By Matt and Jackie Zoeller, Selah Photography
Everyone has been to a wedding where when it’s time to give the toast, one of the elected speakers causes a sea of discomfort and embarrassment. If they haven’t been to one, then they will go to one, because they are so common. The good news is, is doesn’t have to be your wedding or your speech.
Matt of Selah Photography, a Denver, Colorado wedding photographer and self-acclaimed critic of toasts, has come up with a formula for giving the best, best man toast. After three years of eye rolling or eye wiping, he has finally broken it down into eight easy steps and now, it’s yours. Behold, The Golden Recipe of Toast.
1. Don’t thank everyone for being there… unless you think you should. It’s an easy opening. It’s so easy in fact, that the three people who spoke before you already said it. For you to say it too, makes your speech lame from the get go. Or, if you can’t improvise your way out of it, then have an alternative way to say the same thing, like, “It’s so cool that you guys are all here from all over to celebrate …”. Opening with “First I want to thank..” is indirectly saying “buckle up, I’m going to bore you” or “I’m not good at public speaking”.
2. Feel free to mention that you’re not good at public speaking. If the ordeal makes you nervous and you want to say so, say so. The audience is already rooting for you because they’re at a wedding and they’re supportive and happy. However, if you do add something about how nervous you are, make it clever. Something like, “They say people fear public speaking more than death so my therapist told me this would be a good way to get over my fear of death.”
3. Cry. Only if it’s real, but cry. This one is more common for the females, but when the males do it, the whole room does it, and it’s awesome. Don’t worry if this isn’t you. It’s totally optional.
4. Know your audience/ Avoid the Cancun Spring Break stories. This is very tempting but always a bad idea. Thing is, the bachelor party already happened. Here, you need to know your audience, and your audience remembers the groom playing shortstop and riding his BMX bike. Don’t take that from them. They’ll be pissed.
5. Make it from the heart, not from the 3 sheets of 8 ½ x 11 single-spaced paper. You’re speaking, not reading. Speaking is harder than reading, but it’s worth it. Just practice out loud a few times and it will be easier than you think. Even the best artistic wedding photography (like this) can’t make you look good when you’ve got a piece of paper in front of your face. You’re allowed one note card.
6. Rehearse with an audience and a stopwatch. This is a basic principle in public speaking. The best way to remember what you want to say, is to practice saying it out loud. The less you look at your notes, the better. Also, 3 – 6 minutes in length.
7. Be yourself. Don’t be who the website you paid to write your jokes thinks you are. Basic. You be you. Ask Siri on your iphone to read you the entire Aziz Ansari monologue and see if you still think it’s as funny as when he does it. It’s not (except at first because is all robot-like saying funny stuff). Regardless, this happens ALL THE TIME.. The message that really comes through is, “I don’t care that much”. I’m not saying don’t take jokes from the internet, but be selective. A good rule of thumb is: don’t take jokes from the internet.
8. Be sincere and real. It’s expected to tell stories and make jokes, and you’ve accomplished that. Your big closer though, that will really win them over, is the sincere and real part. It doesn’t have to get mushy or detailed, but it should be real. He picked you for a reason, and even if he already knows what you think of him or how important your friendship is, this is the time to repeat it. People eat that up. Be sure to mention the bride, too. And, cry (see #3)
The main thing to remember is that your audience is already won over because they love the situation and the day. All you have to do is keep them there. Now you will. This is The Golden Recipe of Toast. It’s as simple to follow as it is to screw up, and now it’s yours.
Matt is a journalism enthusiast who spends his summers with his wife at Selah Photography, shooting weddings. In the off-season he is a full time teacher and a frequent public speaker. He and his wife live in Denver and enjoy skiing and music. You can connect with Selah Photography on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
What’s the one area that scares you most about giving a toast? Tell us in the comment section below.