Figuring out how to write a wedding toast can be an incredibly intimidating and nerve-inducing task. Wedding toasts can go one of two ways: They’re either hilarious, memorable, and totally sweet or a train wreck waiting to happen and a moment guests dread. Every couple hopes the speeches at the reception fall into the first category, but there’s no guarantee—until now.
To combat those awful speeches, Marisa Polansky and Kristine Keller founded Speech Tank, offering completely custom, one-of-a-kind toasts for any occasion. And what better reason to turn to the experts than for your best friend’s wedding? We sat down with Polansky and Keller to get the inside scoop on writing a totally killer speech. With their help, your audience will be begging for an encore!
Meet the Expert
- Marisa Polansky is a book editor, author, and co-founder of Speech Tank, a collaborative speech-writing service for any occasion.
- Kristine Keller is a writer and the co-founder of Speech Tank.
Wedding Toast Template
Your wedding toast should be meaningful, but not drawn out. Make sure to have a beginning, middle, and end.
While everyone's speech will be unique to them and their relationship with the couple, we put together a general outline to help you get started.
- Congratulate the couple. Express how happy you are that the two of them are getting married and what it means to you to witness it.
- Introduce yourself. Not everyone will know you met the bride or groom at the fourth-grade space camp, so be sure to let guests know your relationship with the couple before you dive into your speech.
- Tell a (curated) story. When you’re writing your speech, “Choose anecdotes that all fit a theme and support your argument,” Keller says. The theme will help tie it together, making your toast feel intentional instead of random.
- Address both partners. You may not know them both well, but you shouldn’t focus all of your attention on your friend and ignore their new spouse. “Even if you’ve only met your friend’s partner once or twice before, find a way to include him or her in your toast,” Polansky says. “Tell the story of their engagement or share something your friend told you about them that proves what a great partner he or she is.”
- Go for the crowd-pleasers. “Anything that’s an inside joke may have been funny at the time, but no one else will understand what you’re talking about,” Keller says. “Run your stories and jokes by a neutral audience to see if they are as funny as you think.” And remember, a little humor is fine, but this is a toast, not a roast!
- Raise your glass for a toast. To wrap up your speech, invite everyone to raise their glass to the couple, or to love, etc., then cheers glasses together and take a sip.
Don’t count on your phone, which may lock or turn off mid-speech. Instead, print out your toast or put it on note cards for reference. “It’s your moment to have the floor, so don’t risk forgetting your point!” Keller says.
Wedding Toast Tips
Here are Polansky and Keller's best tips for writing and delivering your wedding toast.
- Just get started. It’s your big moment, but figuring out where to start can be tough. “When we work with our clients, we always start with a stream of consciousness,” Keller says. “We ask them to just start telling us stories. You might not think every anecdote is important, but all of a sudden you’ll land on a real gem.”
- Start writing things down. When you’re doing this at home on your own, Polansky says to just start writing stuff down. “Put it all down on paper. Don’t worry about editing as you’re writing, just get it out and then go back and pick and choose details when you’re done.” This will help you identify a theme, which is what you’ll need to make your toast really memorable.
- Use examples. “If you’re trying to make a point about the bride or groom's personality—say, that she or he's particularly loyal—don’t just say that and move on. Pick a specific moment that proves your point. Have something to back it up!” Polansky says. Including some proof will make sure your listeners really buy what you’re saying about the couple.
- Make it quick. “The best length for a toast is about three minutes,” Polansky says. “It’s enough time to say what you need to say, but short enough that you’ll still have everyone’s attention when you ask them to raise their glasses to toast the happy couple.”
- Practice. Think you know what three minutes feels like? Think again. “Practice reading your speech out loud (not in your head!) and time yourself,” Polansky says. “Don’t wing it, especially if you’re nervous,” Polansky continues. “Give yourself time to prepare. Practice with an audience to check your timing, and give yourself time to make edits.”
- Don't overstuff your speech. “If you’re a fast talker, try to slow yourself down so everyone will understand you,” Polansky says. Better to cut a few lines than to try to fit a 10-minute toast into a three-minute time frame!
- Keep it clean-ish. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to know your audience. “Cursing and stories about exes are totally off-limits,” Keller says.
- Don't embarrass the couple. “Ask yourself how each story will present the couple. If it sheds any negative light on either person, avoid it.” Continues Polansky, “Think about how close you are with the family as well as who you know will be there. Will it make the bride or groom's great aunt uncomfortable?”
Every time you feel nervous, tell yourself you're excited instead.
Now that you know the basics, here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you get started writing that killer wedding toast.
- What is your first memory of the bride/groom?
- What is your favorite memory of the bride/groom?
- What did they say when they first told you about their partner?
- How did you know they were meant to be?
- What has the bride/groom or the couple as a whole taught you?
- What qualities do you admire in them?
- When are times that they displayed these qualities?