I was just in a wedding! I toasted, and it was fun and felt meaningful. I don’t know the groom very well. Toasts can be super intimidating, and this one was mostly mentally composed on long walks or right as I was falling asleep. This is written based on the wedding I was just at, which had a female bride and male groom, but acknowledges that not all people are cishet. All that in mind, here are some tips on how to go about writing one.
The Big Point of a toast:
Is to make the bride look good. You are establishing her as the protagonist in this love story. Half the people there (theoretically) are her friends and family and already love her. Reinforce – it feels so good to love people! The rest would be groom’s friends and extended family, who may not know her at all. Create or deepen their emotional investment in her and her part in this love story. Your toast is both a Celebration of Bride and a Celebration of Couple.
– Introduce yourself and your relationship to the bride
– Talk about early memories of the bride. What do these early memories tell you about them as a person? Did a certain key characteristic manifest early? I once heard a great best man toast in which the almost maniacal screaming noise put out by the baby version of the groom manifested as a lovely determined and fierce nature in his mature self. The point was poetically put, which is of course, the challenge of toasting.
-Weave in the fiance. This is easy to forget when you are toasting the bride, and can be a short section of your toast, but ultimately it is about the bride and groom unit so:
- when and where did they meet?
- what did the bride first say to you about this person they met?
- when did you know they were forever?
- how did she know the groom’s importance to her a a partner, if you’ve talked about this?
- when you met him, what was your first impression?
- what makes him perfect for the bride?
Starting points and brainstorms for that tough middle section:
- Imagine having a conversation with the bride. What would you talk about?
- Imagine reflecting on a memory together. Hearing things in someone else’s voice can help you write about them.
- How did you know the two of you would be friends?
- Has the bride every given you great, shareable advice? Maybe include that.
- Imagine a challenging situation (serious or silly, doesn’t matter) you might face with the bride. How would she overcome or persevere? This could be an actual situation, or something you make up for the brainstorming.
- Embarrassing moments. Just don’t.
- Sarcasm about the bride and relationship, or self-effacing humor – you don’t know this people and it really might not come off how you want.
During the toast:
Speak slowly. Pretend you are on NPR. If you’re brave, record yourself reading the toast in advance and listen back to make adjustments. If you’ve never done this, g-dspeed, it might be a shock.
Look up! Make connection via eye contact with key players. It is great if your toast resonates with the groom’s friend’s bored plus-one, but also who cares about that dude? Here’s your ‘look list’ – try to notice where these people are standing before-hand, to make eye contact while speaking:
- bride and groom
- bride’s parents
- groom’s parents
- bridal party
Things to avoid:
1. Making it about you, beyond you experiencing how special it is to know the bride.
2. Inside jokes. You know how it feels shitty to have to listen to people ‘inside joke’ back and forth? Yes, you are speaking to your friend the bride, but you’re also speaking to 50-250 people who are not your friend, and they will zone out or feel excluded. Save the inside jokes for later.
3. Alcohol – it’s not that you can’t drink, it’s more that you don’t 100% know what you’re getting. I had a “margarita misunderstanding” (hahah, surprise! not the night of my toast, thank goodness!) in which I overestimated amount of mixers. You don’t want this to happen! It’s easier to gauge with softer drinks, but you still can’t be as sure of the size of glasses, etc. as you think you can. Be careful of having more than one glass of anything pre-toast, and if you’re nervous, just avoid til later.
General cautions because weddings can be emotionally loaded:
Yes, the bride is your toast’s protagonist, but don’t take that “narrative” framework too literally. If at any point you start to fictionalize for fun, reel it in. Your toast is telling a true story. If at any point you start to fictionalize for other reasons, become heavy-handed with the sarcasm, or feel bitterness in your tone (hey, it happens), find someone to talk to. None of that can go in your toast. If this is deep-seated, reconsider your role in the wedding.
And of course, have fun! Toasting is so heartwarming. It is a flower blooming in the sun! It is a smile breaking! It is having the covers tucked in around you! They call it toasting for a reason. Be unabashedly proud of your friend, smile, and enjoy. They found love <3.