Think carefully and plan wisely before making a speech or toast at a wedding reception. (Illustration by Arnel Reynon)
The ‘I do’s’ have been said, it’s time for the reception, and everyone is waiting to hear a poignant toast about the bride and groom. Instead, what they get is best friend Johnny stammering about how “hot” the bride is while sharing a story about a stripper the groom met in Reno, five years before meeting the bride, while downing a fifth of bourbon. The result? The bride is mortified, the couple’s parents are embarrassed and all of the guests’ jaws have dropped. So as the couple or the speech-giver yourself, what do you do to prevent this?
First, the new couple should carefully consider who will give the toast. It doesn’t have to be the best man or maid of honor. Event planner and owner of Glint Events, Kate Franzen says she asks the couple who will be giving toasts, learns about said speech-givers, and then advises the bride and groom about guidelines they should set — whether it be limits on how much they should drink beforehand, or a time limit for the toast.
Franzen says the speaker should be mindful of the wedding guests. “Do not include jokes that only the bride and groom will know about,” she says. “They might crack up, but the rest of the guests will have no idea what you’re talking about.” Think about the content as well. “If you wouldn’t say it to your grandmother, don’t say it in a speech in front of people,” Franzen adds.
When thinking about the length of the toast, the bride and groom should not be afraid to set a time limit — and the speech-giver should stick to it. Jason Tesauro, author of The Modern Gentleman, advises, “For each minute, put at least a week of forethought into it.” He adds, “If you’re going to go over five minutes, you better have something prepared and really be able to stick that landing.”
Tesauro says it’s the job of the speech-giver to make their time count. Mixing in humor and poetry is fine as long as it is meaningful and in good taste.
“Do not try the generic fill in the blank …you just wasted your time at the mic. You could get the DJ or the wedding singer to perform that kind of bulls***.”
While these guidelines can help prevent a speech disaster, Franzen notes that in reality, toasts don’t often derail. “For our couples, they are probably more anxious about it, because it’s one of the things they can’t control,” she says. “It’s a great part of the evening, the couples just don’t know that until it’s all over.”