Giving a wedding toast as the best man is something most men will do only once or twice in their lives. Unless you're a public speaking pro, the prospect of giving the toast can be nerve wracking. Karen Thomas, a certified etiquette coach and corporate trainer from Torrington, offers these tips on preparation and practice that will make the best man toast a moment everyone will want to remember.
It's not about you. Always keep your audience in mind. The best man toast is not your chance to shine; it's your chance to make the bride and groom shine in front of their closest family members and friends. This should guide every choice you make, from choosing speech material to honing your delivery. "The main premise behind etiquette is respect and making other people feel comfortable," says Thomas.
Don't attempt to speak off-the-cuff. A spur-of-the-moment speech might provide an adrenaline rush, but there's a good chance you'll come across as being unprepared. "Speaking off-the-cuff is never acceptable," says Thomas. "As the best man, you have a job to do and it should be viewed as that." She advises the best man to rehearse the toast at least once or twice before the reception. Consider practicing in front of a friend or family member who can help fine-tune the speech. "If you're not comfortable speaking in public," says Thomas, "you can bring notes."
Avoid alcohol. Getting liquored up before your toast is a recipe for disaster. Though it might seem like a good idea to drink to calm your nerves and lower your inhibitions, drinking before your toast increases the chances that you'll end up embarrassing the bride, the groom and yourself. "Not only does drinking loosen the tongue," says Thomas, "it can slur your speech."
Get to the point. Avoid long-winded walks down Memory Lane in favor of a toast that thoughtfully cuts to the chase. Being succinct should be your goal. "The speech shouldn't take more than three minutes," says Thomas.
Share tasteful stories. While it's important to be brief, don't be so rushed that no one learns about your relationship with the groom. Sharing humorous or moving anecdotes from your past can enliven the speech. Avoid telling stories the bride has never heard before or using material that could be considered inappropriate. "Do not make it too personal or embarrassing," says Thomas. "It should be suitable for a business meeting."
Congratulate the couple. "Remember that this is a union of two people," says Thomas. "The speech should reflect that." Because you'll be nervous, it will be easy to forget this point. Don't just toast the groom at the end of your speech; toast his new bride as well.
Say thank you. This important piece of etiquette should not be overlooked, says Thomas. "Giving the best man toast is an honor," she points out, "and it's important to thank the couple for the opportunity to toast them."