So your best friend or sibling is getting married and they’ve asked you to be their maid of honor or best man. You now have a few official duties to perform before the big day, not the least of which being writing your toast.
Of course, there are a few well-known “do’s and don’t’s” when giving a wedding toast, such as staying (relatively) sober and not dropping the F-bomb in front of grandma. But having photographed hundreds of speeches over the years, we’ve come up a few other guidelines that we think will help you tremendously in the speechwriting process.
Here they are:
“For Those of You Who Don’t Know Me…”
Literally every best man and maid of honor speech begins with these exact same words. Try coming up with something more original. Be different. Start with a quote. Or a joke. Something to grab your audience’s attention and let them know that this is going to be a damn good speech.
If nothing else, just say, “Hi, I’m ______.” It’s obvious that the introduction is for the people who don’t know you. It’s not like your friends are going to look and one another and say, “Hey, why the hell is Steve introducing himself? I mean, come on, we already know this guy. Cut to the chase, Steve!”
Memorize Your Speech.
Or if you’re a great public speaker, go off the cuff. But whatever you do, don’t read from a piece of paper. Utilizing a rough outline to jog your memory is okay, but you need to make eye contact with your audience if you want your words to resonate. It also makes for much better photographs!
It’s Not About You.
Telling a story about your relationship with the bride/groom is great. But not if it goes something like this: “I was a huge party animal in college and one time I got so drunk I streaked through the quad and then I ran from the cops and the next thing I remember, I was waking up in a jail cell. Oh, and by the way, Mark bailed me out. What a great guy he is!”
Try to focus your story on the person you’re giving the speech about. Who is this person? What makes them special? What’s special about their relationship with their new spouse?
It’s great to talk about your connection with this person, just don’t make it all about you.
Make ‘em Laugh, Make ‘em Cry.
All the best stories take you on a roller coaster of emotions. Think of your favorite book or movie. There are highs and lows. Heavy beats and lighter beats. If you stand up in front of the room and tell one long sad story, it’s going to be a bit of a bummer. On the flip side, if you use this time as an opportunity to fine-tune your stand up comedy act, it’s going to feel insincere.
Alternating between genuine moments and comedic moments will keep the audience on their toes and engaged from beginning to end.
Brevity is the Soul of Wit.
Unless you’re Winston Churchill, there’s nothing worse than delivering a 20-minute speech. This doesn’t mean that you should rush it, but rather that you should cut any extraneous material that isn’t central to the story. And if you do go bit long, just make sure there’s substance in your material.
Five minutes is a good rule of thumb, but if you find yourself saying things like “and, uh…” then it’s probably time to wrap up. In the words of P.T. Barnum, “Always leave them wanting more.”
Now it’s time to put an exclamation point on this sucker! End on a high-note. Think of some profound words of wisdom, or a killer joke that will bring the house down, or maybe a callback to something you touched upon earlier in the speech that bring things full-circle. Whatever you decide, just make sure it has some punch. Your ending is what people will remember most.
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