The Etiquette of Wedding Speech Toasts
Why wedding toasts are important
Much is made of the historical provenance of wedding toasts. Arguments abound as to whether they came from the discovery that burnt toast improves the flavour of cheap wine. Or whether spilling wine from one glass to another when clinking them together proves that no one in the wedding party is trying to poison anyone.
Whatever the origin of toasts, they are important because they provide an effective punctuation mark at the end of the speech. They offer an opportunity to distil your essential message into one short phrase, and to allow the audience to engage with you and endorse that message.
Who should be toasted and by whom?
Tradition has it that certain speakers should toast certain people:
The father of the bride toasts the couple
The groom toasts his bride
The best man toasts the bridesmaids
HOWEVER, in the case of the best man, this makes no sense. The toast should be to the person or people that the speech has been dedicated to. While the bridesmaids definitely need to be acknowledged by the best man or the groom, especially if no bridesmaid is speaking, the best man’s speech should toast who he has been talking about: the groom and his bride.
Top 5 toast tips
#1 Too many toasts and your speech is toast
Most speeches will have just one toast, at the end. The father of the bride or groom’s speeches often need to acknowledge and thank various people such as absent friends, the bridesmaids, or the parents of the bride and groom.
To acknowledge all these people with multiple toasts in the middle of a speech however, can be very disruptive. It interrupts the flow of the speech, makes it feel overly formal and also slows it down.
As an alternative, instead of proposing a mid-speech toast to, say, the bridesmaids, you could simply dedicate some of your speech to them, or ask for a round of applause.
#2 Don’t stand on ceremony
The old fashioned, and more traditional way to introduce a toast is, “Ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding for a toast to…” This is appropriate for a very formal wedding, but it is completely at odds with the tone of many wedding speeches. If your speech has come from the heart, the sudden formality of asking people stand can be jarring. It also breaks the flow at the end of the speech, while you wait several seconds for all the guests to push back their chairs, find their glasses and get to their feet.
Unless it’s a real starch-shirted wedding, don’t get everyone to stand; just raise a glass.
#3 Guide the guests
Public speaking is always an act of leadership, and wedding speeches are no different. You are making a speech because you are in a position to convince the guests to love and appreciate the bride or the couple more. The moment of the toast is the perfect illustration of how you need to lead the audience:
You raise your glass, they copy you.
You say what you want them to repeat: “David and Sarah!”
You lead, they follow.
#4 Be animated!
The energy that you put into your toast will be returned to you by the wedding guests. If you mumble, they will mumble back. If you say your toast clearly and energetically, the audience will reply in the same way (and then very possibly give you a round of applause).
#5 Keep it simple and repeatable
The toast is something that the speaker says and is repeated by the wedding guests. I have seen toasts along the lines of “Wishing-the-bride-and-groom -health-and-happiness-for-a-long-and-happy-marriage-and-may-you-make-the-most-of-every-day-you-spend-together.” Imagine that being repeated back by a couple of hundred people.
Make it easy for the guests and yourself: raise your glass and simply say “THE GORGEOUS COUPLE!” or “TO THE BRIDE AND GROOM!”
Job done. Cheers!
The next step
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