Don’t worry. No one will actually tell you—to your face—that your wedding toast sucked. But it might. So do your homework. Stick to these 10 rules.
In the era before you met your fiancée, back when you were still looking for the right girl, the woman needed to have two qualities for long-term potential: personality and looks. Even if she looked like Megan Fox, you’d be bored in weeks if she despised your friends and constantly bitched about your job. And if she had a “lovely personality” but could be an extra on The Biggest Loser, then you’d ditch her in the morning once you sobered up.
Personality and looks. You need both. You found both.
Your wedding toast has a similar two-pronged criteria for success. As the groom, it’s absolutely critical that your toast convey two qualities: humor and heart. Forget the humor and you’re a pansy; forget the heart and you’re a dick. (Sorry. We told you we’d give it to you straight.) First, see our guidelines for the Best Man’s toast for plenty of overarching advice. As the groom, however, you face some additional expectations and pitfalls.
Humor and heart. To sufficiently employ them, you must stick to the following rules:
1. Reiterate your love for your bride.
Look, this is us. The Plunge. We’re as cynical as it gets. But even we acknowledge that for your wedding toast, it’s imperative that you dial up the whole “earnest love” shtick. Toward the end of your speech, you must say how lucky you are to have met this woman, how much you love her, how she still makes you wobbly in the knees—and you’ll feel that way for the rest of your life. We know, we know…barf. But it has to be done. And happily, this moment of ahhhhwwww will be nicely counter-balanced by Number 2…
2. Inject humor.
There’s a difference between “humor” and “jokes.” This is not the time to tell a daring, push-the-envelope joke like, “How are women and tornadoes alike? They both moan like hell when they come, and take the house when they leave.”
Don’t tell that joke. Or any generic joke. Instead, stick to some humorous anecdotes about how you met, how she’s the only one who finds your cooking edible (self deprecation—always a plus), how you knew it was over when she smoked you in tennis, whatever. What’s important is to use true anecdotes.
3. Ignore dumb quotes.
The wedding porn gives some helpful quotes you can use. Ignore most of them. The Knot, for example, suggests the Congolese proverb (yes, Congolese, we couldn’t make this shit up), “Love is like a baby; it needs to be treated gently.” Or the Russian proverb, “Love and eggs are best when they are fresh.” Your own sincerity is better than a random, impersonal quote. While it’s okay if the earnest-junk sounds a little clichéd (hey, it is what it is), never stuff the speech with corny “filler” quotes that everyone else uses at their weddings.
4. Thank the hosts.
The bride’s parents, especially if they just scribbled out a check for $30,000 bucks, deserve the most prolonged expression of gratitude. It’s okay, kiss a little ass. And thank them even if they haven’t paid a nickel—it’ll score you in-law goodwill. (In fact, it’s expected. Not thanking the in-laws will look about as good as grabbing your bride’s sister and jamming your tongue down her throat.) And give a shout-out to the schleppers. Whoever traveled 3,000+ miles just to eat some cake deserves a quick tip of the hat.
5. But don’t thank the Academy.
Don’t be like one of those obnoxious Academy Award winners who drones on and on by thanking Patty Sue for this beautiful cake, thanking your buddy Gus for the photography, and thanking our lord Jesus Christ for making this all come together. You’ve just lost your audience.
6. Practice. When you’re done, practice more. Repeat.
Yes, we harped on this when you proposed and we stressed it again for the Best Man’s toast, but it’s the single most effective way to improve your performance. Keep practicing in the mirror until you can deliver it with confidence. Don’t just give this a few minutes. Give it a few hours. If you spent 67 hours playing Madden just so you can have the league’s leading rusher, leading receiver, and leading passer all on the same team—we’ve all done this—then you can spend a few hours prepping for the most important speech of your life.
7. Look your bride in the eye.
Before you actually get to the lovey-dovey crap (see Rule 1), turn from the crowd to your bride, pause, let the moment gather a hint of drama, and then look her dead in the eye. Address her by her name. This will make every woman in the reception reach for a tissue and dab their newly-forming tears.
8. Keep it short.
See? Isn’t this one easier to read?
9. Keep the structure simple.
All you really need is an intro (welcoming the guests), a boatload of thank yous (see above), some humor-and-heart anecdotes about how you met your wife, and then a closing about how much you love her. Bang. That’s it. No need to reinvent the wheel.
Again, we don’t recommend using canned quotations like, “St. Augustine once said, ‘Insomuch as love grows in you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.’” (Guess who suggested that little gem? Yep. Keep ‘em coming, Knot!)
Or another from About.com: “Here's to the prettiest, here's to the wittiest, Here's to the truest of all who are true, Here's to the neatest one, here's to the sweetest one, Here's to them, all in one - here's to you.”
The trick is customizing and personalizing. The site Speches.com, for instance, sells six different versions of “Conventional Groom Toasts.” For about $16 bucks, you fill in the blanks (like Mad Libs) and they’ll spit out some stock speeches with the names already in there. The results can be choppy and disjointed. One such excerpt (the underlined parts are my fill-in-the-blank choices):
“Rachel - in case any of you hadn't noticed, is the perfect wife, and I'm lucky she said yes.
I'm lucky to have someone who can live with my toe fungus.
I'm lucky to have someone who can live with my nose hair.
And I'm lucky to have someone who is just so good hearted and so good to be with.
Some one once write [sic] that a good marriage is at least 80 percent good luck in finding the right person at the right time. The rest is trust. On that basis I would say we are 100% ready for this.”
Not the smoothest. But if you have utterly no idea where to start, these templates can give you a rough, rough first draft that you then personalize and polish.
A few other useful links:
20 Speech Topics (but mostly just a detailed list of who to thank—yawn)
Some quotes. Most are awful. Some are potentially useful.
More toast templates:
Really want to geek-out and over-prepare? There are some books like the “Complete Guide to Groom Speeches.”
(Frankly, you’re better off just going to a bookstore and flicking through a few of the sample templates to see if they’re worth a damn.)
Your next groom duty: Buying Gifts for Your Groomsmen.
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