Giving toasts is a must when weddings are concerned. As friends and family gather to celebrate the couple, it's appropriate and honoring to recount memories while wishing them well in their future together. However, giving a toast can be intimidating at best. What do you say, how long do you speak, and should you be the one offering the toast? We consulted with etiquette expert Liz Bryant, president and founder of Liz Bryant Business Etiquette in Richmond, Virginia, who shared the 13 essential rules for wedding toasts.
8 Essential Toasting Rules for the Speech Giver
Brevity is of the essence.
Whether it's due to the giver being nervous or having an exuberant personality, some toasts drone on, which isn't ideal. The good news-especially for those who are a bit shy-is that shorter toasts are more impactful and appropriate. "A perfect toast, in most cases, may be the simplest toast. The Protocol School of Washington recommends those giving toasts go by the 'Three B's' which are Begin, Be Brief, and Be Seated," says Bryant. "That said, conventional wisdom recommends one to two minutes."
Use humor sparingly.
"People giving toasts at weddings should remember that it is a time of celebration, and while it should be fun, it should not, under any circumstances, devolve into a comedy routine," states Bryant. Wedding guests often bear witness to overdone, awkward speeches filled with innuendo and inside jokes that fall flat. "It is never appropriate for a toast to be a roast. Stick with fond memories, compliments, and heartfelt sentiments," she advises. "An inappropriate toast can leave you looking the fool and, worse yet, damage your friendship with the bride and groom."
Honor the recipient of the toast.
The purpose of giving a toast is to honor the couple and wish them well in their new life together. "It will be personalized, heartfelt, and memorable to the honoree(s)," offers Bryant. "The one giving the toast will speak clearly, briefly, and with appropriate emotion." Bryant also says that the result of a meaningful toast is that "it will be delivered with love and appreciated by all who hear it."
Keep nerves at bay.
Ok, breathe. You've been asked to give a toast, or as the best man, you know it's inevitable. It's natural to be a little nervous when all eyes are on you. "If you are nervous about giving a toast, don't overthink it, and keep it simple," suggests Bryant. "For example, when toasting the brides at a wedding, you might say, 'To Ellen and Amanda. Friends I hold close in my heart. May your life together always be filled with great love, frequent laughter, and wild adventure.'" Also, remember that you are surrounded by people that cherish the couple just as much as you do.
Prepare and practice ahead of time.
"You definitely want to think ahead of time about what you are going to say in your toast," says Bryant. "But I don't recommend writing it down, nor should you try to memorize it word for word. You are far better off practicing a few times to get comfortable with the overall sentiment. That way when you are delivering the toast, it will come off as more natural and heartfelt." Making a list of bullet points and naturally speaking to each of those is your best bet. When in doubt, record your speech so that you can review and tweak it before giving it live.
Know how to start your toast correctly.
"The proper way to offer a toast is to stand and raise your glass. No clinking to get attention. The room will acknowledge you without that," advises Bryant about gaining the guests' attention. "Begin by saying, 'I would like to propose a toast.' Lower your glass, look the honorees in the eye, and say, 'To the grooms, George and Pierre,'" she suggests. "Then give your toast."
End your wedding toast perfectly.
The ideal way to end your toast is by toasting, of course. Raise a glass and celebrate the couple with a drink. "Immediately upon finishing the delivery, look back at the audience, raise your glass, look again to the honorees, take a sip of your beverage (hopefully it's champagne, but any beverage is fine), and then be seated," says Bryant.
When in doubt, follow a good example.
Suppose you're stumped on how to write a concise, meaningful speech. Search for a good example. Don't copy it word for word, but use it as a springboard for your thoughts. Bryant has advice on a proper toast.
"Something to the effect of, 'I would like to propose a toast to the bride and groom. Julia and Horace, I remember when the three of us met in our senior poli-sci seminar, now five years ago. I knew we'd always be close and had a feeling you two would end up together. I'm glad that hunch was right. May you always be as happy as we all are for you today.'" It's ok to pack a few sentiments into a short toast. Realizing this will do wonders when you start to put your thoughts on paper.
5 Wedding Toast Etiquette Considerations for the Couple
Some couples revel in the spotlight, and others shy away from it. Even more likely-if opposites truly attract-is the fact that one partner loves attention and the other loathes it. So to feel honored, instead of awkward, Bryant has sage advice for the guests of honor.
Listen, but don't raise your glass.
It's natural to wonder what to do while being toasted. Listen intently, look at the giver, and laugh or shed a tear if appropriate. But never, ever toast yourself. "Note that if you are the honoree, you should not raise your glass or drink," affirms Bryant. "One does not toast themselves. It's akin to giving yourself a compliment."
Be familiar with toasting.
Of course, your wedding planner or emcee will know the ins and outs of your reception timeline. However, knowing what to expect-and when-can help alleviate any nervousness. "The wedding toast is traditionally offered at the beginning of the reception. Champagne or a non-alcoholic sparkling beverage is poured as soon as the wedding party and guests are seated-or in the case of a standing reception, as soon as the bride and groom have arrived and been introduced."
Offer the toasting duty to your best man.
Depending on the attendants in your wedding party, ask the best man-or best woman-to offer the first toast during your wedding reception. "It is customary for the best man to give the first toast," suggests Bryant. "A memorable toast by the best man might include a brief fond memory involving the bride and groom, followed by the actual toast. "
Give the person toasting a time limit.
"We have all been at events where someone is giving a toast, and it seems to go on and on. But cutting it off can be tricky," recognizes Bryant. "This is where it can be helpful to have a conversation in advance with anyone designated to give a toast at the wedding dinner, letting them know of the time parameters. This will likely also be very much appreciated by those preparing the toasts as they will know what expectation to meet." Avoiding the awkwardness of someone going on too long by having clear parameters.
Toasting is appropriate at many wedding-centric events.
Although the best man is in the spotlight during the wedding reception as the designated toast giver, others can give toasts at the reception or during other events, such as the rehearsal dinner, anniversary reception, engagement party, or post-wedding brunch. "Toasts are a delightful element of many types of celebrations, though we most often think of them associated with weddings," states Bryant.
Concerning toasts, remember that it's all about honoring the newlyweds. No matter your comfort level, preparing and giving a heartfelt speech is a tribute to your role in the couple's lives. In addition, a loving toast is a fabulous way to start the reception by centering the attention on the newlyweds and offering best wishes for what's to come.