A Shy Person’s Guide to Giving a Wedding Toast or Speech

People toasting at a wedding reception.

Be honest: When you were asked to give a wedding toast at your dear friend or family member’s upcoming reception, your gut instinct was to say no—especially if speaking in public has never been your strong suit. If you’re shy and you have to give a wedding toast, here’s how to handle it like an absolute pro.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Wing It

While it seems like the life-of-the-party best man never has any trouble making the crowd laugh or coming up with something on the fly, the rest of us are struggling to put two sentences together when all eyes are on us. Whatever you do, don’t wing your toast. In fact, you should be writing down a rough draft at least a month before the wedding date so that you can have plenty of time to prepare exactly what you’re going to say. You don’t need to have every word written down (if it helps you get through it, however, just go for it), but at the very least you should have bulleted lists of every point you want to make throughout the speech so you don’t forget anything when the nerves start to strike.

Keep it Short

There’s no need to write an epic poem for your toast—and in fact, it’s best to keep it well under five minutes if you can help it. People have short attention spans, and giving a long speech may cause your audience’s eyes to glaze over, which is something that is surely going to make your nerves worse.

Go for the Laugh—but Don’t Go too Far

A bride and groom at a wedding reception laughing during a speech.

In many wedding toasts, it seems like the name of the game is to embarrass the happy couple to get an uproarious laugh from the crowd. This can sometimes be effective with the right person or accurate comedic timing, but because you’re just trying to get through the speech without sweating too much, it’s best not to make this a Comedy Central roast. If you want to get a couple of chuckles in, go for something small and silly instead of airing out their most private dirty laundry in front of all their friends and family. Unsure of whether or not your jokes go too far? Ask a trusted friend who knows both of you to read your speech and give their honest opinion.

Don’t Be Afraid of Being Sentimental

You may worry that being overly sentimental will come off as trite, but weddings are the perfect time to let emotions out into the open. Don’t be afraid to add in a few wedding toast cliches like, “the bride looks beautiful today” or “the groom is a very lucky man.” Presumably, you know the couple well enough to add in some nuggets of sweetness about their relationship—like how they always cook dinner together every night, or how the bride told you at the end of their first date that she knew this one would be “it.”

Bring Your Notes

You may have been practicing and practicing for the big speech in order to have it memorized, but bring a copy of your notes with you just in case the nerves start to take over. No one will think it’s weird or out of place for you to be holding note cards, so there’s no need to get self-conscious if you need them to keep your place.

Ensure Everyone Can Hear You Before Beginning

A man giving a toast at a wedding reception as he's holding a glass of champagne.

The last thing you want to happen is that you get about halfway through your toast and realize that no one in the audience can hear you, which means your jokes probably won’t land and the faces you see in the crowd will have puzzled looks. Before you get into the speech, just say a simple, “Everyone hear me OK?” and look for nods throughout the room.

Don’t Drink too Much Beforehand

You may think you need to have a little liquid courage before you deliver your speech, but this can actually make things worse. Having a shot or a cocktail before you give your toast may cause you to slur your words or get things mixed up, which is not exactly something you want to be remembered for. Save the drink for the end of the speech when you’re actually toasting—and celebrating that it’s finally over.

Work with a Professional

Are you really nervous about giving your wedding toast? It might be a good idea to work with a professional so that you can feel cool and confident going into the day. Work with a professional speech coach in your area or find someone online who can give you tips on delivery, volume, cadence, and speed. This might seem a bit extra just for a wedding, but if you get nervous about public speaking in general, this could be a great use of money and time to help you out the next time you have to present at work for a meeting or are in another public speaking situation.

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