The vows have been made, the champagne has been poured, and now it’s time for the best man (or maid of honor) to stand up and toast the bride and groom. We’ve all cringed watching a well-meaning but tipsy — or let’s say over-exuberant — best man raise his glass and launch into a meandering, raunchy, and endless speech full of in-jokes and innuendos that leaves the bride embarrassed and the guests bewildered. No one means to make a toast like that, of course, but nerves and alcohol are a potent combination. They can be overcome by a little preparation, some quiet thinking ahead of time about what you’d really like to say when the moment is upon you. It doesn’t hurt to have some notes tucked into your pocket in case your mind goes blank at the sight of fifty or a hundred or four hundred people waiting for you to open your mouth.
Just remember that a wedding isn’t a roast, and it isn’t an occasion to discuss any previous romantic misadventures of the groom, much less of the bride. And that’s putting it delicately. It also isn’t a time to detail what went on at the bachelor or bachelorette party, recite a list of the newlyweds’ most revolting bad habits, or tell them that if the marriage doesn’t work out they can always go their separate ways — no harm, no foul — as long as they give back your wedding gift. Finally, refrain from talking about things you and the groom or bride did together at summer camp. You might say that you’ve known him or her since childhood, but no one else cares how much fun you had putting frogs in the counselor’s bed. Truly. No one.
The best toasts come from the heart, are witty, personal, and short. You can’t go wrong thanking the hosts, congratulating the groom on his good fortune, telling the bride she looks beautiful, inviting everyone to drink to them, and sitting down. One or two minutes should do it, three minutes is pushing the absolute limit. Any toast that requires an intermission will incite a riot, no matter how delightful you think you’re being. So will reading mushy poems, excerpts from the love letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, or dictionary definitions of love and marriage. People want to eat, they want to talk to everyone else at their tables, they want to drink that glass of champagne they’ve been holding.
The newlyweds would love to hear what they mean to you, how happy you are that they found each other, and that you wish them all the joy in the world. If you can say it in a fresh and original way, so much the better. Unexpected humor is always welcome in wedding toasts, but if it doesn’t come naturally to you, skip it. Almost nothing’s worse in a toast than a joke that falls flat, and among other things that a wedding is not, it’s not an audition for “SNL.” Your job is to offer your most sincere congratulations in your most charming way and engage everyone in joining you in drinking to the bride and groom’s health and happiness.
On the technical side, be sure to introduce yourself before you begin speaking, then take a deep breath and speak clearly and not too quickly. If you’re using a mic, don’t hold it too close to your mouth, and if you’re speaking without one, project your voice so everyone can hear you. Smile. If people laugh or respond to something you say, give the room a moment to appreciate it before you continue.
When you’ve concluded your personal remarks, invite the guests to drink by saying, “To the bride and groom” or something like, “To your long and happy life together.” Depending upon the cultural heritage of the newlyweds, you might ask a family elder for the pronunciation if necessary and offer one of the following traditional toasts:
Armenian: “May you grow old on one pillow.”
British: “Cheers!” or “chin chin!”
Danish and Swedish: “Skal/skoal!”
Filipino: “Mabuhay” (“to life”)
French: “À votre santé!” (“to your health!”) or “tchin tchin!”
German: “Prost” or “prosit” (“may it be good”)
Hebrew: “L’chaim!” (“to life!”)
Irish: “May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door” or “sláinte” (“to health”)
Italian: “Salute!” (“to health!”) or “cin cin!”
Russian: “Za l’ubof!” (“to love!”)
Spanish: “Salud” (“to health”)
There are also some wonderful movie quotes that might fit the occasion:
From “Good Will Hunting”: “It doesn’t matter if the guy is perfect or the girl is perfect, as long as they are perfect for each other.”
From “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”: “Be excellent to each other.”
From “When Harry Met Sally”: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with a person, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” You might add, “And so it starts. May it be happy, healthy, and long.”
Beyond best man/maid of honor toasts, it’s common for fathers and/or mothers of the newlyweds to make toasts, but fathers and mothers somehow always know what to say and need no advice from us.
Cheers, and may your wedding be a joyous one!
A great toast can help make a wedding a truly memorable affair, but it’s just one detail of many. Contact Anoush about catering your next extraordinary event.