Groom’s toast: the killer speech

Given a choice between public speaking and a torturous death, a lot of fellas would go for option B.
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At most weddings, the groom is required to be very much alive whilst making his toast, however. And when the time comes, you'll be glad you perservered than opted for a premature demise.

A major upside of a wedding speech is that you’re speaking to a receptive crowd, not a room full of strangers or hostile business associates. Even better, should your ceremony observe convention, you won’t even have to be the first to the podium. The father of the bride is usually the groom’s warm-up act, but the order of service can be tailored to suit

Regardless of whether public speaking fills you with horror or is second nature, get a grip on what needs to be said and how you want to say it…

What to say
A few things you might want to cover:
- Respond to the father of the bride or whoever spoke prior to you
- Thank guests for attending, perhaps single out those who’ve made extra effort, travelling from far-flung corners of the globe especially
- Pay tribute to the bride
- Thanks (and reassure) the in-laws for ‘giving’ their daughter away and, if relevant, hosting the wedding
- Some words of tribute for your parents
- Acknowledge any offspring, or new step-children
- Big up the best man and groomsmen for their efforts
- Toast the bride’s attendants
- Thank the celebrant
- Offer a closing toast…to life, love, happiness or whatever suits the moment

How to say it
Let’s be honest, kicking off with a famous quote is hackneyed—take this path only if the words have true significance to you as a couple: the song playing when you first kissed, perhaps. Likewise, pre-written online speeches—basically, reciting anything found on google doesn’t cut it. People want to hear from you in your own words. This has the added advantage of not throwing up any awkward or unfamiliar phrases. Keep it clean (and sober) and save any insider jokes that will be lost on half the crowd. Humour is good, just not at someone else’s expense—especially the bride. Even if she appreciates a bit of a roasting, others may find it alarming. And while guests are keen to hear from the groom, it’s not carte blanche to babble for an age—stick to four or five minutes, max.

Planning it
Work out what you want to say, but don’t script it: if nerves end up derailing your train of thought, things will get messy if you can’t get back on track. Jot down a few key points for backup if need be, but don’t read. Practice to death and if any parts prove consistently tricky, change them. Consider whether you’ll be behind a podium, at a mic stand or have a radio mic. If it’s either of the latter, you’re free to take the mic and move around the room if you like… just don’t spook everyone by pacing around manically.

Pulling it off
The temptation may be to get away from the mic as soon as is humanly possible but that’ll backfire. Before starting, adjust the mic if it’s fixed to a stand or podium and test that it’s working. To get maximum traction from your words and not come off as rushed or nervous, don’t begin until the crowd has chilled and speak clearly at a measured pace. You’re making a toast, so don’t forget to take a glass. The glass has the additional benefit of keeping your hands occupied and signalling the end of the toast when raised.

Getting help
Should some degree of tutoring be required, visit www.toastmasters.org.au, a not-for-profit club that helps develop communication skills. Meetings are held twice monthly all across Australia and New Zealand. Alternatively, a quick online search may help locate a private tutor.

Photo by: Getty Images
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