Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

You CAN Give a Loving Wedding Toast!

Well, it is that time of year again when you go to a wedding and come home chattering over how painful some of the wedding toasts were.

The warm, loving wedding toast seems to have fallen by the wayside in this age of reality television and talk show therapy. Today, we must hear how many loser lovers the bride lured to her bed, and how the groom got drunk one telltale spring break, and threw up on his Bermuda shorts.

Ah, memories! I’ve seen a groom savagely mock the social strivings of his new mother-in-law as if she were a dragon he had to slay. I’ve witnessed toasts that made note of the hapless groom’s slovenliness (before he was domesticated by the conniving, neat-freak bride, of course).

So where is the politeness, the sacred moment when guests weep for joy that two people, both comfortable within their own skin, have united as a greater whole?


I’m thinking that the wedding toast has suffered from the demise of the old-fashioned “rehearsal dinner.” This bawdy night-before-the-ceremony meal was usually the best place to rib or “roast” the bride and groom in a small-group setting. In this meal’s absence, folks find no other avenue down which their jokes and jollies can turn, so they now insult the bride and groom within an hour of the actual wedding ceremony in in the presence of 10-year-old nieces and 93-year-old great grandparents.

Believe me, I’ve been on all sides of the wedding toast problem. I spent the first day of my own Barbados honeymoon weeping over a toast that was given by a college roommate. I’ve also botched a toast or two of my own. (Oddly, I aced the first one I ever gave.) My most surreal wedding toast memory, however, is set at a pre-wedding Big Sur bonfire party, when I heckled one of the bride’s drunk best friends whose toast became so obscene (grandparents and kids were there) that I could no longer listen to it. “Oh, hurry it up. Other people want to go on!” I shouted from the shadows of majestic redwoods. Sadly, he only paused. Other members of the audience gasped at my intrusion. But some thanked me later for hastening him along. Next morning, the man’s mother accosted me for interrupting her darling boy, and when it’s all said and done, I learned not to heckle anyone ever again. These are tender moments for any speaker, even when the speaker’s in the wrong. Better to go off and fix your lipstick when the wedding toasts take their lurching, rotten turns, or resign yourself to watching them in silence like the amazing HBO series they always are!


If you’re saddled with toasting responsibilities yourself this spring or summer, here’s ChatteringMind’s best advice:

1. Don’t wing it. Even the most experienced public speakers jot out thoughts in advance. It’s a good idea to rehearse your toast the night before in front of a person you trust. Then that friend can help you analyze where you might be off base.

2. Divest yourself of the fantasy that your toast will impress people, and make you look good. Rabbi MarcGellman once said that wedding toasts, like eulogies, should be egoless. How smart that is! While you’d like to look witty, sexy, and well-read, your aim here is to graciously wish your friends a happy life. Your toast is about them, not you, you silly doufus! Ask your ego to shut up for a few minutes. In doing so, you will look fabulous (but forget I told you that).


3. Never mention an ex. Never mention an ex. Never mention an ex! Unless you are the ex. And even then, or especially then, don’t mention it.

3. Eliminate all sentiments that don’t spring from a loving place. Now is not the time to settle old scores, or march us through a relationship that has had more lows than highs.

4. Keep your toast short. If you’re running over two or three minutes, you’re in over-time. Exceptions exist, but are rare.

5. Have an ending. You need a little “kicker,” or conclusion so that people will know when to raise their glass. Round it up. Close it out. Wish your friends nothing but happiness. When folks start applauding, and you finally sit down, you’ll want to feel happily married to yourself, complete, in the face of a challenge that could have exposed your weaknesses, but didn’t.


Wedding guests are so shell-shocked nowadays that you could recite anything sentimental and get a huge, warm, loving applause: “To the lamp of love–may it burn brightest in the darkest hours and never flicker in the winds of trial.” If you’ve got ample planning time, buy any one of these books. Read Rumi. And Rilke.
Write in your journal. Confront your own desire to tease or humiliate. Let your love direct you, and you’ll shine.

What are your best and most ghastly wedding toast moments? Let’s get a good conversation going on this!

Comments read comments(8)
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Anonymous Also

posted May 18, 2007 at 2:28 am

I quit going to weddings long ago for this very reason. I choose not to surround myself with a bunch of half assed idiot stand up comic wannabe drunks.

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Tom Haibeck

posted May 18, 2007 at 7:34 pm

Dear Amy, I am the author of one of the books you refer your readers to (through the link from your Blog). My book is called “Wedding Toasts Made Easy.” You are absolutely right — the BEST wedding toasts flow from a loving heart. Sprinkle in a little humor — it’s a joyous day and people want to laugh and have fun — and you will win over your audience every time (providing, of course, the humor is of an appropriate nature). But I must add another key component — say it from YOUR heart and on the basis of YOUR experience and observations. Too many wedding toasters make the mistake of trying to use pre-written, canned material for their wedding toast (the Internet is full of these ‘buy-a-toast’ bargains and books that offer page after page of cutesy wedding poems and lofty wedding speeches). Trouble is, when people try to use them — and that usually means reading them word for word to the audience — they wind up sounding phoney and over-the-top. My advice is to draw upon your own experience with the wedding couple to offer a few short stories or insights that will help reveal their good qualities as people, the reasons why they make such a great couple and why you’re so happy for them. Use index cards to jot down a few point-form notes to keep you on track (rather than trying to read a speech word for word) and focus on the fact that this toast is about THEM, not you. Honor the couple and pay tribute to them. It’s a great honor to be asked to make a wedding toast. So respond accordingly by putting some thought and effort into it — you’ll be glad you did when your big moment arrives and several hundred people are waiting for your words of wisdom. Here’s to your success! Cheers, Tom Haibeck Author, Wedding Toasts Made Easy

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posted May 18, 2007 at 8:49 pm

most of the weddings i’ve attended were so hillbilly that the whole toast issue was either ignored in favor of ample boozing time or forgotten altogether! But I have seen it done a time or two at the movies! sheri from iowa

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posted May 19, 2007 at 7:30 am

Please don’t confuse hillbilly with redneck, white trash, or just generally ill-mannered. Those of us who are, in fact, hillbillies (KY hillbilly in my case), use this term with pride when describing ourselves and our heritage.

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posted May 20, 2007 at 6:20 pm

I agree that the best toasts come from the heart. My husband managed a beautiful toast for our son’s wedding last year, under pressure, as a storm was coming up I might add :)

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Fighting Bridezilla

posted May 23, 2007 at 4:28 pm

Wonderful advice! I’m getting married this autumn; I would definitely want my Best Man and Maid of Honor to read this article before writing their toasts at my wedding. I only wonder how to bring it to their attention without seeming like Bridezilla.

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posted June 9, 2007 at 8:09 am

This is fabulous. I am already rehearsing! This is a piece of wonderful education. Thank goodness I have this wedding coming up soon, and would be the best man. I have good command of language and stage confidence, but I tell you with a map or guide it cold all sound cacophonic: it does happen!

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posted June 11, 2007 at 3:50 am

Nice article! I gave a toast at my sister’s wedding four years ago and till date when we watch the tape people (including me) still have tears in their eyes. It’s important to toast the couple’s best qualities, celebrate their love and wish them a joy filled married life. I spoke from my heart and think that’s the best way to do it…

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