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Wedding hospitality: 10 tips for making terrific toasts

Experienced toastmasters know the secrets to offering witty, wise, and winsome speeches at weddings, retirement parties, and other salutatory events. Of course, we have all cringed at too-candid or inappropriate remarks and recoiled at jokes that fell flat.

These practical pointers can keep you out of hot water, as you raise your glass to recognize the guests of honor.
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Whether you’re the maid of honor or the mother of the bride, the best man or the groom’s father, tactful toasts are always the most welcome at a wedding. These 10 practical pointers can keep you out of hot water, as you raise your glass to recognize the guests of honor.

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1. Brevity counts plenty in toasting.

Wedding guests attend such celebrations to honor the bride and groom, not to discover the next great orator. Short, thoughtful toasts are usually the best.

2. Skip the slams.

Sarcasm and racy reminders may crop up at pre-wedding bachelor or bachelorette parties, but they generally draw frowns at weddings. Far too often, a guest or a member of the bridal party tries to turn a toast into a roast, making mean-spirited remarks, to which no one seems to laugh. Few folks take kindly to seeing loved ones trashed verbally on such a special day.

3. Don’t try for humor, unless you’re really funny.

Canned jokes or off-color anecdotes are unnecessary on such special occasions. Why risk offending hosts or guests with jokes that don’t fly? It pays to remember, when making a wedding toast, that the audience may include the couple's grandparents, young nieces and nephews, and perhaps even their employers.

4. Mix in a memory.

As lifetime landmarks, weddings are prime times for sharing sweet stories of the bride and groom. How did the couple meet? What happened when the bride or groom met the beloved’s family? Have guests heard their engagement story, if it’s suitable for sharing?

5. Sincerity always succeeds.

Senior toasters, in particular, often share wise quotes or inspiring words about love and family. The bride’s older sister might mention that their parents recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. A grandmother could share a secret to a successful marriage.

6. Make a few notes.

Even the most seasoned speakers can benefit from cue cards. The best toast makers sketch out a few ideas ahead of time.

7. Rehearse before toasting.

Stage fright can be minimized, if a toaster recites his or her planned remarks for a real-life friend before the wedding. This trusted individual may offer a few pointers as well.

8. Cameras are no longer candid.

Virtually everyone at such a gathering is probably packing a cell phone, and most have camera and video capabilities. It’s a fair bet that someone will record the toasts, and the footage may immediately appear on Facebook, YouTube, or another online spot. How might that impact the speakers’ choice of words?

9. Sloshed toasters embarrass everyone.

Weddings are festive, of course. Even if refreshments are flowing freely, smart toasters will go easy before standing to speak publicly. A soggy toast is memorable for all the wrong reasons.

10. Consider the appropriateness of offering a toast.

Certain accepted traditions spell out who should, and who should not, give toasts at major events. At a wedding, for example, the best man, the maid of honor, and the bride’s father usually do so. The bride and groom might toast each other. Others may appropriately toast the newlyweds, but most often do not.

If present, the groom’s former fiancee, the bride’s childhood boyfriend, a distant cousin, or a new acquaintance generally raises a glass cordially, but does not stand to speak during toasting.

Similar guidelines of etiquette apply to toasts at anniversary celebrations, milestone birthdays, retirement parties, and other memorable gatherings.