As planners, we know that wedding toasts can go one of two ways: They’re either a great way to rally the crowd at the beginning of the reception, or they’re a perfect platform for underprepared (and over-intoxicated) family members to come completely unhinged. We prefer the former...needless to say.
With toasts being such an important part of their Big Day, oftentimes couples seek guidance on toast etiquette from their planners. So, today, we wanted to share some simple tips for unforgettable toasts. But, before we dive into our top coaching tips, a word on quantity and timing: After having planned hundreds of weddings, I think a safe number of toasts is anywhere from 3-4—anything much more than that and guests start to get antsy.
With blended families and countless different family makeups, there’s no right answer for who should give toasts, but a general rule of thumb is to have a Welcome by the Father of the Groom, followed by toasts from the Maid of Honor and Best Man. Time these so they occur right before dinner is served—that way, guests can immediately dive into the meal after they’ve downed that glass of champagne. Other than that, a few of our favorite tips include:
Prepare Prior to the Day Of:
I’ve seen so many Best Men and Maids of Honor scrambling the day of the wedding to finish their speech—and it never ends well. Coach your couples to check up on their toast-givers a few times in the weeks leading up to the wedding. A general rule of thumb is that speeches should be finalized one week prior to the wedding. Oftentimes, those who are particularly nervous about public speaking tend to put off writing the speech until the morning of. So, your shy toast-givers are the ones to keep a close eye on.
Keep it Short and Sweet:
There’s a reason “short and sweet” is a cliché—and it’s because it works. Typically, when a toast goes awry, it’s due to length. (I once planned a wedding where the Father of the Bride’s speech lasted 30 minutes—as in a half an hour! I almost had to cut him off or the dinner would have been ruined.) Have your couples get the estimated length of speeches from their toast givers at least one week prior to the wedding—you’ll need this beforehand so that you can communicate with catering to nail down serving time.
The best toasts are those that make guests both cry and laugh. A sentimental toast is always touching, but emotional toasts are best served with a side of humor—just to keep the audience engaged and to help lighten the mood (it is a celebration, after all).
Address Both Parties:
One of the most common toast faux-pas—though it may surprise you—are toasts that fail to recognize one of the parties. It’s perfectly fine to talk about the bride if you’re her best friend or father, but don’t forget to recognize the other half and touch on why the two are so perfect together. Remember, a wedding is all about union and, as proud as toast givers may be of their “side,” the most successful toasts touch on the couple as a whole. Plus, addressing both parties is a great way to bring the toast full circle and segue into an effortless conclusion.
Overall, toast etiquette is all about simplicity and common-sense—prepare ahead of time, keep things moving, keep people laughing, and keep the focus on the union of the couple. If your couples can convince their toasters to do that, you’ll have a room full of champagne-smiles. To that, we say Cheers!