Toasts are an essential element of our culture. At their core, toasts are the formal expressions of goodwill, appreciation, or calls for group attention to an issue or person in a public setting that are then followed by synchronous consumption of beverages.
Learning how to give a good toast is an important skill to have. If you don't believe us, just ask Hannah Brown, who found herself totally caught off guard when she was asked to give a toast during Colton's season of the Bachelor. If you didn't watch, we'll save you the trouble and tell you it was pretty cringeworthy. But don't worry, she has recovered and probably, by now, perfected the art of toasting.
From toasting at a wedding to a general toast to health for everyone during a holiday celebration or celebrating a guest of honor on a special occasion, developing your ability to give a great toast is a skill worth having. Even if this is your first toast, we have some tips that will have everyone clinking glasses by the end.
You're The Maid of Honor! So Now What?
Being the maid of honor or best man at a best friend or family member's wedding is quite an honor. A maid of honor is essentially a bride's chief support before, during, and after the wedding. She holds several special duties at the wedding, including traditionally giving a toast about the happy couple on the wedding day.
Figuring out what to write and say during a wedding toast can be extremely intimidating. We have all listened to toasts that we remember for all of the right reasons, and we have also heard toasts that we remember for all of the wrong reasons. Here are a few things to do to make it a toast everyone talks about for days, weeks, months, and years to come. Oh, and we mean talks about for the right reasons!
Traditionally, toasting was meant to be improvisational. But that's not what people are expecting anymore. In fact, Mark Twain claimed that it takes three weeks to prepare for a good impromptu speech. And let's be honest, if it took Mark Twain, one of the greatest American authors, three weeks to prepare for a toast....we should probably start brainstorming a few years in advance.
When it comes to toasting, visit some tips on improvisation and public speaking. The art of toasting is a combination of those two skills, and these two skills naturally transfer to numerous areas of your life. That should make it a little less nerve-wracking.
Think about what you're going to say and take notes, but don't write it out word for word. (More on this later). Consider who is speaking before you and who will be speaking after you, perhaps you will want to reference them in your toast.
While thinking about what you're going to say, consider your audience, keeping in mind who will be listening. Because it's a wedding, make sure you keep in mind that the bride and groom's family and parents' friends will likely be in attendance. PG is typically the way to go with all those embarrassing stories. Ask yourself how your friend has changed since knowing her significant other, or questions will spark further exploration.
Hook Your Audience
The most important words in your toast are your opening words. Professionals say that you have ten seconds to grab your audience's attention before they decide to either stay with you on your toast journey or tune you out.
Start your toast by saying something that will grab your audience's attention. This is called the hook. A hook can be in the form of a story, hypothetical scenario, or an anecdote about the couple. Another way to grab the audience: a quote. Anything that displays that you care about the couple and, therefore, why the other people in attendance should care will make your audience want to listen to what you have to say.
Include Specific Stories
Include stories that prove your point. If you are toasting to how they make each other better people, prove it in a story where they have changed in an obvious manner. If you have to exaggerate your story a little, do so, nobody will mind as long as you do it gently and with sincerity.
The trick is not to pick a story that is too complicated or involves too many characters and avoid too many inside jokes. Guests will undoubtedly know the bride and groom but never assume they know anyone beyond that. Keep it simple, light, and, if you can, charming.
End With a Big Thank You
As the maid of honor, you aren’t the host of the event. Making sure you give credit where credit is due along with your well wishes is important and always appreciated. Calling out the people who made the big day special, like the parents of the bride and groom, goes a long way.
Don’t Write It Down
This should come with a disclaimer: we are not telling you to not write down your ideas. We are suggesting you don’t write down the entire toast you have planned. Why? Because nobody wants to watch someone read off of a piece of paper. They want the the speaker to be engaged and feel as if the speech is heartfelt—we're talking eye contact. Instead of writing down the entire speech, write down key words, or a general gist of what you want to say and let yourself naturally go from point to point. With enough practice, this should flow easily and you may not even need to use notes!
Focus On Presentation
While a handful of people are able to get up in front of a crowd and deliver the best toast ever spontaneously, many of us don’t have that skill. Giving a speech on a night that is mixed with emotions and drinks can make things difficult without the proper practice. Try to go through your speech enough time that you have it memorized enough that you can remember the key points you wanted to hit in the first place. Practice in front of a mirror as well to make sure your body language reflects what you are saying.
Get Ready To Give a Killer Speech!
Just like a test, if you’ve studied and understood the material, you’ll pass. Remember to relax and when in doubt, speak from the heart. And don't forget to end with a clink of the glasses at the end—now you are the toastmaster!