point-form notes to record my actual “talking points” but feel free to write your talk out word-for-word if you’re more comfortable with that. I urge you, however, to then rehearse your speech enough so that you can eventually reduce your word-for-word speech to point-form notes (see “Delivering Your Wedding Toast”).
Read it Aloud
We’re all taught to write essays in a way that makes sense on paper. But speeches are meant to be spoken—and need to sound natural and conversational. So try to read your speech aloud as you go about the process of writing it and focus on how it sounds. Keep your sentence short and punchy. Use contractions (“We’re” instead of “We are”). And use language that reflects your natural form of speaking (instead of fancy, flowery phrases that will sound pompous and over the top).
Skip the Canned Jokes
Telling a joke in the company of a few friends is a much different experience than trying to do so before an audience of several hundred people. “Canned” jokes require you to tell a fictional story and then deliver a punch line (which requires excellent timing). But if you tell anecdotal stories that are real and meaningful to you, those stories will flow much more naturally. One-liners are another good tool to draw upon (and there is an entire treasury of wedding-related one-liners in the back of my books).
Don’t Try to be Funny if You’re Not
If you’re not comfortable using humour, then just be sincere. Saying it “from the heart” always works. As mentioned, a wedding toast is intended to be a tribute to the Bride and Groom on the biggest day of their lives. Honour them (and their families) by celebrating them as people and wishing them well in their marriage.
Skip the Saturday Night Sermons
Inappropriate use of humour is one thing. But going on and on about theology and philosophy and spiritual principles can also be a mistake. Again, know your audience—and know yourself. Talk about what you are comfortable discussing so you sound real and genuine. And keep your talk light and uplifting.
– Tom Haibeck is the author of the bestselling books “The Wedding MC: A Complete Guide to Success” and “Wedding Toasts Made Easy”. Both books are available in bookstores or at WeddingToasts.com.