It’s been a recurring question around here as of late – “Do you give tips to toast givers? Or are the toasts at the weddings you film just that good?” The answer? Honestly, the latter. Call it pure luck or call it fate, we, too, agree that we’ve been over the top fortunate to have so many weddings with incredible speeches. Truthfully, we hope it’s a combination weighted on our ability to attract couples who really connect with the way we tell stories plus a little bit of luck thrown in. Because, if you think about it, as humans we connect most deeply with like-minded people and if we’re connecting with our couples, that means we’re likely going to connect with the people in their innermost circle, too. Deep thoughts aside, we know we’ve been damn lucky to attract the people we attract and to capture the stories their friends and family share. You can imagine that after 8 years of filming weddings, we’ve learned a thing or two and after hearing so many incredible toasts, we’ve got some tips to share to help those speaking at your wedding not just move you but leave a lasting impression on your wedding guests, too.
15 TIPS TO GIVE AN UNFORGETTABLE TOAST
1. Imagine your roles were reversed – put yourself in the bride or groom’s shoes. This might come out sounding a little odd but try being selfish for a moment. If you were getting married and asked someone close to you to speak at your wedding, what would you hope they would say? How would you want them to paint you? What characteristics or memories would you want them to not leave out? Now take that mentality and keep it in mind while writing a speech for your friend. It’s basically the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is the biggest one to keep in mind from start to finish. If you find yourself at a road block or wondering if something you wrote is not appropriate, circle back to #1 and re-examine.
2. Speak from the heart. This one seems pretty obvious but I’d like to expand upon it in a deeper way. Very much like #1, speaking from the heart is akin to sharing your thoughts with someone in a way that you rarely get the opportunity to. Imagine you have only this moment to tell that person what they mean to you and what you love about them. If this were the last message you ever got to tell them, what would you want them to know? Parents are particularly good at seizing the moment like this because they’ve been waiting for this day longer than the bride and groom have. We’ve been blown away by the heartfelt remarks of friends and family in these films:
Perri + Matt – Perri’s best friends describe her in a way that is so pure and heartfelt.
Sarah + David – David’s best man gets it.
Camryn + Eugene – Camryn’s Dad’s emotional moment epitomizes this.
3. Provide widespread value. This is a moment when you have everyone’s undivided attention. I don’t know about you, but I don’t get the focus of 50+ people all too often so when I do, I want to make an impression. It’s of course most important to deliver your message to the bride and groom but what about those 50 or 100 or 500 others? Wouldn’t you like them to listen, too? The most successful toasts we’ve heard are ones that provide widespread value. When summarized, these toasts have an overarching message that can be applied to anyone in the room.
In the middle of Claire + Kyle’s reception, Kyle’s brother delivered a toast so powerful that a room full of 100+ people stayed entirely silent, outside of moments of laughter, and on the edge of their seats. I remember recognizing in that moment how incredible his speech was because of the sheer fact that it provided value to every single person in the room, from the youngsters to the elderly.
Claire + Kyle –
4. Anecdotes and inside jokes are fine so long as they apply to the greater message – and so long as they are kept short. One to two sentences short. Three, max, if it really deems necessary. If you find yourself stuck as to whether or not to include it, imagine the reactions of some of the other guests in the room outside of your circle and whether or not they’ll understand it. Here are some examples of when anecdotes and inside jokes worked –
Perri + Matt – both Perri’s best friend and Matt’s brother went in-depth on the same anecdote about a hurricane. It worked because it heightened their overall message of them being weird enough for each other.
Sarah + David – Sarah’s best friend tells a story about them making dinner one night and Sarah exclaiming she was in love with her boss. Not only did it get a laugh but it set up Sarah + David’s story perfectly in a simple way.
5. Please, no embarrassing stories. (Please.) Yo, did you read #1? Would you want someone to say that about you? Maybe you would, you sick freak :) Maybe you would… but alright, really. If you INSIST: Keep it PG for the youngins. And sweet, sweet grandma.
6. Don’t know the spouse well enough to speak about them? Tie in your widespread value to a wish for them in the future. Maybe you haven’t been able to spend much time with the bride or groom to know them well enough to speak about them in a speech – that’s okay! That’s what their toast givers are for :) If you find yourself in this position, use the above tips to really deliver about your best friend and close your speech with a personal wish for them as a couple.
7. Work on your toast when you feel bursts of energy and joy. Space your writing out over a month or more so you have ample time to craft and digest it. Working in this fashion helps it feel less stressful and gives it more positive reinforcement. If you write in chunks over a longer period of time, this will really help you to get to know your message better and hone in on what it is you’re trying to say.
8. Say your toast aloud over and over again up until the actual wedding. These last two? I’m writing from personal reference here. Last November, my best friend asked me to give a toast at her wedding. You’d think after capturing over 150 weddings that I’d feel extremely comfortable with it but to be honest, I was insanely nervous! In a way, I think filming incredible speeches over time put the pressure on me (in my head) even more, because I really didn’t want to botch it. I also know that I am a ball of nervous energy and when I have to speak in front of a room, I tend to want to rush my thoughts, my throat turns into the Sahara, and my hands sweat like it’s a first date. I figured this was my moment to really suck it up, harness my nervous energy into pure excitement and nail it. (By the reactions I got, I think I did.) The only way I was able to conquer my nervous energy was to treat my toast like a dear friend, to give it the time it needed (over a month, I think, is how long it took me), and get to know it like the back of my hand. Once I had sections written out, I would practice saying them aloud while driving around in my car. (I spend a lot of time driving – it’s my happy place, really.) One night, I even just drove in circles in my neighborhood until I got it right. By the time Amy’s wedding came, I had the first 3/4 of the toast practically memorized (though I didn’t realize it at the time) which eased my nerves on stage and allowed me to focus on the delivery more than what I was actually saying. *Next level tip: if you’ve gotten this far and you’re looking for help on the delivery of your speech, try saying it aloud over instrumental music that fits the feeling of what you’re trying to say. It will not only create a tempo for you, but help you to deliver with greater emotion.*
9. Everyone in the room is rooting for you. You know that underpants thing? The whole “imagine everyone in their underwear” line? Let’s throw that out. Just remember this: everyone is rooting for you! No one wants you to fail! Everyone in that room loves the people you are speaking about and everyone wants you to succeed. You got this!
10. Pauses are great. Pauses are your friend! If you find yourself getting choked up or overwhelmed… or telling a joke… pause. Wait a moment. You know what will happen? Everyone will stop and listen. Or react. Silence is weird like that. It catches people’s attention more than yelling. Speaking of, you know what will really get everyone’s attention? Whispering. Whispering does that too. But I digress. (Long story short: take your time.)
11. Don’t read from an iPhone or device!! Can I say this in all caps? Is that too aggressive? Devices emit blue lights onto your face and if your room is particularly dark, you will not be setting yourself up for the most flattering photos + video. My selfish filmmaker note aside – we’ve all too often seen cell phones die before or during toasts and we’d hate that to happen to you! What should I write it on, you ask? Funny you should ask…
12. Write it in a notebook and give it to the couple to have forever. Writing from personal experience again here, I did this one on accident. I started writing my speech down in a new, tiny notebook and when I finished, my husband, my genius husband, said to me, “Oh that’s nice! Are you giving that to them?” To which I replied, “No…” and said, “…well you should.” So I did. And then I thought – I wish I had these from my wedding.