So you've been asked to prepare a toast for a loved one's wedding or a special celebration. Great! What an honor :) Here are 10 tips to get you started:
1) This is a toast, not a roast, and not a speech. The main purpose is to honor the bride & groom (or guest of honor, in the case of a birthday or other occasion) and raise a glass with all of the other guests to health, happiness, joy and love for many years to come. Remember the purpose as you write and prepare.
2) Ask somebody to record your toast if there is not a videographer present. This way, the couple can watch/listen to it again another time and relive it at their leisure.
3) Keep it short and sweet. Your toast should not exceed 3 minutes. It should be fairly short and to the point, so that you don't lose your audience. It should be full of goodness and well wishes, but condensed into a manageable amount of time.
4) Keep it clean. Would you practice your toast in front of the bride & groom's grandparents? How about your own? If the answer is no, you should rethink it. This is NOT the time to rehash old, risque memories, or to bring up ANYTHING that happened at a bachelor or bachelorette party, no matter how appropriate you think it is. There's a time and place for those stories, and the wedding is not it.
Thinking about sharing a story that will embarrass the guest(s) of honor? Consider going with something a little bit more complimentary. There is a fun, acceptable way to go the embarrassing route, but it's only appropriate if you're the little sister/brother getting 'revenge' and only to a certain degree. Otherwise, you should avoid it.
A wedding is a classy, elegant affair, and you are one of the first non-clergy people to get up and speak during the day. Set the tone with something clean, classy, classic and positive. No matter how dirty or personal you could get, choose the higher road and be nice.
Also, if you have any past or present grudges and issues with the bride & groom, leave them at home. This is NOT the time to bring them up, or to throw out a nickname that others can use against them. You may think this will be funny, but I promise it will not be well received.
5) Speak clearly- There's nothing worse than a mumbling speaker, especially when he or she laughs at a joke that nobody even heard. Speak clearly, slowly and confidently. If needed, practice in front of a mirror, to a camera, or to another person before the big day arrives. Ask for feedback and adjust as needed.
6) Leave inside jokes out. Not the time or place!
7) It's presented by you, but it's not about you. Stay focused on the bride & groom as much as possible. You've been asked to toast to them, so again, keep your purpose in mind.
8) Make it memorable. Tell a story, share a memory, tell how this moment makes you feel, and if you're so inclined, make it fun! I've seen people pull off great toasts involving music, dance, poetry, and even props. I'll never forget a wedding I worked last year where the bride & groom's last name was Ball. The best man brought up a bag full of different balls, and incorporated each into his toast. It was hilarious. Use a quote, an excerpt from a favorite movie or book, or fitting words of wisdom you've acquired.
9) Write some notes. If you need help remembering what you want to say, write it down. Use note cards or paper, but try to stay away from the iPad or iPhone if you can. Also, try to look up as much as possible, and especially to make eye contact with the guest(s) of honor.
10) Don't forget to finish it off by raising a glass and toasting the happy couple.
Good luck!! Feel free to share any other tips in the comments below.