I love weddings. I’ve had the chance to have a wedding (thanks Kari). I’ve officiated several weddings, and been in a few more. I also do public speaking every week.
Having to write a speech can be scary and a major source of stress for people who are less comfortable in front of an audience.
Listen to me. You can give a great wedding speech. You have it in you.
1. Do not make the toast about yourself!
It’s not about you. People are not at the wedding for you. They’re there for the bride and groom. Make it about them.
Sure it’s appropriate to say how you know the bride and groom. It can be appropriate to share a story about you and the bride or groom or a story that involves you and the bride and groom.
But don’t have the toast revolve around you.
2. Keep it short
Have you ever seen a commercial that was so poignant it moved you in your soul? You can say something meaningful in a short time.
The Gettysburg Address was 272 words. That’s a 2-3 minute speech.
If your wedding toasts goes past four minutes, that’s too long.
Also to show what can be accomplished in a short period of time:
3. Humor is optional
Wedding toasts can be funny. But don’t feel pressure to make it funny.
Good rule of thumb: are you funny?
I’m not asking if you proclaim yourself to be funny. Do other people tell you you’re funny and laugh at things you say? If so, sure use humor if you want to. If not, don’t try to make a wedding toast the opportunity to do something you’re already bad at.
4. Do not say any of the following
“I”m not a professional speaker.” No one cares. I’ve seen people who have plenty of public speaking experience give terrible speeches. And I’ve seen people who have very little public speaking experience get up there, speak from the heart, and give awesome speeches. You don’t have to be a pro to speak well.
Similarly, if you make a mistake, don’t apologize, don’t say “oops,” keep going. People won’t remember it if you keep moving forward with the speech.
If you’re the best man, and you don’t know the bride very well or if you’re the maid of honor and you don’t know the groom very well, don’t say “I don’t really know (their name)…”
Don’t mention an ex of the bride or the groom in the speech. That person is from their old life. Your friend is going forward with someone else (who’s better).
5. Awkward and embarrassing stories about the bride and groom
No one looks back fondly at wedding toasts that were trying to embarrass the bride and groom. People do look back fondly at the ones that support the couple and where it is evident that the toast master has a lot of love for both the bride and groom.
6. DO NOT make jokes about their love for each other, commitment to each other, references to past relationships, or any suggestion whatsoever that the relationship might not last.
I once went to a wedding and the best man said “I wrote a great toast…but I plan to give it at his next wedding.”
That’s not funny.
It’s poor form. (Also that person did have a lot of public speaking experience and should have known better).
It dishonors the bride, the groom, and their marriage. It’s not the time or the place. In fact, it’s the worst time and place to joke about the status of their relationship or the sincerity of their love.
And while we’re at it:
7. Do not use the toast as a soap box to complain about marriage
Don’t say things that undermine or undervalue the union of marriage.
Maybe you’re cynical about love or marriage. Maybe you’re divorced. Whatever the case, if you’re not a huge fan of the commitment of marriage, that is not the time or place to share your views.
8. Public speaking tips
Don’t wing it. The week of the wedding, give some thought to your relationship with the bride and groom, practice a few times. If you’re drinking alcohol at the wedding, make sure you’re able to give a clear speech. Speak slowly. Breathe.
If you follow the rest of what I’ve said, you’re going to be fine. If you give a quick, sincere speech that focuses on the bride and groom, that shows a lot of love, you’re going to give a great speech.
Questions? Feel free to ask in the comments.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think, and don’t forget to subscribe!
Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.