How To Write A Wedding Toast
The wedding I attended this past weekend was emotional for all the normal reasons — love, friendship, mild jet lag — but it’s possible I was just overwhelmed with feelings for every waking moment of that day. I woke up in an unfamiliar bed much too early and immediately got to work reading speeches from the bridal party to offer some assistance and advice. I had offered to help because this is literally the only arena where writing and editing have a practical usage. Jk!!! (So serious).
So I’m in bed and I’m blasting CRJ and it’s 9am Calgary time and I’ve already been awake for four hours and I am weeping as I read these speeches, remembering these inside jokes and how much everyone has grown and changed since we all met so many years ago!!!! That’s how you know you’ve written a good speech: does it cause a total emotional breakdown within yourself? Great, grab a glass of champagne and get toasting. I started my tears early and just never stopped.
I did notice that I gave both members of the wedding party the same advice, so I thought perhaps it would be advice that other wedding-speech-writers might like as well! I mean, wedding season is basically over, but despite all the evidence people continue to get married all the time, so chances are you’ll need to give a wedding toast sometime in the future.
1. It’s a speech: it should sound good.
Normally, when I’m editing something, my goal is cleanliness: you know, grammar, spelling, etc. This isn’t really the same when you’re writing a speech. There are some grammatical accuracies that don’t lend themselves well to talking. It’s also not going to sound cute if you’re forcing yourself to say a “whom” when you would literally never say “whom” in your entire life, you know what I mean? Write the speech with the checkpoints you have to hit, but say it the way you talk normally. Don’t obsess over “likes” and “you know’s” if that’s how you really speak. Just…talk! Like, ha ha, we’re all here having a great time, let me tell you a story, nbd.
However!! Sound is an important element to keep in mind here. I personally love some good alliteration, or a well-timed pause, or something similar. The people in the room aren’t going to read this speech. They’re going to hear it. So, consider what will make the speech sound best and don’t obsess over the writing too much.
2. Don’t thank people too early.
I think the impulse is to get those necessary thanks out of the way as soon as possible so that people know you’re grateful, but it slows down the pace of the speech if you throw it out too early. Like, it’s a wedding, people are sitting still and sipping from a seemingly endless supply of champagne; they’re not going anywhere!! They’ll wait!! At the wedding this past weekend, the mother of the groom unfolded four printed pages and read every single one of them as her speech. And we listened to every word. And cried a lot. I mean, don’t make it that long, but you can trust that people’s attention will hold while you get the cute stuff out of the way.
The ideal structure for a wedding speech is, I think:
Cute intro to who you are
Cute story about how you know either of the people getting married
Sweet thing about ~love~
Sweet thing about your relationship with person getting married
Thanks to the families etc.
Call back to original cute story with some kind of satisfying joke or sweet message
3. Balance out your cute anecdotes between the two people getting married.
I told both members of the wedding party they needed to add more anecdotes about the groom; even if they knew him predominantly through their relationship with the bride, he needed to be acknowledged!! They responded by saying all their groom-related stories were “NSFW.”
Even if you don’t have any family-friendly anecdotes, it’s just nice to acknowledge both people getting married as best you can, even if that is to say, “Hi, I don’t really know you, but I know your new spouse, and AS SUCH I feel I can say…” Mostly this is for the people at the wedding who are the reverse you’s: you might only really know one spouse and they might really only know the other! Also, it’s totally acceptable to be like “I’d love to tell you this story about _____ but it’s really not family-friendly” because that is a good joke that families love. “Ha ha those wacky kids with their drugs and sex and iPhones amiright!!!! Ah, I was young too once,” they’ll think. And then they’ll laugh and laugh and laugh and be like “Ah, great speech.”
4. Wrap it up with a tidy little bow.
I fucking love a good callback. Obviously the speech ends with you asking people to toast, but the real ending should be something that ties up any ideas or themes you’ve introduced at the beginning of the speech; like, go back to the original story and share some cute detail you left out, or tie the original story to something about how great ~married love~ is. Don’t introduce a new idea or joke here. It’s too late!! This is an arena where repetition will really pay off in terms of listener satisfaction; they’ll be like, “ah, I remember that joke from the beginning! I’ve been here the whole time! This is great, pass me more wine.” The only exception to this rule is if the couple have a cute dog, you can make a new joke or introduce a new story if it’s dog-related. People fucking love dogs.
And that’s all my wedding speech advice. Mazel Tov.