How To Give The Perfect Wedding Toast Every Time

I gave my first wedding toast in a room of strangers. There wasn’t a bride. Or a groom. But there was a professor grading me. I doubt Professor Nelson expected any Public Speaking assignment to influence me six years later, but I go back to that speech often. It was my first (okay, second) thought when my best friend asked me to be her maid of honor. It’s crossed my mind during every toast I’ve given — or heard — ever since. Yes, I may be silently grading each and every one.

Giving a toast seems easy. Talking for two minutes? No problem. But I’ve heard it all at weddings: toasts that made me laugh, toasts that made me tear up, toasts that made me spew my champagne, toasts that put me to sleep, and toasts that left me wondering what, exactly, just happened. Toasts can really go wrong.

But you can also get them really, really right. Read on for what to do (and what not do!) to deliver the perfect toast for any wedding, whether you're speaking on behalf of your childhood best friend, your college roomie, or even an ex flame.

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It wasn’t really a surprise when your best-friend-since-diapers asked you to stand at her side. You remember her first wedding on the playground with a crown of flowers (er, weeds) on her head, so you better get to attend the official event. Still, all those years of friendship don't necessarily make writing the toast any easier.

It’s Both Of Their Days
You’ve talked about your best friend’s wedding for years, even when her future partner was just some abstract idea. After all, you guys have been planning color schemes and music since way before they met. But the wedding isn’t just about your best friend. It’s about both the bride and groom (or bride and bride, or groom and groom) — not your friendship. Make sure the toast is about both of them.

“So We Had This Inside Joke Growing Up…”
Everyone gets it — you’re her best friend. That’s the whole reason you are giving a toast in the first place. Leave the inside jokes at home or at least narrow it down to one brief anecdote everyone can relate to. Will the audience think what you’re saying is funny, even if they weren't there? If not, it’s missing the point.
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You spent some of the wildest nights of your life with this person. You’ve been there when they laughed, cried, landed that summer internship, lost that summer internship, drunkenly promised you were their "only friend," failed that first big test, and followed their dreams. You have a lot of stories to tell, but that doesn’t always mean you should.

What Happens In College Stays In College
Sure, the story of that night is your favorite (and best received) story. It’s your go-to for nights at the bar, first dates, and awkward moments. But it cannot be part of your wedding toast. No matter what movies lead us to believe, the toast is not a chance to embarrass your friend as much as possible.

“She Kissed A Lot Of Frogs”
Unless the couple went to prom together, every guest probably understands there were some exes and "complicated situations" in the past. Leave it at that. Each guest already knows exactly as much about your roommate’s dating life as he or she wants them to know. There is no reason to list all of the mistakes she made before finding The One. Instead, focus on the current couple. Why do they work? How has your roommate changed? What funny stories can you share from the start of their relationship?
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No matter your relationship growing up, you know things about your sibling no one else does — even if it’s just how loud they scream when they are mad or how badly they treat other people's toys.

It’s Not A Competition
Whether your sibling is older or younger, you are going to hear the same questions. If you are unmarried, you better get comfortable with being asked, "When will it be your turn?!" over and over and over again. Take the questions in stride and leave out any commentary in your toast about your own age or dating life. The guests may be rude (and a bit drunk), but that doesn’t mean you need to indulge them. You probably have the funniest stories about your sibling, so share those instead. You will have everyone laughing so hard that they won’t remember to throw shade your way.

“I Even Covered For You When...”
For a long time, it was you guys vs. your parents. Your relationship with your parents has (hopefully) changed as you've gotten older, but that doesn’t mean you should out your sister's childhood misdeeds in public now. She’s too old to be grounded and it’s unlikely the two of you will get in a fight with slamming doors, but actions still have consequences. You’re both adults now. Even with all the nostalgia in the air, it’s important to act like it.
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You were a bit surprised when she asked you to stand beside her — okay, make that very surprised. You’ve spent time together, but you’ve never really confided in each other. You wouldn’t really call her a close friend. Yet, here you are, standing in front of a bunch of strangers, expected to help set the mood at her wedding.

Be Creative
It may seem easier to stick with whatever cliché comes to mind. Those lines are tried and true for a reason, right? Yes, but they are also overplayed. You are getting to be part of a personal moment in this couple’s life, so say something personal. Even if you have to interview other people to find a great story, there is something original about this couple you can say. You just need to find it. Don’t feel bad about reaching out to others for their best stories and memories; you never know what will spark the speech!

“I Don’t Really Know Her Well, But…”
Every single time you tried to draft out the speech, you lean toward giving this disclaimer. Don’t. You clearly mean something to her; she didn’t have to make you part of your big day. And you didn’t have to say yes to being there, either. Even if the feeling is not entirely mutual, there is no reason to off-handedly insult her. Plus, during the lead-up to the wedding, you must have learned something about her. All of the guests will love hearing behind-the-scenes deets about the wedding and you can stick to what you know.
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We spend a large part of our lives working, so you’ve been there through a lot. You remember the first coffee trip where you learned about this "first date that seemed really promising." You know exactly what project you were supposed to be working on during that coffee run. Your personal lives bleed into your professional relationship often. But today, your job is to focus on the personal.

Separation Between Work & Wed

The majority of your relationship happens in the office, but there is no reason to bring up office politics or that really challenging work project right now. Even if most of your friendship is complaining about that one boss or assignment, this is a personal day and you don’t want that “funny” impersonation of someone at work getting back to him or her after this weekend. She certainly has an Out Of Office email alert on, so don’t bring the work to her.

“Now I Have To Share My Work-Wife”
Stop. Don’t say it. Nothing is creepier than hearing someone talk about how hard it is going to be share "their" person at a wedding. Your relationship may change after the wedding (perhaps she might not be as willing to go get after-work drinks every Friday night), but that’s to be expected — and it's okay. There are ways to express your love for someone without making it seem like you are personally losing something. Instead, talk about that very first conversation you two had about him and focus on how far they've come since.
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When you broke up, you never thought you would be attending this wedding, let alone giving a toast. It’s been years, but let's be honest: Having to give a toast at the wedding of your ex is still a little weird. Or maybe you were never quite official, but there was still something there. Either way, the couple is happy. You are happy. You guys are all friends. And now, you need to deliver the perfect toast.

Love Is Forgiveness
A common theme people use for toasts is going through what love is — quoting the overused 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 or making variations on the theme. When you used to have a more than platonic relationship with the bride or groom, it just makes things awkward. In this case, make sure that all of your stories are specifically about the couple. When you don’t leave any room for people to think you could be referencing your past, people will (hopefully) stay in the present.

“Remember When…”
You dated each other. You both remember what happened. A lot of guests probably remember. Unless your anecdote ties into the couple in a positive way (no jealousy, no cheating, no awkwardness), it's best to leave the past right where it is. You wouldn’t have been invited if you didn’t have a present-day relationship with the couple. Stick to that.