Because of the anxiety a toast or speech creates, most often, we procrastinate and wait until the very last minute to throw something together. Or worse, we wing it!
To make the process easier, I’m giving you my Top 10 List of the Best Ways to Prepare for and Present a Wedding Toast
Don’t wait until the last minute. This seems like a no-brainer, but give yourself a couple weeks to work on it. Trust me, if you wait until the last minute, your anxiety will effectively hit the kill switch on any fun you’re having at the reception. On the other hand, if you prepare ahead, you’ll feel more confident at the mic.
Confidence = Sexy. Cheers.
Start jotting down things you remember about the bride and/or groom. Stories are powerful and can move an audience. Start thinking of stories that are funny, heartfelt or meaningful. What are their individual qualities or attributes? What have they done that made you want to roll your eyes or shake your head? What makes you smile when you think about them? The goal isn’t to embarrass them (too much), but to provide perspective, entertainment, and support for their marriage.
Have a clear beginning, middle, and ending. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who rambles on and on? Don’t be that person. As the big day gets closer, time yourself reading your speech. If its over 5 minutes, you’re holding the audience hostage. And hostage-taking isn’t cool.
Include a Big Thanks. Thank everyone for coming out to celebrate this wonderful moment. First rule of friendship is to make people feel good about themselves.
Practice makes perfect! Many people practice in front of a mirror, and that’s okay. But also practice presenting to small objects in a room. To the light switch, the cell phone, your dog, the Starbucks cup, etc. When you practice presenting to small objects, it ELIMINATES the “Deer in Headlights” effect. You know.., that anxiety, fear, and panic that can happen when you unexpectedly make eye contact with a guest while you’re presenting. Presenting to small objects while you practice will help you create a meaningful gaze that will draw others in as you give your speech. And the effect can be quite powerful.
Give yourself a BIG HUG! I’m not getting all mushy here, not at all. MIT has done studies on anxiety, and discovered that hugs release oxytocin. Oxytocin is a feel-good chemical, and when released into the bloodstream, gives us a sense of well-being. Before presenting your toast, find a quiet space and imagine getting a warm hug from someone you care about. 20-30 seconds should do the trick, and any anxiety you’re feeling will start to diminish.
Your mother was right, stand up straight! How you carry yourself is a huge part of your personal presence. Studies show that if you carry yourself with good posture and use open body language, it will literally give you feelings of confidence and power. And for the most part, people will believe what you project. So walk tall, Darling!
Show us your hands. When you give the toast, gesture normally with your hands. I put this out there, because once the adrenaline starts flowing, one of the first things to go are your gestures! Gesturing gives your toast animation, which will make you more interesting to watch; and it will boost your charisma in a big way. Without gesturing, you'll come across as stiff and boring. So, a few days before the wedding, start paying attention to how much you gesture during normal conversations. Make note of how you normally use your hands when speaking. And then practice your toast with intentional gesturing.
Pay attention to your voice. Remember those days back in college, listening to your professor drone on and on in a monotone voice…? Ugh. But, not you! I’m sure you have a great voice! This would be a great time to use it to its full potential! Pause for dramatic effect. Speed it up to add excitement. Add volume for emphasis. And use a softer voice when you talk about something that touches your heart. How you use your voice will have a huge affect on your speech. So have fun with it!
Be authentic. Sometimes adrenaline gets in the way of our authenticity. I’m all for getting a glass of wine or throwing back a shot of whiskey (only one) to take the edge off so that your authentic self can shine more brightly. But don’t get drunk, because everything you’ve prepped and practiced for will go right out the window. There’s nothing charismatic about slurred words brought on by too much liquid courage.
I'm throwing in an extra tip for good measure: Have Fun! This is your moment in the sun, M'Dear, and its a chance to do a lot of good.
Be memorable for all the right reasons, and make the impact you deserve.