What makes a great wedding toast? Wedding planner Maureen Woodman focuses on the feelings of the speeches.
John Maher: Hi. I’m John Maher. I’m here with Maureen Woodman, a wedding planner for on and off-site catered events at The Essex Room in Essex, Massachusetts. Today, we’re talking about “How to Give an Amazing Wedding Toast.” Welcome, Maureen.
Maureen Woodman: Hi, John. Thanks for having me today.
Hallmarks of a Good Wedding Toast
John Maher: Sure. So Maureen, what are the hallmarks of a good wedding toast?
Maureen Woodman: I think that when you can get someone to feel goose bumpy, or you can get the feeling across from the person giving the toast that you understand the bride or the groom, depending on who they’re toasting, that you walk away with a little bit more knowledge of who they are from this.
I also think that it shows friendship, or brother, or sisterhood that you can understand why these two people have been so intimate with each other throughout their lives. A lot of times, I think the real bone chilling moment is when you see the friend releasing their friend to this new spouse, where they’re not jealous. But they’re saying “goodbye” to them and “hello” to this new couple. I think that that’s when you really nail it when you can get that feeling across.
Who gives a toast at a wedding?
John Maher: Right. Who normally gives a toast? Is there a set thing to do there?
Maureen Woodman: It used to be the best man or the father of the bride. That was about it but no longer. Now, you have the maid of honor. You may have the second maid of honor. You may have dual maid of honors. You have the best man. You may have the father of the bride. You may have the father of the groom.
For the venue, we like to have one toast. Sometimes, these toasts can go on forever. It can really back up the kitchen because there’s no script for the toast. So, we never know when we’re working, trying to do the timing of the food, how long this is going to be. We have this tendency to do an eye roller when we start talking about “first we were in kindergarten. Then, we went to third grade. Then, we went off to high school.”
John Maher: And you have to run back to the kitchen and say, “Put everything on hold. I think it’s going to be a while.”
Maureen Woodman: And we go, “That’s a timeline toast coming! Watch out! It’s going to be an extra 20 here”, because it’s really funny to us. But to me, that is really something that sticks out. I have a tendency to think sometimes, it’s the best man who seems to give what I call “the timeline toast” where the maid of honor gives a little secret of what these two girls did in their lifetime together. The maid of honor always has a tendency to let go of some information.
John Maher: So, with maybe multiple people giving toasts at times, it can maybe appear to the rest of the guests at the wedding that, “Oh! They’re just letting anybody stand up and give a toast.” Is there any way to control who stands up to give a toast? Can it get out of hand where all of a sudden “Oh, I have something to say too” and “I have something to say too”, and all of a sudden everybody is standing up and doing it?
Maureen Woodman: Again, at the detail meeting, you always go over the toast with the bride when you’re doing her final notes two weeks out. What we say is, “Oh! You have a lot of people, I see, that want to give you a toast. It would be so good if they could do that the night of the rehearsal. And then, let everyone just go around the room and tell all their fun tales of your life together. And then, why don’t you just save one person for the wedding. So, that it’s even more special.”
So again, if you could accomplish that at the detail meeting without hurting anyone’s feelings — because at the detail meeting, remember, it’s just the bride and groom. All these people that are going to toast you aren’t normally involved in it. It’s actually, just usually the bride at the detail meeting.
So, that’s a way to get around that without hurting anyone’s feelings because if somebody wants to get up on that mic and give it their best… But I’ll tell you, the people in the room too, once you get through one or two of these, you lost the crowd usually, unless they are standup comedians or something.
How long should a wedding toast be?
John Maher: Right, which most people aren’t so you have that tendency for it to go on and on a little bit, and maybe you didn’t need to know all those little details about their whole life and when you met them, what you did in third grade, like you said.
So, yes, you can start to get a little long. So, how long should a toast be if you have that one person toasting, or maybe you have two people toasting? How much time during the wedding reception should you set aside for that?
Maureen Woodman: I think if you’re writing the toast, which most people do, most people actually bring a little cheat sheet with them. I’ve seen that because everyone gets a little nervous when it comes down to it. A half page printed, which is about 300 or 400 words. So, if you could just type it up ahead of time. If it’s over that, forget it. You lost them.
Unusual Wedding Toasts
John Maher: What are some of the more unusual toasts that you’ve seen or things that you’ve seen toasters do?
Maureen Woodman: So, this particular year, again, we had a lot of weddings ourselves. We did a lot of weddings. I had one that I really was fond of. It was friends of ours, and it was sisters. The sister gave the toast.
She had props with her speech, which I loved. Every time she said something about her sister and the groom, she would hold up a picture that she printed off the computer to go along, to kind of validate what she was saying.
John Maher: [Chuckles] Like “I have proof here.”
Maureen Woodman: Yes. I have proof like “I knew when this happened that they were made for life,” and then she’d pull out the photo. And it was really funny. It was more than words. It was detail with feeling and props. So it had a fun feeling.
Another one that was very popular this year, again, the girl, the maid of honor, not the groom and not the best man, they would sing rap songs. They would turn the toast into a rapping video dancing. They would have the DJ playing music in the back.That thing was very setup. It got the whole crowd clapping and cheering. It was really cute. I think it would take a lot of work to try to make a rap out of a toast.
And then, of course, whenever I have twins, whether it’s twin girls, maid of honor; but usually, it’s when I have twin best man and groom. We had a couple not too long ago. She was marrying, I say she was marrying the brothers because they were identical. One wore a bowtie, and one wore a straight tie. It was the only way we could tell them apart. When they were giving the speech, I couldn’t tell who’s who myself. One would say something, and the other one’s head would nod exactly the same way. They both cried at the same time. It was amazing.
But whenever you see twins give the speech, especially identical twins, they mimic each other, just like a mirror. And it’s amazing when you’re the person watching it. Never mind the feeling because you know that twin bond is definitely there. You could just feel it. You could just feel it. It’s amazing to see twins give a speech.
When to Deliver Wedding Toasts
John Maher: So, if people don’t take your advice and just do one toast, and they decide, “Okay. I really have to have a few people doing toasts,” do you recommend just getting them all out of the way all at once? Or is there a way to maybe spread them out over the course of the reception to keep that flow of the wedding reception going?
Maureen Woodman: No. Get them over with that once because once you lose that attention, you will not get back the room. Sometimes, the toast, if you just had one of your attendants, be it the maid of honor or the best man, the other toast that I think is very important and it’s very short normally is the father of the bride.
He will get up there. And usually, what he says is “Thank you all for coming to enjoy this moment with our family. I want to salute you and my children.” The father of the bride has a tendency to give a very nice, clean, short toast that is also very heartfelt.
John Maher: Well, that’s great advice for brides and grooms and for guests at weddings who are maybe asked to give toasts. Thanks for talking to me today, Maureen.
Maureen Woodman: Thanks, John. Thanks for having me.
John Maher: For more information, you can visit The Essex Room website at essexroom.com or call 978-768-7335.