Wedding toasts are easily the most nerve-wracking speeches to put together next to the eulogy. But they don’t have to be. Your goal is to honor the occasion of marriage and the couple getting married. The audience is hoping that you’ll only speak for about 5 minutes so you don’t have to come up with too much material.
Many speakers build up wedding toasts in their head to something big but remember there are others giving speeches and after a few hours of drinks and dancing, not too many will remember the exact words that anyone said.
Think of your wedding toast as a way to say what you’ve always wanted to the happy couple. You don’t have to say everything and your time on stage will go faster than expected.
- What are the best qualities of the person you’re honoring? What anecdotes can best illustrate those qualities?
- What advice can you give the happy couple on a successful marriage? Can you push yourself to go beyond the traditional clichés?
- How do you know the couple? How did they meet? How did you know they would be right for one another?
- If your toast is focused on one member of the couple, is there anything you can say about the other even if you don’t know them that well? If not, take some time before the wedding and get to know them a bit more.
- Rather than focus on one-liners, do you have funny stories of either person getting married? Are they safe to tell?
- Does the person you’re honoring have any weird quirks or oddities that would be helpful to know before someone spends their life with them?
- If you could sum up everything you wanted to say about the person or couple getting married, what would it be?
How to use the prompts to write wedding toasts
Each prompt is a jumping-off point meant to help you generate ideas for your toast. You don’t have to include every single answer in your toast but instead look at each one as an opportunity to find the heart of your speech and what you want to say. To get a speech around 5 minutes, you’ll need about 675 to 750 words, or around 1 ½ to 2 pages single spaced in a Word doc. Look to past speeches on YouTube for inspiration (for both the right and wrong way to do a toast).
A few more tips:
- Keep the stories PG and just give the highlights—too many details and sub-plots will bore everyone
- Make sure to introduce yourself and tell people how you know the couple—not everyone will have been at the service and half the room probably doesn’t know the other half too well
- Even if you’re using notes, prepare ahead of time so that you’re not constantly reading with your head buried in your notes. Use them only as a guide and a backup in case you lose your place.
For more advice on similar speeches, get my upcoming book, “Toast: Short Speeches, Big Impact.”
Eddie Rice is an executive speech writer, who has worked with CEOs, college presidents, government officials, and business owners. Let him help you tell your story. Your words can move your company and your people to action; they can make the difference between a lackluster or thriving culture. Need help on your next speech?