How to Deliver an Unforgettable Toast
— By Felicity Newburry
11 July 2016
For some of us, writing a speech is of as little concern as writing a shopping list or instructions on how to boil a kettle. But for the rest of us – writing a speech, particularly a somewhat intimate one, is completely nerve wracking! We’re all faced with the situation of being asked to speak at a loved one’s wedding, or at least a situation similar to this at some point in our lives. It often leaves us feeling enormously honoured while simultaneously frozen in a total mind blank, wondering where on earth we would even start! But have no fear - the easiest way to approach this task isto read a list of the very simple “do’s and dont's” when it comes to writing a speech for a special occasion. So, boil that kettle, grab yourself a seat and read on!
DO be yourself...
Don’t try to speak as though you are anyone but yourself. You are valued as you are; it is why you’ve been asked to speak! Don’t feel as though you need to sound smarter, more descriptive or anything else of the likes. Talk, and present yourself in a way that reflects the real you. You can’t go wrong.
But DON’T make it all about you.
While we definitely don’t recommend you spend the whole five minutes talking about all of your own personal achievements and what you had for breakfast, what we also mean by this is that you don’t over power your speech with you. You should absolutely be yourself, but if there are certain things about your manner that might detract from the speech (for example, you may be quite comfortable with curse words), then consider toning this down. Particularly in the case of swearing, it can be offensive to older guests or parents with young children and the last thing you want is to have people feeling uncomfortable, rather than swiping the odd happy tear!
Image by Babb Photography
DO talk about the past...
Wedding speeches call for funny and endearing stories from the past and you should definitely revisit one or two of these. Perhaps you could talk about the moment you first met your friend’s now spouse, or perhaps there is a sweet story from your childhood. Anything that will have guests saying “Awww!” or laughing with the couple (not at them!) will be wonderful.
But DON’T talk about ex-anythings!
We say “ex-anythings” because this doesn’t just include ex partners, but ex friends, ex employers, ex living situations, even ex stepparents. Anything “ex” tends to have a negative connotation and even if you think it’s a funny story, it is pretty unlikely that your friend who’s just getting married will want to be revisiting a tale of one of their exes on their big day. Avoid stories from the past that might have even the slightest shadow of a bad time because you may unwittingly upset someone which is the last thing you want your speech to achieve!
Image by Eneka Stewart Photography
DO be real...
By all means, chuck some real talk in there! Talk about future milestones such as travelling overseas, buying a house, having kids, being grandparents and do it all with a positive undertone. The day you deliver your speech is a day widely believed to be the beginning of the newlywed’s lives together. Such an occasion calls for real talk of the future! Maybe if you’ve been married, you could offer some funny, light hearted or quirky advice. Perhaps you have known one of the newlyweds long enough to recall what they wanted to do when they grew up and you could really sweetly tie this into the speech.
But DON’T be negative.
Whatever you do, when you’re delivering the real talk part of the speech, do not be negative! If you’re offering advice you learned from a previous marriage, make sure you deliver this in the most light hearted, kind and positive way possible! The couple doesn’t want to hear second-hand lessons from a friend of theirs who went through a terrible divorce, however harsh that may sound. Also, don’t incorporate any reminders not to repeat mistakes they’ve made. You may think this wouldn’t happen but it does and it is incredibly awkward for all involved. If you’re not sure your future advice will come across in a really lovely way without the slightest hint of negativity despite your best intentions, don’t put it in your speech.
Image by Dinela Photography
DO practice before hand...
No doubt you’ll be nervous, it’s tough getting up in front of a group of people and sharing something you’ve written personally for people you love! You should definitely practice your speech, as this is a good way to start easing yourself into the idea of speaking in front of so many people you know. An idea is to say your speech to your self a few times in full-length mirror (this will show you how you will look) and to a few friends or family members who are also very close with the couple. As a bonus, their reactions will help you see if there is anything you need to change.
But DON’T over-run your speech.
While it’s good to practice, don’t over do it. Don’t worry about things such as “will I cry?” “Will I choke up?” “Will I forget my words?” All these displays of emotion are displays of love and they will not make you look bad at all! If anything, you may have people getting choked up with you! In speeches like these it is better to sound natural than to sound rehearsed. So, sure – run it a few times but take your speech up with you and just let it come naturally.
Image by Jamie Reihnhart Photography
If you’re still feeling a little lost, then here is a very basic template you can base your speech on. Just keep in mind the entire do’s and don’ts and you’ll do great!
Basic Speech Template
- Introduction – Introduce yourself and how you know the couple. This could be a little story itself.
- Part 1 – Share with the gathering what you’ve observed about the couple. What are some funny little quirks they have? How have they grown since being together?
- Part 2 – Share with the gathering a wonderful story about the moment the couple realized they were meant to be, or when you realized the couple were meant to be.
- Conclusion – Wish them both all the love and happiness in the world