Hello Wedding Lovers, its Ryan again - aka The Husband. (I love that I get to say that!)
Today, I want to share some thoughts on the notoriously nerve-racking toast. If you haven't given one before I'm willing to bet some of you have either had the thought
"Oh man, I hope I never have to give a toast"
"I wish I was the one making the toast right now."
If you're anything like me, maybe you've even thought about what you would say, how you would say it, and how it would make the specific person you are toasting feel if you ever had the chance to give the toast. Or maybe you've even wished you could be as funny or sentimental as the speaker. It's with this mentality that I write the following post because I believe anyone has the ability to give a toast that the toastee and the audience will always remember.
Let me first begin by stating that there are many reasons I'm not qualified to lend my expertise in this area. First of all, I've never given a toast in a wedding. Second of all, I'm not a wedding planner, or expert at all for that matter.
Both these reasons are typically strong enough to keep someone from finishing this post, but let me make a case for why I think I may have some ideas of value to offer to you.
* I have a degree in Speech Communications. I studied the history and theory of communication in many of my college classes and more importantly, spent many hours in classes focused solely on public speaking.
* I have attended many weddings throughout my life and heard both memorable and forgettable toasts. My guess is that if you follow this blog and have a passion for weddings, this is something we definitely share in common. And if you ever have the privilege to stand in front of someone and honor them with a toast, it's both the great toasts and terrible toasts that you'll think about right?
Well here are a few tips to help you prepare a meaningful toast that will have all the event guests coming up to congratulate you.
1) Respect the Toast - Many strong men and women have crumbled and wilted under the pressure of toasting a special someone. Public speaking in general is a very daunting task known as humanity's biggest fear. Think about how much more intimidating a meaningful toast is! That being said, don't treat the toast as a joke. You've been asked to share your thoughts about someone for a reason. It is a sign of respect to be chosen to toast someone, treat such an honor respectfully. This is true for open-mic toasts as well, it should never be taken lightly. Scared? Don't worry, it will get better.
2) Know Yourself - What makes you you? Are you the funny one? The sentimental one? More importantly, who does the person you are toasting know you to be? Be that person. It's so cliche but don't try and be someone you are not. A toast can go from bad to worse in a matter of moments as soon as the sentimental one tries to give their whole speech as the funny one. That being said, it's great to incorporate elements of other personality types into your speech, but don't stress out about having to get all the laughs in the room if you're the sentimental type.
3) Know Who You are Toasting - What would the toastee appreciate hearing? Why do you think they specifically chose YOU to give the toast? What is meaningful for them? Do they want to laugh or cry?
4) Know Your Message - Winging it = never a good option. This is especially true after a long night of drinking. This also doesn't mean you have to memorize what you are sharing. Take time to think about what you want to share. Do you want to share a story about the toastee? Or do you want to share a personality characteristic you appreciate most in the person you are toasting?
*The absolute very best toasts incorporate a personality characteristic into the end of a story.
**The very best toasters make sure that whatever they are sharing is full of meaning. Don't share a story just to share it, make sure it has meaning.
***Make sure you know how you want to begin and end. The times I've been most nervous giving speeches are when I don't know how I want to end what I'm sharing. When your toast doesn't have meaning, it won't have a beginning and you'll probably start by rambling for a while. Guess what? You've lost your audience. It also won't have an end and you'll be left saying "OK, well that's all I have I guess" which segue's perfectly into the next point
5) Be short, be simple, be succinct - This should give you great peace if you are worried about giving a toast! Chances are, you aren't the only one given a toast. Don't be a mic-hog. Even if you have the most meaningful memorable story, there's a specific point in time when the audience will simply tune out. Please, please, please for the sake of audiences all around the world, do not flirt with that point in time!
Be short - be cognizant of others who also have the privilege of sharing and the audience's attention span.
Be simple - detailed stories lead to long-run on toasts. Ask yourself: does this story or thought I want to share communicate in the shortest amount of time the message I am wanting to convey? Maybe there is another story that communicates your message in a quicker, more effective (and thus) more meaningful way. Be succinct - again, know your beginning and your end. Know your message, and communicate it effectively. Rambling and rabbit trails take away from the message which takes away from how powerful and impactful your toast will be!
However, will that being said, don't cheat this one and make it too short. If it's going to leave a lasting impression on both the toastee(s) and the audience, it has to have some meat to it.
6) Practice - It doesn't have to be for long or many times over, but this will help with knowing your message and being short, simple, and succinct. Try it in front of a mirror! Reading it in your head counts, but it's not nearly as helpful and worthwhile as reading it outloud
7) Breath - It seems silly but many people forget to do this while speaking. It's also not the end of the world if you mess up your words!
Okay friends, that's all I have for now, I'm sure I'm missing something so if I think of anything else, I'll sneak on here and write a part II. I am very interested in hearing your thoughts in all of this. For those of you who have given toasts, do you have any advice? For those of you who are like me and have heard both great and poor toasts, do you have any advice?