You're starting to feel it -- the terror that strikes every man who's ever taken the long walk down the aisle. We're not talking about the wedding vows here -- we mean your toasts.
There may actually be two occasions on which you'll have to deliver your words of appreciation for all those who helped make the big day happen -- at the rehearsal dinner, and at the reception. First thing's first: There will be plenty of opportunities during the reception to crack a few of your classic one-liners -- this is not one of them.
The Rehearsal Dinner
The rehearsal dinner is when all your out-of-state relatives and friends get together for food, drink, and to meet whichever half of the couple they don't already know. So what do you say to an assembled crowd when half the room has never met you before and the other half is busy sizing up your soon-to-be lawfully wedded wife? You start dishing out the compliments, of course.
There will be plenty of opportunities during the reception to crack a few of your classic one-liners -- this is not one of them.
From this point on, whenever you are called on to say a few words in reference to your wedding, always start out by saying how lucky you are to have met a woman like [fill in your bride's name here]. Of course you really mean it. Just don't forget to remind everybody else of that.
The next thing you want to do is thank all the out-of-town guests for going so far out of their way to watch you and your beloved take the plunge. This is a good time to throw in a couple of random anecdotes about Uncle Sid, who got you your first pair of roller-skates (remember, keep it general and clean -- you really don't want to get bogged down in the details here).
Finally, it's time to give your parents their due for putting on this lovely evening and doing everything they've done so well to support you over the years. If you feel like camping it up, walk over to Mom and give her a hug -- people gathered for sentimental occasions eat up this stuff.
If you follow this basic routine, you're sure to make it through the rehearsal dinner just fine.
Next up: The wedding reception toast. The difference between the rehearsal dinner and the reception is (a) you're actually married, and (b), her parents are probably footing most of the bill instead of yours. Your toast should be adjusted accordingly.
Again, it's always recommended that you begin any comment about your wedding with an enthusiastic reference to your bride. Actually, it's more than recommended -- let's face it, it's required. So, once you've reminded the crowd how much you love this woman, "the glowing light of your life" (it's impossible to be too sappy at this event, so go for broke), move directly to a few words regarding the evening's sponsors: your new in-laws.
There will be plenty of opportunities during the wedding reception to crack a few of your classic one-liners -- this is not one of them. When referring to your newest "Mom" and "Dad," you must be a stranger to sarcasm, an alien to irony. With emotions running this high -- to say nothing of the caterer's bill -- you just can't risk a misunderstood attempt at humor. So play it safe and leave the wisecracking roast to your fraternity brothers.
Remember, you want to thank the in-laws for more than just the good food and great company. Their biggest gift to you is their daughter's hand in marriage. Let them know that if you had never met their daughter, you'd be a much poorer man.
You'll also want to give one last nod to your own dear mom and pop for all they've done for you over the years. This is, after all, a milestone moment in their lives, too. So raise your glass high, send a hearty toast in their general direction -- if you can manage a tear, that's a nice bonus but not required -- and then walk over to your wife and give her a big kiss. A good and tipsy crowd (or even a sober one) will love it.