The bride and groom may be the stars of their big day, but at the reception the best man, father of the bride and other members of the wedding party are often expected to make a speech. Meanwhile, many modern brides – including the Duchess of Sussex – are opting to break tradition and give their own speeches.
However, along with the special honour comes a lot of pressure – how will you guarantee laughs? Should you really share that joke? Get it right with these top tips from journalist and broadcaster Grace Dent, as well as Tedbets and presenters Jonnie Irwin and Ben Hull, who both have experience as a best man and know what does – and doesn’t – work.
1. Make some notes. Don't wing it
There is no shame in writing down the toast exactly as you would say it and then practicing delivering it 'naturally', looking at the cards now and again. A toast should have a 'smooth' welcoming intro and an 'emotional/happy' end. Be accurate with the bits of info you need to communicate like the maid of honour's name and the groom's grandmother who was too ill to travel.
Jonnie adds: "Cue cards to keep you on track are the most you should use or you'll just end up reading... and that's for losers."
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2. Know your audience
Think about who is in the room and how much detail people need to know. Save the gritty, grubby and incriminating stories for people who'll adore them at the bar afterwards. Instead give people light detail of how you met. Do not let your toast become a giant in-joke that only a few people understand. A toast should appeal to everyone, be inclusive and unite a room, even if it makes it a bit bland.
Jonnie agrees: "Don't use too much foul language — you're not with your mates, it's a formal occasion. Also stay away from private jokes and talking about ex-girlfriends."
3. Always check people can hear
No matter how good this toast is, the guests won't be able to hear if you are mumbling at 200 words per minute! During your prep, find somewhere a bit private you can boom out words and practice a slightly larger than life voice. A toast — like it or not — involves being a bit theatrical and being the centre of attention. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Note: don't be scared to ask people mid-toast if they can hear you at all parts of the room.
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4. How to add humour and get a laugh
A fail-safe option for fun is some light teasing of the person who you're making a toast for. Think of silly things that will make the room smile. Bring up amusing events where they were idiotic but lovable. Any funny story about someone should always be told with a big dose of love. This isn't a place to settle scores or tell anyone off. Ben recommends: "Try your jokes out on someone first, like a trusted friend who'll give you an honest opinion."
5. State the obvious
Yes, everyone may have said that the bride and the bridesmaids look beautiful and her mother must be proud and the groom is a lucky man. But, people love to be mentioned and paid tribute to. Don't cut all the niceties from the toast because you find them boring and want more time to tell your jokes! Make it nice. Make others feel good. People are often a little tipsy and emotional by this point and they love to hear the praise. Tedbets says: "Make the happy couple the focus of the speech and don't use it as a platform to completely take the mickey out of the groom."
6. How to bring a tear to family and friends at a wedding
It's not actually that hard to get a tear during a speech. You have carte blanche to pull shamelessly on heartstrings by bringing up someone's finest hour, or their darkest hour when a huge life event happened. If it's appropriate and fitting, don't be afraid to pay tribute to someone who can't be there as they are very ill, or would have loved to be there but have passed away. If you're going to do this, make sure you get their names absolutely correct.
7. Check that glasses are full
Before you raise a toast, ensure everyone has something in their glass. Go with something like, "Ladies and gentleman, thank you for listening to me, can I ask you to charge your glasses, as I'd love to raise a toast to my wonderful friend…".
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