Love it or hate it, the wedding toast is a firmly-established wedding tradition. Snub it and you risk offending your well-meaning family members; give it a shake and you risk having someone let a bad joke or embarrassing anecdote slip.
But speeches don’t have to be a lose-lose situation. There are a few practical things you can do as a bride or groom to make sure your wedding speeches go as smoothly as possible.
Tell People Well in Advance
Decide who you want to take the podium at least three months before the wedding. The longer, the better. This will give them time to think about what they say, rehearse (hopefully), and swallow their nerves about speaking.
Set a Time Limit
Pretend you’re in the control booth at the Oscars. You’re running a tight ship here – there’s no time to for a fifteen minute tale regaling guests with that-thing-you-did-in-college. Give your speakers a hard limit of three to five minutes per speech.
You don’t have to play them off if they go over, but setting a time limit will help them stay on track and encourage them to rehearse ahead of time.
Schedule the Order in Advance
The more information they have about the evening, the less nervous your speakers will be. Let them know what order they’ll be speaking in so they can relax and prepare for the moment. It helps to have a confident speaker go first to set a good tone.
You should also give a note to the band or DJ to fire up the music as soon as the last speaker finishes. This will keep well-meaning ‘surprise’ speakers from taking the floor.
Start Early, Finish Early
Many people feel nervous enough speaking up in front of a small boardroom or classroom of people; the idea of speaking to hundreds of guests can be nauseating. Because of this, if you give them the chance, speakers will often imbibe in alcohol to relax before they go up. This doesn’t always have the desired result.
To prevent that sort of mishap, you’re best to schedule the speeches for earlier in the evening, before your guests hit the open bar. Most planners recommend doing it right after dinner.
If They’re Lost, Give Them Guidance
Not all speeches are bad because they’re rushed, or crude, or because the speaker is intoxicated. Sometimes, people just can’t nail down a good theme. You can’t write your guests’ speeches for them, but you can help give them some direction.
A few weeks before the wedding, check in with your chosen speakers and ask them how it’s going. You don’t need a sneak peak at the content of their speech – just ask if they have an idea of what they’d like to talk about. If not, there’s nothing wrong with making suggestions. Maybe you have a shared memory you’d love for them to explore, or a positive story about your partner you want the world to hear. The final result will be better, and they’ll probably appreciate that extra bit of help.