Having quite recently been a best man in a wedding and being currently at another wedding [at the drafting of this post], I feel I owe all of you my insight into how and how not to give a wedding toast.

Here’s the thing: all of you have friends. Those friends, if they are bold and daring, may place in you the sacred and singular trust of making you their best man or maid/matron of honor.* If / when this happens to you, you will commonly be expected to stand up at the wedding reception in front of the assembled throng and, with a microphone in your hand and a tremble in your voice, propose a toast.

Perhaps that is where the breakdown begins. In our Bud-Light-slamming, beer-pong-playing, Keystone-keg-standing culture, the art of the “Here’s to…” and “May your…” toasts is all but lost. Telling a young man or woman that his / her best man / maid of honor responsibilities include making a “toast” — in addition to keeping the groom / bride sane, throwing a bachelor(ette) party, and/or purchasing plates and utensils last minute so the guests don’t have to eat the cake out of their hands with their faces — presumes an unfair level of social sophistication.

Which is why I was created: to fill that social vacuum with time-tested wit and wisdom. I am here to succeed where your parents, youth pastors, and greek association buddies have failed: I will make you cultured. I will help you turn “toasted” from a predicate adjective back into a socially powerful transitive action verb yet again. I give you…

How to Give A Wedding Toast: A Brief Tutorial

Do Not:

Ramble on. It’s a toast, not a sermon, not a speech, not a monologue…and it is not your one last chance to impart to the freshly wed couple anything and everything their pre-marital counseling and pre-marital nup overlooked. We, the audience, don’t want your wisdom. We want a funny story, a poignant moment, and an excuse to sip the bubbly. Soon.
Blubber. I don’t care if you can recall when you and the bride were four years old (sob) and you talked (sniff) about growing up (weep) and your eventual wedding (wail) dresses, and “I’m just so, so, sooo happy for you” (sniffle sob weep) etc. And you’re blubbering on, unaware of how unintelligible you are, and uncertain how to end it. Step 1: A) We can’t understand a word. B) We wouldn’t want to hear it if I could. C) Shut up and sit down.
Struggle to close. “All good things must come to an end” is little comfort when bad toasts just keep going and going and rambling and digressing and they can’t figure out how to…hey! Maybe this is why they’re always a bridesmaid…
Make this about you. Trust me, I understand limitless narcissism. But for once in your life, avoid statements like the following: “I first met Tony when I was in college, it was freshman year, or maybe sophomore year, and I was on the track team, running the 4×100 relays. And we went on this one trip to my uncle’s house in Wichita, he’s a successful executive with Amway, a top salesguy, my mom’s brother, actually, and I had just the best time that weekend, and” what the flying flip does this have to do with the groom, or the bride, or their holy matrimony, or giving a freaking toast?
Reference coitus in any way, shape, or form. I’m sorry to even have to say this. Save these sorts of jokes for the bachelor(ette) party if you must. I’m serious.
Embarrass the groom. Ok, this is hard for you, I know. The line between ribbing the groom and making him look like a fool on his wedding day is very fine indeed. Let me help you. Good is what the best man did in his toast at the wedding I just attended: “Any single men here? Today’s a sad day, huh? Another beautiful single lady taken off the market. And are there any single ladies here? Yeah, I know, just another Saturday…” Bad: “Well, Jim and I were roommates at Duke, and I remember the time I found him in our bathroom getting baked with my ceramics professor into a compromising and non-artistic position. Whatever happened to her, Jim?”
Flirt with the bride. We will review this in the Dos, but remember: the opportunity to make your move has long since passed. He was man enough to ask her out, and you were not. Still pining? Be patient; the odds are good that you’ll get another chance. [OR: Be patient; the odds of a second chance are in your favor.]

Do:

Tell the bride how beautiful she is. Just once. Even if the crash diet, the tanning salon(s), the excessive makeup, and the oh-so-expensive white dress have not delivered a statistically significant increase in hotness, you are still allowed and even encouraged to compliment her (leaving the complementing to her other half, of course). Don’t overdo it; just mention it in passing. “Wasn’t that a beautiful ceremony? Katie, you look absolutely radiant…”
Rib the groom. “…and so does Dave here. And did you notice Dave’s mother smiling during the wedding? Of course she was! She’s finally done doing Dave’s laundry, packing Dave’s lunches, making Dave’s bed…”
Tell a brief, ideally poignant story. This story should reflect well on the bride and humorously on the groom. This is where you transition smoothly from jocund to serious. “But who’s honestly surprised that we’re here celebrating the marriage of these two best friends? I remember when Dave came back to our dorm after a date with Katie, and all he could talk about was his love for her and the way her eyes danced in the moonlight and the poems he was writing for her and…well, you get the idea. He said to me, ‘I don’t know how to explain it…I just want to be with her every moment of every day for the rest of my life. I think she feels the same way!’ Dave and Katie, today you have made each other’s greatest wishes come true.”
Pick up the champagne from the table. Hold it at hip level. This signals to the crowd that the toast itself is imminent.
Bless the fledgling couple and marriage. These sort of statements often begin in the subjunctive. Look into the eyes of the married couple as you say, “So may your home be filled with laughter, your souls with joy, and your hearts with unending love for each other.”
End with a clear directive to everyone: “Please raise your glasses with me…to Dave and Katie!”

Any questions?

* in certain cases, the bride and groom may violate the law of superlatives by appointing two bests and maid ofs, affixing the logically impossible title of “co-best” to the chosen duos as was the case in the wedding this past weekend. This is how we ended up with FOUR toasts and the inspiration for this post.