When you are asked to be the best man or maid of honor this frequently means you’ll need to know how to give a wedding toast. Since most people don’t go to 20+ weddings a year like I do, I thought I’d share a few tips to make writing and giving your wedding toast simpler and more polished. I also want to tell you about a few real-life wedding toasters that knocked it out of the park.

Find the Emotion

There is a whole range of emotional high notes you can hit during your wedding toast. Try to avoid playing the same key over and over.  Evoking laughter is important, but so is a few happy tears. Too often toasting turns into “roasting” and this can quickly cross a line. Don’t be afraid to poke a little fun at the guests of honor, but make sure you don’t cross the line.

A great way to do this is to find an anecdote that defines an admirable attribute of the person(s) or describes your relationship to them. If your story doesn’t naturally include brevity and benevolence, think of a way to summarize the experience that expressed your love for your friends or family member that will. By including a range of emotional moments through your wedding toast you can be sure your thoughtful words will be appreciated by all.

Make it Your Own

At Rocio and Josh’s wedding, her father not only gave a toast, he serenaded the couple with the help of a mariachi band. This personal moment between father and daughter was a highlight of the evening and even brought me to tears behind the camera. (Though I will admit I’m an easy crier.)

I loved that he made his toast so personal. Plus, he knew his own skill set (he’s a talented singer) and used that ability to entertain and express his love. Your wedding toast isn’t about you, but it needs to be unique from you. Think of some ways you can personalize your toast and you’re on the right path.

Avoids these Pitfalls

Common etiquette mistakes include: reading from your cell phone, speaking for over five minutes, embarrassing the couple, and using vulgar language or telling an inappropriate story.

Having notes is OK. I suggest trying a notecard instead of your phone. People tend to use their devices as a safety net and this keeps them from making eye contact and speaking clearly into the microphone. If you decide to use your phone, put it on a table in front of you with the screen dimmer turned off so can glance at it occasionally for keywords as needed but you won’t need to touch it. It’s also better to practice your speech so you don’t have to read it verbatim. If you don’t enjoy public speaking (and let’s face it, most don’t) focus on the couple and speak to them directly instead of the audience.

Speaking for a lengthy period of time slows the momentum of the event. Time your wedding toast while practicing. Two to three minutes is plenty of time to get a few laughs and a heartfelt message of congratulations. Longer than five minutes and you’re cutting into the time of others who might speak after you.

Some stories just shouldn’t be shared. If the only humor you can think of will upset the bride and groom, maybe you can find comedy another way? As for vulgar language or dirty stories, yes it happens and yes it makes everyone uncomfortable. Best to remember you are in mixed company and try to keep it PG at all times. 

Photographer’s Note

Keeping all these things in mind, don’t forget to smile a little or look up! It’s my job to make you look great in the wedding toast photos. Help me out just a little and make eye contact and a pleasant face. Luckily if you followed my advice from above, these two things will happen automatically.