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There seems no more nerve-wracking moment of the wedding than the moment when the guests turn their attention to the reception toast to the blushing bride and groom. If the toast is great, it raises everyone’s spirits to new heights. If it’s awkward, it’s an unfortunate blip in an otherwise fantastic day. That’s a lot of pressure. The good news is speaking from the heart, tenderly, will never lead you astray. After all, you were invited to the big day because, well, the bride (or groom) or both cares for and trusts you. So ease up on the naughty in favor of the nice. Here are a couple of other tips:

Planning is your friend. Few of us can wing something this important, and even if you think you might be able to do it the rush of the moment (and whatever alcohol you may have imbibed prior to) could make for a bumbling delivery. It’s OK to bring notes or a copy of the entire speech – it’s the norm, even. Of course, if you can deliver your speech from memory, that often makes for a more resonant, engaging delivery. However you deliver it, make sure that you’ve thought about what you know and value most about the couple or person that you are celebrating. You’ll have only a few minutes to make a point, so zero in on something specific that you want to note – the way the relationship has made your friend happier, for example, or helped him or her grow in ways that perhaps never would have happened before.

Become a storyteller. Yes, stories can be perilous if they veer into off-color territory. But there’s a simple template to avoid this – the beginning, the middle, and the end. The beginning is when you introduce yourself and how you know the couple. Acknowledge that you feel honored to give this toast. In the middle, paint a picture for the listeners of the major point about the couple that you want to make. Use historic quotes, a light anecdote, more well-wishes. Make sure you play to your audience with material that is appropriate. Now for the end. End on a positive note. Pass along personal advice, cite a famous quote, but whatever you do, wish the bride and groom well. Raise your glass to them. Basta.

Keep it short. You can deliver a great speech in as little as a few sentences. Try not to go longer than three minutes, because you’ll start to lose some in the room.

Keep it cool. Delivering a reception toast can be intimidating but remember — this is a loving environment and your job is to show your affection for the couple. That’s it. And that’s an important role, all by its simple self. Look at the person or people you are dedicating the toast to, speak directly to them, and remember to talk slowly. After all, everyone wants to hear what you have to say. You’re the toastmaster.



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