Raise Your Glass

Leah Gage

Being asked to be part of a wedding party is a huge honor, but it can also be a huge responsibility. If giving a speech falls into your wedding day duties, there are ways to fulfill the job with class, while still getting some laughs from the audience.

Entering wedding day, the toast may not seem like that big of a deal. It can often times be overlooked or is handled with the “just wing it” mentality. The goal of most wedding party speeches is to entertain while still making a meaningful toast. To make this happen, planning and a logical thought process needs to be made part of the preparation.

Preparing for a speech is key because an audience is able to tell when a speech has been prepared and when they were a last minute thought, said Amy Slagell, associate dean of academic programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

It may come as a surprise, but using the five canons of the roman rhetoric can make the speech humorous, while still leaving a lasting memorable impression. The five canons include invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery.

“The most important thing is having something to say,” Slagell said. “Successful public speaking begins with invention and developing something to say.”

When people think of wedding party speeches, most people do not think about using the tips and formatting tools to create a formal speech a person would use for a class or business presentation.

“One of the first responses I hear when I ask what someone has to know to be a good speaker is most oftenly that it has to be delivered well,” Slagell said. “You have to know how to engage an audience physically and through your face. You also need to make sure you’re articulating.”

In order to successfully deliver a speech, the speaker must remember what they are going to say. A powerpoint or visual aid is commonly used to assist speakers and can be used in wedding toasts as well. Most people aren’t going to be upset looking at baby pictures of the couple or photos from dates or vacations the couple may have taken together.

While some people are visual learners, wedding toasts cannot necessarily be learned. Speaking praises about a best friend, brother or sister may come naturally, but how natural is speaking into a microphone in front of hundreds people? The intensity of that first word echoing out over the microphone can create panic and cause the speaker to forget anything they had planned on talking about.

The mini speeches given by the wedding party need to be about the bride and groom, but is for the audience, Malcolm Fraser wrote in an article titled “Giving a Quality Wedding Toast Is Easier Than You’d Think.” 

Style is a large component to keep in mind when developing the speech for the big day. How is it going to come off? Is it going to sound serious? Rude? Inappropriate? Humorous? Wedding party speeches can take many turns, sometimes in the wrong direction, so having a layout is a good way to keep things on the right track.

“You probably know some things about him that are hilarious, but not necessarily appropriate for his family,” Fraser said. “Keep inside jokes and references that only your core group of friends will understand to a minimum.”

As Fraser states, it’s all about balance.

“Be funny, but top it off with some heartfelt sentiments at the end,” Fraser said. “Most importantly, keep it short and sweet.”