While it's definitely a great honor there is a certain amount of pressure that comes with taking the role of best man or maid of honor – and the all-important toast is certainly one of the most nerve wracking. From picking formal wear to planning the menu, supporting those we are close to as they plan their wedding can be a joy. But as tradition dictates, these members of the wedding party are generally the first to toast the happy couple as they begin their life together. And while there are a few in our midst who welcome the chance to address a crowd, most of us are more than a little squeamish at the notion of public speaking.
A little forethought and planning can take a lot of the anxiety out of the process. Many best men and maids of honor are in the dark when it comes time to actually sit down and pen their toasts. After all, giving a wedding toast to commemorate your best friend’s marriage is not an everyday event, and for many it will be a one-time experience, if even at all.
Note that traditionally, the best man is the first to toast the couple, followed by the maid of honor. The two can elect to give a joint toast, can present them one right after the other or separately at different times. Once these toasts are out of the way, the floor is open for the parents to toast the union or for the couple to give a toast thanking their guests and family members.
Be sure to speak with the bride and groom beforehand to see if they have a preference about how the toast is presented and if they have anything specific they would like mentioned. Once the rules are set, the speech writing can begin. But don't think of this as a return to college – whether your write the speech out long hand or simply provide some notes for yourself to follow, having an idea of what you're going to say before the big day arrives ensures that it will go off without a hitch.
• Stand up! Sitting down won't command the guests' attention, and your voice likely won't carry as well if you're sitting down.
• Introduce yourself. Although the lucky couple knows who you are, chances are a good portion of the guests do not. When making your introduction be sure to explain your relationship to the bride or groom (older/younger sibling, college roommate, etc.).
• Thank the guests. It's a great way to break the ice. Be sure to include thanks to the hosts. While this is traditionally the bride's parents, today this often includes the parents of the groom as well, so thanking both sets of parents can help avoid stepping on any toes.
• Keep things light. While jokes should remain appropriate, as every wedding has kids in attendance, keeping the toast jovial is a good way to keep the festive mood of the day moving.
• Add an anecdote. Add a light-hearted anecdote that illustrates your relationship and how much they mean to you. Toasters probably have a vault full of funny anecdotes to share about the bride or groom, just be sure the story is appropriate for all members of the audience.
• Practice. Very few people can survive "winging" a wedding toast. Practice the toast beforehand so you're comfortable with what you're going to say before the moment arrives. Remember – you only get one attempt.
• Don't put too much pressure on yourself. Weddings are typically laid-back and fun affairs, so don't stress about giving the perfect toast. If the toast comes off as genuine and remains appropriate, it's a good one.
• Drink too much. While everyone knows to raise a glass at the end of the toast, the best man or maid of honor sometimes raise too many glasses themselves before it's time to give their toast. Don't drink in excess before it's time for your big moment or you'll risk being the talk of the reception for all the wrong reasons.
• Be too long winded. Everyone loves your childhood tales and stories about that college ski trip, but this isn't the time to break it down from beginning to end. Be short, sweet and to the point.
• Talk about yourself. When gushing about your best bud it's easy to talk about your own successes, but this isn't the right time for it. Focus on the couple and the many years of happiness you hope they have together.
• Put anybody down. Just because you have a beef with someone in attendance doesn't mean it's fair to take a jab at them during the reception.
• Share anything too personal. Keep the varied age of the wedding guests in mind when choosing your words. This isn't the best time to discuss former exploits that are better suited to the bachelor/bachelorette gathering.
• Give a toast unless you were asked to. Don't let the tinkling of the forks against the glasses let you feel like this is the best time to share just how excited you are about this union. As a general rule, toasts are pre-planned by the bride and groom. Instead, take a moment with them privately to share your well wishes.