How to Give a Great Wedding Toast

(Author’s Note: I recently had a friend call me and ask for help with a toast, for an in-person wedding later this spring. He was really nervous about it because… its a wedding toast. Many people get nervous about speaking at weddings. But in addition, his nerves seemed to be coming from the fact that none of us have been to any in-person events in a while. So, on top of the normal wedding toast anxiety, he was feeling all sorts of added “stuff.” Our conversation made me recall the post below, which I wrote a long time ago, and have reshared once or twice since. If you plan on attending any weddings any time soon, this post is for you. And even if you don’t plan on attending any, the ability to give a great toast should always be a tool in your toolbox. Enjoy! — Dean)

Have you ever been to a wedding or engagement party or celebratory event of some kind, and the moment the toast begins, you cringe and think “oh my god, this is going to be a train wreck”? I have, many times in fact. Given my line of work, I’m probably not the easiest audience to impress when it comes to giving toasts. But I know I’m not alone, because there are two dominant topics of conversation at most weddings: how beautiful the bride looks and the toast, good or bad.

Now, once you are done thinking about how many bad toasts you’ve heard, ask yourself this: do people cringe when they listen to you give a toast? Hmmm… harder question.

So let’s discuss this a bit. Giving a great toast just isn’t that hard, if we keep it super simple. Here are three rules for giving great toasts:

1. Keep it short. And no matter how short you think it is, it is probably longer than it needs to be. If you are worried about remembering everything, and you resort to writing out your speech, we are are already careening towards our train wreck. It’s a TOAST. It’s not a speech. Pick one theme, or a couple of key words, write them down on an index card if you need to, and that’s it! No speeches.

2. Don’t talk about yourself. Don’t talk about how honored you are to be asked to speak. That’s a backhanded way of saying “I’m more important than you, because, look, they asked me to speak tonight!” Try to avoid using the word “I” too much. Make it all about the person or couple you are toasting.

3. Don’t build it around inside jokes that only a few people will get. It’s annoying to most of the room, it is probably embarrassing to the celebrated guest, and if most people don’t get it, then they don’t get your toast, which means there is ZERO point in you being up there in the first place. The point of speaking is to deliver a message and be understood. So don’t speak in code about things most won’t get. Speak to the entire audience, and build your toast around things that will make sense to the whole room.

That’s it for now. We’ll dive a little more deeply into this topic in the attached podcast.

Good luck, and have a great day!

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.