If the idea of standing up in front of all those people frazzles your nerves, don't panic—these tips will help you write a toast you’ll be excited about.
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Use this cheat sheet to ace your maid of honor speech.
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Photo Credit: Jessica Lauren Photography
What to Say
The words make the wedding. No matter how gorgeous the cake or flowers are, it's the toasts that fill the day with heart. Here's how to create an unforgettable start to the celebration.
DO open with who you are and how you know the bride. Not everyone in the room is from her side, and it creates a sense of connection to you and what you’re about to say.
DON'T feel like you have to open with a joke. Forget that misguided advice often given by corny uncles; It’s better to lead with sentiment and sweetness rather than a gimmick that can fall flat.
What to Say About the Bride
DO share a brief story on what you love most about the bride. Talk about positive attributes, such as how she lights up any room and is the first one to help a friend in need.
DON'T say, “Finally, she met the man of her dreams” or any other phrasing that indicates she may be the last one out of your friends to find her mate. That’s a big no-no!
Her Love Story
DO briefly share how you knew she met The One. And this is where your funny story comes in, like how she started to use some of his catchphrases: “When Jen came home from a date with Evan and used the word ‘rad,’ we knew she was gone over him!” Or how she started to take an interest in his interests and passions (and the moment you spotted him in bike shorts, ready to take on one of her hobbies as well).
DON'T refer to how her partner is different from former boyfriends, such as “None of Jen’s other beaus ever wanted to put on biking shorts!” Never refer to any exes, period — even if you’re trying to be funny. Yes, Jen dated some clunkers, but you can save that for the bachelorette party roast.
Next, It's the Groom's Turn
DO say what you love about the groom, like how he treats her like gold, how sweet he is to her family, and how well he fits in with your circle of friends.
DON'T make that awful, cliché joke about wanting to clone him so that you can date him, or—even worse—say that “If it doesn’t work out between you two, you know where to find me.” Someone’s likely to throw a fish fork at you, and you'll deserve it.
It Takes Two
DO focus on addressing BOTH the bride and groom in your speech, not just the bride.
DON'T talk about yourself. It’s a huge flop of a toast if you were to say, “Well, with Jen so busy with Evan, and me finishing up medical school—at the top of my class, 90-hour weeks, you know—we haven’t spent much time together lately, but it’s like she’s always with me. I know that she’s there for me 100% in whatever I’m doing with my life.” How self-centered! Guard youself against using too many "I's" and "me's."
Keep the Charm, Cut the Crass
DO keep it classy and elegant, since you’re speaking to a room full of their relatives and friends; share only positive stories that cast the bride in the best light possible.
DON'T insert thinly-veiled "inside jokes" such as referring to "That time in Cabo." It’s a heinous error and cruel to hint at the bride’s wild, party days during this important moment in her life. Even if this is your style of joking around, skip the inside jokes.
Then They Lived Happily Ever After
DO wish them wonderful things in their future: A lifetime of love and joy, surrounded by family and friends who love them, for all of their wishes to come true and a life of ease and abundance.
DON'T just abruptly say, "Cheers!" to wish them luck and then sit down. You don't want your ending to be anti-climactic.
DO have a distinct ending to your toast; something sweet like a classic quote or song lyrics that "tag" your toast with an unforgettable, iconic saying.
DON'T forget to prepare your closer. Too many toast-givers tend to ramble on and on, spinning their wheels for a clincher at the end...awkward!
Next: 10 steps to nail your delivery >>
10 Steps to Nail Your Delivery
Photo Credit: Muriel Silva Photography
If you’re concerned with the performance part of your toast, keep these tips in mind to help you shine in the spotlight:
1. Write out what you plan to say in phrases, not word-for-word. Having blocks of text in front of you gets you to speak more naturally than if you were to read stiffly from complete sentences on a page.
2. Keep it short. No one likes to listen to anyone drone on and on and on. Just a minute (perhaps a few seconds more), is all you need to deliver the perfect toast. Anything longer, and everyone thinks, “She likes to hear herself talk.”
3. Read your toast out loud to yourself, as well as a friend, to pluck out any awkward spots or tongue twisters.
4. Speak a little more slowly than you normally would. When people get nervous, they tend to talk super fast, which is when flubs and stammers happen.
5. Breathe! As you practice your toast, mark in red pen places where it’s best to take a "breath break" so that your reading comes out more naturally, instead of you gasping for air at the end of a long sentence.
6. Don’t lock your knees. When you’re standing to deliver your toast, keep your knees loose and your body relaxed to stand nice and tall.
7. Stay sober. Liquid courage isn’t going to result in a great toast, but rather spins off into slurred tangents, and the bride will never forgive you for being bombed during your big moment in her honor.
8. Make eye contact. When you’re talking about the bride and groom, look them in the eyes instead of staring down at your notes or having your eyes dart across the room. If looking at them directly makes you nervous, direct your gaze over the guests' heads and naturally look from side to side in sweeping glances, not locking eyes with anyone in particular.
9. Smile, even if you’re nervous. If you’re talking about something amusing in your toast, be sure your facial expressions match the levity of your story! Don’t just stiffly deliver your toast as if you're trying to get through it.
10. If you get emotional, it’s okay — let a few tears loose, don’t hold back. That’s simply a sign of how much you love the bride and how happy you are. Don’t feel like you have to fight it back.
Next: Ace your bridal shower toast >>
How to Give a Sweet Bridal Shower Toast
As spokesperson of the bridal party, it's your job to say lovely things about the bride. But don't forget about those who co-planned the shower with you: Start your speech off by paying tribute to the bridesmaids and moms.
If you have games planned, keep your toast short and sweet to stick to the schedule.
This is the time when you can share cute inside jokes about you and the bride. For example, that time when you and the bride were five and used to dress up as brides, stuffing your bras with toilet paper and singing “Going to the Snapple” instead of "Going to the Chapel." Share those adorable tales about the bride, and—again—avoid the risqué ones. Her future mother-in-law is in the house, after all!