A while back, I talked about getting toast bombed--getting asked to give a speech at a wedding or rehearsal dinner with no warning--and what to do about it. But what about when you have plenty of warning--as in up to a year? Sometimes, the pressure of knowing you will be speaking at the reception is more than if you're asked at the last minute. No matter what your relationship with the bride or groom, and no matter what your personality, the first piece of advice I would give is to be yourself. If you're not outgoing and hate the spotlight, don't feel forced to pull together a surprise slide show or dance honoring the newlyweds. If you're the crazy one of your friends, (and I mean that in a good, not "everyone is scared of me" kind of way), then by all means, show your funny side in the toast. Beyond that, here's a couple of tips I have found worked in my own toasts, as well as the best ones I have seen.
1. Start preparing early.
While I don't personally like reading my speeches, I do love to type them out months ahead of time because I am likely going to edit them once or twice (or twenty or thirty) times. Not only does it help you to really hone down what you want to say and realize if you're going to be rambling, but it also gives you more confidence if you practice--in front of the mirror, in front of your parents, in front of your boyfriend, cat, el station. Whatever gets you to feel comfortable, do it. And then do it again. When you think you're set, do it one more time.
2. Use your Speech Comm 101 skills
Keep it short (3 minutes is safe), keep it simple, and keep the audience entertained. Of course, your main target is your friend, but you also have a room full of people who you're keeping from eating and dancing. Make it worth their while, and make them understand why you were chosen for this role. Thank the family, and then share a quick story that explains why you and the bride or groom are so close. Tell the audience a couple of traits you love about your friend, and include some that they might not be privy to, leading into the introduction of your friend's new spouse. If you can share a story about why their love is so apparent, inspiring, or just plain grounded in lasting reality, do it.
3. Keep it real
As I stated in the up front, choose a toasting style that you're comfortable with and go with it. The more true you are to yourself, the more the audience will be on your side. Some of the best speeches I have seen have literally been a a couple sentences sharing a heartfelt delivery of congratulations and genuine wishes for years full of love, simply because you could see the sincerity in the friend's voice and face. Others that come to mind involve spontaneous dances in an ode to the groom's love of 80's music, a story of the bride and groom's romance told through photographic slide show (think humorous and not the pre-dinner kind), and finally, a parody video made by the best man to the SNL song "I'm On A Boat" (the clean version, of course). As long as the speaker seemed comfortable and was honoring the bride and groom, it worked.
4. Have fun...
but try to keep the drinks to a minimum before the actual toast. In my experience, a drink or two allows me to enjoy the reception up until show time, but prevents any embarrassing moments up in front of everyone during dinner (the dance floor, on the other hand, is another story). You don't want to be crying or laughing too hard to be able to say anything, nor do you want to be the one guy I saw who called out the one-night-stand his friend had the night before he met his bride. Nice move, dude.
What are your best tips for giving a toast? What's the worst or best wedding toast you've seen? Do you know who you want to give a toast at your wedding? Do you regret who you chose to give one?