August 4, 2015 / Reena Kansal

Giving a toast

Four tips for giving a toast everyone will appreciate.

You are all dressed up, along with everyone else. However, everyone else is enjoying a few cocktails outside on a beautiful summer day.  You, on the other hand, are nervous and stressed. Instead of relaxing and catching up with old friends, all you can think of is the dreaded microphone that you will have to face … very soon. Yup, you are the best man or maid of honor and you are giving a toast to the happy couple. What do you say? How do you come up with a speech that is appropriate, funny and meaningful to the bride and groom?

A few years ago, I was the one giving a toast at my brother’s wedding.  As soon as he asked me to speak, my mind went blank. I couldn’t remember anything that would be funny or memorable enough to share on this special occasion. I couldn’t say no – it was my brother! So I had to figure something out.

Here are four tips I found helpful for giving a toast on the big day.

1.  Brainstorm

I jotted down random memories and words on a piece of paper over a span of a few days.  I looked back at old emails and pictures to try to capture things I might have forgotten.  Just remember, don’t make any judgments on these ideas.  Just capture them.

2.  Pick A Theme

Pick a theme for the speech.  Is there something that ties some of the ideas from your brainstorming exercise together? I decided my theme would be helping my sister-in-law learn how to read some of my brother’s mixed messages.

3.  Select the Stories

Now go back to your brainstorming notes and pick three stories that relate to the theme. Are these stories appropriate for the audience you’re giving a toast in front of? Do they contain too many inside jokes?  Can you make these stories relatable to the audience and yet memorable to the bride and groom?

4.  Practice

Before giving a toast, practice out loud. Your delivery, especially with punch lines, usually requires some choreography. Also, try to practice in front of a trusted friend or relative and ask for their feedback. Lastly, time yourself. Try to stick to under five minutes. After that, your audience is probably thinking about dinner or about heading to the bar.


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For example, here is one of the stories I used to help my sister-in-law, Manisha, navigate my brother, Rishi’s, mixed messages.

“Manisha – Rishi is horrible at receiving gifts.  Every time he opens something he is very thankful but it is quickly followed by, “I don’t need this.  I’m going to return it.”

When Rishi turned 11, Mom gave him a razor scooter.  When he opened it, he had his usual response: “I don’t need this.  I’m going to return it.”  But this time he gave it a try and used the scooter around the dinning table and kitchen.  He continued riding it around the house and every time we asked him to use it outside on the driveway, he claimed he was going to return it. 

Years went by and we still have that razor scooter… finally two years ago he started using it on the driveway.  So Manisha, if he gives your gift a “try,” you know you have succeeded in giving him something that he likes!”

Good luck with your next speech!


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