There are few things more sweat-inducing than standing up in front of a crowded room of strangers (mind you, being one of the only things standing between them and their DINNER) and giving an equal-parts witty, sappy, and hilarious profession of love to the bride and groom.
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As daunting as it all sounds, there are ways to do it and do it well. Wedding season is upon us again and for all of those who have been tasked with the impossible, our heart goes out to you, and here is our best advice.
Don’t wing it
Unless you feel like you can. Chances are, if you clicked on this article, you’re not one of those people. Practice will make you feel calmer and more confident during the real deal, and practicing in front of a friend will let you know if your jokes will land or not.
If the party exceeds 50 people, it’s likely a few of them don’t know you. To hook your audience from the start, let them know how you know the bride and groom. And speaking of intros, don’t start with thank yous. Your opener is your first impression to the audience, so don’t waste it on a throw-away lead that’s generic and boring.
Don’t make it seem difficult
Don’t start off by saying the act of writing the speech was a huge chore or something you hadn’t prepared for. Usually, it doesn’t come across and funny, just self-centered. If you complain too much, it’ll seem like you weren’t the best pick for a speaker. Few things are more impressive than a speech that looks effortless.
Keep it brief
Even if you’ve gained your confidence on the mic or have 13 more stories from childhood stored up, keep the speech to two or three minutes. In this day and age, you only have a short window of people’s attention because they start to look down at their phones. Remember, you’re one of the many that want to wish the bride and groom the best, so don’t drag out your speech and make everybody hangrier.
Don’t stress out
Keep in mind that the couple chose you specifically to do this honor. More than likely, they’ll love the effort no matter what. Don’t feel pressure to be especially funny or bring a tear to grandma’s eye. Chances are, everybody’s already feeling the love and the champagne. And if you need a glass of champagne before getting up there, we’ll all understand.
That being said, don’t over-serve yourself
It might be hilarious to watch the drunk uncle stand up and say whatever comes to his mind, but it is much less hilarious when you are said drunk uncle. Keep it to one, maybe two drinks before you give your toast unless you want to be screaming into the mic, crying through your whole speech, telling that one story that should never be repeated, etc
Stick to one story
Time and time again, the most memorable (and successful) toasts include just one story that says something about how great, thoughtful, or funny the bride/groom is. A single story is way more powerful in keeping people’s attention and making a lasting impact than two or three stories loosely strewn together. Tell one story, and tell it well.
Skip the inside jokes
Remember that although you’re talking to a friend, you do have a large audience. At least 80% of that audience will not understand the joke and/or will feel uncomfortable assuming the context of the joke. Grandma will not appreciate that look across the room that insinuates, “yeah, you know what you did.” There’s a time and place to bring up those old, embarrassing, probably inappropriate stories—not their wedding day.
Don’t forget a spouse
Even though you probably know one of the newlyweds better than the other, you can’t leave out one of the stars of the night. Give the significant other just as much attention and representation so they don’t feel shafted by the end.
Write things down
Even if you don’t practice with notes, sometimes your mind goes blank when you have an audience. It’s better to have a quick refresher ready in your pocket than to hear crickets on the mic. If you can, write it on paper rather than in a note on your phone. You don’t want it to look like you’re checking your texts.
Address the couple
If you ever start to fumble up there, know that you’ll have two glowing faces smiling at you all the way to the end. This speech is for them first and foremost, so face them and speak as if you’re the only ones in the room. Not only do the words seem more heartfelt, but the number in your audience shrinks significantly from hundreds of people down to just two.
Don’t talk about yourself
All the wedding guests will know the newlyweds, but they more than likely they won’t know you. In passing on the wisdom you’ve learned from your own life or marriage, try not to talk about yourself too much. Yes, you have the spotlight, but this is their day, not yours.
End on a high note
If you don’t know how to tie it up with a bow, a positive note about the future and a “good luck” always do the job. If all else fails, raise your glass.
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