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Published: Tuesday, Mar. 30th, 2021

Avoiding a Terrible Wedding Toast -- What *Not* To Do

Illustrations by Jessica Levey

From best men to ex-presidents, anyone can give a terrible wedding toast. Here’s how to avoid it.

 


Ex-president Donald Trump made headlines this week with a truly unfortunate mic grab at a couple’s Mar-a-Lago wedding. The celebrity’s meandering speech touched on topics that most people know to avoid at big family gatherings (you know, politics, old family feuds, healthcare...) Topics that are no more welcome at a wedding than they might be at a holiday dinner table.  

 

But although Trump’s tanked wedding speech has received a lot of press, he’s not the first person to totally miss the ball in this manner.

 

Ad-libbing best men, swearing bridesmaids, wasted aunts, and nosey neighbors -- wedding guests have been botching toasts since the beginning of time. Your drunken ramble might not make it to a late night news cycle, but without a little preparation, you still risk being talked about in whispers at potlucks and birthday parties for years. 

 

 

 

To avoid the disaster of a bad toast, follow these simple tips: 

 

 


1. Keep it short

 

Don’t talk so long that eyes start to glaze or people impatiently scan the room searching for the exits. Keep it short and sweet -- maybe 4 or 5 minutes. 

 


2. Stay on topic -- the couple! 

 

Don’t make the speech about you, or anyone or anything other than the beautiful couple standing in front of you, and the amazing life they have ahead of them together. There will be other times to give your opinion on current events or recount your recent trip to the grocery store. 

 


3. Only speak at weddings you’ve been invited to

 

Don’t crash a wedding, or if you do, don’t give a toast there. If you find yourself at a wedding where you don’t know anyone, just eat a few hors d'oeuvres, have a glass of wine, and stick to small talk. 

 

 

champagne toast, watercolor illustration, two hands holding flutes and toasting in front of blue and yellow painted background

 


4. Keep your wits about you 

 

Don’t get drunk before the speech. Look, we’re not here to tell you what to do after the toast, but it’s a good idea to be clear-headed and able to enunciate for the few minutes you’re holding the mic (and the crowd’s attention). This will also help you to avoid declaring your unrequited love to a stranger and/or a bride or groom.

 


5. Don’t ad-lib

 

Unless you’re asked to speak by surprise, there’s no good reason not to prepare your toast ahead of time. No one’s expecting you to nail the delivery, but consider what you’d like to say beforehand, summarize it out loud to yourself first, and make a few notes to help guide you along and keep you on topic. 

 


6. Keep your doubts to yourself

 

Don’t take this opportunity to joke about previous difficulties in the couple’s relationship, or to offer negative opinions on their marriage. Seriously. If they didn’t take your opinion to heart before the wedding, they don’t want to hear it now. Keep your words positive and supportive! 

 


7. Don’t embarrass the couple

 

This should go without saying, but if you’re speaking at a wedding you should have an idea of what the couple wants to hear -- and stick to it. If a couple loves to be teased, and everyone in attendance knows this about them (see number 8, below), then a humorous story might work. But consider this in advance and whatever you do, don’t embarrass the newly-weds. 

 


8. Read the room 

 

Don’t give the same speech to a large conservative family group that you might to your pals at the club. Many weddings have a diverse, multi-generational guest list, and your speech should be appropriate for everyone there. Avoid contentious topics that might cause upset, like politics, death, or money.

 

 


 

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