Cheers: Why wedding toasts matter

Okay. I'll admit it, I'm a wedding toast junkie. But then, I love pretty much anything that includes celebratory bubbles...
This week, I got to write about why I think toasts matter for the Los Altos Town Crier.  
Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

I’ve been to formal church weddings, sand-beneath-my-feet ceremonies, rainy-afternoon nuptials and dancing-under-the-stars celebrations. But regardless of the style of the union, the toast is always the centerpiece of the reception.

Wedding toasts are a major highlight of the day. Sure, I’ve heard some stinkers. I’ve cringed once or twice and I’ve been bored to yawns, but I always look to the toast portion of the reception with great anticipation. Toasts are an opportunity for a close friend or family member of the bridal couple to express the communal hopes and best wishes of all the guests in attendance.

The toast can generate great angst, but there are plenty of resources for those with pre-toast jitters. Most toasters know to introduce themselves, thank the parents of the bride and groom, skip discussion of the exes, keep the speech upbeat and concise, be polite and pleasant, and stay sober.

Much of the panic associated with toasting is unnecessary. Anyone is capable of giving a fantastic toast. It all comes down to practicing beforehand and making your words heartfelt. Instead of providing practical advice, though, I hope to inspire a keenness for the tradition that will keep the wedding-toast flame burning for generations to come. 

Finding the right words

In a world where a hefty amount of our communications are conducted in 140 characters or less, standing before loved ones and proclaiming feelings and well-wishes provides an opportunity to create a lasting memory. As a wedding guest, I’ve heard moving toasts, funny toasts and delightfully charming toasts.

Historically, toasts have also marked the end of the ceremonial portion of the wedding and the start of the informal festivities. I can attest to this being true, as I have seen more than one anxious groom breathe a heavy sign of relief upon the completion of his toast to his new spouse and their guests. With the toast out of the way, the party can begin.

I attended a college friend’s wedding. We hadn’t seen each other in some years, but he holds a special place in my heart. Prior to the wedding, I had never met his bride. The small catches in her maid of honor’s voice as she expressed her love for the bride let me know that my friend was marrying a woman as special as he.

That’s the great thing about toasts – they unify and enlighten. Weddings bring together assorted groups of friends and relatives not seen in ages. Consequently, wedding guests may not know a great deal about either the bride or the groom.

The toasts given during the reception provide a crib-notes version of the couple’s life together and insights into who they are as people. In doing so, they produce a shared experience, and the joy of the day becomes more abundant. Think of the chorus of hoots and hollers as the best man compliments the bride, or the collective giggles that fill the room when he pokes ever so innocently at the groom.

On occasion, parents and long-married members of the wedding party share their great words of wisdom.

I recall one wedding in which an older brother, who was the best man, discussed the importance of compassion in a successful marriage.

“Compassion is keeping softness in your heart for your partner,” the guest explained, adding that it allows people to give up anger and selflessly love one another.

Compassion is critical in relationships, and I learned that during a wedding toast.

The drinks in the details

The actual act of toasting is fun, to boot. Folks turn to one another, wide smiles on their faces, and clink their glasses in happiness. The clinking together of stemware is core to the act of toasting. It was once thought that the clinking sound would ward off evil. It certainly can’t hurt and, at the very least, it demands that guests interact with one another. So be sure not only to raise your glass, but also to turn to those around you and clink away.

The beverage you toast the happy couple with matters, too. Historically, making a toast using water, tea or coffee was thought to bring bad luck to toasters and toastees alike. Sparkling wine, on the other hand, is ideal because it is a drink associated with merriment and congratulations.

Wedding season is approaching. I have a few marriage celebrations on my calendar this year. I’m looking forward to checking out the color palettes and the latest trends on the dance floor. But I will be especially excited to listen to the toasts made as all in attendance cheer and celebrate the union of two people.


  1. Tom: Many thanks for taking the time to leave your comment. And congratulations on your son's upcoming wedding. I think family weddings are THE BEST! Have fun giving your toast. I'm certain it will be one of the day's major highlights for your son, your new daughter-in-law and all in attendance.


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