5 ways to slay your wed­ding toast

David Litt, a for­mer speech­writer for Barack Obama, spills his best hacks. Cheers to that!

Cosmopolitan Bride (Australia) - - NEWS -

1 IN­TRO­DUCE YOUR­SELF Any speech be­gins with a sim­ple ques­tion: Why are you the one hold­ing the mic? When I was writ­ing for Pres­i­dent Obama, the an­swer was ob­vi­ous. Don’t tell us about ev­ery class you took with the bride or the year you had a friends-with-ben­e­fits sit­u­a­tion go­ing on with the groom. In­stead, let us know, in just one sen­tence, who you are and how you know the new­ly­weds.


A for­mer boss of mine used to tell me, “Speeches are won or lost in the re­search.” And that’s as true of wed­dings as it is with ad­dresses on hous­ing pol­icy (al­though hous­ing pol­icy ad­dresses would be way more fun with a DJ and an open bar). Make a list of your favourite mo­ments with the per­son you’re cel­e­brat­ing. Are any of them R-rated? Cross those off im­me­di­ately. Are any of them re­ally about you in­stead of her? Cross those off, too. Then sift through the rest for a story that de­scribes what makes your friend­ship unique. You don’t have to be hi­lar­i­ous, but try to be de­tailed. What was the model of that beat-up old car she drove at uni? You want to show your au­di­ence your favourite side of this per­son, the one that you know bet­ter than any­body else.


“Show, don’t tell.” If you’ve ever taken a writ­ing class, then you’ve al­most cer­tainly been given this piece of ad­vice, and it’s al­most al­ways worth fol­low­ing… just not for speeches. For your wed­ding toast, try a show-then­tell ap­proach in­stead. Af­ter paint­ing a pic­ture of the bride or groom with your story, tell us all the moral we’re sup­posed to take away. What’s the One Big Thing we should re­mem­ber about this per­son, long af­ter we’ve for­got­ten the name of the grooms­man who had a highly in­flated opin­ion of his own danc­ing abil­ity? If you’re still stumped, try fill­ing in the blank: “No mat­ter what, I can al­ways count on [in­sert name] to ____.” Note: If the an­swer is “have a half-empty bot­tle of tequila in her hand­bag”, this lit­tle ex­per­i­ment may not be right for you.


You know the old say­ing, “If you don’t have any­thing nice to say, don’t say any­thing at all”? Here’s an ex­cep­tion. If you don’t have some­thing nice to say about who your friend is mar­ry­ing, fake it. Maybe they bring out the best in each other. Maybe they have a nice fam­ily. What­ever it is, find some­thing. Bet­ter yet, if you ac­tu­ally do like the per­son who your friend is mar­ry­ing, tell us why. You’ve al­ready told us about a spe­cial per­son – now tell us about a spe­cial cou­ple.


By now, you should be about four min­utes into your speech. (An ex­tremely use­ful wed­ding rule is that if you’re go­ing to speak for more than five min­utes… don’t.) There are lots of ways to fin­ish a speech, but here’s an easy trick: go back to some­thing you said at the very start. Grab one of those de­tails from your story. Re­peat your One Big Thing. Re­mind us of a funny line or a favourite say­ing that seems even more pro­found now we know some­thing spe­cial about the happy cou­ple. Then raise your glass, wish the new­ly­weds a life­time of health and hap­pi­ness, and take a seat. Or, if that sounds like too much work, you could email the White House and ask Pres­i­dent Obama to de­liver your wed­ding toast for you. That guy re­ally knows how to give a speech.

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