Don’t get burned by bad wed­ding toasts

Many mat­ri­mo­nial hor­ror sto­ries be­gin with a speech

Winnipeg Free Press - - TANK - MELISSA RAY­WORTH

ODAY’S wed­dings are of­ten planned down to the tini­est de­tail, some­times at great ex­pense, to cre­ate a truly “per­fect” day. But for bet­ter or for worse, one ran­dom el­e­ment re­mains: the speeches and toasts that hon­oured guests stand up and give.

Of­ten they’re sweetly, if awk­wardly, mem­o­rable. A heart­felt toast might even be a highlight of the day. But how of­ten do cou­ples hold their breath won­der­ing what the best man or grandpa or some­one else might say with a mi­cro­phone (and per­haps a drink) in their hand?

“Cou­ples do worry about it,” says Chicago-based wed­ding plan­ner

Regina Brooks, “whether it’s ‘my dad is long-winded and I don’t want to bore ev­ery­one’ or ‘my un­cle’s go­ing to be drunk.’”

Brooks, owner of Regine Danielle Events, once had a grooms­man ap­proach her dur­ing a re­cep­tion to say he’d be giv­ing a sur­prise speech, but it would only take 10 min­utes.

“He broke out A.V. equip­ment and

Tplayed a game,” she re­mem­bers. “It took 45 min­utes.” In this era of the hyper-planned wed­dings, how do cou­ples and wed­ding plan­ners ap­proach the un­pre­dictable na­ture of mo­ments like these?

Talk it through

Touch base in ad­vance with those whom you’ve cho­sen to speak. Be hon­est about time lim­its and your con­cerns about pri­vate sto­ries or po­ten­tially sen­si­tive sub­jects such as politics or re­li­gion.

Fo­cus on the pos­i­tive: you’re choos­ing to in­clude this per­son and share the spotlight with them.

If a cou­ple presents the chance to speak as an hon­our, “then that per­son feels that they’ve got­ten the tro­phy,” says Jen­nifer Tay­lor, a New York-based wed­ding plan­ner. “They’re most likely not go­ing to put too much angst into it.”

When Brit­tany McEl­wee was plan­ning her wed­ding three years ago, she had al­ready been a maid-of-hon­our on three oc­ca­sions.

She’d heard long, awk­ward speeches at many wed­dings and re­mem­bered her mother point­ing out that “no one ever com­plained that a toast was too short.”

McEl­wee wor­ried that some guests would want to hold forth on re­li­gion, while oth­ers would be both­ered by the sub­ject. So she and her groom opted to let only the maid-of-hon­our and best man speak. If more peo­ple spoke, “there was more po­ten­tial for things to go wrong,” McEl­wee says.

“I just felt like we should min­i­mize it to those two peo­ple, give it a few min­utes, give the op­por­tu­nity to put your glass in the air and move on to the next thing.”

Tay­lor agrees, es­pe­cially for cou­ples who worry about what might be said: “You don’t want to have nine speeches at a wed­ding. Al­ways try to limit it to two, pos­si­bly four if the par­ents are go­ing to speak.”

Tim­ing? Five min­utes or less per speech, Tay­lor says.

Sug­gest that some­one work with the speaker, to hear the speech out loud and time it.

“You don’t want to pause the night,” Tay­lor says. “You don’t want to lose the mo­men­tum.”

Let the ex­perts help

If you’re work­ing with a wed­ding plan­ner, or if the venue has supplied some­one to help man­age the day, Brooks and Tay­lor both say you can ask that per­son to help man­age the flow of speeches.

“I will be the bad guy,” Brooks says. The DJ or band­leader can also help. Angelique Noto is get­ting mar­ried next month in the New York area, and she’s al­ready spo­ken to her DJ about the toasts. If a speech goes on too long or gets in­ap­pro­pri­ate, she says, “that’s when I’ll turn to Bur­ton and have him cut the mic.”

Brides have asked Tay­lor to proof­read and edit speeches in ad­vance. Re­spect­fully of­fer­ing that kind of help (with­out mi­cro­manag­ing) can be a re­lief to many fam­ily mem­bers.

Still, cou­ples may find that some guests will ig­nore their plans and pref­er­ences.

“Some peo­ple just love the mic. It doesn’t mat­ter where they are,” Brooks says. “I had a wed­ding that was out of the coun­try and the bride and groom were very adamant that they only wanted three or four par­tic­u­lar peo­ple to speak. I ended up with a line of peo­ple that wanted to talk and it didn’t mat­ter what I said.”

Use the re­hearsal din­ner

If you’ll be gath­er­ing with a smaller group the night be­fore the wed­ding for a walk-through of the cer­e­mony and a din­ner to cel­e­brate, Brooks sug­gests ask­ing friends and rel­a­tives to speak then.

It’s still a spe­cial oc­ca­sion, yet less stress­ful and more in­ti­mate.

Mov­ing po­ten­tially wilder sto­ries to re­hearsal-din­ner toasts lim­its who might hear them.

Em­brace the ran­dom­ness

In the end, per­haps it’s a good thing that one piece of the wed­ding day can’t be en­tirely pre­dicted.

“It’s nice when you’re the bride or groom to be lis­ten­ing to peo­ple toast­ing you,” Tay­lor says, even if you are a bit ner­vous about what they might say.

SASHA ISRAEL / A TAYLORED AF­FAIR

You can plan your wed­ding down to the tini­est de­tail, but you can’t al­ways be sure what hon­oured guests will stand up and say in their speeches. Some cou­ples worry pri­vate sto­ries might be told or that re­li­gion or politics might come up.

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