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composition 101

Stumped? Start by answering these questions (jot down your thoughts):

  • How did the bride and groom meet?
  • What words come to mind when you think of the bride? The groom?
  • What comes to mind when you think of their relationship?
  • What comes to mind when you think of your relationship with them as a couple?
  • List three significant (funny, touching, outrageous) moments (or memories) spent with the bride alone, or with the bride and groom together.

You can also look to famous quotes for inspiration. Then, reflect on your own views of marriage and love and evaluate how the bride and groom personify your ideas. When you go to write, your speech will combine your personal feelings, your interpretation of the couple's unique love story, and what you envision for them.

bridesmaids - toasts

Toasting 101: Bridesmaid and Maid of Honor Speeches

As part of the bridal party you may be asked to give a toast in honor of the newlyweds. Here, surefire advice to follow so your speech goes off without a glitch.

Photo: Deanne Dunlop Photography

We salute your decision to grab the microphone from the best man at toasting time. After all, your inspiring words need to be heard, too. Here's your complete guide to giving a toast as a bridesmaid or maid of honor -- what to say, when to say it, and how to get rid of those nervous butterflies.

Take It Seriously

In agreeing to toast the bride and groom at their wedding, you're not just speaking for all the guests, you're essentially a poet with an important story to tell. It's both an honor and a huge responsibility. Embrace this obligation with the grace and maturity it deserves.

Don't Procrastinate

We recommend writing your toast about three weeks before the big day. Approach this "assignment" with the same seriousness you would a college paper. Have someone you trust edit your work, and do a couple of drafts. Advance preparation will prevent hastily scrawled thoughts on cocktail napkins and last-minute panic attacks.

knot note

Not a drinker? It's fine to drink from a glass of water or other nonalcoholic beverage when toasting.

Cover All Bases

While we encourage you to innovate and personalize the standard as much as you want, an expert toastmaster will usually:

  • Express how thrilled she is to be at the wedding and thank the bride and groom (and their parents, if appropriate) for inviting everyone to be a part of their special day.
  • Include a personal touch (a favorite memory, joke, or special secret) that will be emotionally significant to everyone.
  • Offer encouraging (and often moving) words of advice for their future together. (A quote will usually work its way in here.)
  • Conclude with the standard raising of the glass, saying "To Jane and John" (don't forget to take a sip!).

Pick an Appropriate Quote

If you choose to quote, make sure the quote you pick has real resonance for you and is relevant to the message or idea you want to share. Settle on words of wisdom that you can deliver with confidence, earnest emotion, and understanding. And remember, quoting is not required. If it feels at all pretentious or insincere, skip it, and substitute with something that comes from you.

Suss Out Your Style

The best man speech is often wry retellings of zany shenanigans, droll commentary on the subject of marriage, and self-deprecating remarks -- often with knee-slapping, side-splitting results. Don't feel your maid of honor speech has to be sentimental and poetic for the sake of contrast. If you're hilarious too, the crowd is in for quite a treat. Don't worry about stealing thunder.

On the other hand, if funny isn't your shtick, don't feel pressured to be a comedian -- just be yourself and speak from the heart.

Go for Short and Sweet

As you prepare your toast, keep it simple. Don't use words you normally wouldn't use. Try not to ramble -- toasts can be as short as two lines or as long as two minutes. Steer clear of X-rated anecdotes, goofy giggling, and sing-songy, gimmicky group efforts. Remember, this is your moment. Make it a class act.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once the toast has been written, practice reading it out loud obsessively to up your comfort level on stage. On the day of the wedding, grab one of the bridesmaids and ask her for final feedback on delivery, jokes, and hand gestures. You'll be grateful for the preperformance audience. Be sure to write out the complete speech (or transfer it to note cards) and bring the cheat sheet with you to the microphone (no, you don't have to memorize). Emotions and nerves can catch even the coolest of cucumbers off guard.

Set a Schedule

Toasting time usually happens once everyone has been seated and served champagne, but the bride and groom may want to have it happen between courses. Check with them; if they don't have a preference, the timing is up to you and the best man. When you're ready, simply approach the microphone stand as a toasting team. The crowd will be called to attention the old-fashioned way (clinking a glass with a utensil) or the bandleader or DJ may announce to guests that toasting is about to begin.

Traditionally, the best man is considered the toastmaster. For this reason, he may toast first, warming up the crowd for your turn in the spotlight. Of course the maid of honor can take over his role altogether, serve as comaster (a two-person show), or toast the couple right after the best man. We've seen double toasts work well in a variety of formats. You and the best man may want to determine who goes first and who follows based on the content and feel of your speeches.

Stay Calm, Cool, & Collected

Or at least fake it. No matter what, you're going to be nervous. Take deep breaths. Think pleasant thoughts. Maybe have a glass of wine, but don't overdo it. You definitely want to avoid that drunken honor attendant cliche. Remember, when it's all over, you get to party hardy. Speak slowly, and no, no one's going to care that your hands are shaking.

Get Creative

Is toasting too old hat? Knock their socks off with a dance performance, a song, or a reading of an original poem. Salute them in whatever fashion feels most comfortable. That said, if you're planning something really outlandish, check with the bride first.

-- Amy Elliott

See More: Basics for Bridesmaids