I attended my niece's wedding over the weekend, and I witnessed the latest sign of the impending apocalypse: the devolution of the wedding toast. For years, the toast was an opportunity for the best man to wish the bride and groom well. No more. Now it is the occasion for a long-winded dissertation on the happy couple's relationship with the best man AND the maid/matron of honor. (More on adding the second speech later.) Today a toast consists of the following elements:
1. How great the respective other party is ("Betsy, you're just great. You are pretty, smart, AND you even cook.")
2. How much the respective other party added to the life of the subject of the toast ("Lyle, you have done so much to make Sylvia a happy person, and I love you for it, Man!")
3. Pointlessly humiliating facts about the person being toasted ("Having gone through four years of college with Phil, I can't believe he sobered up enough to make it through this day.")
All this fun in the space of seven minutes or more. Valuable time that could be spent eating or drinking. Instead it becomes an excuse for drinking in order to anaesthetise the pain of hearing this endless speech.
Plus, we get to hear twice as many tirades, because today it is de riguer for the maid of honor gets to give a speech, too. I am not so traditional or hidebound to think that the toast is strictly in the male domain, but really... must we be subjected to such long oratory? Can't it be an either/or?
If you really want to endear yourself to the guests, try to remember these key points:
* Focus on the bride and groom. Remember, it's THEIR day, not yours.
* Be prepared. You're likely not Robin Williams, pal, and very few people are very good at winging a speech.
* Be brief. This is a toast, not a mini-series.
* Be touching, and I mean legitimately touching, not cloying. Try to create an emotional connection with the guests; they are more like to remember what you say.
* Stay sober. It will not only help you remember what you wanted to say, but it won't embarrass you or the newly married couple.
I once stood as a best man and used these words: "We used rings as symbols of a couple's commitment to each other because it is endless and eternal. We also put the ring on the third finger of the left hand, because it was once believe to have an artery that connected directly to the heart - our symbol for love. In that spirit, let us wish Dick and Diana an eternity of love together."
It's not the "I Have a Dream" speech, but people still remember it after 30 years.
Because it was memorable and not indigestible.
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