I’m still basking in the afterglow of my daughter’s wedding. It was a marvelous San Diego event, and as father of the bride, I had the honor of giving the final toast to the bride and groom. As a professional communication coach I knew the expectation bar was a bit high, but thankfully my coaching also provided some time-tested best practices for social speeches like these.  Since it’s wedding season, I thought I’d share a few of those here in case you may have been asked to give a toast at an upcoming event.

(See my little “BONUS” at bottom, if you’d like a copy of my toast).

Rule 1. It’s about THEM (the bride and groom), not you. This is not the time or place for an overblown, gushy declaration of love or appreciation for either person. The very fact that you’ve been asked to speak, tells the whole room you’re a person of importance. Your message should be about supporting them on their life together, not the other way around.

Rule 2. Lose the “inside jokes”. The larger the gathering (think 50 or more), the less effective are the references known only to a few in the audience. I’m sure we’ve all heard the all-to-common Best Man or Maid of Honor story that begins with “Who can ever forget Jerry’s birthday trip to Vegas?” or “Like that time at the Kappa Sigma party <wink, wink>” Ugh. Please save that for your bar outings.

Rule 3. Less is More. Is there anything more joy-killing, and frankly downright uncomfortable than the seemingly endless speech?  Holding the microphone is not permission for holding your audience captive. Keep it brief. Think 2-3 minutes at the most.

Rule 4. Leave the stand-up comedian bit to the pros. Your dear friends are getting married. This is not a glitzy, cheesy celebrity roast. A dash here or there of well placed humor is always welcome, but please avoid trying to “kill it” with the laughs. You likely won’t.

Rule 5. As a dear public speaking coach colleague of mine likes to say “Get out of your head, and into your heart.” This sentiment was demonstrated wonderfully in the movie “Wedding Crashers” when Rachael McAdams’ character tries to open her toast with bad jokes, and is thankfully redirected mid-speech by Owen Wilson’s character pointing to his heart. Speak from there. That’s home base.

Toasts at weddings, anniversaries, graduations are precious opportunities to give the gift of yourself to the guests of honor. Keeping these five simple rules in mind, will make sure your toast is beautifully gift-wrapped, fun to open, and timeless.

BONUS: If you’d like to get a copy of my 2 minute toast, just shoot me a direct message though any of my social channels and I will send it along.

The Ganon Group offers communication coaching for executives and employees across all departments: C-Suite Leadership, Sales, Customer Experience, Technical / Product Development, to improve their communication and presentation techniques. We believe everyone can “up” their game when it comes to communicating initiatives and ideas within the organization, outside to new prospects, to existing clients, or to outside media and trade organizations. www.theganongroup.com