We all know that you don’t have to be a public speaker to be a best man or a maid of honor.
The only requirement for the position is being a best friend.
It’s not a job, it’s an honor and a responsibility that comes from years of trust, years of long talks, years of joy and years of being there when that person needs you the most.
I have had the fortune of being a best man three times. And each time, I was faced with the difficult task of a toast.
Whether comfortable with a crowd or not, it is the duty of the best friend to get up and say a few words. It can be short or it can be long, but you have to do it.
You never know how many times you will give such a toast, but hopefully it will be the only time you give a toast for that particular friend. The toast is an unforgettable moment for your friend, their spouse and all the close friends and family in attendance.
No pressure, right?
Figuring out what to say can be tricky. You don’t want to offend anyone, and you especially don’t want to offend the spouse.
I made that mistake when giving my first toast.
“This has been a big week in the world,” I said. “The Godfather of Soul James Brown died, Saddam Hussein was executed, Gerald Ford died and Richard and Alexandra got married.”
I was not pleased with Richard’s decision. He met Alex at a vampire role-playing convention in St. Louis and it was a disaster from the beginning. Regardless, it was a mistake to make my opinion obvious.
His family and friends loved it, as they shared my opinion, but the other side of the wedding party did not see the comedic value.
I learned my lesson on that one. Fortunately, I was able to recover by presenting Richard with his favorite movie, “A Walk to Remember.”
That was a good way to embarrass Richard and not offend Alexandra. Walking that line is strongly recommended.
You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, you don’t want to bring up any stories that would be red flags to the spouse’s parents. Bringing up ex-girlfriends or ex-boyfriends is also a bad idea, especially if they happen to be at the wedding.
And, please, avoid inside jokes.
One of the worst toasts I have ever heard was one full of a bunch of inside jokes involving a video game the best man and the groom always played together.
A few of the groomsmen thought it was hilarious. No one else did.
Find something you and your best friend share and make it relatable to others.
One of the best examples of this I’ve heard was my sister’s maid of honor, Libby, who wrote a speech incorporating several Beatles songs. It was a hit. Needless to say, my sister was a huge Beatles fan, and who doesn’t love the Beatles?
Libby might have lost some of the baby boomers in the audience if she had gone with a Dave Matthews-inspired toast.
Another important lesson is to make people laugh, and do it with tact.
When I delivered a toast at my friend Nick’s wedding, I had fun toying with the fact that I was seeing a production of “Cats” in Bismarck, North Dakota with an ex-girlfriend while Nick and Liz were at the courthouse eloping.
“Despite the absurdity and over-the-top costumes and choreography in front of my eyes, I was happy. Excited, even, to know Nick and Liz had done what I always knew they’d do,” I said in the speech.
The best toasts convey why you are best friends with the bride or groom, why you love them and respect them. And, most importantly, the best toasts portray why you believe your best friend and their new husband and wife are good for each other.
That’s what I try to do whenever I have the opportunity.
Those are hard lines to fake and hopefully you will never be in that position that I was in with Richard. However, it happens, and you just have to try and be happy, try and be supportive and try to comfort those who feel the same way you do. At Richard’s wedding there were quite a few.
Fortunately the other two times I have performed toasts were glorious occasions and I couldn’t be happier about my friends’ decisions.
I indicated that in the toasts, telling those in the audience of when Thomas first told Brittany he loved her. He was so shocked he screamed before she had the chance to respond.
After telling that story and others, I told the audience how Brittany made Thomas a better man, and how he strived to be a greater man in part due to her influence. I talked about her kindness and compassion; I talked about his loyalty to her and his faith in their relationship. And I talked about how they deserve each other.
That’s what makes a good toast. Have fun, but don’t forget why you are standing where you are and don’t forget that this is an unforgettable moment for your best friend.
Don’t mess up.
(As published in Lewistown News-Argus 2013 Bridal Edition)