Never, in the long and storied four month life of this blog, has a topic been more requested. You all have clearly been scarred by some truly terrible toasts, and for that I am sorry. Someday, when inspiration strikes, I’ll do a full post on toast etiquette. For now though, I will address best men who, in a typical wedding, will be called upon to raise a glass. Let the healing begin:
1- Be funny, but not too funny. Let’s cut to the chase. You’re talking about this man in front of his freaking grandparents, you can’t bring up stuff that’s going to humiliate him! It’s okay to be funny and even do one, uno, singular roast-type joke that won’t cross the line (“My first memory of James was changing his diapers – when I was his babysitter!” [crowd snickers - you’re done]) But then, you’ve got to quell your desire to be publicly funny and realize that: a)you’re probably not funny, b)you’re coming dangerously close to really making a fool out of you and the groom, and c)this isn’t your big break at making it as a stand-up comic. Save it for the Apollo, my good man.
2- Be warm and willing to show emotion. The main goal of your toast is to salute the bride and groom and lend your voice to the chorus of people who are affirming the newlyweds. Therefore, you need to get beyond humorous anecdotes and actually say what you like about the groom, his new wife, and their relationship. If you feel like you’re about to cry, pull out your handkerchief and keep going. There’s nothing emasculating about loving your friend and expressing that emotion.
3- Keep track of time. One of the great traps that we fall into as men is thinking that if some is good, more must be better. And while this theory works like a charm with Cuban sandwiches and college football – it’s the death of a good toast. Here’s what you need to do, think about your toast ahead of time and stick to the game plan. Even if it’s going really well, don’t change direction or freestyle! Make like Seinfeld and get out while you’re on top. If you don’t, it’s going to be a disaster and people will get bored (like everything Seinfeld’s done since Seinfeld – The Marriage Ref?!). I’m going to just go ahead and say it right now – you’ve got two minutes, tops.
4- Don’t toast drunk. I’m not going to write a long exposition on this one other than to say that it’s never in your best interest to be sloppy drunk. Being inebriated basically kills your ability to act like a Grown Man and generally leads you way too close to the not-respectable line. Additionally, you being drunk and trying to give a good (meaning actually good, not train wreck good) is literally impossible. Hear me say this: 100% of the time you will make the people that witness your Dudley Moore-esque toast extremely uncomfortable. Have some respect for the groom and just say no.
5- Don’t forget to actually toast. The job of the toast is to literally encourage people to raise their glasses as a sign of respect. And, while I know it may seem silly for me to bring up this point, I’ve seen countless well-meaning men simply end the speech with a quick “thank you” and then walk away. Forget something? Yep, the part where you toast. All you have to do is say something simple like “To David and Donna!” and raise your glass. It’s that simple – if you remember.
Gentlemen, I know public speaking is one of the scariest things you can possibly do. But believe me, if you try to follow these five rules, you’ll be fine. Good luck, and cheers!