You have selected some of the most important people in your life to speak at your wedding. It's a great honor, but it's also a lot of responsibility and they may be feeling a bit of pressure. So I have written this blog for them, to help them navigate the process of preparing a speech.
Seven Tips for Giving a Toast People Will Love
We have all seen a speech fall short of what the speaker was trying for, a joke that is met with silence or a story that just didn't seem to have anything to connect it with the reason everyone is together. A lucky few of us have witnessed someone deliver a flawless speech; a speech that captivates a room, bringing tears to our eyes and smiles to our faces; a speech with depth that we can all relate to, or one that teaches us something that brings a new understanding to the way we see someone or something.
I have had the pleasure of hearing many speeches over the years. Not just once, the night they are given, but over and over again as I edit them, and analyze them for content in our films. What I have learned is that there is no "one thing" that makes a good speech, but there are a few factors that good speeches usually share. You can find my seven tips and some of my favorite speech moments below. Feel free to pass them along. I hope they help you get inspired!
1. The speakers focus on the couple. This day is about two people (the bride and groom), who they are and what their love means. So make your speech about them. It will be meaningful to everyone attending, because it's the two of them that everyone is there to celebrate with. This is your chance to give all their loved ones an inside look into who they are and what they mean to each other from your unique perspective.
2. The speakers are genuine and true to who they are. Be yourself. You were chosen to speak because of who you are and how important you are to the bride and groom. So let who you are shine, not by focusing on yourself (or your relationship with the bride or groom) but by showing the relationship you have with them through your stories and insights about them as individuals and as a couple. Talk about what you love about them as people. Mention the qualities that make them special to you.
It's okay if you don't know one of them well or if you haven't seen them together a lot. You can even admit it to the group like the speaker above. It is part of being true to who you are and the relationship you have with the bride and groom. Honesty is something people love and will pull them into your speech.
If you feel like you don't have enough insight or information about them as a couple you can take a few moments, before the wedding day, to talk with the bride or groom about their relationship with the person you don't know well. All it usually takes is a couple of pointed questions like: How do they make you feel? How have things changed in your life since you met your fiance? What do you love about him/her?
These types of questions usually result in heartfelt answers that can easily be incorporated into a speech. You can put them in your own words and add your own insights to make the speech truly yours.
3. The speakers keep the speech relatively short. You will have more impact on the group you are speaking to if your speech is clear, concise and doesn't meander. 3-8 minutes is a great goal. It's a good amount of time to let everyone know who you are and how much you care about the two people who have brought everyone together. It's enough time to tell a quick personal story about the couple only you know, or touch on how much their love has taught you or inspired you. Also, it's not so much time that you are likely to lose your train of thought or allow your audience to get bored and stop listening, because their tummies are beginning to rumble.
Do you have the inside scoop on something that happened when the bride and groom just started dating? A cute story about how excited they were about meeting, or going out with the other person, can be really fun and touching. This is a great opportunity to share something only you, or a handful of people, know about their budding love.
4. The speakers usually have notes. Not everyone has a full speech written out, but most have something. So feel free to have notes, even short ones. A word or two to remind you of your opening and the way you want to close. If you can, have your notes on something that doesn't crinkle or crunch so you can avoid the distracting the sound it can make in the microphone.
5. The speakers have not had too much to drink. I hate to mention this one. It may seem obvious, but I thought I'd bring it up, because I have seen a little liquid courage spiral into a bit of a mess. So watch how much you drink. You know yourself, and if a bit of a reminder would help, you can always ask a friend to regulate, if you need it. You know it's an important moment, so I'll leave it at that.
6. The speakers toasts are personal, sentimental and flattering. Sentimental is great, emotions are great. It shows you care. So if you tear up, don't worry. Remember it's okay to take a minute to compose yourself, if you need to. It may feel like an eternity to you but everyone else will be loving it.
Also, remember that not everyone attending always knows both the bride and groom well. It's likely they don't know them like you do. This is your chance to help their guests gain insight into who the bride and groom are. Make sure what you say is flattering and doesn't hurt anyone's future impression of them. Think about whether the story you are thinking of telling will be funny to everyone or just you and the boys (or girls). A good ribbing can be funny, but you need to know your audience. Make sure what you say is appropriate for everyone to hear - mothers, fathers, and grandmas included.
As a general rule, stories about the relationship struggles of a person's youth and past relationship failures do not go over well. Nor do comments about the low points of the bride and grooms relationship, or how you "weren't too sure it would work out but here they are". This is a happy occasion and a place for celebration, so keep your content positive.
7. The speakers have a natural flow that leads to raised glasses and a toast to the couple. Set yourself up to remember the "toast" part of your toast. It's surprisingly easy to forget. The best toasts tend to be those that have a good ender that segues into everyone raising their glasses. It's helpful if your last comment or story naturally celebrates them and their love.