Conventional wisdom states that the maid of honor's wedding toast is always better than that of the best man's. Whether that's true or not, and whether you're the maid of honor or the best man, if you've been saddled with the awesome responsibility of saying a few words at your friend's wedding reception, come prepared.
Unless you're a master at improvisation, don't offer your wedding toast off the cuff. Set aside a few hours long before the event, and follow these speech tips to write the most iconic wedding toast you can muster.
Personalize your wedding toast
Chances are, if the groom or bride asked you to give a speech, you're close with at least one half of the couple. Whether you've known them your whole life or just within the past few years, you've probably shared some memorable moments together. Highlight a few of them to start your unique maid of honor speech or best man speech.
If you've had the fortune of spending most of your life with at least one of the future newlyweds, you're in luck. You probably have more than a few memories with either the groom or bride, so feel free to incorporate those into your wedding toast. Take some time to think about your most positive memories with either person, or whether you have any that highlight their strengths as a couple.
No matter what though, make sure you provide context to whichever story you tell. It's rarely good for the audience if you start telling a story without giving them the necessary background information.
If you have a sharp sense of humor, feel free to throw in a few good-natured jokes. If the groom dropped the engagement ring into a subway grate during the proposal but things were fine in the end, you'd be hard-pressed not to mention it. Otherwise, just keep your anecdotes serious but positive. This is your moment to highlight the couple's love for each other to the whole world, and if you've gotten to this point you likely have more than a few to choose from.
On that note, try to avoid inside jokes or roasting either half of the couple. It's awkward for everyone and just leaves the rest of the room confused.
Make it about the wedded couple
No matter which route you decide to take, be it talking about their engagement or the moment when you knew they were right for each other, make sure the focus is on the newlyweds. Don't even vaguely air your dirty laundry or imply past or present hardships for the couple. From personal experience, this is just weird and not particularly classy.
Similarly, never bring up any of their exes or past relationships during your wedding toast, even if it's to compare how much worse the exes were for either half of the couple than each other. If anyone at the reception was wondering whether your social graces were lacking, this would instantly remove all doubt.
Instead, highlight the positive qualities of the newlyweds, both individually and as a couple. This is their day, and your mentions of what makes them so altruistic, kind, balanced or any other qualities they may have will accentuate that in a positive way.
Make a good first impression
At any given wedding, it's likely that at least half the room doesn't know you. Introduce yourself to the room as if you've never met them before and explain your connection to the newlyweds. When you do, make sure you look put together. It's one thing to have your hair messed up after spending the day at an outdoor ceremony. It's another thing entirely to look like that if you're being photographed or recorded delivering a speech to hundreds of people.
Whether you've been given a microphone or not, speak clearly and direct your attention to the couple while you're speaking. If you start out by mumbling or not projecting out to your audience, they'll tune you out within 30 seconds—and then you'll either be forgettable or memorable for all the wrong reasons. Rehearse your toast a few times before the wedding for good measure, so you know where you might find potential stumbling blocks in your speech.
Most of all, don't help yourself to the bar before delivering your toast. The wedding couple is potentially going to remember your words for the rest of their lives, and giving a drunken toast could ruin their night and embarrass both them and you.
Have a clear ending to the speech
Make sure your wedding toast is no longer than five minutes at the very most. Any longer than that, and everyone in the room could get bored or restless—after all, you're potentially the last thing standing between them and their food. Keeping it short and sweet is always best in these situations.
Nearing the end of the speech, include a call for everyone at the reception to raise their glasses (or mugs) for the couple. No matter what you put at the beginning of your speech, this part is the core standard. Mention them both individually, along with their union.
One way to make it clear to everyone at the reception that your toast has ended is to write in a classic phrase to the effect of, "Cheers!" However, if you're at a multicultural wedding, feel free to swap that out for, "Salud!" or "Kampai!" or "Prost!" or "Na Zdrowie!" or "Mazel Tov!"
No matter which route you choose, humorous or straight-laced, make it the classiest wedding toast you can write. Keeping a certain level of sophistication in your toast will help it go off without a hitch, all while appealing to practically everyone who hears it.