Best Wedding Toast Ever
April 9, 2013 6:44 PM   Subscribe

Somebody gave you a really great wedding toast. What was great about it?

I'm the maid of honor at my best friend from high school's wedding this weekend. We've lived 1,000 miles apart for many years, and I've been especially busy (and broke) lately with school. As a result, I haven't been able to do an amazing job with other MOH duties such as throwing a bachelorette party, attending dress-shopping, etc. She's been totally understanding about that from the beginning, which is great, but I still feel bad that I haven't been able to do more. One thing I can do is give an amazing, awesome toast.

I've been reflecting on our years of friendship and I'm beginning to realize that 99% of the great times we've had together either involve inside jokes nobody else would get, or wildly inappropriate shenanigans that are not appropriate for a room full of family members, or both. She's my partner in crime, and that's why we have so much fun together. But I'm a little stumped as to how to approach this in a way that somehow reflects how much I know and love her and how fun she is, but also won't scandalize anybody (or bore them, once it's all made PG.) I also feel like I kinda want to make things up to her for how unavailable a maid-of-honor I've been thus far- this is my one chance to really kill it and make her wedding awesome.

I've searched through some other AskMe's on wedding toasts but they're mostly asking for specific advice for a particular set of circumstances. And most of the answers are from people who wrote the toasts, not the toastees. I want to know, from those of you who have been on the receiving end of an amazing toast- what about it really made it fantastic? Was it hilarious? Touching? Creative? Did it involve a great story? I think I can go in just about any direction with this, so I'd love to hear what ended up meaning the most to you. Please be as specific as possible, it'll help!

Possibly of note, I'm also a little nervous because I hardly know anybody who's going to be at/ involved in this wedding. She's been living in another state for years now, it's where she met her husband to be and where basically all their current friends except me live. (I've hung out with husband-to-be enough times that I know and love him, so I plan to include him in the toast.) But I'm worried that by talking about things her and I have done/ experienced before she lived there, or how she was when I knew her back home might be somehow alienating . . . I don't know. It may not matter. Maybe I just also feel nervous because I don't know my audience and want to impress them and/or not horrify them. Mostly though I just want her to love it. Also, I'd prefer to keep it personal and specific to them- probably not quotes/ passages/ etc but I'm open to hearing them if they're really great. Thanks so much!
posted by GastrocNemesis to Human Relations (22 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
1. Keep it short and focused.
2. Practice your delivery (see 1.)
3. Don't aim to impress. Aim to honor who she is.
4. If you can think of stories that demonstrate something about who she is, and why she's so awesome, not just to you, but to other people, pick the best one, and tell it to your mom or someone else who will be brutally honest with you about what comes across.
5. Feel free to allude to wild times with something like, "and if you want the real dirt, you can find me at the bar later," but remember what matters just being honest about her and how happy you are for her.

I've seen many excruciating or awkward toasts, and pretty much all violated those five rules, so if you hold to them, you'll knock it out of the park.
posted by canine epigram at 7:03 PM on April 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

My best friend gave a great toast at my wedding. He opened by talking a (very short) bit about how we came to know each other and warmed the crowd at his own expense:

"I met Brandon in biology class in college. He got an A. I got a D. It was great."

He then went on to talk about how he met my wife through me, and was able to watch us grow together, and talk about the specifics of our personalities that made us a great fit together. He ended by wishing us many years of happiness.

It was direct, it was earnest, and it was just over a minute. It was much more about the two of us than about his experiences with us. It assumed that the people that came to our wedding knew us and didn't need drawn out anecdotes to know what our personalities were. Pretty much perfect.
posted by bfranklin at 7:12 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with Canine Epigram. Excellent advice!

I loved the speech my maid of honor made. She talked about how long we had known each other, added in a fun/tame story about how I would always take a specific candy from her candy stash, alluded in passing to some things that only I would understand, and mentioned how she knew I had found the right guy. The whole thing was probably no more than 3-5 minutes (hard to keep track of time on your wedding day) and came full circle. That said my MOH was also an English Major, so that may have had an effect.

It's a perfect time to let your friend know what characteristics you love about her as a friend. I mean, obviously she probably already knows, but it can be really special to hear it said aloud.
posted by donut_princess at 7:36 PM on April 9, 2013

My favorite wedding toasts were... forgettable. It's not about you and your hilarious toast. Make it about them and how wonderful they (plural) are. Then get out of the way.
posted by PCup at 7:57 PM on April 9, 2013

Response by poster: Just to clarify, when I say I want it to be amazing, I mean that I want it to be that way from the bride's perspective- I don't care what anyone else will think of it, with the exception that I don't want it to be embarrassing or awkward. I assume tear-jerking is also to be avoided. I'm looking for the best way to make HER happiest with my toast. (Though she is the type to care what others think, so the better it sounds to everyone, the more she'll like it.)

And greta, thanks, I missed that one. I searched for the tag "wedding" + "toast" and that didn't come up- I see it's tagged as "weddings" and "toasts." Oops! Will check it out now.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 8:18 PM on April 9, 2013

At my wedding, my dad made a ridiculous bunch of nonsense about the family coming over from Ireland (which is untrue in uncountable ways), and it was just rambling silliness that everyone took for what it was, and many laughs were had.

I don't know if my wife recalls it in the quite the same way.
posted by colin_l at 8:21 PM on April 9, 2013

We received two excellent toasts. Of course, this is completely subjective. And I should say that it was important to me that my guests enjoy the toasts as much as I did (not that I told my toasters this -- it's enough pressure as it is!). I have been to so many weddings with toasts that I didn't understand, or worse, toasts that were so incredibly awkward that I wanted to bury my head under the table. Everyone is different, but as a bride, the last thing I wanted was for my guests to feel out of the loop, bored, or uncomfortable while my friend turned the toast into a private conversation.

Here's what was great about the toasts at our wedding: short (5 minutes, absolute MAX), no esoteric jokes, nothing too embarrassing, nothing critical or "jokey" mean (it's not a roast), no mention of exes or other awkward, sad, or inappropriate topics. Also, both toasters were sentimental, and not their usual sarcastic selves (except one hilarious and perfectly timed joke at the end). I usually snicker at sentimentality, but I really appreciated their sincerity that day. Neither of the toasts were that creative or groundbreaking, just honest and from the heart.

Also, the toasters talked about the two of us, the relationship, and wished us a long and happy marriage. It wasn't just all about why one of us was such a great person. Who cares! It's not a lifetime achievement award, it's a wedding.

Some (unsolicited) technical advice: speak a bit louder and slower than you think is necessary. Prepare notes, but practice until you can deliver the toast without reading it word for word. Don't speak directly to the bride the entire speech. Try to hold off the waterworks until the end, if you can.

I would encourage you not to think about this as "holy crap I have to encapsulate my love for my friend in this one speech." Although you should say a few words about how you know the bride, I think it's important to remember that a good wedding toast (in my humble opinion) won't be focused on the friendship the toaster shares with the bride or groom. Nor (again, in my opinion), should it be a tribute to all of the good times the toaster and the bride or groom shared. (If you really feel the urge to write 1500 words on your amazing friendship, you might think about writing her a special note to open before the wedding or something like that). Weddings can stir up lots of emotion; couples, family and friends will often find themselves reflecting on the passage of time, evolving relationships, "growing up," etc. These emotions are important, but don't let them eclipse the real significance of the day, which is the union of two lives before their community. Focus on exactly what you are there to do: wish the happy couple a fabulous life together.
posted by murfed13 at 9:47 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Everybody else already has this covered, pretty much--just thought I'd emphasize a couple points which have struck me as particularly important at various weddings:

1. Something to avoid: sarcasm, snarky humor, in-jokes, mockery. (Even if you guys are smart-asses and that's your normal mode of operation.) It's easy to forget that that kind of humor depends upon the audience understanding immediately that you don't really mean it, and a sizable portion of your audience at the wedding will have never met you before that day. They won't know how to react to you, and you'll get crickets instead of laughter. Not to mention that trying to be too funny = making it about you, instead of the couple. Earnestness is the key.

2. Something to strive for: be sure to make the speech about the groom, too--somewhere from 25-40%. The best speeches will have specific anecdotes or observations about the bride, the groom, and the two of them together. People from the groom's family don't know the bride as well, so they want to learn about her, and vice versa. And people from both sides want to hear about how the couple interacts together, since they want the couple to lead a happy life and will be pleased to hear that they are in fact already leading a happy life.
posted by equalpants at 11:03 PM on April 9, 2013

My best friend gave a toast that made me feel like an individual for the only time during the wedding process after a series of toasts where I was characterized as cute, good for the groom to settle down with, etc. She talked about the adventures we had in college in such a way that you didn't have to be there, and how I'm an eccentric contrarian who gets her to think about different sides of an issue.

It's probably kind of narcissistic to want a speech about how awesome you are as an individual at an event that's about joining two lives, but it made me feel great.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 4:31 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am awesome at speeches. Last fall a good friend of mine had to write a maid of honour speech for her sister's wedding and she asked me to help. I have never met her sister, but we took an evening and she told me about her sister and some of her best memories. Within a couple hours I had a speech tht made my friend cry, and apparently when she spoke it at the wedding EVERYONE, including her dad who is the manliest man ever, was crying. So I'm awesome.

Also, I'm getting married in 5 months, so I am basing this on what I want my maid of honour to say for her speech. :)

Things to do:
- Give a broad strokes description of her, especially her from her early years when you knew her best and when most people there didn't know her. It doesn't have to be long, and it is best a bit funny. "In her earlier years, Betsy was active, loyal, loud, and had an indecent love of licorice and n*sync. She also used to brag that she could [something a little embarassing, like burp the alphabet or fit her whole fist in her mouth or knew every lyric to every song on the "No Strings Attached" album by n*sync]. Maybe ask her to prove it later tonight."
- Bring up a time or two when she was an absolutely amazing friend, where she went above and beyond the call of friend duty, where she came to your rescue or got you out of a bad situation or cheered you up or whatever. It should be a time where she was just the most amazing friend to you ever.
- reference the ways in which she has made the world better. (ie. "She is so happy and joyful that people around her can't help but be happier. She has made the world happier simply by existing.")
- mention how amazing her husband has been for her, all the ways he has made her happy, all the ways she has changed for the better since meeting him, etc. Include something about when you first met him, your first impressions, how you knew right from the beginning that this one was different and that she finally found someone worthy of her. I know you want to make it all about her, but I promise you she wants to hear about her husband and their relationship as well.
- Make a quick reference to her parents, acknowledge their having done a good job at raising her, say they "made a good one". (only if this is true. If she has a really crap relationship with her parents, skip this. otherwise, do this.)

Things not to do:
- tease/mock/disaprage her or her husband in any way. It never ends up being jokey. Every time I have heard someone try to do this at a wedding it just ends up being massively awkward.
- don't be excessively sexual/curse/rude in any way. Keep it classy. Always write it as though you are going to give it to her most aged, sensitive family memeber is going to proof read it.
- don't talk about past relationships and her ex boyfriends. No badmouthing them, no matter how douchebaggy they were. This is part of the classy thing.
- don't make it so full of inside jokes that no one gets it. I know you say you don't care, but she probably will.

Feel free to write her a letter where you tell her all the inside jokey stuff that you love about her. I actually think that would be lovely. Have the speech touch on some of it, but then give her a letter where you really lay out all the ways she is amazing and all your good times and how you love her.

Also, if you want any help with your speech, memail me. This is a 1000% sincere offer. I love writing speeches. :)
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:45 AM on April 10, 2013 [7 favorites]

OOooo! OOOoooo! I have an awesome line!

"Since I live halfways across the country and haven't been able to contribute as much as I'd like to all the pre-wedding stuff, I have decided that my contribution instead will be to tell everyone why [bride] is a fantastic human being and friend. I'm sure you all already know, her awesomeness is pretty self evident, but I want to make sure you know of ALL the reasons why she is fantastic."
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:55 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you write it down (and please, for the sake of practice write it down) make a point of giving your hand written toast to the bride. Years later the couple will remember that some kind and charming things were said, but the details get fuzzy. They will appreciate being able to re-live the toast in written form.
posted by dgran at 7:15 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Say something about her that you've always felt, but haven't said to her, and that she would be surprised and touched to hear. Like, "One reason I love Bride is that ____." Something that she secretly thinks about herself but doesn't think anyone else gets about her, or that she would love her family to hear, would be good.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:27 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

"from those of you who have been on the receiving end of an amazing toast- what about it really made it fantastic? Was it hilarious? Touching? Creative?"

The toast my stepson made at my & my husband's wedding was all of the above - hilarious, touching, and creative - and absolutely the best toast I have ever heard or experienced, and many of my wedding guests agreed. Not sure how applicable this could be to your situation, but maybe it will inspire something...

My husband's son, my soon-to-be stepson, was 13 at the time. He was very excited and honored to be the best-man, but he was very nervous about having to give a best-man toast speech. So my hubs Mr. Alba worked with him and this is what they came up with (keep in mind the two of them practiced this quite a bit before the wedding):

Stepson stands on dance floor, DJ gives him the microphone. Looks nervous (this was not faked.) looks around at the crowd. Clears his throat into the microphone. Looks startled as the noise [guests giggle a little.] Stepson says, "My dad told me that I had to give a best man speech. I didn't know what to say, so he said he'd write it for me."

Stepson then reaches into his suit pocket and pulls out a folded piece of paper. He unfolds it and everyone can see that it's several sheets of paper stapled together. He clears his throat again, and reads off the paper, in an awkward monotone, "My dad is great. My dad is fantastic. My dad is the most wonderful person I have ever known. My dad is awesome. My dad is a superstar! My dad is great. My dad is fantastic..." [guests giggle a little.]

He pauses, looks up, looks confused, flips through the stapled sheets of paper, looks confused, then says indignantly, "It goes on like that for the next 3 pages!" and then throws the paper over his shoulder and shrugs.
[At this point the guests all crack up laughing hysterically.]

Once the laughter dies down, he says, "Seriously folks, my dad is great and he's very lucky to be marrying a great woman, Ardea. Congratulations!" He hands the microphone back to the DJ, walks to his Dad and I and gives us both a hug.

[Guests cheer and clap.]

Start to finish, the whole thing took maybe two minutes, tops.

Stepson got so many kudos thorugh the rest of the reception. Many guests told him what a wonderful job he did with the toast. He was so proud. So were we.

For your situation, maybe you could start with a traditional mushy toast towards the bride (whom you know better), and then do the "pull out a list" act to talk about the groom, saying that the groom prepped it for you, then finish with the "seriously, they're great together" closer.
posted by Ardea alba at 7:33 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Frank O'Hara's Poem Read At Joan Mitchell's really hits the right tone for me, if you're looking for inspiration.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:33 AM on April 10, 2013

Re-iterating what's up here:

1) Tell a story - how you met; how you grew together; how you are today
2) Engage the audience
3) Talk about her - talk about how you've seen her grow; examples of her qualities; memories of things she's done that really stood out for you, but the audience can relate to
4) Keep inside jokes to a minimum
5) No talk about ex-boyfriends or wild partying
6) Talk a bit about him (the best man will take care of the rest)
7) End with a funny quote, blessing, or saying

And practice, practice, practice! Delivery is everything!!
posted by bitteroldman at 8:11 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

We had lots of toasts at our wedding (apparently my family is a bunch of attention-grabbers!) and the one I remember the most is one a friend gave. He is a Shakesperian actor (and a really amazing one at that) and he toasted us with a sonnet. It was beautiful, it made me cry, and it was special to me because I love Shakespeare. He knew that, and he knew which sonnet was my favorite.

It didn't hurt that he goes on stage for a living nearly every night of his life, so his delivery was spectacular. Practice, practice, practice!

Good luck!
posted by cooker girl at 10:01 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

No really embarrassing stories, no sort-of-mean-just-kidding comments. It's okay to use a notecard.
posted by theora55 at 10:48 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

My two best friends gave their speech together. They dug up and read aloud emails from when I had first met my husband and was describing him to them, and how they could tell from my words - such a departure from my usual snarky and too-cool-to-care quips - that I was falling in love with him and what kind of man he was and how happy he made me. It was amazing - a little embarrassing in a totally great way, personal and colorful, and very much a great encapsulation of me, of how long our friendship has endured, as well as the love and hope they have for us. Best speech ever.
posted by sestaaak at 4:41 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have a memorable line to end the speech. I don't remember most of the toasts at our wedding (though I do remember one of my sisters wrote a poem that had a nautical theme - a theme might be one option to make it memorable). My dad had a perhaps somewhat inappropriate zinger at the end of his speech that we'll never forget and keeps us laughing to this day. ("If she's anything like her mother, good luck!") His line was a risky move that worked because he knew the crowd - but another feiend's dad has the only other line I remember from a wedding toast: "Don't marry someone you can live with, marry someone you can't live without."
posted by Terriniski at 7:57 PM on April 11, 2013

So when my best friend got married, I thought I would be Captain Original, and did a Thing. When it came time for my toast, I hauled out an actual toaster and set it up, put a slice of bread in it, and pressed the lever. Then I launched into my carefully timed toast. At the appropriate time, the toast pops up and I say "and, with that, the toast is done".

It went over wel.

Fast forward to my own wedding a few years later, and my best friend pulls out a toaster, and then unwraps a breakfast pastry, talking about how he was inspired by my toast but figured a toaster strudel was more appropriate because it was a good start to the day, sweet, and more than a little flaky...just like me.

One of the best moments of my life, because of the shared in-joke and the history between us.
posted by scrump at 2:03 AM on May 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

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