Need to learn how to give a wedding toast? Giving a toast at a wedding or event is a big deal, and for a lot of people, public speaking evokes feelings of extreme terror… which reminds me of this quote from Jerry Seinfeld.
“According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
It doesn’t have to be this way! I promise, by then end of this article, you’ll be raising a glass to toast the success of your own future toasting (that is meta).
You don’t have to be an extrovert or professional big mouth like me to prepare a cracking speech. As a seasoned foot-in-mouth-specialist and occasional standing ovation receiver (I said occasional), I want to give you some tips to ensure that your speech will not be included in a Buzzfeed’s worst wedding moments countdown — but will instead be remembered for being witty, warm and genuine…just like you!
Firstly brides, I implore you to chuck out the awful patriarchal tradition of the silent woman and get up and make a speech. What you have to say is meaningful and important. Why is it that only the groom speaks at these wonderful events? It really irks me. I am bride. Hear me roar.
The success of smashing out a memorable speech is for me due to two things: preparation and authenticity. I know is easier said than done, BUT it’s way more effort putting on a front and trying to be something you are not, than getting up there and owning it as you. Without preparation, you may come off looking like a tool or saying something that will haunt you to the end of days.
As a stand up, it’s fun pushing the boundaries and exploring taboo. However a wedding isn’t the place to discuss the groom’s history of STDs, exes and divorce. Perhaps you’re the MOH and feel deep down inside that the couple isn’t "4eva". The wedding isn’t the place to air these feelings, particularly after a couple of glasses of champagne courage (we’ll get to that too). If you really feel strongly about sharing that opinion, do it before the wedding…loooong before the wedding.
Saying things (even jokingly) like "we didn’t think you’d last", "we never really liked the bride (or groom)" or "although we really thought your last boyfriend was tops, we’ve warmed to the groom" are probably best kept under your hat or skirt. Sarcasm is fun, I love it, but often deep down these comments are true (and possibly rather hurtful) so shush!
Nerves are a killer. Often people resort to booze to dull them. I can say in 8 years of standing up and telling jokes to strangers I have never drank and talked. Don’t get me wrong, I love a tipple but when I am on stage I am work. You don’t drink at your desk (or do you?). I prefer to be fully in charge of my brain and mouth, knowing that I can cope with hecklers, dud microphones and whatever other challenges are thrown in my path (and there have been a few). I’m not saying you have to be sober Sally on the day, just don’t get hammered before you get up there.
Breathing, although obvious for continuation of life, is also an excellent nerve-buster and freak-out diminisher. Gentle breaths are best, just make sure they are not directly into the microphone or you’ll sound like you’re from a 1900 number.
Sometimes before I go on stage I like to say a little mantra to myself like ‘You can do this!’ or ‘Even though you didn’t get into acting school, you’re still an excellent performer!’. Try not to let anyone else overhear you saying this though, and make sure the microphone is OFF.
When you are writing the speech, (months in advance because you have taken note of my first point, BE PREPARED!) a delicate mix of sincerity and humour, possibly causing some mild face-palm moments but avoiding any post-speech cocktail fork stabbings, is ideal. I always say go for heart over laughs. Of course, I say that, but laughs are really what I want. Sweet, sweet laughs. The perfect speech is 90% laughs, 10% heart…but I didn’t’ say that ;)
I once endured 25 minutes of the groom using his speech as a sort of verbal LinkedIn presentation, talking about how lucky the bride was to have him. It was gross. Think about your audience. It’s family and friends. You are there to celebrate love and the coming together for two rad people (hopefully). Save the manky sex stories for the bucks and hens. Nanna has only got a few years left; she doesn’t need a detailed account of her grandson dry humping a pregnant stripper whilst wearing a moose costume, no matter how funny/tragic that is…
Last couple of tips
- Finish the speech on a high…a nice anecdote from your friendship/relationship is always a winner.
- Be sure to make eye contact with the crowd and the couple. It really ups the anti.
- Practice the speech (lots!) and if you need notes, get it down to dot points so you aren’t’ just reading it.
- Focus on speaking slowly (we all race when we are nervous) and don’t forget to raise a toast before you finish. Something simple like… ‘Here's a toast to love and laughter and happily ever after’, always goes down well.
Happy speech writing!
Aleisha McCormack is a comedian, author of the wedding planning guide Smart Wedding and Host of the #1 Podcast about all things wedding-y, Save The Date. Two shows per week, bringing wedding experts, advice and trends straight to your ears! Visit her blog, follow her on Twitter, and subscribe and download the bi-weekly podcast for free here.