A toast is defined as a ritual in which a drink is taken as an expression of honour or goodwill, so in reference to a wedding, it is a celebratory speech made to congratulate the happy couple who have just tied the knot. A wedding toast can be given by a number of different members of the bridal party or just by one person, depending on the couple’s preferences.
Wedding toasts are tricky. We’ve got some helpful tips to guide you towards a great wedding toast that you and your favourite couple will remember fondly for years, so grab your notepads and get ready for some key(note) advice.
bride and groom laughing as best man gives a speech at a wedding reception
Photo by Leah Fisher Photography
Wedding toasts are tricky. You’ve got a lot of different people to please, and couples are extra-sensitive on their wedding day—after all, they’ve got a whole room of the most important people in their lives looking at them. Because of this, there’s a lot of pressure on these speeches. We’ve got some helpful tips to guide you towards a great wedding toast that you and your favourite couple will remember fondly for years, so grab your notepads and get ready for some key(note) advice.
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How To Give A Tasteful Wedding Toast
Tactfully get the crowd’s attention.
Clinking away at a champagne glass is great when it’s noticed, but unfortunate and annoying (and possibly destructive) when the crowd is having too much fun to hear it. Stand up, speak calmly into the microphone, and you won’t waste time trying to get everyone to listen up.
Example: “Hello, everyone! May I please have your attention for just a few brief, heartfelt moments as we toast the lovely bride and groom? And then we eat cake!”
The best advice for a prospective toaster is to keep it as concise as possible. While a detailed account of your friendship with the groom all the way from the sandbox through graduate school may be charming to you, the other guests want to drink and dance as soon as possible. A toast or even just a couple of heartfelt sentences is completely adequate. Speaking for two to three minutes should be the maximum—and plenty of time to say what you need to say.
Example: “They say that birds of a feather flock together. Well, the two of you are the most graceful, odd, beautifully singing birds I’ve ever met and I can’t wait to see you fly.”
Be complementary and appropriate.
As funny as some anecdotes about the couple may seem to you, any comments that navigate choppy waters for other guests should simply be left out of a speech. That means keep it clean and keep exes, your own ego, and all stories of past embarrassments far, far away from the happy wedding day. Every word you say should be focused on making the couple smile with gratitude… so just stick to saying really nice things about them.
Example: “I am lucky enough to have been with Jim through thick and thin… crust pizzas every night in college. As much as I hate knowing that Julia will take much better care of him than I did, I know it’s for the best. More pizza for me. I love you guys!”
No matter what your personal style is, all anyone—the couple, their family, random attending neighbours—wants from a reception speech is to reiterate that this legal joining of the souls is a heartwarming event. That isn’t to say that the attendees are looking to the toastmaster to offer some deep insights on love, but a nice reminder of the couple’s suitability for each other is always welcome after a long ceremony. Speak from the heart, including a meaningful wedding wish, and the words will fall into place.
Example: “To Katie and Dan I’ve never met a perfect couple, and I doubt I ever will. You bring out the best in each other, although, that is pretty easy to do.”
There’s nothing blasphemous about rehearsing your toast with someone else beforehand. If everyone you know is going to be attending and you’re set on the element of surprise, record yourself with your phone or computer—if you can handle coming face-to-face with your own mannerisms!
The open bar doesn’t need to be your pal until after the toast. While one drink can certainly calm the nerves, keep your own limits in mind, and you’ll be glad for it. It’s probably not commonplace for you to speak to a captive audience of hundreds of people, so make the most of it by not slurring your words.
Don’t forget to raise your glass during and to sip your champagne after your toast. Otherwise, it’s just a regular old speech!
Wedding Toast Dos and Dont’s
There are many different types of toasts you can give. But whether you decide to give a funny wedding toast or a more sentimental one, there’s a right and wrong way to do it. Here’s a list of things you should DO when giving a perfect wedding toast:
DO research and crowdsource.
The best wedding speeches are those that let the audience know a little bit more about the bride and/or groom—in a good way—so try to include some funny or sweet stories from their childhoods, adolescence, or young adulthoods. Ask the couple’s parents, siblings, or other close friends for any great tidbits that you could weave into your toast for greater authenticity.
DO be a storyteller.
Good stories make for good toasts. Take your listeners on a little journey about the couple and how we arrived at this special day. If you’re part of the wedding party representing just one of the newlyweds, explain what kind of person s/he is (as demonstrated by X anecdote from the past), how you know each other, how s/he met the other newlywed, how their relationship grew, why they are such a great match, and what you hope for their future if you can weave in a little thematic joke or a narrative through-line, even better.
DO combine humour with emotion.
A perfect wedding toast includes a healthy mix of humour, sentimentality, good-natured ribbing, and sincerity. You want the couple, and the rest of the guests, to feel both amused and touched by your words. If you’re naturally funny, include some clean jokes that won’t hurt anyone’s feelings (jokes at your own expense are always a safe bet). If you always botch the punch line, it’s perfectly fine to stick to a straightforward message of warmth and congratulations.
DO borrow language.
Not all of us were born with the gift of gab. If Wordsworth you are not, there’s no shame in stealing some great lines from the masters. Look up some quotations on love, relationships, or marriage to either guide your speech’s theme or to pepper in at the beginning and end for greatest impact. Writers and essayists like Martin Luther King Jr., Pablo Neruda, Shakespeare, or any of the Romantic poets are good places to look for inspiring quotations.
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DO practice out loud.
Nowhere is the phrase “practice makes perfect” more true than in public speaking. Besides familiarizing yourself with the material, you’ll be able to hear any mistakes, awkward phrasing, or weird timing when experiencing the words out loud. Practice reading your speech to a partner or friend, get their feedback (and have the time you so you know if you need to add or cut), and practice again until you feel solid.
DO speak clearly.
If you have a bring-down-the-house kind of wedding toast, but no one can understand it, what good will it do? Make sure your one-liners zing and your heartfelt wishes bring tears by speaking loudly and clearly, enunciating your words, and appropriately using a microphone or other AV equipment that’s provided.
DO keep it clean(ish).
This one is obvious, right? The key here is to know your audience. Remember that you’re addressing the entire guest list—which might include ages 3 to 93. Joking about adult topics must be done subtly and in good taste. To keep things classy, be intentionally vague and keep the examples lighthearted. Don’t go into sordid detail, don’t share anything that could get anyone in trouble, don’t reveal anything truly humiliating, and avoid bathroom humour.
DO address both newlyweds.
So that your speech doesn’t feel awkwardly lopsided, be sure to say some kind, sincere, and personal words to both of the people who just got married. If you are friends with both of them, even more reason to share an anecdote about why they are great individually and doubly great together.
DO end on a sweet note.
No matter what else you say or do, end your wedding speech with positivity. Congratulations on the marriage, happy wishes for the couple’s future together, and a general toast in their direction are customary (for a reason) and always well-received.
And here’s a list of things you should NOT DO when giving a great wedding toast:
Tell a short (short) story, not a novel. No one wants to hear you digress about something unrelated to your key message, or worse, about yourself. Remember, this isn’t your show—this moment is about the newly married couple, so resist the urge to go off on a tangent.
DON’T be too mean, crass, or dirty.
Making people laugh is good. Making people uncomfortable is not. Offensive, off-colour, or any mean-spirited joke at the expense of an individual or group is a no-fly zone. If you have to stop and ask yourself, “Should I say this?” it’s a good indication that you should just not. And if you normally swear like a sailor, watch your language and avoid profanity.
DON’T tell inside jokes.
If only you and the bride or groom (or a small handful of other people) will understand what you’re talking about, then it’s probably not a good material to include in a wedding speech. You don’t want to alienate your audience by making them feel like they’re not in on the joke. Stick to universal topics and be inclusive in your story- and joke-telling.
DON’T get tipsy.
While it might be tempting to throw back a few after the “I dos” to loosen up for your moment in the spotlight, use common sense. Has consuming alcohol in a short amount of time ever helped you be more articulate, quick on your feet, or sensitive to the passage of time? Our guess is no. Wait until after your speech to take advantage of the open bar, because it will be clear to the crowd if you are not in your best frame of mind.
DON’T dwell on your blunders.
Every public speaker misses a line or trips up their words now and then. Rather than drawing attention to an error by apologizing profusely or joking about how bad a public speaker you are, simply make a quick correction or skip over it and move on. Dwell any further, and your audience will get uncomfortable or lose confidence in you.
DON’T just read engage.
While you certainly don’t need to memorize your speech, it’s public speaking 101 that just reading aloud from a piece of paper (or your phone) without acknowledging the crowd is a no-no. Know your speech well enough so that you don’t have to look at it word-for-word. Take time to look around, make eye contact (especially when you’re addressing the happy couple), and pause for laughter or applause.
Being nervous is totally normal—but if your nerves are too apparent, they can distract your audience or put them on edge. A clear sign of being nervous is racing through your speech like you’re competing for a NASCAR trophy. Take deep breaths, use the above tips about audience engagement, and speak clearly and slowly. We promise it’ll be over before you know it.
DON’T go long.
That being said, don’t be long-winded or hog too much of the wedding reception’s previous timeline, or your audience will start wondering when they can get on the dance floor rather than pay attention to your eloquence. Stick to whatever time frame the couple recommended, or if you’re on your own, aim for 2-3 minutes.
DON’T talk about yourself.
This day is not about you, so your toast definitely shouldn’t be. A personal anecdote about you AND the bride and/or groom is great, so long as it illuminates funny (and flattering) points about the other’s personality, talents, or achievements. Watch how many times you say “I” and “me” and cut back if you find these words dominating your speech to avoid coming off as insincere.
DON’T mention exes.
At all. Ever. Seriously. Don’t do it. It will make things awkward, and as we said before, people are extra-sensitive on their big day.
DON’T say anything negative.
If you have any doubt whether a joke will offend the bride, groom, or their parents, leave it out of your toast. Keep in mind, it’s a toast, not a roast.
Other Wedding Toast Tips
Give some thought as to what you’re going to say and jot down some notes, whether or not you plan on using them at the reception. You might trip up your words or lose your train of thought if you “wing it,” so our advice is to, well, not. Respect the couple on their wedding day by giving your wedding toast the thoughtful preparation it deserves. That means preparing it well in advance and rehearsing a few times in order to gauge the length and flow of your speech. Trust us, both the couple and you will be grateful you did.
Be true to yourself. If you’re not naturally funny, don’t try to be. If you’re not one for mushy sentimentality, don’t go there. Be honest and give a few words about why your relationship with the bride and/or groom is a special one and why you admire their partnership. It’s as simple as that.
Keep it short.
For those fearful of public speaking, you may be happy to hear that most wedding toasts are somewhere around three minutes long. Remember, you’re performing a wedding toast, not a filibuster. All you really need to do is introduce yourself and explain your relationship to the couple, share a special memory or story about the pair (or the bride and/or groom separately), say congratulations, and wish them a long, happy future.
You won’t believe how many people forget this essential wedding toast component. The whole purpose of a wedding toast is to wish the newlyweds well, so make sure this word makes it into your speech.
Look at the person you’re toasting.
Don’t stare down the couple, but keep in mind that they are the recipients of your speech and the most important people in your audience. You are not putting on a show for the wedding guests, but toasting your good friend (or son, or daughter…), their new spouse, and their future. A little eye contact goes a long way.
Coordinate with the wedding planner.
Make sure you know the reception timeline and general order of events—don’t even think about bugging the bride or groom with questions about when you’re “on.” Speak with the wedding planner (or the person acting in this capacity—even the DJ or bandleader might know), so you know when and where you are supposed to give your toast, what kind of mic you’ll have, and where to place your notes if necessary.
How to Write a Great Wedding Toast
- According to Steve Faber, screenwriter of “Wedding Crashers,” there should be five key parts in any toast: background, an anecdote, comic relief, a turning point, and a conclusion.
- Background. Give context by introducing yourself to the room, especially if you don’t know the majority of the guests. Even if you do know most of the attendants, this is a good practice, so everyone listening has a frame of reference.
- Meaningful anecdote. Share some sweet history by explaining to the room how you know the bride and/or groom. Always include both the bride and groom in your speech, no matter whose side of the wedding party you are part of. Share a brief story of how you met and how you came to know the happy couple in their relationship.
- Comic relief. It is perfectly appropriate to be funny and include humour in your speech, but not at the expense of the bride or groom on their special day. Keep it lighthearted and universal when it comes to humour in your wedding toasts.
- Turning point. Share a moment when the couple knew they were meant to last forever, or a moment when you saw in your friend that he or she had found “the one.”
- Conclusion. Wrap it up nicely. Always end the speech with a kind wish or blessing for the couple, and raise a toast in their honour.
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Tips for Wedding Toast Success
Don’t miss these tips for writing and giving a great wedding toast:
- Be brief, but not too brief. Your speech should last less than 5 minutes and should be sure to hold the attention of the audience.
- Practice your speech. Spend time rehearsing, it’s better to speak from the heart than to read off a set of index cards. Practice enough to appear natural but not perfectly polished.
- Be sure to smile. You’re celebrating two people who obviously mean a great deal to you, so do your best to keep a pleasant look on your face the entire time.
- Keep it positive. Share stories or memories of the couple together that are happy and positive. This is a joyous occasion, so leave any sad and heart-wrenching details for another time.
- Use only good-hearted humour. Don’t share any truly embarrassing stories about either individual getting married. If it’s something they wouldn’t want grandma to hear, it’s safe to assume the story is off-limits.
- Stay away from inside jokes. If a story you’d like to include falls into “you had to be there” territory, it’s best to leave it out of your toast so as not to alienate the other guests.
- Stay true to who you are. Don’t go for an overly humorous toast if you’re more of a sentimental type, and don’t go for tears if you’re more of a funny guy. Be natural and stay true to who you are and to your relationship with the couple.
- Use meaningful quotes. Consider quoting a meaningful line from a movie, poem or book in your toast to hit the heartstrings of the fellow wedding guests.