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A Toast To Wedding Toast Anxiety

hand mike

‘Why everyone hates wedding toasts”, “A tradition we can do without”, “Wedding Toast Survival Tips” — titles from my recent google search on wedding toasts.

Yes, people do not like public speaking in general.  It is difficult to risk putting ourselves “out there” for others to see.  Many of us are shy and experience stage fright, particularly if a microphone is handed to us. And like you, I’ve read the posts indicating that toasts are not just difficult for the “toaster”, but for vendors too, who struggle to manage the event and keep within a particular time frame.

Boo hoo.

To be sure, there is no shortage of anxiety and nervousness at a wedding.  It is tempting to eliminate this tradition that, it may seem, has outlived it’s usefulness and has few supporters.  Don’t.

Being asked to provide a toast is an honor.  It is a recognition of a shared bond.  Toasting is a connection to an earlier time.  By accepting, you are acknowledging and supporting the new couple. It may feel somewhat burdensome to be asked, but it truly is not intended as such — and it doesn’t mean you need to contort yourself into a pretzel of originality and praise worthy prose.

Wedding Toast Anxiety Reducing Strategies:

  1. Keep your remarks “in your wheelhouse”.  If poetry is your thing, create a poem.  If you are most comfortable keeping your comments lighthearted, do it.
  2. Keep it short.  Hopefully you were provided guidance, but if not — ask for it.  A couple minutes can feel like an eternity if you are not comfortable.  You are not the evening’s entertainment.
  3. Write it down and rehearse. Memorization is not required or expected.  If a note card helps, use it — though reading a paragraph word-for-word is not engaging.

A note to you “toasters”… any anxiety you may be feeling will likely be a fraction of the nerves being felt by the couple.  Why not expand your supportive role and check-in with the bride or groom and see how they and their anxieties are doing.  In addition to just being a good listener, you might have an opportunity to suggest some “day-of” stress reducers.

Two Easy To Implement Wedding “Day-of” Stress Reducers:

  1. Couple agrees on a “safe word” or a gesture that, when spoken/motioned by either, means he or she is in immediate need of a break from whatever or whomever – right now, no questions asked.  You then excuse the both of you for a minute.
  2. Advise the planner, the officiant, the DJ – of potential anxiety inducing moments for the couple and let these professionals do their job — looking out for the couple and making sure they are prepared should there be a moment of stage fright.

A toast is an ancient tradition – a way of symbolizing camaraderie by raising a glass together to celebrate.  Your toast is an opportunity to connect an important part of a bride or groom’s past with their future by sharing a bit of yourself and your shared history with the couple’s friends and family.  If your remarks are sincere and you speak in a way that is authentically you, you will have succeeded.  For inspiration, watch this video of a heartfelt toast from a dad to his son and son-in-law .



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The Wedding Toast: How To Tell a Story People Will Listen To

Taylor Street Favors Stemless Mr & Mr Champagne Toasting Flutes
Taylor Street Favors Stemless Mr & Mr Champagne Toasting Flutes

Guess what – our attention span isn’t what it used to be.  For those who measure these kinds of things, the average person’s initial focus has dropped to a bit over 8 seconds from 12 seconds just 10 years earlier.    That means you have about as much time as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” to give your audience a reason to continue listening before they resume eating, texting or talking with the person next to them.  In our perpetually distracted and distracting world, spending a few extra moments preparing your BFF’s wedding toast by following these suggestions can make the difference between unforgettable and regrettable.

  1. Tell a story that connects, one that is relatable personally or emotionally — a story that listeners can picture themselves experiencing.  That means leaving the childhood memories of hilarious times shared with the bride or groom or couple out.  Unless the childhood memory relates to the moment in a positive and affirming way, you run the risk of embarrassing yourself and humiliating the bride or groom.  Just say no.
  2. Keep it brief – write, then whittle and then whittle some more.  No laundry lists of accomplishments or failings.  There is no hard-and-fast time limit to target, but 3 minutes is plenty of time to say something memorable and heartfelt.
  3. Use dialogue so that listeners can hear the characters talk. And don’t think your job is to speak “for the room.”  Your job is to speak “to the room.”  If your story lends itself to the “callback” technique, use it.   A callback is referring repeatedly back to a line from earlier in your story.  This “callback line” helps create a common thread and keeps the audience focused.
  4. Practice — please practice.  Even the best of toasts will be a failure if your head is buried in pieces of paper or your are searching through note cards while juggling the microphone rather than looking out to the audience, making eye contact.  This will also help minimize “going off script,” or a case of the giggles.
  5. If in doubt, follow a time-tested  3 – 1 – 2 formula:  start by speaking in the third person, sharing a memory… a “let me tell you moment”;  followed by a first person sharing of a personal feeling about the bride or groom; and completed with a second person congratulatory or best wishes glass-raising to the couple conclusion.

Remember, your toast is not about making you look good, it’s about making the couple look good.  But by making the couple look good, you get to share in their glow.  And years after, you will be remembered not for what you said but how you said it — for all the right reasons.