It's cliche, but you definitely want to keep your speech short and sweet. While the parents of the happy couple are allowed to speak a little longer than the rest of the guests (because lets be fair, they've got 20 + years of life and parenthood to reflect on), people like the best man and maid of honour should aim to speak for between 2-4 minutes, 5 minutes at the absolute maximum. The best wedding toasts ever are the ones that captivate the audience. If you speak any longer than 5 minutes, everyone will start to tune out and their attention will start to wander.
Famous Wedding Toasts
You can learn a lot about what to do and what to absolutely avoid at all costs in your wedding toast from popular culture. The following fictional wedding toast examples are either famous or infamous, so if you haven't seen them already, now is the time to take notes.
What NOT To Do
1. Michael Scott's Toast in 'The Office'
Let this be a warning to you - if you plan on using quotes or definitions, make sure you get them right!
2. 'The Wedding Singer'
If you know you'll be asked to speak, save the champagne until after you're done with the mic. There is nothing more embarrassing, for the person speaking and those listening, than an intoxicated over-share.
3. The Hangover 2
If you've been asked to speak at your friend's wedding, now is not the time to discuss previous marriages, previous relationships or any inappropriate tales of drunken adventures you've had together. You want people to be glad you got up to speak, not cringing and regretting ever inviting you!
4. Gavin & Stacey
It's going to be an emotional day, and it's ok to shed a tear or two. But if you know there's a chance you'll be completely overcome, you need to work out how you'll go about avoiding this, otherwise you'll end up like Smithy here!
What TO Do
1. Four Weddings And A Funeral
It's a tall order for anyone to try and speak as well as Hugh Grant, but his character's speech in Four Weddings And A Funeral is a fine example of keeping it lighthearted and simple, with the overarching message being about the love the couple share.
2. My Best Friend's Wedding
Julia Roberts makes a heartfelt speech, keeps it short, and seamlessly transitions into getting the newlyweds to share their first wedding dance. If you look at her speech in isolation, and ignore all her prior ideas about breaking the wedding up, this is a brilliant example of a successful toast.
3. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Toula's father Gus makes a beautiful analogy in his speech at his daughter's wedding. An example for all the Dads out there stressing about their speech!
How To Do A Wedding Toast
Now you've studied some famous examples, it's time to put pen to paper and start writing your own wedding toast! Sometimes the hardest part of a task is just working up the courage to begin - but don't worry, that's what we're here for! We have you covered every step of the way.
1. Don't Leave It Until The Last Minute
We hate to sound like your high school English teacher, but do not leave this speech to the last minute. We don't care if you have the luck of the Irish and tend to land on your feet, you owe it to those in attendance to put some effort into what you're going to say. The chances are, you've been asked to speak because the couple truly believe you will do a good job of it. If you're the best man or maid of honour, you will have months to prepare what you're going to say for the 2-4 minutes you need to say it in. So there is no excuse for writing something sub-standard on the back of a serviette on your way to the reception.
2. Briefly Introduce Yourself
If you're stuck for how to start your speech, just begin with 1-2 sentences introducing yourself and explaining your relationship to the couple. Unless it's a very intimate affair the chances are that you won't know everybody, so when you take the mic there will probably be at least one person thinking to themselves "Who's this about to speak?". Just start with something simple like "Hello everybody, my name's Jake and I'm David's best man. We've known each since we were 5 and were starting at the same primary school."
3. Pick One Memorable Story
Don't get up and tell a bunch of 'in-jokes' that only the bride or groom will understand. It may be meaningful to you two, but it effectively isolates everyone else who doesn't get the reference. How are other guests meant to enjoy your speech if they weren't on your schoolies trip to the Gold Coast back in 2010? Instead, pick one story you have about the bride or groom, or even one story that's about them and their relationship, and tell it in a succinct way. It can be funny or slightly embarrassing, but remember to keep it family friendly.
4. What Does This Story Say About Them?
Once you've told your short story, take a step backward and explain what this story says about the happy couple. This is the part of your wedding toast where you encourage the audience to reflect on this momentous occasion and how perfect these people are as a couple. It doesn't matter if the story is incredibly romantic or is merely a snapshot of everyday life. The point of including it is that it symbolises the love they have for each other.
5. To Joke, Or Not to Joke?
Some people have The Gift of the Gab and are naturally funny. Other people aren't and that's not a short coming or a failure, that's just how it is. If you're the one in the group that always has everyone in stitches, by all means put a few 'funnies' into your speech. If you're not a comedian, don't feel like you have to become one for one night and one night only. Just keep it heartfelt instead, because you don't want to feel awkward if your attempt at a joke falls flat. Let's face it, you'll be nervous enough as it is! Another hot tip is don't talk up your speech to those who will be in attendance. Better to say nothing about what you plan to do and blow everyone away, rather than set the expectations too high.
6. Practice Your Speech
You may think you've written an award winning toast, but make sure you practice it before the big day. Sometimes your words can read well on paper but sound clunky or confusing when read aloud. You should expect to write several drafts before you arrive at the final product, and if you can get up on the day with just a few dot points on paper then bonus points to you. Rope some friends and family into listening to your practice runs so that they can give you pointers.
7. How To End Your Toast
People often get so relieved that their speech is drawing to a close that sometimes they sign off and forget to even toast the newlyweds - which is the entire point of a wedding toast! The end of your speech should consist of you getting the guests to raise a glass and cheers the happy couple. If the vibe is a religious one, you can signal to your audience that your toast is coming to an end by using a biblical quote, or you can ask everyone present to charge their glasses in preparation.
Practice will make anything perfect, so get comfortable with what you plan to say and keep it within the 2-4 minute mark, and everyone present will be glad you were assigned a wedding toast!