say it right

How to raise the glass with class.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FOOD - By LAURA CASEY

How to raise the glass with class.

WHEN Kevin Leu stood up to give a toast at his sis­ter’s wed­ding, he had pre­pared what he was go­ing to say the night be­fore. The toast, a lov­ing trib­ute from the young screen­writer and blog­ger to his ded­i­cated sis­ter, turned out to be one of the high­lights of the event.

“After­ward, a lot of my cousins and dif­fer­ent other peo­ple told me they teared up,” he says. “I re­ally just wanted to speak to my sis­ter and brother-in-law and let them know how im­por­tant their union was to me. It came from the heart be­cause she means so much to me.”

Leu did it right, but not ev­ery­one is com­fort­able speak­ing to crowds. Usu­ally given by the cou­ple’s best man, maid of hon­our or close friend, it can set the tone of a wed­ding re­cep­tion. If you aren’t pre­pared, it can be one of the worst mo­ments of your life – and awk­ward for the new­ly­weds, too. But if you are, your speech can be­come some­thing the cou­ple will cher­ish for the rest of their lives.

The wed­ding toast at Sue and Daniel Spencer’s 2003 union isn’t a me­mory the bride cher­ishes. The cou­ple from Cal­i­for­nia asked Daniel’s brother to say some­thing spe­cial dur­ing their big day. Sue even gave her fu­ture brother-in-law an ar­ti­cle about wed­ding toasts – what to say and how to give one – be­fore the event.

What came out of his mouth, how­ever, was more than dis­ap­point­ing. It was a night­mare, Sue says. “He be­gan the toast by in­tro­duc­ing his fam­ily mem­bers that were present,” she says. “What I did not ex­pect was that his ‘toast’ would not men­tion his brother or his new wife at all. In­stead, he shared that it was OK with him that his nieces and their boyfriends were not mar­ried, but they lived to­gether any­way. This wasn’t a toast for us. It left an im­pres­sion on me, and I won’t for­get it.”

Author Tom Haibeck won’t for­get the toast his best man gave at his wed­ding ei­ther. His friend told kid sto­ries and flat­u­lence jokes, none of which went over well.

But that’s noth­ing com­pared to Haibeck’s first ex­pe­ri­ence giv­ing a wed­ding toast. When he was 15, his brother asked him to speak at his wed­ding. Ner­vous and un­pre­pared, Haibeck nearly cried as he stood up in front of the au­di­ence to ad­dress them. He for­got the bride’s name.

“It was pretty trau­matic,” Haibeck says. Since that fate­ful day, Haibeck’s life has taken a dra­matic turn in the pub­lic speak­ing field. He is an ac­com­plished speaker and writer, pen­ning the book Wed­ding Toasts Made Easy: The Com­plete Guide.

Top 10 tips for a great toast.

Speak­ing for all

A wed­ding toast is for the bride and the groom. The per­son giv­ing the toast is speak­ing for the en­tire au­di­ence, wish­ing them love and hap­pi­ness ‘til death do them part, Haibeck stresses.

“The peo­ple asked to make these toasts re­ally do have a big re­spon­si­bil­ity to ar­tic­u­late ev­ery­one’s joy,” Haibeck says. “It can be daunt­ing, but it can also be em­pow­er­ing. You have all those peo­ple be­hind you.”

For some, pub­lic speak­ing is one of the most ter­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ences they can face. Both Haibeck and Toast­mas­ters In­ter­na­tional say the most im­por­tant present a speaker can give them­selves is the gift of prepa­ra­tion.

“Most peo­ple asked to give a wed­ding toast don’t take the time that is nec­es­sary to do a great job,” Haibeck says. “Dis­as­ter can en­sue. It’s one thing to stand up at a din­ner party and say some­thing, and it’s quite an­other to do that in front of 200 or 300 peo­ple. There are all kinds of pit­falls.”

Haibeck says one way a speaker can pre­pare for a wed­ding toast is by talk­ing to the bride and groom and ask­ing them for anec­dotes about their fam­i­lies, their re­la­tion­ship and their hopes for the fu­ture. Lit­tle sto­ries, like the time the ants got into the pic­nic bas­ket or the fate­ful day try­ing out snow­board­ing as a cou­ple, can liven up a speech and help the au­di­ence get to know the cou­ple even bet­ter, he says.

“Say a toast in your own words but draw upon the ex­pe­ri­ences of the bride and groom,” he says. “The back sto­ries on the bride and groom are al­ways of in­ter­est to the peo­ple at the wed­ding. They want to know how they met, their courtship and what they do now. It’s that kind of hu­man in­ter­est stuff that peo­ple can draw on to ef­fec­tively add colour to a wed­ding toast.”

He cau­tions, how­ever, that the back sto­ries should be fam­ily ap­pro­pri­ate. Lit­tle kids, grandma, even mom and dad don’t want to hear about in­dis­cre­tions dur­ing a road trip or at the stag party.

“Imag­ine your grand­mother,” he says. “If it would of­fend her, don’t say it.”

Amy Pa­tel, a wed­ding plan­ner and owner of

Loud and clear

Lindy Sin­clair, a Dis­tin­guished Toastmaster who has been prac­tis­ing pub­lic speak­ing since 1990, says that no mat­ter what the toast says or how much you pre­pare, the speech will fall flat if it is whis­pered with shy­ness rather than spo­ken in con­fi­dence.

“Speak slowly and clearly enough and loudly enough so that ev­ery­body can hear, even the el­derly and the in­firm,” she says. “You can have the clever­est thing to say, but if peo­ple can’t hear it, they’ll miss the next thing as well. They’ll be ask­ing oth­ers what you just said.”

A per­son asked to give a wed­ding toast can drop by a meet­ing at Toast­mas­ters, a non­profit in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion that helps peo­ple im­prove their speak­ing skills, and prac­tice on the mem­bers of the club, Sin­clair says. Visit www.toast­mas­ters.org to find a club in your area and con­tact the club leader be­fore the meet­ing, she adds.

Haibeck also sug­gests re­hears­ing the speech as much as pos­si­ble. Do it in the shower, in the car on your way to work, while jog­ging or ex­er­cis­ing. And on the day of the speech, if you can, try to stand in the re­cep­tion hall where you will be speak­ing and prac­tise there.

“You get a feel for the room, you get a sense of where you are,” he says.

And, the ex­perts agree, don’t try to soothe fears of speak­ing with al­co­hol be­fore the toast.

“Liq­uid courage is a re­ally bad idea,” Haibeck says. “I rec­om­mend that peo­ple don’t drink at all un­til af­ter they’ve done their toast speech. Go for a run or a bike ride to burn off some of that ner­vous en­ergy. Do re­lax­ation ex­er­cises, vi­su­al­i­sa­tion. Be­cause for some peo­ple that glass of wine to calm down be­comes three or four.” – Con­tra Costa Times/ McClatchy-Tribune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

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