The best man's toast is a time-honored wedding tradition guaranteed to inspire fits of laughter and/or tears. But what is a couple to do when their best man isn't up to the task? It could be that another groomsman is patiently waiting in the wings to take on the responsibility, or your wedding party members aren't really the toast-giving type. At first, you might feel disappointed if you were hoping to have all the traditional speeches at your wedding reception. Don't take it personally, though, and look on the bright side: There are plenty of alternatives to speeches at a wedding that your best man will gladly do to honor you and your new spouse.
"Sometimes, the best man or maid of honor may not be terribly comfortable with public speaking," says Tzo Ai Ang, wedding planner and owner of Ang Weddings and Events. "It could be a very large wedding, and they don't feel good speaking in front of that many guests that they may not know personally." If another member of the wedding party or even a sibling wants to give a speech, that could be one alternative. If not, have the best man honor the couple in a way that suits them best. "They could give a reading during the ceremony, be the person carrying the wedding rings for the ceremony, or simply be supporting the bride or groom behind the scenes leading up to the wedding and on the day of," she says.
Meet the Expert
Tzo Ai Ang is a New York City–based wedding planner and the owner of Ang Weddings and Events.
Read on for more expert tips on what to do if the best man backs out of giving a wedding toast.
Recognize That Speech-Giving Isn't for Everyone
Though the best man is customarily responsible for entertaining wedding guests with an endearing and amusing wedding toast, not everyone possesses speech-giving skills. The best man most likely has a logical reason for wishing to remain mum, whether it's a deep-seated phobia of public speaking or the knowledge that they express themselves best through the written word—or some other outlet. Offer them the option to embrace their strengths. "For one wedding, the groom and some of his friends took the band's place and performed two songs for the bride," said Ang.
Don't Be Afraid to Buck Tradition
The best course of action is to buck tradition and allow the best man to communicate their celebratory sentiments in an alternative format. There are plenty of ways to honor your best man, and for them to honor you, whether they'd rather speak at the rehearsal dinner when there's a smaller crowd or lead a dance during the reception. It's not written in stone that they have to get up in front of all your guests and deliver the perfect humorous-yet-heartfelt speech. "I think there are many other ways to honor the newlyweds," says Ang. "For a Jewish wedding, they could be one of the people lifting the bride and groom up in chairs for the horah." They could also be one of the people who witness the couple sign their marriage license, she says.
Let Someone Else Step Up
Even better, if you have an engaging understudy eagerly waiting to be recruited for the position, you should let them go for it. By nominating a different groomsman to the post of speech-giver, you can guarantee a solution that pleases all parties, from the guests to the groom. A sibling works great, too, says Ang, or even a cousin or close friend. This way, the best man can relax and ensure the groom has a good time, without dreading the clink of a glass.
Nix Excess Toasts Altogether
Modern weddings with younger crowds tend to be less traditional. In the case that you really don't care about toasts, either keep them to a minimum or nix them altogether! "I have had weddings where the best man or maid of honor did not give a toast," says Ang. "Sometimes, the couple have chosen not to have many toasts at the wedding at all. They may have attended weddings in the past with endless toasts, and it isn't something they want at their own wedding. Some couples really love dancing and want to maximize the dancing time!" she says. She adds that the parents of the newlyweds often make speeches, and it's perfectly fine if those are the only speeches of the night.