Giving a great wedding toast is the stuff of legends. Some toasts are wonderfully heartfelt; others are just short of a roast. Either way, knowing what to say, and how to say it can be a daunting task.

Steve Faber, screenwriter of the movie Wedding Crashers says that any great toast has roughly five sections: Background, an anecdote, comic relief, a turning point, and a conclusion. Let’s analyze those sections.

Background – Introduce yourself and say how you are related to the bride or groom, and how you met.

“Hello, I’m Sally Jones. I met the bride, Amy, our freshman year of college.”

Anecdote – Take this time to offer a short story.

“We actually met through other friends at a party. She and I bonded over the bad muzak covers of rap songs that were playing.”

Comic Relief – Get to something funny.

“She actually caught me booty dancing by myself while giggling like a schoolgirl. Seriously, I was really getting down. I signaled to her not to tell anyone and she locked her lips and threw away the key.”

Turning Point – Talk about how life changed when the bride and groom met.

“When Amy met Doug, I knew he was a keeper before she did. She’d mention little things he had done, or dates they’d been on, and I thought ‘those aren’t casual dates, those are meaningful, memory making dates.’ And, sure enough! Here we are!”

Conclusion – Wrap it up, and give your best wishes to the newly married couple.

“I am so thrilled that Amy asked me to be her Maid of Honor. It’s been a joy getting to know Doug, and planning this party for these two amazing people. Remember to respect each other and don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself loving each other.”

Should I speak directly to the Bride and Groom?

There are two schools of thought here. For some, it can be too emotional or stressful to look directly at the people you’re talking about. If that’s the case, look just above the heads of the wedding guests, as you scan the room. For others, me included, I get too nervous if I consider that an entire room is listening to me, so I prefer to make eye contact with the person I am speaking about. Then it feels more intimate, like I’m just telling my best friend how much I love her.

Is it okay to bring notes?

In short, no. It’s not a bad thing, per se, but nothing says you’re unprepared like reading from notes. Plus, your hands will be full, a glass to toast with, and possibly a microphone. Rehearse what you’re going to say, then just go with it.

What if a joke flops?

Admit your failure. Say “Well, that was supposed to be funny,” and move on. You’ll get a chuckle and some sympathy from that.

TIPS

Keep it brief, but not too brief

Try to keep your speech around five minutes, any shorter and you’ll seem disingenuous, any longer and you’ll seem like you’re rambling.

Don’t forget to raise your glass!

Bring a drink with you – champagne, signature cocktail, even soda water is fine, and hoist it when the time is right.

Breathe

Don’t forget to breathe. It will calm your nerves, keep your emotions at bay, and help you pace yourself.

Keep it PG

Even if there are no kids present, there are certainly going to be conservative guests in attendance – somebody’s grandparents! Save the horror stories and tales of debauchery for another time.

Don’t Drink and Toast

A little liquid courage is fine, but don’t be so courageous that you slur your words, or are out of control.

Avoid Audience Participation

Don’t ask for feedback from the people around you until you ask them to raise their glasses. Putting people on the spot often ends awkwardly