If there's one thing I'm seeing happen way too often these days, it's inappropriate toasts at weddings. I used to be shocked when this would happen, but it's happening so frequently these days that the shock is wearing off. It's become commonplace to me to see toasts given that make people completely uneasy, and in some cases must hinder friendships, at least temporarily. The person giving the toast never realizes that it's gone sour while it's happening, and what's worse is the uncomfortable look on most of the guest's faces, especially the bride and groom. Sometimes I wish i had a "Wrap-It-Up" button.
Inappropriate can mean many things. Of course there is the obvious, like the wedding I did where the grooms ex-turned-bride's best friend droned on telling story after story about good times her and the groom spent together, never actually making a point or cleverly giving it a brilliant "best wishes" ending like everyone hoped she would. It was the only time ever had to cut off someone's mic during a toast. I don't think she and the bride were friends anymore after that, just my guess. Okay, that's a pretty extreme and rare example, but certainly one I had to share for the sake of entertainment. There are also the less extreme examples of best friends getting up and telling stories of exes, or even parents of bride or groom droning on endlessly about how great their son/daughter is. That's nice, but it's already made obvious by the fact they just got married. You don't need to convince us anymore. Typically what I see is people who get up and off to a good start, but after a few minutes it becomes obvious that they have no plan or direction whatsoever and they're winging it, badly. I'm sure they have the best intentions, but good intent doesn't make a good toast, and now your wasting the couple's precious and expensive time. With such easy access to information these days, there is just no excuse for that. I'm going to cut this paragraph short because honestly I could go on endlessly about the stuff I've seen go wrong.
So let's get down to some solutions:
Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. The average attention span of people these days gives you about 2 minutes before they start getting bored. So that's not to say your toast has to be 2 minutes, but you'd better convince them in those 2 minutes, no, in that first minute, that the rest of your toast is going to be worth paying attention to.
Google search some information and even some videos on giving toasts. About half of the toasts I see these days start with "I've never had to give a toast before so I Google searched some tips". And those usually end up being good ones.
Practice your speech on someone else, preferably even a few others before the big day. It will help work out the kinks ahead of time. What might be hilarious and endlessly entertaining stories to you, may not be to those who weren't there to experience it, and you just might put your audience to sleep with them (I've actually seen this happen). A practice run on someone else can prevent this.
Write it down. When I see someone stand up to give a toast and they don't have anything written down, a little panic stirs inside of me, and it's usually justified in the minutes that follow. People appreciate preparation. Nobody is impressed by your ability to freestyle a speech. There are the few rare exceptions to this rule, some folks are just good speakers, they speak clearly and get to the point without taking detours or getting lost on the way. But those of you who are truly blessed with this ability certainly know who you are, and most of you who aren't still seem to think you are for some reason. Just play it safe and write it down.
Humor is good, but know where to draw the line. If the whole toast is shtick, then the crowd is going to think all you have is shtick, and you're not capable of coming up with genuine, positive, well wishes, which is what the toast is all about.
I would assume that last statement is obvious, but I'm learning the hard way that the simplest concepts aren't so obvious anymore. Having said that, I must state the most obvious thing of all;
THIS DAY IS ABOUT THE BRIDE AND GROOM!!!
This seems to be so easily and often forgotten by the guests at weddings. I can't keep track of the number of times I want to say to people at every wedding "this is not your day, it's theirs, and they planned it this way". But there's too much to write on that subject alone, so I'll save it for another, or many other blog posts.
And a note to any couple planning a wedding, I've never seen an "open toast" situation go well. Ever. The number of things that can go horribly wrong are never considered ahead of time. But they happen, and you don't realize it until it's too late, and nothing can be done about it. Either appoint a few special people to say something, or let your guests know ahead of time that there will be no open toasts so anyone who would like to say something should submit their request to do so well in advance. If you have a website for your wedding, this is a perfect place to let this be known. You assume that all of your guests have the best intentions, and your best interest in mind, but once the train starts rolling and the alcohol starts flowing, that train can derail pretty quickly if the tracks aren't laid properly.
If you need help planning a toast for a wedding, here are some helpful links:
I tried to look for video samples but found no good ones. If you know of any, please leave them in comments.
Note: the most common denominator I've found in all toasting tips is to toast sober. One drink is good to calm nerves, but more than that could get you in trouble.
Good luck! Now go forth, and toast right!