Ahhh, the wedding toast….it’s what I consider the enigma of the wedding reception. Sometimes funny, sometimes emotional, sometimes dull, or downright disastrous. Having witnessed countless of the good, the bad, and the ugly, I just wanted to pass on a few dos and donts.
Let’s first look at the purpose of this ritual. According to history (but seemingly folklore), toasting began as a gesture of good faith by the host to the guests that they are not going to be poisoned with spiked wine. The host would be the first one to have a drink of wine and it seems that if he remained standing, the guests would then happily follow (very strange and I’m glad our society has significantly evolved). As legend has it, the term toasting refers to the process of floating a piece of toast in the wine goblet in order to reduce the acidity of the wine. Given that we aren’t looking to poison our guests, or drink improperly fermented wine, the toast should simply be an occasion to say our thank-yous and offer well wishes.
Now, given that I’m kind of a non-conformist to the traditional wedding laws, I am not going to preach the etiquette of the wedding toast. I do agree that an expression of thanks should be given to both sets of parents, the wedding party, and even the couples to each other. Usually, the best man and/or the maid of honour will extend well wishes to the newlyweds, but it’s also nice to open up the floor for others, but not create a mosh-pit of speeches. So, now that we have the basic parameters, here’s a few key pointers that might help.
Exercise caution when using humour. It’s great to mix a few laughs, but if comedy is not your stick, you might be best to steer clear. People feel compelled to add humour, but let’s face it – there’s nothing worse than having to force out a few gratuitous laughs at a failed attempt at comedy. And, please (I am actually begging) don’t ever use the horrible, yet ever popular, joke about the bride who is going to receive 3 rings for her wedding – the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffer-ring!
It’s a toast not a roast! I’ve seen this waaaay too often – people taking the giant leap over the line of appropriate content vs stories that might raise a few eyebrows even in a locker room or construction site. The chronicles of drunken exploits, incarcerations, or previous sexual conquests should not be shared. A particular speech comes to mind (and the victim will remain nameless) that managed to incorporate all 3 no-nos. The wannabe roast master described the groom as “someone who likes to party, but if he parties too hard you better watch out – he’s been arrested for a few good brawls…”. He added that the groom’s party days also involved countless relationships that would not last longer than 1 night or 1 hour. How impressed do you think the bride or the parents were?? I don’t imagine he’ll be replacing Jimmy Kimmel any time soon…
Be prepared. Have a good idea about what you want to say and rehearse it a few times. I’m not suggesting memorizing or reading a script, but a few key points that you want to deliver should be fresh in your mind, or at least jotted down. People who decide to wing-it often ramble on, and on, which quickly loses the guests’ attention. Aim to keep the toast around 3-4 mins – at most!
Feeling a wee wobbly in the knees?? My suggestion to those who are nervous is to begin with an introduction that tells the guests that you’re not exactly comfortable, or not in your element. People will quickly identify and empathize with you which should help put you (slightly) at ease. If you’re getting a little shaky in the knees, just inconspicuously lean against a table or a wall to give you that much needed support. The hand trembles can be easily masked by clasping them together and try holding your glass with a cupped hand facing upwards when you make your cheers.
Timing. My preference is to use the toast as a nice bridge from the ceremony to the reception. It’s a way of telling your guests that party has officially begun! Not to mention if someone is anxious or nervous about speaking, it gets this out of the way so everyone can relax and have fun.