The champagne has been popped, and you’ve excitedly accepted your best friend’s request for you to become her maid of honor. You’re anxious to help her pick out the perfect bridal gown, and you already have every detail of the bachelorette party planned (Wine Country, here we come). Oh, but your responsibilities don’t end there, my friend. As maid of honor, you are tasked with giving a toast to the lovely couple on the big day.
That’s right. Get ready to present a formal speech!
The idea of talking for four minutes in front of 200 people can feel like the most daunting maid of honor duty. How do you express how you feel about your friend while also entertaining the crowd? Do you try to evoke laughter or inspire tears? Where should you begin?
As a professional wedding toast-writer who creates personalized wedding vows and maid of honor speeches at Wedding Words, I know the struggle bridesmaids face when preparing their speech. To help ease the challenge, I’m going to share my #1 secret to giving a killer toast.
Here it is…
Tell a story.
Don’t think of it as a speech; think of it as storytelling. The story is what fuels us as humans. There’s a reason we teach children through a story. Which is more convincing? Telling your four-year-old nephew, “Lying is bad. Don’t do it.” Or, sharing with him the story of the boy who cried wolf?
Even as adults, we thrive on a story. It’s why we binge-watched Stranger Things and what we tell over happy hour cocktails with girlfriends. So when it comes to giving a memorable speech that the couple will adore and guests will appreciate, focus on storytelling.
To help structure your toast around this concept, follow my STORY method.
Show, Don’t Tell
This is key to telling a good story. Show what you want to say instead of simply saying it. Let’s look at this example to understand the difference.
Telling It: Sarah is the most supportive and kind-hearted friend I’ve ever had. She has a way of making you feel special, and she was always there for me throughout our time at Michigan State together.
Showing It: During our Sophomore year at Michigan State, I was completely stressed about my Economics mid-term exam. But at 2:00 a.m. Sarah surprised me in the library with a giant cup of coffee and my go-to study snack—Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
Tout the Bride and the Groom
The reason you’re giving this speech is that of the couple. While you’ll spend the majority of your toast raving about your girlfriend, it’s important to make the transition from your relationship with the bride to honoring the groom too. An excellent way to do this is to tout something specific that connects your love for the bride, with the groom's love for her. For example, this part of your toast might sound something like this.
In Sarah’s apartment is a shelf in her closet and on it is a stack of love notes written across post-its from John. I caught a glimpse of one once. It said, “Thanks for picking up dinner last night, baby. I love you.”
I knew reading that simple note that we’d be here one day.
John, I’m so happy that you’re the man sitting next to my best friend today. She deserves to have someone as thoughtful as she is, and I know you’ll continue to appreciate her through all of the life’s moments and her simple gestures.
Open with How You Know the Couple
Not everyone at the wedding will know your relationship to the bride. Begin your toast with a brief explanation. Using this STORY technique is all about specifics, so use detail to captivate more than just how you’re connected to each other but also how you feel about your relationship. Here’s an example.
My name is Jillian, and I first met Sarah during freshman orientation at Michigan State. She was wearing a Pixies tank top and carried a journal with stickers of Nirvana smattered across it. I instantly knew we’d be friends.
Reel Them in with Captivating Detail
With every sentence, you write, dig deeper into the details. Are you going to talk about how the bride is an amazing dancer? Then note the particular song she can bust a move to. Want to compliment the groom for his cooking skills? What’s the exact dish that first made your mouth salivate? Don’t just say chicken. What kind of chicken? Fried chicken that could put famous Willie Mae’s to shame? Now we’re talking. Love is in these details.
You Need to Practice
The best storytellers don’t sound rehearsed. But here’s the thing…Sounding casually eloquent does take practice. Try speaking in front of someone who can provide constructive feedback. You can also video record yourself to see what sort of subconscious, nervous ticks you might do like twirling your hair or fidgeting with the paper your speech is written on. The more you rehearse your speech, the more natural and confident you’ll sound.
Follow my STORY method, and you’ll be ready to deliver a love-filled speech that the guests will enjoy listening to, and that will toast the couple into their happily ever after.
Author: Katelyn Stanis has a bachelor’s in journalism and has been published in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She’s a wedding writer who runs her own toast-writing business, Wedding Words. Katelyn specializes in writing personalized wedding vows, toasts, and speeches for brides, grooms, maids of honor, best men, and parents of the bridal party. She believes everyone has a story to tell and she simply helps by putting their heart into words.