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Weddings aren’t just a big day for the bride and groom—members of the bridal party are often expected to give toasts. Read up on wedding-toast etiquette before raising your glass.
Engagement parties. Rehearsal dinners. Wedding receptions. At any of these events, at least somebody—whether the couple’s parents, the maid of honor, the best man, or even the bride and groom—will need to give a toast. These tips can help ease the anxiety of giving a memorable speech:
* Tell inappropriate stories: Above all, a toast should be casual and celebratory, more a commemoration of a joyful moment than a Friar's Club roast. To that end, avoid sharing any potentially embarrassing anecdotes or memories that predate the couple—especially when it comes to their exes.
* Crack jokes about marriage: Though a little humor is fine—and most audiences expect a joke or two—jokes at the expense of marriage are off limits. Like in any other situation, the old “Take my wife, please!” line will draw more eye-rolls than guffaws. And besides, the day is all about honoring marriage, not tearing it down.
* Make it about you: A toast is no time to hog the spotlight. No one wants to hear the speaker solicit dates, talk about their own good deeds, or read off their entire résumé to potential employers in the audience. Keep the focus on the happy couple.
* Keep it short: There’s no reason why a toast should run more than two or three minutes. It’s even fine to cap it at just a few lines, giving people a chance finally find out what’s at the bottom of their tables' Cracker Jack boxes.
* Rehearse: Unless you’re an all-star ad-libber, it’s best to write the speech ahead of time and practice reading it aloud until you’re comfortable doing so. Feel free to bring along notes, but remember to address the entire room and not the paper in front of you.
* Be yourself: Amid all the expectations of the big speech, don’t try to force yourself to be funny—or even to be poignant. Speak from the heart and be genuine and the love will come through. Still, save truly personal messages for a private conversation.