The Who, What, When, Where, and Why of Toasting Etiquette

While the guests certainly appreciated the eloquent speakers who treated the "audience" to a wonderful tale of the bride and groom, sadly we all became innocent bystanders of some poor judgment and plain old bad taste.
09/07/2012 11:17 am ET Updated Nov 07, 2012

"Simplicity is the glory of expression" said the great American poet, Walt Whitman and after a long, Labor Day weekend of weddings, rehearsal dinners and the "morning after" brunches, I couldn't agree more. I mean, I've been thinking about some of the fabulous toasts I felt lucky enough to witness, and some of the insanely boring, rambling and completely inappropriate toasts I had to endure. And while the guests certainly appreciated the eloquent speakers who treated the "audience" to a wonderful tale of the bride and groom, sadly we all became innocent bystanders of some poor judgment and plain old bad taste.

Brideys, allow me to transport you back to grade school for just a moment. Remember these: Who? What? When? Where? (And) Why? Use these simple questions as a guideline when determining the following... Who gets to toast? What is the general content of the toast? When during the course of the evening will they toast? Where (at the wedding or the rehearsal dinner) will they toast? And of course... WHY have they been chosen to offer a toast? Because honoring the happy couple is absolutely one of the formalities and joy of any wedding and rehearsal dinner, but it's how you do it that counts. Allow me to break it down a bit:

1. Who is this person? Are they a close friend or somebody who asked you if they could say a few words in your honor? Because if it's the latter, and you feel somewhat obligated to oblige, then just say "no thank you, we have narrowed down our list of those who will be speaking, and we don't want it to get too long." I mean... if you aren't super thrilled to hear how they are going to "honor" the two of you, then neither are your guests. So let the pity toast go.

2. What is the general content of the toast? You don't have to ruin it for yourselves, but have an idea as to some of what will be mentioned. Because after this past weekend, nothing surprises me anymore... Seriously, picture your grandma digesting the wet T-shirt contest story or the one about how you were so drunk that you passed out and woke up with your face painted, but OMG thank GOD you met your fiancᅢᄅ because he really turned you around. Yeah, relive those moments during your bachelorette weekend!

One more somewhat nit picky item regarding the general content of the toast... be sure that your speaker doesn't ONLY speak about you or the groom based on how they fit into the mix. BOTH of you are getting married, and while it's okay to take up about 60 percent of the airtime speaking about the person they know the best, it's important that they don't forget to talk about the bride and groom as a couple! I mean that IS why they are speaking after all, right?

3. When are they going to toast? If your friend is a superb speaker, then it might be nice to have them toast the happy couple somewhere in the middle, particularly if this is during your rehearsal dinner when the toasts/roasts typically happen one after the other.... Because if the evening begins a bit rough (with long, boring private jokes and anecdotes), then your friend can help revive the atmosphere, and set the tone for those to follow.

4. Where are the majority of the toasts going to take place? The rehearsal dinner or the wedding? The answer... the rehearsal dinner. Just remember to remind everybody who is speaking to be brief, entertaining and as appropriate as possible (see #2). The reason it's best to have the majority of the toasts take place at the rehearsal dinner is because everybody is sitting, everybody is focused (because they know to expect somewhat of a long evening of toasting/roasting), and they are hopefully enjoying some delicious food.

Toasts at the wedding should also be brief with a limited amount of speakers, but more then that, it's nice to get through the formalities quickly so that you can celebrate.

5. Why are they "the chosen ones"? If you can't answer this question easily, then very simply... Don't let them take the mic! The people speaking should know you inside and out, and convey you and your soon-to-be-husband in the best possible way. If you are at all concerned that they will embarrass you (sometimes even by accident), then don't let them take the floor.

After planning, orchestrating and listening to millions of rehearsal dinner and wedding toasts, you gotta trust me! Take my advice and run with this one! Because if you do, I promise that you'll be able to fully relax throughout the wedding weekend!

Got it? Good!

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