Wedding season has been upon us. We have laughed much, we have cried. We have regretted, and we have groaned. And we have done all of these over the course of a toast given by a family member, best friend, or best someone of honor.
Whether you are preparing some “remarks” of your own for the upcoming wedding or simply need a frame of reference while you sit on the safe side of the undersized dance floor and the twinkly lights, may this be your guide.
I don’t mean to be deliberately offensive in writing these words. The only critique I can hope to make of others’ speeches is the expression of boredom I’ve felt, which is probably more about my own impatience than their lack of coherence in what is likely for them a time of immense joy and connection, unparalleled in their previous life with the person getting married. No excuses need to be made. No words need to be said about words that don’t need to be said. We thank you for sharing all that you have shared. We see where your heart is.
1. Inform the crowd that you’re not that used to public speaking and ask them to bear with you. This will get them on your side right away. It will also let everyone know how long you plan to talk. They can go back to telling their kids, “It won’t be much longer,” rather than holding up their champagne (or sparking cider) flutes in heightened expectation.
2. Get the names of the newlyweds correct. You’ll have one-upped the DJ in this respect.
3. Remind the crowd why we’re here today. Use phrases like “to celebrate _________’s marriage” or, more formally, “to join ________ in their……..by honoring their……..” This will both reassure the crowd of your intentions and, of course, help them to remember that they are at a wedding reception.
4. Acknowledge the love that everyone can feel in the room right now. People usually don’t feel something that every single person is feeling until the feeling is named. This will also make the people who are waiting for the food feel less hungry.
5. Comment on the bride’s personality and appearance in the most generic way possible. Suggested phrases: “You look so beautiful” or “She is just always so nice.”
6. Comment on the groom’s personality and appearance in the most derogatory way possible. If you can, take out the whole family with one clean jab. As in: “You look like you’ve never worn a suit before. Who raised you? (With a wink at the mother of the groom)” or “It wasn’t until you met her that you started to act like a decent human being.”
7. Make a compliment that doesn’t come off quite right. Such as: “You guys are lucky to have found each other” or “We’re so glad he/she didn’t settle until he/she met you.”
8. Make a compliment that definitely doesn’t come off right. “I’m so happy for you. We never thought this day would come.” “You guys deserve each other.”
9. Exploit all the paradoxes. “Even though I just met you, I’ve always counted you as part of our family.”
“I don’t even have words to say to describe the love you two share.”
“Love like yours is such a rare and unexpected gift. It doesn’t surprise me that you found it.” (I would actually find this very honoring if someone said this at my wedding.)
10. End by centralizing your experience. “Today you are getting married, but I know we will always be friends.” (This is a real struggle, and a wedding reception is the most appropriate occasion to air your insecurities.)
“The greatest joy for me today is getting to share this moment with you.”
“It is such an honor that you have asked me to bless your marriage. Can’t you guys just feel the love in the room? I can.”
Last and perhaps least, remember it is a toast. Don’t forget to give the signal that you have shared both everything you planned to say and everything you ended up saying.
“Thank you. I mean. Oops, haha. A toast to…”
We’re waiting. We’re waiting. And you’re welcome. You really are welcome. Call table fourteen.