You’ve got this thing. No pressure whatsoever. All you have to do is get up in front of a hundred or more tipsy people, wait for them to finally stop talking, and hope that the sentiments you rehearsed don’t completely flop. Just look at them, slowly craning their heads around. They’ve been to a dozen weddings, and they’re getting antsy. They want a piece of cake. They want to talk to that cute girl on the other side of the room. They’re ready to get down to Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration.”
But there you are, looking awkward and expectant, and we all know what that means.
It’s time for the wedding toast.
Tidbits About the Toast
In case you were wondering — or need an icebreaker to warm up the room — there are several theories about how the traditional wedding toast came about. Some say that toasting began in ancient Rome, as part of a ceremonial offering to the Gods. Another theory is that the practice began during the Middle Ages, when marriages were a way for warring factions to make alliances. The “toast” was really a test; when the tankards clinked together, some wine from your former enemy’s glass mingled with yours, ensuring that any poison would be imbibed by you both.
Hence, the popular saying, “I drink to your health.”
As for the word “toast”? Apparently the Elizabethans used a piece of spiced toast to soak up the dregs at the bottom of the cup. Because it’s natural for drinkers to start praising each other, the word came to be associated with the act of celebrating a person’s accomplishments.
As Tradition Would Have It
According to Anna Post, the great-great granddaughter of Emily, there are three separate venues for wedding toasts: the engagement party, the rehearsal dinner and the reception. The father of the bride makes the engagement announcement and rehearsal dinner toasts, while the best man delivers the reception toast just as soon as everyone is seated at dinner and the guests have received a glass of champagne.
Modern Wedding, on the other hand, contends that the reception toast should take place at the end of the meal, either before or after the cake cutting ceremony. They offer a short and long version of the traditional toasting order. The short order goes like this: the father of the bride toasts the bride and groom; the groom responds and toasts the bridesmaids; the best man gives a speech in honor of the bridesmaids.
Needless to say, you don’t have to let the men do all the talking. Maid of honor speeches are all but customary these days.
Breaking Bad: Things to Avoid at All Costs
Any Mention of Exes
Picture this scenario. You lift your glass and say, innocuously enough, “Connor was completely miserable when you two met. You changed his life.” Unbeknownst to you, the bride is still insecure about the woman who dumped Conner before they met, and she proceeds to get drunk and make bitter accusations. Okay, this is probably not all your fault. But the moral of the story is, the toast needs to focus on the bride and groom. No one else should even enter the periphery.
“R” Rated Material
We all know that married couples have sex, and that one outcome of sexual activity is pregnancy. There’s no need to remind us. Really.
We went to one wedding where the best man removed what appeared to be a multi-page document from his lapel pocket. A palpable mood of resignation swept the room. He cleared his throat, thumbed through the pages a few seconds while the room grew silent, then threw them over his shoulder, saying “What? You thought I was going to read all that?” The laughter and applause that followed tells you all you need to know about long speeches.
Remember, the wedding is about the couple, no one else, and especially not you. Is that story about how you met the bride really just an excuse to talk about the biggest hangover of your college career? Dig deeper, until you find an anecdote in which the bride and groom are the star of the show.
Being too emotional — bursting into tears or laughter — is another toasting no-no. Taming the jitters with one carefully nursed drink may help you to avoid the nerves that make you laugh inappropriately, but be careful not to drink too much. Otherwise, you might get weepy, and that’s just awkward.
Model Behavior: The Way It’s Done
The ideal wedding toast should be short (no longer than 2-3 minutes) and, above all, sincere. You don’t need to memorize the whole thing; reading from a prepared script is fine. But speak directly from the heart.
Bruce Feiler, writing for the New York Times, recommends the “3-1-2” approach.
- Use third person to share an anecdote or memory about the bride or groom, focusing on something that happened in the recent past so that both sides of the room will be able to share in it. “Jenna and Mike met while running the Steamboat 10k a few years back.”
- Say a few words in first person, expressing your own feelings about the bride or groom. “I can count on you to make me laugh even when there’s nothing to laugh about.”
- Finally, speak directly to the bride and groom, using second person. “I wish you two so much happiness.”
A Reason to Raise Your Glasses
Do you need help planning the perfect wedding? Give Pink Monkey a call or send us an email. We’re a group of creative professionals who are devoted to making your event amazing. From brainstorming through final execution, if you can imagine it, we can make it come to life.