Bad toasts happen more often than you might think. I've witnessed many, many toasts over the years, both professionally and personally. If I'm coordinating an event, I usually have the opportunity to give a little advice to the person nominated to give the toast. While I usually do not provide help in writing the actual sentiments of the toast, I do provide my list of what not to do. Nothing can suck the energy out of a party like a really bad toast. Avoid the following traps, and you'll be just fine!
1. Brevity is your friend. Please, for the love, do not take advantage of the microphone. If you still have the microphone in your hand after 5 minutes, the crowd wants to smack you with it. Keep it between 3-5 minutes.
2. It's not about you. This is not the perfect opportunity to confess your sins. Guests don't want to hear that the bride is the nicest because in college, she carried you home after you passed out in the fraternity bathtub. Or, that your dad is the best because he bailed you out of jail three times. Stories like this are not only awkward, they start making the guests rethink why you’re allowed to keep coming around.
3. Humiliating the guest-of-honor just makes you look like a jerk. This is a toast. Not a roast. Nobody wants to hear the birthday boy’s most mortifying night that he has worked so hard to forget. Don’t do that. It’s how you lose friends. A little ribbing is one thing. But, if you wouldn’t tell the story sitting around the dinner table with grandma, please don’t tell it to every single important friend and family member at the event.
4. Keep it to a talking toast. Unless you are a professional singer, poet, playwright, expressive dancer, dramatic reader…do not try to become one at the event, in front of everyone. Think of American Idol and how painful it is to watch someone attempt to sing when they shouldn’t. Imagine if that happens in real life. Guests can't change the channel and it’s not pretty.
5. Keep your old pictures in the album. If you’re a parent, and you’ve been holding on to that picture of your 3-year-old son, naked in the bathtub, his hair spiked with shampoo, I’m going to ask you to truly resist the urge to project that (or any other naked childhood photo) onto a large screen. I know you took that picture for the exact purpose of showing it at his wedding, but I’m going to be honest; absolutely nobody wants to see it. And feeding off of that thought, slideshows with countless pictures of someone growing up are NEVER a good idea. Especially true if everyone in the room has to stop what they’re doing to watch it. Buzz kill.
6. Don’t be cliché. If you think, “Oh, I heard this line once at another wedding, but I’m sure no one at THIS wedding has heard it…” Yes. Yes we have.
7. Don’t drink too much before the toast. A drink or two of liquid courage before you talk is ok. More than that usually leads to ugly crying and/or pitfalls #1, #2 and #3 mentioned earlier in the post.
8. Don’t forget to actually toast! The “toast” is that sentiment said right before taking a drink. The stories and memories are like a speech, or a build up. So often, the toaster gets so wrapped up in the story telling, they forget to close with the toast! So, at the end, to conclude your perfect, sentimental, funny, original speech, make sure you raise a glass and do a quick salute. “To the bride and groom!” “To the birthday girl!” “To our fearless leader!” You get the idea...
If you avoid these pitfalls, you will be well on your way to delivering a wonderful toast and guests will clink their glasses in appreciation. Cheers to you!