In my experience, a maid of honor toast can go two ways: funny or sentimental. We sort of luck out in that way. The best man basically has to be funny. It’s expected of him. But if stand-up comedy is not your thing, you are off the hook. You can be totally sweet and heartfelt and people will love it. If you can make a crowd laugh though, go for it! Stick to what you’re good at and you’ll end up with a speech that feels genuine and that you’ll feel comfortable giving. I try to create a good balance of funny and sweet, so my personal approach is to open funny and then slowly progress to sweet, ending with heartfelt well wishes for the couple and a big hug (tears optional).
Your toast basically has three elements: a beginning, middle and end. Here’s a general outline to get you started.
Start by introducing yourself and share how you know the bride. Say “For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Caitlin and I’m the bride’s sister/best friend/sorority sister/former roommate.” This may sound like a boring opening, but unless you know every single person at this wedding, it’s important to mention who you are and your relationship to the bride. You can mention how long you’ve known each other if the number is impressive (don’t say “I’ve known the bride for one year”) and quickly tell the story of how you met if it’s funny or cute.
I find this is a nice soft opening. It’s personal and you can usually work in a laugh. If the story of how you met isn’t doing it for you, the intro is also a good time to throw in some stories about being her maid of honor or to mention how honored or excited you are to share this day with her.
After your introduction, it’s also nice to work in a thank you to the bride’s parents if they are paying for the wedding. It’s not required, but it’s a nice touch. You can say something as simple as “And I want to extend a big thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Jones for hosting this amazing celebration!”
The middle of the speech is understandably the hardest. This is where you need to decide what you want to say today. Be advised: It is ok for these things to be short. Try to keep your speech at 5 minutes maximum. Any more and the crowd is going to get restless and start murmuring amongst themselves and storming the buffet. Take some time to think about the kind of tone you want to set with your speech. Jot down words that describe the couple or remind you of stories you might tell. It can be helpful to choose a framework for your speech. Here are some ideas to help organize your thoughts and get your started.
- Tell the story of how the bride and groom met or how he proposed. Not everyone at the wedding may know theses stories and if there’s something especially touching or funny about them, it can be a great way to focus on the couple and enhance their day. At Marisa’s wedding, I told the story of their proposal. Marisa broke her wrist on their skiing trip and almost didn’t make it to the top of the mountain where Justin planned to propose. He had to lure her up with the promise of waffles and nutella. I told the story, then ended by telling Justin that I hope he always shows Marisa the support he gave her that day and that I hope Marisa always goes to the top of the mountain—even if there’s no nutella that day. You can use stories from the couples’ relationship as examples of why they’ll have a great marriage. In my opinion, this is the best recipe for a great speech.
- Format your speech as “the three reasons Tiffany is right for Mark, or Mark is right for Tiffany.” Then choose three characteristics—patient, kind, funny, practical—and use them as jumping off points for stories about the bride or the bride and groom. Say: “Mark is a patient guy and he’ll need it to keep up with Tiffany’s amazing energy. When they were traveling in Iceland and their car got a flat tire…” You can always throw in one just plain silly one. For example, “Mark has agreed to kill spiders for Tiffany, which we all know is the secret to a good lasting marriage.”
- Need something to do with your hands? Try bringing a bag of items the groom will need to live with the bride! This works especially well if you’ve lived with the bride yourself. You can pull items from the bag and tell a story about each one: an alarm clock because the bride loves to snooze, a DVD of the Real Housewives since he’ll have to get used to watching it every Monday night, a box of Raisinets since it’s the only thing to cheer her up after a stressful day. End your speech by passing the bag off to the groom and say “I’m counting on you to take care of her now!”
Finish off by wishing the couple all the best. Say “I’m so happy for both of you and feel blessed to share this amazing day with you.” Then make sure to toast! I can’t tell you how many people forget that they’re actually giving a toast! Raise your glass and say “Here’s to Mark and Tiffany!”, then take a swig. You’re done!
Next week: Toast Do’s and Don’ts! In the meantime, have questions or great toast ideas of your own? Please share your success stories! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!