Andrea planned her own wedding during the pandemic. She learned a few tricks along the way.
Wedding Toasts and Speeches 101
Wedding speeches and toasts can add a positive spark to a wedding or take away the thunder. Brides and grooms must select people carefully for speeches, toasts, and readings. You don't necessarily need your maid of honor, father, or other often-expected people to speak. It's your wedding. You call the shots.
Select People Who
- Have a knack for public speaking. If they get anxious about talking to a large group of people, they're the wrong person for the job.
- Select someone who, when they talk, people find interesting. You don't want someone who babbles. You don't want someone who doesn't consider time taking the microphone and holding all your guests hostage.
- Speeches should be short. Not too short, but short. 5 minutes or less is good. Only well-polished speakers should hit the 10-minute mark. It is unusual and probably a train wreck if the speech lasts 20 minutes.
You want someone who will give a toast that isn't riddled with scandalous details. Your favorite groomsman might have some outstanding dirt on you, and he might love to bring up old demons in front of a crowd. This might embarrass the heck out of you and be incredibly strange for your guests.
Common Mistakes I've Seen
- The maid of honor decides to do an entire 20-minute timeline of the history of her relationship with the bride. This is often a sister. This is way too long, will annoy the guests, and has little to do with the bride and her new spouse.
- People who can't speak up, so no one can hear them, and we all start to really want dinner.
- Fathers who bring up embarrassing and inappropriate things. This isn't the time to reflect on your own marriage and why you got a divorce, dad.
- Anxious people keep commenting on how they're really anxious.
- A speech that is way too short. Things move immediately to the next event of the wedding. This can seem like you don't actually care about the bride and groom or are too focused on food. It can come off dismissive.
Drafting Your Wedding Speech
The perfect speech is an art. It would be best if you thought about what makes the bride and groom special. Write down your own passion draft first. Put down memories that stand out and why you love the couple.
When you start writing, just do it. Start with stories. Once you find a real gem, stick with it. Don't procrastinate until the last minute to craft your speech. The hardest part is the first draft. After you put down some words on paper, you'll have something you can work with.
Tips for Getting Started
- Read your speech to make sure your sentences are in good order. It's possible that some sentences work better in other places.
- Pick out things that prove your point. Don't just say someone is loyal. Give an example.
- Cut out repetitive parts.
- People like jokes they can understand. It's okay to use some inside jokes, but don't go crazy.
- What you share should feel intentional and not random.
- Do your speech in front of someone or an audience before the wedding to see if it actually holds together.
- Use props, and Powerpoint presentations, pull out a guitar if need be, and make it interesting. Often just hearing someone talk can be grating.
- Practice your speech and time it. If it is going too long, you need to pull back.
- Ask your bride and groom for any suggestions or feedback.
- It's better to do speeches and toasts while people are eating than before they're eating. Brides and grooms: don't hold back the food until the speeches are done.
- As the speaker, don't worry about whether people are looking at you or not. Most people want to be focused on their own table, their food, and the like. Don't worry if people are talking at their tables.
- Stand up and project your voice. If you have a microphone, use it.
- A slideshow can be an amusing way to break the ice.
- Raise your glass and toast.
Good Manners Go a Long Way
You want to be charismatic from beginning to end. Your time in the speech is going to go by really fast. It would help if you practiced good manners.
- Introduce yourself. Don't expect everyone at the wedding to know who you are and your relationship with the groom and/or bride.
- Segue into your speech. Say things like: "Hello, I would like a few minutes of your time to talk about the newly married couple," "I apologize for taking time away from your table chats," and "Good evening, I hope everyone is enjoying their dinner," "Please everyone, if you don't mind I'd like your attention for a moment," "We have a lot of lovely people here tonight; I have a speech prepared to fit in with this special occasion."
- You want to be engaging with the guests, not a nuisance. Be polite, be observant, and exude positivity.
- Smile, laugh, stand up straight, command the room. If all the attention goes on you, it gives the couple a moment to breathe and not have the spotlight on them.
- Conclude your speech with good manners. Say things like: "Thank you for your time. You can get back to your meal now," "Thank you for being a good audience. I can see why all of you were invited here tonight", and "I appreciate the energy all of you are giving off. It made doing this speech very easy. Thank you."
- If another person is speaking after you, introduce that speaker or tell people there is another speech after you.
- If it seems like your speech got really long somehow, you may want to cut it short on the fly. Again, time yourself at home.
- Comment on positive details of the wedding: the amazing food, the decorations, the colors, the lovely dance floor.
- Thank people for traveling all the way to the wedding. People really like to be reassured that they're good people and do good things.
What to Avoid in a Wedding Speech
- Don't inquire during the speech if anyone is single and would like to meet later.
- Don't use curse words or phrases that might be considered inappropriate.
- Don't point out things people might be doing at the moment. You don't want to put people on the spot.
- You can roast the bride and groom if they're okay with it (know your couple). For the most part, you want to avoid embarrassing them. However, I've been to weddings where a groomsman had a good handle on this. Again, know your couple.
- Please don't point out things like someone using a cane, the one person who is Black and how uncomfortable that person might be feeling, or that the one child in the audience needs to cover their ears. All of these kinds of things come off sour.
- Don't repeat yourself over and over. Get your words straight. If people didn't respond to something you wanted them to the first time, then don't try over and over to try and get that response.
- Don't talk too fast or too loud. Slow down. Breathe. Drink some water.
- Don't talk about how you're nervous.
- Don't apologize multiple times throughout the speech.
- Don't slouch.
- Don't eat food while you talk.
- Don't compare the newlyweds to yourself.
- Don't talk about your own past relationships.
- Don't talk about how you may have dated the bride or groom.
- Don't use this as a chance to convert people to your religion.
A little preparation goes a long way. When in doubt, keep these five condensed tips in mind for your wedding speech.
What to Remember
1. Keep it short—about 5 minutes is good.
2. Rehearse it for a friend
3. Have good manners; think of the guests.
4. Avoid making others feel awkward.
5. Don't wait until the last minute to write it.
© 2021 Andrea Lawrence