The wedding ceremony is over and you are officially married. Now to toast the new couple! One event in the reception that is both anticipated and feared is the toast. I have been getting questions about Toasts recently, since it is one of the few things about the wedding in which the end result that is a little out of the bride and groom's control. So what guidelines are there for toasts? Most of the questions stem from when is the best time to do them and who should do a toast.
What is a toast?
According to Wikipedia; "...the word toast became associated with the custom in the 17th century of flavoring drinks with spiced toast. The word originally referred to the lady in whose honor the drink was proposed, her name being seen as figuratively flavoring the drink. The International Handbook on Alcohol and Culture says toasting "is probably a secular vestige of ancient sacrificial libations in which a sacred liquid was offered to the gods: blood or wine in exchange for a wish, a prayer summarized in the words 'long life!' or 'to your health!'"
The wedding toast has evolved over the last decade. It was customary for the best man to simply offer some good words of advice to the bride and groom and that was it. Now, just about anyone can give a toast, and toasts can range from words of advice, to funny (often embarrassing) stories, to touching memories or tributes.
When is the best time to give the toast?
There really are no “written rules” to a wedding reception, only customs and geographical traditions. The toast could, in theory, go anytime after the couple is introduced, but you have the most attention from your guests right after the grand entrance and before the blessing and dinner. So usually, this is the best time to say anything that you want your guests to pay attention to. Once any courses of food are served, guests tend to head to the bar, bathroom, or outside for some fresh air. It can be difficult to grab the attention of guests while tables are bused and guests are moving throughout the room.
Who should give toasts?
The best man and/or maid/matron of honor. If you don’t have a designated best man or maid/matron of honor, or if one of those people is incredibly uncomfortable with public speaking, don't force them for tradition's sake, pick one male and/or female from the bridal party or another family member or close friend that is good with public speaking and designate them to give the toast.
Should anybody else give a toast?
There is often a question if the bride and groom need to say something at the reception. This isn’t required, but if the couple wishes to address the guests or wants to say a quick “Thank You", or if they like to publicly speak, then sure, it is their wedding, they can say something.
Often times, The designated hosts, such as the parents, may like to welcome and thank the guests. Sometimes an ethnic poem or tradition from the family is read. These are great traditions and encouraged if they are a part of your families.
Most wedding vendors, from MCs to caterers, will recommend that there be no more than 3 or 4 toasts at any wedding reception. There just isn’t enough time and unless every toaster is a public speaker for a living, they can’t keep the attention span of guests and it becomes a boring time at the reception
How long should a toast be?
I will never forget the wedding that had 2 hours of toasts. Yes, that is not an exaggeration. The maid of honor came up first. She cried for 15 minutes and then got herself composed and did a nice speech about her sister and new brother-in-law. The best man followed by saying he would be brief. Since he was a professional public speaker and power point presenter, little did we know that brief would be 35 minutes. It was an excellent speech and he had the crowd rolling, but I guarantee every steak in the country club was overcooked and cold by the time they were served.
After dinner, not to be outdone, each father spoke for 30 minutes. This left the bride and groom 45 minutes to dance and have fun, since the country club had a strict end at 10PM clause.
Five minutes per speech is usually a good average. It is well documented that women who give toasts usually write down their speeches, while men tend to wing it. You may want to recommend to anyone giving a toast that they do write something down and tell them to practice a couple times. What they think will be 5 minutes can turn into 10+ minutes with hugs, tears and laughter.
When is another good time to give toasts?
The rehearsal dinner is a little less of a formal get together. This would be the best time to have an open time for other bridesmaids or groomsman to say a few words about the happy couple. Remember that you have a much larger crowd, and a tighter timetable at the reception. Your great aunt and uncle probably don’t care about the first movie you went to see or the geology class where you met and they don’t want to hear about your drunken outings or something embarrassing that should be kept within the bridal party.
The toast should be looked at as the cherry on top of the amazing sundae. It isn't the main attraction, but sweet addition that everyone remembers. It should be a highlight and a tribute to the love, family and friendship that was brought together for this special day.
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