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9 Wedding Speech Mistakes That You Probably Haven't Thought Of

According to the pros at Speech Tank, these are the mistakes to avoid to ensure your toast runs smoothly.
Sophie Ross
by Sophie Ross

Having the opportunity to give a toast at a wedding is special. Maybe it's your sibling's nuptials or the reception of your lifelong best friend—regardless, you have the chance to stand up and tell someone you're incredibly close with how much their happiness means to you. You were chosen for a reason. And whatever you do, you know you can't mess this one up.

That's where Speech Tank comes in. Founded by writer Kristine Keller and book editor Marisa Polansky, the team consults, writes, edits and revises speeches the entire audience will love—aka, they're speech-saving pros if you have a case of writer's block. Lucky for us, they're sharing their tips. Check out the biggest mistakes they say you should avoid below (and remember you're giving a toast, not a roast).  

1. Referencing an Inside Joke

Let's be real here: You should be aware of the fact that the audience is on the outside of whatever hilarious you-had-to-be-there moment you're about to share. Know it just won't land, and people will quickly lose interest. If you do choose to incorporate an important inside joke, share the backstory so the audience can understand the sentiment and get in on it too.

2. Attempting to Impart Wisdom

Keller and Polansky say they see lots of people who have, well, "lofty goals." If you try to impart wisdom by quoting people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt, you'll generally miss the mark, because the reality is, you were picked because the couple wants your words. Trust your instincts and, most importantly, keep it personal.

3. Going Too Long

Three to five minutes is the sweet spot for best man and maid of honor speeches, according to Keller and Polansky. The longer you speak, the faster you lose the audience. Pro tip: If you have multiple pages that you're flipping through, you're going to go too long. Instead, make sure it fits on a single note card. Keep it as simple and succinct as possible, while only highlighting the most important stories and memories, and not just anything you can think of.

4. Not Knowing Your Audience

Remember: It might be your best friend's wedding, but it's not just your rowdy college crew in the audience. There will be family members you've never met before in attendance, so try to keep your speech as innocuous as possible. Additionally, when you're writing it, keep in mind what the vibe will be there. A religious ceremony or black-tie affair will be slightly more conservative and buttoned-up than a bohemian backyard wedding. Tailor your speech accordingly.

5. Winging It

Unless you're totally confident in your public speaking skills (in which case, go you!), you probably don't want to throw all caution to the wind in this case. At the very least, put bullet points on a note card that you can look down to in case you freeze up or forget why you started telling that rambling story about hot dogs.

6. Drinking Too Much

Yes, you may feel nervous and hate public speaking and, naturally, want to take the edge off by downing a few glasses of champagne prior to picking up the microphone. But it won't be a good look when you're slurring your words and butchering the jokes you had so carefully prepared in the mirror for weeks. Consciously keep track of your alcohol consumption (or better yet, avoid drinking entirely until after your speech is over) in order to stay in the zone.

7. Looking Down the Entire Time

This might sound like a regurgitated lecture from your public speaking teacher, but it's so important to make eye contact during your speech. It'll feel much more genuine, personal and conversational if you talk to the audience, rather than read to them. Memorize, write in bold letters, practice in the mirror—whatever you do, don't spend your entire speech staring down at your notes.

8. Bringing Up Exes

Yes, believe it or not, this is something people actually do, according to Keller and Polansky. And it's—obviously—a major no-no. Even if you try to spin it around in a positive way (for instance, "I knew she was the one for him because he never treated the other girls as well as her"), it will be cringe worthy and awkward. No matter what.

9. Making Generalizations

Avoid general statements. For example, saying that the couple is "caring and supportive" doesn't seem as genuine if you don't have specific examples. Instead, if you're going to showcase particular personality traits of the couple, back it up with a concrete story, like, "When I was in between apartments, the couple graciously let me crash on their couch."

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