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The Difference Between A Speech And A Toast

03/28/2013 11:46 am ET | Updated May 28, 2013

The best wedding toasts are always the ones kept brief and filled with pithy remarks or one short story. A story that can be understood by more than the toaster and its intended recipient, I might add. Having been on the receiving end of more than a few really, really bad toasts lately (oh yes, I have to stand there and listen to the entire babble and keep the microphone moving along lest the designated drunk get his hands on it), I decided it was time to wax poetic on the subject. Or you can call it a rant. Whatever works.

Every wedding, one of the designated toasters will take me aside to ask "what time is my speech?" Uh, you don't have a speech honey. You're not running for office and this isn't the debate club at school -- you've been asked to "toast" the lucky couple. Meaning, you're supposed to get up, talk for two minutes, say something funny or touching, wish them the best, and then sit the heck down. I am not a party pooper -- I am a realist. If the bride and groom wanted everyone to get a shot at the mic, they wouldn't have set up a list of designated toasters on my schedule, now, would they? They want some pics, some nice remarks, and to get out on the dance floor and enjoy their reception.

Do you know what a time-suck the toasts can be when your loving (and slightly inebriated friends) get their hands on the microphone? I kid you not when I tell you the all-time record ran close to an hour at a wedding reception that was only five hours long, and even then the father of the bride got all testy with me when I shut it down at the bride's request. Sometimes, it gets a little outta control, even with the best of intentions.

Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines a toast as "the act of proposing or of drinking in honor of a person who is highly admired." In other words, you're supposed to raise a glass to acknowledge the love the new couple has expressed to one another, to give their new marriage your blessing, or to just say congratulations. If what you're planning to say during your "speech" is going to take longer than three minutes or requires more than one index card of notes, you're wayyy off track and preaching to the wrong audience. This crew just wants to hear "congrats and let's go dance."

Nobody wants to hear all the childhood stories about how you and the bride cut each other's bangs off in third grade, or the time the groomsmen got caught toilet-papering and egging houses in their misspent youth. These are topics best saved for the bridal luncheons and bachelorette/bachelor parties. Perhaps that's something else to qualify -- it's spelled "toast" with a "T", not "roast" with an "R", and I do not care how close you are to the groom or how drunk you are when you get up there to raise your glass, it is absolutely not the time to bring up every dumbass thing he's ever done or every unfortunate dating choice he made during his entire college career. I've seen it done. I've watched brides cringe.

In one case, the best man decided to "out" the bridal couple for having met on an online dating service when they'd told everyone they met at a bar. Not that it matters, but it's nobody's business and in this case, it really upset the bride. Why was that necessary and how could that even happen? Maybe part of the problem is that brides and grooms need to give a little more thought to which idiots (I mean that in the nicest possible way) they ask to give remarks at the wedding reception. Just because you love that person doesn't mean she should ever be allowed access to an amplification system after six to eight rum punches.

Another mega pet peeve of mine is the doofus who gets up there with an iPhone to read their toast. Really? REALLY??? You couldn't print that out? You couldn't just handwrite a few notes? You're really going to bring up an iPad or phone and go that way? I kid you not that I had to print out a wedding ceremony for a guy who was planning to do his religious reading off an iPad at a ceremony on a sunny beach not very long ago. And that isn't the worst thing I've ever seen.

Folks, a wedding toast is supposed to be a big deal. It is supposed to be brief and memorable. While at typical American weddings, people forgive the toasts, in other cultures, the toasts are a really, really big deal and they're something that has significance and responsibility attached to it. Make sure you know what you're getting yourself into when you accept the honor of saying a few words at your friend's wedding. There are some times when a "speech" is appropriate. It's just definitely not at a destination wedding reception in the Caribbean where everybody would much rather be dancing their asses off under a starlit sky with a rum punch in hand.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra.

Sandy