October 4, 2006 7:50 AM   Subscribe

Advice for writing a wedding toast?

so my brother's getting married, i'm the best man, i'll be giving a toast. it's a large wedding (a couple hundred) and our side will comprise well under half of that, so it has to be appropriate for a room full of strangers. also, my brother and i aren't super-close, so i don't have a well of touching personal stories to draw on.

tips? advice? good sites to check out for inspiration?
posted by sonofslim to Human Relations (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Loads of great examples. I started off with a speech copied directly from bits and pieces of that site and then added in personal things. By the end I had an original speech that went down great.

don't want to pay the registration then check out ;-)

My personal favourite final toast (that I ended up using) was

May your marriage be modern enough to survive the times and traditional enough to last forever

cheesy but I like it!
posted by twistedonion at 7:55 AM on October 4, 2006

No swearing and keep it short.
posted by Mister_A at 8:00 AM on October 4, 2006

The classic presentation:

1) A funny (possibly slightly embarrassing but only in a "what a cute kid" way) story about your brother as a child. Doesn't have to involve you or your relationship with him if you can't come up with one, but surely you can think of some time when he said something adorable, or played outside in the mud and then tracked dirt all over the house, or decided he wanted to be Superman and refused to take off his cape for 2 weeks. Nothing about sex, drugs, drinking, past relationships, lawbreaking, or anything else you wouldn't want your mother-in-law and your priest to know.

2) A story about the bride and groom's relationship, from your perspective. How did he describe her the first time he mentioned her to you (obviously only use this one if the answer is not "I had the hottest one night stand last night)? Did he tell you about his plans to propose in advance? How did he tell the family that he was getting married? What happened the first time you met her? Try to come up with something interesting that will convey that you see a deep love between them or that you're glad to have her in the family.

3) Congratulations to the bride and groom. Doesn't have to be more than one sentence.

Try to keep the whole thing to 3 minutes max. No one likes a long toast, and you don't want to hog the spotlight. And practice it ahead of time in front of a friend or two, preferably a female friend or someone either highly sensitive or very easily offended. This will serve both to make sure that you're comfortable giving it and to double check that you've stayed family-friendly. This is about showing your brother that you love him and his bride that she's a welcome addition to your family. Relax and enjoy it as best you can.
posted by decathecting at 8:05 AM on October 4, 2006

This bit went over extremely well at a wedding I attended a couple of years ago. I'm not sure if it's been overused, since I've only witnessed it once, but the crowd loved it.

You: Wax nostalgically about how great their relationship is and how you wish them all the best. Go on for 15-20 seconds about how wonderful their marriage will be. Then, tell them to gaze meaningfully into each other's eyes and say:

"I want you (husband) to put your hand on top of hers. ::pause and get choked up:: and realize that this will be the last time you have the upper hand."
posted by SeizeTheDay at 8:07 AM on October 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

"I want you (husband) to put your hand on top of hers. ::pause and get choked up:: and realize that this will be the last time you have the upper hand."

Very good. Another one I heard - if the bride wants to speak then she has to speak after the best man. This is traditional apparently. The reason... from this day on the bride will always have the last word.
posted by twistedonion at 9:01 AM on October 4, 2006

Make some notes, if you must, of the points you want to hit during your toast, but don't write a script. It's painfully obvious when people try to memorize a script for a speech or toast. Because nobody can do it. They end up stuck on "shit, which exact word comes next?!" and either freeze or stumble.

Memorize some bullet points and practice talking through them conversationally.
posted by Tubes at 9:15 AM on October 4, 2006

"I want you (husband) to put your hand on top of hers. ::pause and get choked up:: and realize that this will be the last time you have the upper hand."
I used a variant on this (I first asked the bride to place a hand on the table - and I didn't get choked up but did remain solem/serious for the first part so as to contrast with the delivery of the last part) to kick off my speech and it went over well.

Then I did some personal stuff and congratulated them. As everyone says, keep it short and you'll do fine.
posted by mikepop at 9:15 AM on October 4, 2006

not sure where that came from
posted by mikepop at 9:16 AM on October 4, 2006

I've witnessed a few bad ones where the best man did some of the following:
* went on too long
* went on about himself
* went on in excruciating detail about the groom
* made stuff up about the groom as a jokey "fishing"... that wasn't funny
* forgot to compliment the bride
* forgot to hand out the pressies to the wedding party
* slurred and staggered
* toast the newlyweds

... so don't do any of those :)
posted by Chunder at 9:16 AM on October 4, 2006

If you do not have your own personal stories, check with other available people (parents, bridal party, close friends) for a good story and tell this story, saying that it represents their relationship or just that it moved you, etc. The best speeches tell you something about the bride and groom and their relationship. As the best man, it's your job to bring the whole group a little closer to understanding and relating to the groom.

I think women can be really good at this and have been to a few weddings where I thought the maid/matron of honor blew the best man out of the water with her toast. Don't be one of those best men!

I like decathecting's suggestions, above. You could also focus on one point about the relationship that you would like to get across. Has it made your brother more mature or responsible? Or just happy? Think about (or glean from others) any anecdote that handily illustrates this. If you can't get an anecdote for this, a less optimal way to present it is to skip the anecdote and go straight to the narrative explanation, e.g., "Since X and Y started dating, I have seen my brother ________."

Then try to think of something from your shared past that relates to this issue. For example, it could contrast with the anecdote from the present (though not in a mean way), or show that what he has now is something he has always wanted. Bonus points if the old story makes your brother look cute.

Then do as decathecting suggests and tell the old story first, then follow it with the new story, making a connection between the two, and bring speech to an end. Should not take more than 5 minutes, and will probably take closer to 3.

Your brother will be so grateful if you can say something that connects the party to him, and may be secretly disappointed if you do not. Even if you two are not that close, I really suggest trying to bring something personal to the speech.

For humor, which also goes over really well, check out this site.

Good luck!!!
posted by onlyconnect at 9:22 AM on October 4, 2006

Man I've heard some incredible speeches over the years. First of all, get yourself a British accent, then no matter what you say, it will sound incredibly witty to Americans. I remember hearing this speech where the guy crafted this whirlwind storybook romance of a couple who everyone knows was about as boring as can be - and that was most of the fun - how he made these two seemingly insipid people into Romeo and Juliet taking bits and pieces of their courting process and turning it into this classic romance - which to them it was. Sorry I can't remember anything from the speech.
posted by any major dude at 9:26 AM on October 4, 2006

If you don't have anything really good to say, you can keep it about five sentences long. These sentences must include:

1. A compliment to the bride. This can be a stand-alone compliment (Sara is always amazing us with her wit and poise; my first impression of Sara was of her great sense of humor), or a compliment by contrast with some gentle slagging of your brother (Sara is so organized, and it's a good thing too because Joe would be lost without her). The former is classier.
2. How pleased you are that she's joining the family. Again, this can include gentle slagging of bro if your relationship merits that (eg, how lucky he is to have found a girl like this).

And can include:
3. Something nice about your brother. (can be a cute slightly embarrassing story, or just how he's always been a good brother or something generic like that.)
4. How good a match they are. How glad you are for your brother on this day, how he's always been the (artistic, athletic, dreamer, generous, careful, funny, serious) one in the family and today we're seeing the perfect match for him. (either because she's similar or because she's different)

And a safe finish is: "To the happy couple!" or "To Sara and Joe!"
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:54 AM on October 4, 2006

Response by poster: onlyconnect, you have my thanks and admiration for managing to hide the phrase "the maid/matron of honor blew the best man" in your reply.
posted by sonofslim at 9:57 AM on October 4, 2006

Oh, puleeze don't do the "upper hand" thing. I just abhor gender bashing, however cutesy that may be. People did stuff like that to us when we got married, and it was just annoying, since we have a functional and healthy marriage and share the "upper hand".

And don't be negative or embarrassing-- it's their wedding, not a birthday party. Birthday parties are a great place to be goofy-- weddings are much more formal. Keep it light, keep it honoring to both of them, and to their families. What would you like someone to say at YOUR wedding?
posted by orangemiles at 10:36 AM on October 4, 2006 [2 favorites]

One thing you can do with your remarks is trying to balance out the other speakers. At my friends D & G's wedding, everyone talked on and on about how much G loved D, how she knew from the day she met him that she wanted to marry him, yada yada yada. So I got up and told everyone how D was telling me months before they even got together how much he missed her and wished they could be together. They thanked me for that specifically after the wedding.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:40 AM on October 4, 2006 [2 favorites]

I may be in the minority, but I find it to be in bad taste to joke about how awful marriage is or how you are losing freedoms in a best-man's toast. As such, I second avoiding the "this is last time you have the upper hand" bit.

LobsterMitten's posted outline is pretty much on the money. No matter what you do, make sure your speech actually ends instead of fading out. "To the happy couple" is safe, but look around, there are some interesting final toasts out there. I ended my toast to my brother with, "May you never lie, cheat or drink. But if you must lie, lie with each other. And if you must cheat, cheat death. And if you must drink, drink with us for we all love you and wish you both the love and happiness of which you deserve."
posted by Macduff at 12:59 PM on October 4, 2006

As several posters have said: Keep it short. People hate long best man speeches.

Which is a good thing for you actually. Most people attending weddings have suffered through so many long, bad toasts that their expectations are low. You don't have to give the greatest toast in human history; you just have to beat their expectations. Keep it short, tell one good joke, and everyone will think you're brilliant.

A minimalist best man's toast needs three things:

1) A quick explanation of your relationship to the groom. (You would be suprised how many best men forget that.) After all, most of the bride's family has never met you before, and you don't want Aunt Tilly in the back of the room asking "Who is that guy"? You've got it easy here, since you just have to slip the words "my brother" into a sentence or two.

2) One, and exactly one, joke or funny story about the groom. If you can't come up with a joke about the groom, at least try to make a joke about yourself being the best man. Never make a joke about the bride. Never, never, never. (I'm totally with orangemiles on the "upper hand" thing. Jeez, are the rest of you people living in the 1970s?)

3) Say something sappy about what a great couple they are, and how glad you are your brother found the perfect girl for him.

4) Say "cheers" and sit the hell down.

Two to three minutes, tops, and you're golden.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 1:33 PM on October 4, 2006

Having recently been married, I feel it's important to point out that there is a difference between the expectations for the best man depending on whether you live in the US or in the UK (and Australia etc).

In the US, you are usually expected to give a toast. This involves a quick story, lots of "congratulations" etc and then the actual "toast" part. This is why some posters are suggesting two - three minutes.

In the UK, various people stand up at a wedding and give a full-blown speech. It's a lot like the toast, but generally a bit more personal, with a few more stories, a few more anecdotes or sappy bits and then sometimes there is a toast at the end. The best man's speech is usually the one with the most expectation here and I wouldn't be surprised if it went for 10 or 15 minutes.

So, I guess my advice is just to keep this in mind when you read any of the comments here. I can already see comments coming from both sides, so be careful and make sure you know which one the bride and groom want you to do! You also need to watch this with websites like the ones linked above.
posted by ranglin at 4:23 PM on October 4, 2006

Shakespeare never fails. I busted this out at my best friend's wedding:

"When love speaks, the voice of all the gods makes heaven drowsy with the harmony."
posted by autojack at 4:43 PM on October 4, 2006

sonofslim, it was really the least I could do!

Hmmm ranglin, I live in the States and at the last five wedding receptions I have attended here (including my own), at least one, and sometimes both of the "toasts" have run on the longer side (~ or > 4 minutes) and drew either laughs or emotion from the crowd that the wedding couple appeared to appreciate. Either the UK tradition is migrating to the States (surely due in part to Hugh Grant's toast in Three Weddings and a Funeral!) or I am witnessing some weird continental blip in U.S. uber-toasts.

I agree with you that it would be wise to check with the groom regarding the type of toast that they might like, but barring this, from my perspective as both an observer and bride, I think one would be safer (and elicit more gratitude from the wedding couple) by putting in more effort rather than less. I agree with the folks who are saying that long toasts (e.g., 3 to 5 minutes) are bad if they are boring, but where they are funny and/or moving, you are doing the bride and groom a huge favor by showing that you know and care about them, endearing them to their guests for whom they are throwing the most expensive party of their lives, and simultaneously knocking out some of the routine impersonality that often attaches to large weddings that fall victim to the rubric of the modern nuptual industrial complex.
posted by onlyconnect at 5:37 PM on October 4, 2006

Chiming in on what some people have said above - keep it lighthearted, happy, smiling, and respectful. Talk about the couple themselves and avoid cheesy marriage cliches and gender-based joking (e.g. ball and chain, cooking/housecleaning, no more freedom, how he'll have to ask nicely to watch the game on Sundays, etc.). Speaking as an occasional wedding guest, these kinds of jokes make me really uncomfortable. Marriages are meant to be celebrated and enjoyed, but these jokes make them sound like a life sentence!
posted by cadge at 6:15 PM on October 4, 2006

onlyconnect, I never meant to imply that a short wedding toast can't be funny! I just wanted to highlight that I've noticed a significant difference in length between the US and UK styles... I actually think that 4 minutes still fits into US style "toast" length, so I'd argue that there isn't really as much as a blip as you think... :)

(surely due in part to Hugh Grant's toast in Three Weddings and a Funeral!)

Wasn't it four weddings and a funeral? I know the Americans have a tendency to edit british films heavily at times (Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone - bah!), but I'd be surprised if they removed an entire wedding from the film! :)

Anyway, just to add to my previous thoughts (and try and avoid the mod's deleting this as chat filter!), when I wrote my speech for my own wedding (as the groom), I went to my local wedding place and bought a book of best man speeches. I then read all the speeches for grooms (4 or 5) and poached all the bits I liked from each of them for my own speech! I was quite chuffed with the final result (and it seemed to go off well), but I might be biased! :)
posted by ranglin at 6:47 PM on October 4, 2006

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