“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.”
– Jerry Seinfeld
For most of people, it would be nice if we could go through life without ever having to worry about public speaking. Unfortunately there are times in everyone’s lives where we are forced to step into the spotlight, pick up that microphone as it makes that shrieking feedback sound (that’s not how it really happens by the way), and stare out into the sea of faces who are locked on to your every word. Weddings are one of the most common situations where ordinary people who do not normally speak in public are forced to get up in front of hundreds of people and make a very personal toast to a close friend or family member.
Being in the wedding industry, we see many different types of toasts – the good, to the bad, and the ugly. When people have a microphone in their hand, they feel like they are expected to give the best speech anyone has ever heard. It can be very overwhelming and uncomfortable. The truth is that most people will forget the majority of your speech by the time the night is over. The people in the audience are not expecting you to be a stand-up comic or a motivational speaker. They are simply wanting you to keep their attention for a few minutes, say something good about the bride and groom, and wrap it up with a good toast so they can all cling their glasses. More importantly though, they don’t want to feel awkward because of something you said on a microphone in front of the bride and groom’s closest family members and friends. Therefore, I have decided to put together some general rules to follow for those needing some assistance in giving a wedding toast:
Rule 1: Prepare
Very few people have the natural ability to “wing it”. Those that do probably have had a lot of practice on a microphone. If you are uncertain about what kind of person you are, you are probably the type that needs to prepare yourself before giving a speech. Public speaking is like anything else, practice makes perfect, and proper preparation prevents poor performance. Write down what you are going to say and recite it many times before the big day, otherwise you may find yourself fumbling around with a lot of “umm’s” and “aaaa’s”, letting everyone know you did not care about this moment enough to prepare a speech.
Rule 2: Be Yourself
If you are a serious person, DO NOT try to be funny. Too often, people feel obligated to make jokes even though they normally do not tell them. Moreover, people often think they are funny when they are not. If you are unsure, take the safe route and stay away from the jokes. If you think of a great joke, but are still unsure about telling it, ask an honest friend or family member. If you ARE a funny person, and you are very confident that you can pull off some jokes, then go for it. A good speech that makes people laugh can elevate it from good to great. Otherwise, if you are an emotional person, tell an emotional story. If you are a nice or sweet person, flatter them with compliments. You may be a little of all of these things, so go ahead and mix it up, just make sure it is true to you.
Rule 3: Be Tasteful
It is extremely important that you realize the audience you are speaking to and what this moment is really about. You are speaking to children, grandparents, and family members, not just friends. These people have gathered together to celebrate the love between two people they care about, so make sure the toast is about them, not you. Make sure your toast is in very good nature and is directed at building the couple up, not tearing them down. In this same category, I will list several DO NOTS:
DO NOT tell embarrassing stories of their childhood if it has nothing to do with the couple
DO NOT tell stories about heavy alcohol consumption (or obviously drugs)
DO NOT talk about past problems or issues the bride or groom may have had
DO NOT bring up any of their past relationships.
Many of these suggestions seem obvious, but you would be very surprised how often they are not followed.
Rule 4: Be Short and Sweet
Weddings are on a very tight time schedule, and there are a lot of things that need to happen within a short amount of time. The planner or couple did not budget 15 minutes for your speech, so keep it short and sweet. Also, especially in today’s society, people get easily distracted and bored if you are speaking for more than 5 minutes. 3-4 minutes is a good target goal. After writing your speech, practice it several times and time yourself. If you are over 5 minutes, cut out the fluff. By going back over your speech and eliminating the parts that aren’t as necessary, your content will be much more meaningful and interesting, and you will hold people’s attention better.
Rule 5: Be Toastful
DON’T FORGET TO TOAST – It seems simple, but often times people give a great speech and forget to toast. Everyone is holding their glass in anticipation of your final wrap up, so “Come on and come on and Raise Your Glass!”
– Kris Yust, Owner | Millennium Productions