Roach: 10 rules for perfecting wedding toasts

Wedding toasts are a salute to wincing
Roach: 10 rules for perfecting wedding toasts

Spring is nigh. That means graduations and lots of weddings.

As a wedding guest veteran, I execute a move that is admired by other pros. Just before the toasts begin, I find a way to rise from the table and make my way to the back of the room, where most times I can find the bar. In short, I hide.

The reason? As someone who has made a living caring about words, I find wedding toasts unbearable. Just before the glasses are lifted, I skulk to the back of the hall to be as far away as possible from the pain about to be imposed on the audience.

To me, each word of a wedding toast sounds like a car being driven on its rims. Oh sure, flea markets, carnivals and theme parks are tacky. But for my money, wedding toasts are America’s worst art. Nothing comes close.

Wedding toasts are a salute to wincing.

But it is irresponsible to complain without offering a solution to this cultural tragedy.

So, as a man who loves his country, let me offer my Ten Rules for Wedding Toasts. Perhaps these notions can put America on the path to less blushing, anger, regret, cluelessness, self-loathing and imminent divorce at weddings across our great nation.

Rule One: Keep it short. You think you are smooth, clever and can go on forever. Wrong. You are nervous, unprepared and unqualified. The last time you spoke in public was in a middle school play. You have never written for oratory. Be honest. You don’t know what you are doing.

Rule Two: Avoid the first-person personal pronoun “I.” As soon as you start using this word the entire toast turns into a smarmy reminiscence of your experiences with the bride or groom at the exclusion of everyone else at the wedding. Personal pronoun abuse infers that you are the bride or groom’s only true friend and no one else matters. For some reason, bridesmaids are the ones most likely to go this route. Don’t use “I.” It’s not about you.

Rule Three: This one is critical. Do not, under any circumstances, mention the bride or groom’s romantic or sexual history. The punishment for this in some countries is having your tongue removed. For good reason. Please act as if everyone in the room is virginal. It’s best for all.

Rule Four: Don’t show a video. No one wants to see it. Sure, you can edit on your laptop. But don’t.

Rule Five: Mention the parents and grandparents. To do so indicates that you are aware that the wedding is not just a gathering of your college posse, but an event that speaks to the generations of the families gathered. To mention elders adds context and gravity to the day. If you don’t acknowledge elders, you sound like you’re giving a Sunday morning recap of a raging kegger.

Rule Six: Don’t be drunk. You’re on tape. If you’re wasted, your performance will be posted to YouTube and potential employers will hire someone else.

Rule Seven: Don’t be hungover. A toast is a performance. Good performances don’t include retching between words.

Rule Eight: Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. You think you can wing it. You can’t. If you have been selected to give a toast you should see it as an honor and responsibility that requires more preparation than answering the phone. And you will be nervous. Every time you rehearse, you become less nervous by 10 percent.

Rule Nine: This one is easy and good. Pull an impressive quote about love from William Shakespeare, Emily Brontë or Eddie Vedder. A quote adds pomp to your remarks and shows everyone that you know how to use Google for something other than directions.

Rule Ten: Remember, your toast is about love and joy and family. Hit those notes with brevity and a touch of humor and the couple will hug you and people will pat you on the back at the bar.
And then you’ll be asked to give the toast at the next wedding.

Madison-based television producer John Roach writes this column monthly. Reach him at