How can I make this heartwarming?
May 9, 2012 4:33 PM   Subscribe

I have to give a wedding toast for someone I barely know, whose fiance I don't at all know. And there are further complications. Uh... help?

I am the maid of honor for a friend I honestly don't know very well, I think partly because she doesn't have many female friends and partly because she feels we are much better friends than we are. She is very sweet but I have no idea what to say in my toast! I have looked up outlines for wedding toasts and they just make me feel anxious because I have nothing to fill in the blanks with. For example, I don't have any anecdotes at all because we never see each other, and the only memories I even have are pretty banal and would be focused on her interactions with me instead of her fiance and have nothing whatsoever to do with anything.

To make matters worse, I can't say anything but the most generic nice things about her husband-to-be because they have had a very rocky relationship. It's not that I have any trouble lying, because I really don't care about that (it may sound awful but since I don't know her very well, I also don't have anything invested in it), it's just that I have only ever heard awful things about him from her and her family hates him. I hardly know him outside of the bad things she tells me and have only met him once, briefly. She basically does not talk to me much unless she is having drama, so I never hear the good stuff. I would love to have some specific nice thing to say, or some sweet thing he did for her to reference, and I'm sure those things exist (er, I think so, at least?) but I've never heard of them. The one nice thing I can think of is in reference to some major drama she had with an ex and is definitely not wedding appropriate, especially since she and her fiance were broken up at the time due to some awful things he did and her parents have not forgiven him for. I don't mind making this guy sound awesome, I am just coming up with nothing.

On top of all this, we have nothing in common. I can't make any references to, say, movies or shows she likes because I don't know much about what she likes, and the few things I know she does like are things that I don't like at all; I wouldn't even know what to say about them, and I can't think of a way to work that sort of thing in anyway.

I hope this doesn't sound like I dislike her because she's a lovely person, we just don't really click at all and barely interact unless she's going through something stressful.

The only thing I have to go on is that they met in high school, but I didn't know them well then and this is, I think, their third time trying to make it work. I'm afraid if I reference how long they've known each other, however, it will only call attention to why it's taken them so long to get married. If her family did not hate him, it could be something to joke about, but as it stands now, it would very much not be funny. He broke up with her for another woman months before they were supposed to get married before and left her family in a lurch with all the wedding plans that had to be abandoned. I don't know what memories I could even bring up that wouldn't be tainted by that, because they've barely been back together now before getting married. I met him the first time they were engaged and have only heard awful things since then. What's worse is my friend doesn't even seem to respect him, so when I asked what she likes about him she literally told me that she likes that he does what she says. I don't think it would be very kind to joke about that, and I don't think it's particularly true from what I've heard either (and his resentment of her bossiness seems to be a major reason for their rocky past) plus she isn't bossy with anyone else, so no one would probably understand the joke. But she hasn't been able to tell me anything else she likes about him, even when asked point-blank. I suppose I could try again but I'm not hopeful. I wish I could say he's been there for her through, well, anything, but he's always been first to bail when something stressful happens to her, and is usually the cause of the stress (albeit she does a lot to provoke this reaction in him by being controlling).

(I hope it doesn't sound like I hate him either. It's one of those situations where, as best I can tell, neither one is awful but they have sticking points that make them awful to each other. They want each other to be different people, basically... though honestly he seems more accepting of her than she is of him; as far as I know, he accepts that she is bossy as part of the package, but she just keeps trying to make him conform to what she wants.)

What in the world can I say? Is it considered rude to give a short toast? Has anyone ever been in a similar situation? What did you say? This is really stressing me out because I don't want to disappoint her and she's under enough stress from her parents as it is. She really is a doll (to everyone but her fiance) and I want her to have a happy day. Thank you for any help, I really need it...
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wow...lucky you. I had the opposite problem with my sister (too many stories) but my strategy might work out...I called her up and asked her point-blank why she was marrying her fiancé and she said "because no matter what happens in my day I know I can call him and be myself at that very moment."

So I suggest calling her up, and maybe her fiancé, and ask them point blank what they love in each other, etc. and use that. And you can be short, just don't be curt. :)
posted by Zen_warrior at 4:41 PM on May 9, 2012 [13 favorites]

Call her up and get her to tell you a nice, funny anecdote or something.
posted by BibiRose at 4:42 PM on May 9, 2012

Open with "poet x says it so much better than I can, so I've chosen this piece for the happy couple on this special day..." and then launch into your seventh favorite poem on love and hope.

Then wish them well, sit quickly, and take a giant swig of champagne.
posted by OompaLoompa at 4:42 PM on May 9, 2012 [44 favorites]

Perhaps you could focus on general platitudes --- what a lovely couple they make and how much in love they look, how you're sure their families wish them well (you SAID you weren't opposed to lying!) and you're sure everyone has had a wonderful time at the wedding, ending by wishing them long life and much love.
posted by easily confused at 4:43 PM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think this is a good time to stick with a traditional toast. You can add a couple of personalized touches if you will, but a good traditional toast will sound great, express the required "life love and happiness" sentiment, and not require you to expound upon either of them or their relationship at length. You can then add a few general good wishes for them and their happiness. That is really about all you need to do in this situation. Here's a site with some examples of the kinds of toasts I mean.
posted by anonnymoose at 4:44 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

The dirty little secret of good wedding toasts is that, well, toasters prevaricate, whether it's a little bit or it's a lot. Amusing anecdotes are exaggerated and negative traits are glossed over. If you can't think of literally anything nice to say about the bride, then say something super-generic. Ditto for the groom.

You can take comfort in the fact that there are lots of bridesmaids in your situation.
posted by muddgirl at 4:47 PM on May 9, 2012

(Okay, those are corny. But you see what I mean!)
posted by anonnymoose at 4:47 PM on May 9, 2012

Seconding the traditional, generic toast. Talk about marriage as an institution, about lifelong commitments, about the life they can look forward to, etc. Don't make it particularized about them. It's okay to be sentimental or sappy rather than funny and haha-remember-when.

It'll be easy!
posted by resurrexit at 4:48 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think it would be a great idea to combine OompaLoompa and anonnymoose's advice; the former for the body, the latter for the ending.

Also, it's not rude at all to make a short toast. Better short and sweet than incoherent and rambling, especially if other people are speaking. I've heard many wedding speeches, and a good majority of them go on for too long.
posted by peripathetic at 4:50 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would love to have some specific nice thing to say, or some sweet thing he did for her to reference, and I'm sure those things exist (er, I think so, at least?) but I've never heard of them.

So call her up and ask her!
posted by mekily at 5:03 PM on May 9, 2012

Also, don't worry about a short toast - the vast majority of toasts are too long and the vast majority of people hate toasts for the ramblyness. Start off with "im sure you're all sick of long toasts, so I'm going to keep this short" - it will be appreciated, trust me.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:10 PM on May 9, 2012 [8 favorites]

The generic toast is the way to go, peppered with a bit of specifics that you know.

An easy way to get a good yet generic toast is to find out something she likes. Find a quote or two to go with it, and tell a quick story. Let's say your friend likes the Beatles... John Lennon said that "Love is the flower. You've got to let it grow." Then mention where she grew up, where he grew up, and how they'll grow old together.
posted by 2oh1 at 5:16 PM on May 9, 2012

I think all the above advice is awesome. One other possible way to work in a small bit of personalization might be to use the location that they chose for the wedding as the jumping-off point for a metaphor, e.g., if it's at a vineyard, talk about how splicing grape vines makes the whole even stronger than they could have been on their own, and that's what you wish for the two of them.... Same kind of thing if there's a nearby merging of two rivers, or if it's in an old building that has stood the test of time because of the ideal mix of stone and wood, etc..

If there's any additional information like that you can provide (or is she a baker? a Harley rider? a knitter? obsessed with lemurs? hockey? anything??), I'm sure we could help brainstorm further.
posted by argonauta at 5:34 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are they on Facebook? Now is the time to be a stalker.
posted by SMPA at 5:44 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

"May you deserve each other."

Ambiguous, makes 'em think, will be perceived as sweet by kind people and mean by not-so-nice people.
posted by caryatid at 5:44 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, assuming they're alive and participating, ask her sister(s) and mother for advice. You are effectively the voice for every woman in her life in this situation, so.
posted by SMPA at 5:47 PM on May 9, 2012

Weddings are about the future, not the past. If you don't have nice stories from their past, talk about how glad you are that now your friend is married so she will have her wonderful husband to share and support her in her great future when she is XYZ that she has always wanted (assuming you know something she wants in the future - dream job, big family, exotic travel, whatever), and how you look forward to seeing them them grow and change together over your long continued friendship. It isn't lying if it's about your hopes for things that haven't happened yet, and I'm sure you very sincerely do hope they will be happy together. Throw in a quote about love or marriage, smile a lot, and as long as you can manage two sentences, don't worry about being too brief.
posted by unsub at 5:48 PM on May 9, 2012

I was at a wedding where the maid of honor's toast was aphorisms about marriage she'd collected from her married friends -- and she prefaced it that way. I.e., "In preparing for this toast, I asked my married friends to give me their best pieces of advice for marriage, and here they are." It was very sweet and never occurred to me that it might have been done that way because the MoH didn't have a more personal speech to give.
posted by devinemissk at 6:05 PM on May 9, 2012 [32 favorites]

Yes, be as generic as possible. It's wonderful when toasts are special and personal and share lovely anecdotes about the couple. But you don't have that here. So share a beautiful quote/poem/short essay about marriage, tell them how happy you are for them, wish them a long and beautiful life together, and sit down.

(Incidentally, I just went to a wedding last weekend where the toasts (from siblings) were really short and pretty impersonal. I think it was probably more nerves than lack of familiarity with the couple or unhappiness that they were getting married. So just because a toast is short doesn't mean people will automatically think it's because you're not happy for them.)
posted by McPuppington the Third at 7:31 PM on May 9, 2012

You say she's a doll to everyone else she knows, so you get to say what a lovely friend she is (you can say it in generic terms, or you can mention some specific trait like thoughtfulness or enthusiasm).

Then you can say that you're sure everyone in attendance joins you in wishing them every happiness in their new lives together.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:34 PM on May 9, 2012

Poetry and/or quotes.

At no point do you really have to mention too much to do with them at all other than to wish them the best of luck.
posted by mleigh at 7:39 PM on May 9, 2012

Wow, yeah, seriously, luck you. :/

Great advice so far. For the groom, you can just straight up say that you don't know him. Ex: "I haven't known Joe for very long, but I'm so happy he and Mary found each other. I look forward to getting to know him more, and I'm excited that I'll get to witness the two of them grow together in love and support for each other in the coming years." Raise glass, cheers, drink.

I had a friend's best maid basically give a variant of this (not because the groom wasn't wonderful, she just really didn't know him), and it went over totally fine. [Yeah, in your case some of it might be a lie, but whatever, you just wanna get out of there alive!]

Good luck!
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 7:40 PM on May 9, 2012

Um, by "best maid", I meant "maid of honour". Though I think I might start using "bestmaid" instead.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 9:00 PM on May 9, 2012

Talk to both of them. Ask each one what he or she loves about the other. If you get a few items, most of your toast can be just listing them.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:01 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

It might be interesting if you use kids definitions of love for the speech.

You can say something like "I was asked to come up with a speech for the bride. But, I found it difficult to know just what to say because love is something that's truly special and usually only understood between two partners. Often times, people perceive love as this very complicated concept. But, the reality is that it can sometimes be expressed in the simplest of ways too. It can be in the small things that we say and the small things that we do. The happiness, love, and support that we try to provide for each other are what keeps most marriages alive. Oh, and humour-you can't forget humour!

But, you see, words like happiness, love, and support are pretty big concepts. So, I wanted to find something that would be relateable in any every day sort of way. And, that's when I stumbled upon childrens definitions of love. According to children ages 4-11, love is "what makes you smile when you're tired, love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your french fries without making them give you any of theirs, love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other, and love is when your partner says your name different. you just know that your name is safe in their mouth."

And, while this might sound simplistic to many adults. These kids speak the truth. Love is rarely a picture-perfect fairytale. I think many of us can attest to that. Love isn't the fantasized concept that we were taught as children. But, love is evident in the small things that partners do for each other. These small things eventually become big things, important things that help marriages last.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it doesn't boast, and it is not proud." Love is by no means "easy," love is however special. You know when you have been loved and when you love someone else by the things that you do and the things that you say.

When I look at the bride and groom (insert names here?) I can see that they have the foundations for love. After all, that's why we are here today. And as the maid of honour, I wish nothing more than love, health, happiness, and strength as the bride and groom embark on this new journey together."

Side Note:
-I'm not religious, but I thought the quote about love being patient fit in well with the speech. If they are not religious too though and you'd rather have something else, then you can always insert a different quote about love.
-Use photos of the couple for this part of the speech.

-Good luck!
posted by livinglearning at 10:15 PM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

Since you've already asked her for thoughts without getting much of an answer, I wouldnt bother asking again.

I don't think you should talk about him if you don't know him - your role is specifically about her, after all.

Tell some anecdote about her sweet & caring personality, add some platitudes/best wishes about love & marriage and call it a day.

I concur that there's nothing wrong with a short toast.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 5:07 AM on May 10, 2012

livinglearnings got it!!

Do that one!!!!
posted by vitabellosi at 12:17 PM on May 10, 2012

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