Toasts: the wedding tradition that could probably just die and no one would care

October 16 2013 | offbeatbride
Player 1 Player 2 champagne toasting flutes from GlassCannons

Sometimes we gossip with our wedding industry vendor friends. We like to get the scoop about things they're seeing more often at weddings (ring warmings! hand fastings!) and just generally get the insider gossip. And you know what our vendor friends are telling us? That basically, almost everyone hates wedding toasts.

And you know what? Based on what we see people searching for on Offbeat Bride, we think our vendor friends are onto something. No one seems to want to do toasts.

No one knows how to do a wedding toast

Here are a few of the searches we see on Offbeat Bride:

  • how to write a wedding toast
  • wedding toast tips
  • wedding toast help

Ok, so it's clear that the people who are supposed to be giving wedding toasts don't know what to do. We've gotten advice emails from groomsmen and family members being like "Ug, I have no idea what to say!" Why do we keep forcing them to say anything?

Lots of couples are embarrassed by wedding toasts

Yeah, we know this one REAL well. Tons of couples hate wedding toasts because they're embarrassing and awkward. Again, a sampling of searches we see on Offbeat Bride:

  • how to avoid embarrassing wedding toasts
  • how to cut off a wedding toast
  • wedding toast alternatives

So yeah: lots of couples loathe wedding toasts, especially shy brides and introverted couples.

Vendors struggle with toasts too

And what about our gossipy vendor friends? The ones whose jobs it is to make sure their client's wedding run smoothly, and that everyone has a good time? They struggle with wedding toasts for all sorts of reasons. A shortlist of complaints we've heard:

…There's no good time for toasts!

There's really no good time for toasts. At the beginning of dinner (traditional timing) too many speeches can really mess up the quality of the food service, as keeping everything fresh and ready to go is really tough when you have no idea when to serve it. Near the end of dinner (my preferred spot to place toasts) works better for food service, and guests are generally better listeners on full tummies.

However, this spot can sometimes cause so much anxiety on the part of a reluctant toasters that they get screwed out of the meal entirely. I've personally seen a few delicious meals go completely untouched because the poor person didn't want to eat until they'd "gotten through" their toast for fear of puking out of terror.

…Toasts always take too long!

Guests are often-times tortured if speeches go too long. I tell my couples to aim for four toasts max (two wedding party, two parental), with no more than three minutes apiece. (People always go long if you don't give them a time structure.)

One of my weddings this summer had toasts for an hour and ten minutes! Guests were pulling me aside and asking me, "when are these over?" The bride and groom looked miserable.

Toasts also take away valuable time with the photographer! I think most couples would want better party/dancing photos than pictures of people talking.

…Toasts can embarrass couples and ruin receptions!

I've got some horror stories of toasts gone wrong, but even under the best circumstances they just result in embarrassment to the couple (…why do people think it's OK to talk about exes?!!! GAH!). I've seen one bride brought to tears she was so upset about a toast gone wrong.
My professional facepalm toast highlight was the VERY very drunk toaster who was so damn loud on the mic (rock star SCREAMING: WOOO! YEAAAAHHH! LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE COUPLE WOOOOOOOO!) that he blew out the sound system entirely, effectively bringing both his toast and the entire reception to a full stop.
For the love of God, never "open it up" to anyone who has a toast to share. You're just inviting awkwardness for everyone.

Ok, so to summarize

  • Lots of guests asked to do toasts don't know wtf to say
  • Lots of couples don't like the attention that toasts bring
  • Lots of vendors have issues with the timing and logistics of toasts

The question then becomes, would anyone REALLY care if wedding toasts just stopped happening? What if they just slipped into the night of wedding traditions that don't really happen any more?

Well, wait: toasts do fulfill a solid purpose: they give guests the opportunity to tell the couple how much they love and support them. So, let's get meta: what other ways your guests have the opportunity to honor you?

A few of the schemes we've come up with:

  • Do your toasts at the rehearsal dinner — it's a much more intimate platform.
  • Have your guestbook act as the way that guests can share their well-wishings with you.
  • Do a video confessional booth: It's fun and guests can share something personal with the couple without having to be in front of everyone (WeddingMixThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them could be an easy way do that?)
  • Hashtag Instagram or Vine videos. You could even set a monitor up with a TagBoard feed of your guests' wedding wishes.

We'd love to hear from y'all: are toasts a terrible wedding tradition that needs to die? Do you totally love them? What toasting-alternatives can we come up with?

  1. The toasts at my wedding were AMAZING. I definitely don't think they're required but in a group of talky people, it would've been weird not to have them. Here's some tips…
    1) One toast per course. Tell the waitstaff ahead of time it's fine to serve food during the toast. Have the MC tell the guests at the beginning of the meal that it's fine to eat during the toast.
    2) Time limit. A million people have mentioned this, but it's so necessary. No one can give a good ten-minute toast. 3-5 minutes max, and really only 5 if you're a genius.
    3) Ask toasters in a general way ages in advance and see how they react. Tell the unenthusiastic not to worry about it.
    4) Only ask people who are genuinely good with words and reasonably comfortable public speakers. People might really truly love you, but standing at a mike saying that over and over is not great in front of a group. Maybe those people could do a reading at the ceremony? Or just love you from their chairs?
    5) Schedule the heavy drinkers to give the earlier toasts; the tee-totallers can go last.
    6) Blowhards, people harbouring issues about the happy couple, those who insist on gender essentialism, and lovers of mean jokes should not be asked to give toasts. Maybe they should not be invited to the wedding?
    7) The last toast should be during coffee, as the kickoff to the dancing. There should be no long gap where the food is all eaten and the toasts are still going strong.

    This worked out great for us, but I guest every wedding is different. But really, I was so honoured (and amused) by what everybody had to say–wouldn't have missed those toasts for anything!

    6 agree
  2. I also would like to express my shock at the negative tone of this post. Reading it left me with the impression that you (the authors) think that people who choose to include toasts in their weddings are silly. I thought that offbeat bride was a place where people are free to choose what to include and exclude. I'm almost afraid to keep reading in case my favorite tradition is next.

    7 agree
    • I completely agree. I was shocked and quite frankly a bit disgruntled that this tradition was deemed "okay" to be so negative about in a website that prides itself on its positive atmosphere. I'm really disappointed.

      4 agree
  3. I dunno. I like toasts. I'm really looking forward to them at my wedding, actually. There's something very ancient and mead-hall-y about a raucous wedding party peppered by heartfelt and vaguely inappropriate toasting and well-wishes from friends and family- to me, they're one of the biggest reasons to HAVE a big "traditional" wedding, rather than eloping or going to city hall.

    Granted, A and I both do karaoke and open mic poetry. Our friends are spoken word performance artists, I'm also a tour guide- suffice to say that neither of *us* shy away from speaking in front of a crowd, most of our friends don't either, and toasts are important to us.

    Again, for us, they're the *reason* to have a big wedding. And toasts are one of the things that you, as a guest, should expect at a wedding. There's going to be a ceremony and some speeches and if you're lucky you'll get decent food and some booze out of the deal for putting up with it if neither of those things are your shtick.

    I gave an impromptu speech at my friend Kim's wedding and 4 years later she and her husband *still* lament that they don't have it on video.

    I guess it depends on the couple. If toasts aren't a big deal to you, don't do them. But if they're crucial to you, don't let anyone talk you out of having them, either. O don't care if they "interrupt the flow of the reception." they are PART OF the "flow of the reception." People gotta deal. 😉

    2 agree
  4. Is it bad that I jumped to the comments looking for juicy bad toast stories? Not sure if we'll do them. I know my MOH/lil sis is terrified of speaking in front of crowds! Might just spare her the terror haha

    RE: people complaining about the "negativity" of the post, Offbeat articles like this are opinion pieces. A specific opinion namely. They are food for thought and not meant to encompass a consensus.

    7 agree
  5. I love toasts!!! I loved having them at my wedding, and love listening to them at other weddings.

    However, as a guest there are a few courtesies I appreciate when it comes to toasts. 1) toasts should generally be short (no more than 3 minutes) 2) the couple should only ask a handful of people to speak. How about no more than 6 or 7? Generally all toasts start sounding the same around this point 3) please, for the love of your guests no open mic! Even when there's a supposed time limit on an open mic I've seen them get really rambling and awkward for everyone really fast.

    There are of course, exceptions to these requests , but in general I just don't care what that tipsy uncle you're not actually close to has to say about you. Giving a toast should be treated as an honor, instead of being doled out to every relative and wedding party member. I know it can be really hard to choose, but if you plan well everyone who you want to can have some sort of special designation bestowed upon them.

    Anyway, those are just my ideas, not hard and fast rules!

  6. Our toasts we excellent! We had a finger-foods cake and dancing reception so we did the first dance, then the toasts and then after the toasts everybody got cake! (Business first then dancing!) The toasts were given by: My Stepbrother (who knows us really well as a couple), His brother and sister/bestlady in tandem, My maid of honor/bestie, and my dad.

    We both have massive families (it was an intimate wedding of 120 guests) and they are pretty far flung so while our aunts/uncles/cousins know each of us well, they don't really know the other one and many of them didn't have any experience of us as a couple. My brother's toast gave them some insight into our relationship and our wedding party and my dad's toasts gave each family insight into what we were like as people/growing up. They were all really funny and sweet and we felt really loved and understood.

    I think it's pretty key to pick who you have speak carefully. If your best man is a relative or has never met your family, maybe ask a long-time friend instead. The person should -want- to speak (I am speaking as a bridesmaid this weekend as a favour to the maid of honour who is sure she will just cry the whole time) – and it should be someone you trust to do it well (who needs that kind of anxiety!?).

  7. Erg. My boyfriend's longtime friend got married last year and being the best man, was supposed to give a toast. He wrestled with it for a long time. We didn't know or really like her, so how do you keep it from turning into "Here's to you and the woman you've known for four weeks who's trying to change every little thing about you"? He finally decided on "May the best of your past be the worst of your future." But thankfully, during the reception, the maid of honor (bride's sister) decided she didn't want to give one so he didn't have to either.

    I've been to 4 or 5 weddings and I don't recall any of them having toasts. If they did, they weren't very memorable.

  8. I got married last night, and I loved our toasts. We'd asked, in advance, the best man and the bridesmaids as a group to speak. The bridesmaids designated one girl. We told them short and sweet. They are trustworthy people who legitimately love us and would never think that taunting us or making fun of us in public would be appropriate. Our best man was clearly nervous, and had written his speech down on a crumpled piece of paper, and he had the best accidental comedic timing pulling it out of his pocket when he'd get a little lost. My bridesmaids wrote a beautiful little story about our life as a book with many chapters left to be filled. They were beautiful and I really think it gave everyone who didn't know us as a couple a great chance to hear about our lives together.
    Long story short – toasts can be great if you state your expectations in advance, give notice to write a great speech, only choose people whose personalities match the type of speech you'd want to hear, and give an approximate time limit.

  9. I think a good way to do toasts is to make a short list of people who might expect to have to make a toast and people you would want to make a toast, and then ask them, in person, far in advance if they would want to. You could even phrase it like "We were considering not doing any toasts at all, but if you would want to do one, we'd love you to. Do you really want to?" That way there is no pressure, but you could get lovely toasts from people who are actually good at public speaking.

    I'm not actually engaged, haha, but I could only imagine my only living grandfather would be thrilled to toast me at my wedding, being a pretty conservative southern gentleman and all, and would do one well, while the bulk of my same-age friends would rather not. That way it is a more personal invitation to speak, but no one is forced into speaking.

  10. I don't know. Maybe I'm an anomaly but I've never seen an "inappropriate" wedding toast at any wedding in real time. I've only seen them on the romantic comedy movies. Toasts, congratulatory speeches and well wishes are positive things, and they don't have to be embarrassing to anyone. A possible solution? Maybe have the toasts videotaped at the wedding in say a booth or just outside the church or something, and then present the DVD to the bride and groom so can watch them at a later time away from the crowds or they can put on youtube if they want?

    1 agrees
  11. I myself come from a large family (by large I mean 9 aunts and uncles on one side of the family and 3 aunts/uncles on the other, the groom has a smaller clan) and we both have divorced parents adding to the numbers of family units, and its commonplace and expected toasts are going to happen (usually by the same folks: uncles, dads, moms, matriarch and patriarch of the family and maybe the occasional aunt or cousin or sibling). its a tradition in our family and sometimes executed very well and fun depending on the event it relates to. Normally they occur right as people are beginning to eat so they don't have to put the fork down. The only time it would be a toast before anyone eats scenario is when its a small dinner party. Were having an open buffet at our wedding and figure once everyone has been seated we could do some kind of opt in time limit speech/toast schedule (probably a sign up sheet on the day of with order of appearance so its 100% volunteer, of course advance notice on the wedsite about how much time is available per person) while folks are beginning to eat their food. That way no one will have to wait to eat, there will be a limit on how long someone can ramble on or tell stories and folks will no when. Since we wont worry about servers or vendor schedule with a buffet (other than food being plopped down for folks to grab a plate and go) it wouldn't interfere with toasts or speeches, should anyone want to do them. We're just figuring on how many and for how long each speech should go at the maximum to be fair. I can envision anywhere from 10-15 speeches/toasts happening at our reception so we definitely don't want any long winded speeches that's for sure. No one wants to sit through an hour of speeches after all, right?

    I personally don't object to speeches, but do worry about what will be said and the appropriate-ness of the content. After all I really don't need my entire family hearing about my bedroom sleeping habits, or that time when I was five and naked in my moms pottery studio playing in a kiddie pool in the dead of summer or really anything embarrassing about either myself or the FH personally. I'd rather it be relevant to our relationship as a couple or about unifying a family because that's what we are there for after all.

    1 agrees
  12. I'm on the fence about toasts. I've been to a number of weddings and they've been a mixed bag in terms of success. I'm considering telling the "key" people they are off the hook, but am worried they might be offended and think the issue is that I don't want them to speak when really it's that I don't want them to feel pressure. Ideas?

  13. BOOOOOOO! I LOVED the toasts at our wedding – they were short, funny, and very very meaningful. I think the guests enjoyed them too, but even if they didn't, I don't give a rat's ass.

    1 agrees
  14. I solved the problem by asking my 6-year-old bridesmaid to do our only speech. It worked out perfectly.

    1 agrees
  15. Realise I'm coming late to this but in Britain traditionally toasts are limited anyway. We usually have 3 toasts – the groom starts by thanking all the guests and especially the bridal party (this is often when flowers are given to mums etc). The groom also remembers any people who couldn't be with us before thanking the bride. Then it's the turn of the father of the bride – he usually rambles on about the bride and says how nice her new husband is. Finally the best man does his best to make everyone laugh and embarrass the groom before wishing the couple well. Other guests don't really get to make toasts at all. I've been to a wedding where the brides grandad gave a toast and it was awkward and repetitive (also probably cos her dad's toast was terrible – learnt what grades she had got in school! Why her wedding was the time to discuss this I honestly don't know). The best speeches and toasts are a thank you to everyone who worked hard to make the wedding happen as well as a celebration of the couple. And they shouldn't be over 3 mins per person!

  16. As an industry professional for two decades I find this post to be really depressing. The toasts are the most human and "real" moments of the wedding day, and something I actually look forward to hearing every single time. They are more often than not actually meaningful and well done. But really, it is okay that no one knows what to do, and stumble through, and try to make jokes that are not funny or are embarrassing. The position of this post seems to advocate avoiding the toast because it might cause embarrassment, boredom or something negative. This attitude is depressing to me because if you avoid living any unscripted moments of your life because you are afraid of something negative happening, then you also miss out on experiencing amazing surprises and learning something new or unexpected about yourself or someone else. In 20 years I've seen spectacular life moments happen during wedding toasts and speeches. Couples hear amazing things come out of their parents mouths during toasts that in that very instant changed their perspective of their parents from a child's eyes to an adult's eyes and the amazing realization of really who your parents are as human beings beyond your childhood caregiver. Sure, best men and maid of honor can say embarrassing things, but they can also paint a picture of the couple that many people don't get a chance to really know as a distant relative, friend or even close family member who is just starting to understand who you are as an adult. Also, many people in the room have experienced this beautifully awkward moment before, one way or another, and is a collective shared experience many people have to be "roasted" or embarrassed. It reminds us all to not take ourselves so seriously and be able to laugh at ourselves. The rest of the wedding day is typically so planned and prepared. I always look forward to the toasts because they are moments of genuine life happening in the moment. I realize OBB is here generally to help couples understand that there really are no more "rules" for weddings anymore, so if you don't want to incorporate certain traditions that is fine. But sometimes I think post like this go too far in the other direction, and have an unintended negative message, and are short-sighted only looking at the surface of common complaints. Some wedding industry folks can get burnt out and cynical about their jobs, so they may not always the best sources of perspective. Especially for stuff like this when most do not become emotionally attached to the events they work at and are often going through routines of performing similar tasks from one event to the next. Speeches that go on too long, okay yes, that is a universal legitimate complaint for both workers and guests alike, but avoiding feeling emotions is not really a good reason to avoid this tradition in my opinion. Yes, toasts can be uncomfortable and unpredictable, but life is so much more exciting when you don't hide or protect yourself from experiencing all of the crazy emotions and experiences that make it worth living.

    3 agree
  17. I haven't read all the comments, so forgive me if anything I say is repetitive. I have the perspective of giving the toast as a Best Man as well as "receiving" the toasts as a bride.

    My father asked me to be the Best Man at his wedding. I started off my toast by introducing myself as his daughter (for those who didn't know me) and telling the guests that I had no experience as a Best Man, so I searched the Internet for advice. This got a laugh. Then I said, "One of the suggestions was to talk about how you met the groom. When I first met him, I started screaming." That pretty much brought the house down. 🙂

    So my advice if you are asked to give a toast: go ahead and do a little research. Write out what you're going to say, and practice it, like you would for any other public speaking engagement. Put it on index cards, but don't just read them without looking up. Keep one thought to a card so there's a natural pause while you switch cards (during mine, there was either laughter or a D'awww moment between each card, making it very easy to switch while the "audience" was responding). Unless you are really good at winging it, DON'T. Go for a bit of humor and a bit of mush, but don't overdo either.

    My own wedding was a very laid back event, and we did the toasts after all the guests had had their chance to get through the buffet line. We asked our two Best Men and my Maid of Honor to each do a toast, then let the rest of the wedding party and our parents know that they could give one if they wanted to. My Bridesmaid wrote and read a poem, and our DJ (a friend) decided to read another poem. This is a great idea if you're having trouble coming up with a "speech" for your toast, just find or write a poem or a passage from a book that is meaningful to you and the couple.

    My husband and I both had rather embarrassing moments upon meeting our respective Best Men, so the "talk about how you first met" advice could have gone horribly wrong. My husband's was kind of funny: he stopped in mid-conversation to check out a girl, who turned out to be his Best Man's wife. Now, this story was made slightly more awkward by the fact that she is now his ex-wife and he had remarried (my Bridesmaid), but was nicely covered by him saying my husband's taste had since improved and my husband calling out, "As has yours!" It was fairly obvious that he had planned out what he wanted to say and is a natural public speaker. If you can ask people who are comfortable with public speaking to do your toasts, I highly recommend it.

    My Best Man hadn't really prepared anything, so he rambled a bit and some of the ways he phrased things were rather awkward, but I knew what he meant and wasn't offended (I later learned my father was a bit upset but he let it go). Guests who didn't know the context were likely fairly confused when he mentioned how people had told him I was "bad news" but he was glad he didn't listen to them – this was a reference to the online community where we had first met, which had decided to make me a scapegoat while I didn't have Internet access to defend myself. Overall, his words were very sweet, but he was definitely talking to only me and my husband. So again, I advise planning out what you want to say for the toast, and add a reminder to think of the "audience" you're speaking to. It's probably best to avoid "in-jokes" and extremely personal references that most of the guests won't understand.

    My Maid of Honor surprised me by having the DJ play a pre-recorded message. It was a dedication to me that talked about how we first met and how our friendship had developed. It had been done for a dedication show on the online radio station through which she, my husband, and I all met (we're all DJs). Having it repurposed for the wedding was perfect! And I think this is a fantastic way to deal with the toasts and wish I had thought of it before the wedding. By having the toasts pre-recorded, no one is put on the spot, they have a chance to really figure out what they want to say and if they "mess up" they can just edit the audio file or record it again. The toasts can be played at a convenient time without everyone having to stop and stare at the person speaking (awesome for introverts!). You could have them play one after the other while people are eating, or space them out between songs throughout the reception. You might want to have one good public speaker get up and explain what's going to happen before you start them, or put a blurb in your program so people know what to expect.

    And of course, if you don't want to do toasts, DON'T. It's your wedding, there really isn't much that you HAVE to do, despite what the etiquette books say.

  18. Thank you for this article! I have been worried about toasting during my reception because my fiancée's mother LOVES to talk about his exs. Which is highly inappropriate in the first place, but I've been nervous about the possibility of her saying something in a toast that would upset me (intentional or not). I think I will exclude toasts all together. We will thank our guests for coming, name and thank the bridal party and our padrinos, and leave it at that!

    1 agrees
  19. I realize this topic may be a bit dead, but its perfectly linked to an issue my partner and i are facing, which is we do not want his family to give toasts. Even without that, i probably wouldn't want to, just because of who i am, but my partner and his sister both told me about how her (the sister's) wedding was hijacked by long, unplanned and unwanted speeches from their father and other sister. We definitely want to avoid that, and have planned to make it clear to our guests that we don't want or expect toasts or speeches at any point, but from what i know of my future FIL, he'll probably want to try anyways.

    Does anyone have any advice on how to politely yet firmly make it clear we DO NOT want your toasts or speeches? I liked the idea of the confessional booth or having a place for people to submit videos of their toasts, which may head off some awkward moments.

    1 agrees
  20. I think toasts are awesome when done right (short, sweet, and supportive). I looked forward to the toasts at my wedding, but honestly I was disappointed and hurt. One of my parents was the only person who complimented us, or really said anything nice. At a sibling-in-law's wedding, one of my partner's parents went on and on about how great each of them were–just an absolutely glowing ode. At our wedding, their meandering speech was about building a life together. It was the type of speech delivered to employees forced to sit through an "inspirational" talk delivered by an out-of-touch upper manager.

    I am not a shitty person. All I wanted after a difficult and often contentious planning process was to be doted on a little. Shit, even a mentioning how good I am with animals would have felt great.

    This post is old and this comment is mostly just a way for me to vent, but if you're reading this and ever give a speech, please compliment the couple both as individuals and as a unit. If you're giving a speech, you're likely considered a loved one. So on their special day, make sure you recognize why you love them.

    1 agrees
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