Take It Seriously
In agreeing to being the Maid of Honor and giving a speech, you're not just speaking for all the guests, you're essentially a poet with an important story to tell. It's both an honor and a huge responsibility. Embrace this obligation with the grace and maturity it deserves. Have poise and speak eloquently, with a smile of course!
The Knot recommends writing your toast about three weeks before the big day (looks like I'm on track). Approach this mission with the same seriousness you would a college dissertation. Have someone you trust edit your work, and do a couple of drafts. Advance preparation will prevent hastily scrawled incomplete sentences that don't make sense and last-minute panic attacks.
Cover All the Bases
While we encourage you to innovate and personalize the standard as much as you want, an expert speech-giver will usually:
- Express how thrilled you are to be at the wedding and thank the bride and groom (and their parents, if appropriate) for inviting everyone to be a part of their special day.
- Include a personal touch (a favorite memory, joke, or special secret) that will be emotionally significant to everyone.
- Offer encouraging (and often moving) words of advice for their future together. (A quote will usually work its way in here.)
- Conclude with the standard raising of the glass, saying "To Kerri and Evan" (don't forget to take a sip!).
If you choose to quote, make sure the quote you pick has real resonance for you and is relevant to the message or idea you want to share. Settle on words of wisdom that you can deliver with confidence, earnest emotion, and understanding. And remember, quoting is not required. If it feels at all pretentious or insincere, skip it, and substitute with something that comes from you. This is where your personal touch is most important. Let it represent what you want to portray!
Suss Out Your Style
The best man speech is often wry retellings of silly shenanigans, video game/sports commentary relating to marriage, and self-deprecating remarks -- often with knee-slapping, side-splitting results. Don't feel your Maid of Honor speech has to be sentimental and poetic for the sake of contrast. If you're hilarious too, the crowd is in for quite a treat. Don't worry about stealing thunder.
On the other hand, if funny isn't your gig, don't feel pressured to be a comedian, just be yourself and speak from the heart.
Go for Short and Sweet
This is what I plan on doing. As you prepare your toast, keep it simple. Don't use words you normally wouldn't use. Try not to ramble -- toasts can be as short as two lines or as long as two minutes. Steer clear of inappropriate anecdotes, goofy giggling, and sing-songy, gimmicky group efforts. Remember, this is your moment. Make it memorable in the right way.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once the speech has been written, practice reading it out loud obsessively to up your comfort level on the reception floor. On the day of the wedding, grab one of the bridesmaids and ask her for final feedback on delivery, jokes, and hand gestures (which I'm sure I'll be doing a lot of thanks to my Italian roots). You'll be grateful for the pre-performance audience. Be sure to write out the complete speech (or transfer it to note cards) and bring the cheat sheet with you to the microphone. You don't have to memorize it. Emotions and nerves can catch even the coolest of cucumbers off guard so it's better to have it in front of you.
Set a Schedule
Toasting time/giving the speech usually happens once everyone has been seated and served champagne, but the bride and groom may want to have it happen between courses. Check with them; if they don't have a preference, the timing is up to you and the best man. When you're ready, simply approach the microphone stand as a toasting team. The crowd will be called to attention the old-fashioned way (clinking a glass with a utensil) or the bandleader or DJ may announce to guests that toasting is about to begin. I'm hoping the DJ does this at Kerri's wedding because I'd be afraid to accidentally break the glass!
Traditionally, the best man is considered the toastmaster. For this reason, he may toast first, warming up the crowd for your turn in the spotlight. Of course the Maid of Honor can take over his role altogether, serve as co-master (a two-person show), or toast the couple right after the best man. You and the best man may want to determine who goes first and who follows based on the content and feel of your speeches.
Stay Calm, Cool, & Collected
Or at least appear to be! No matter what, you're going to be nervous. Take deep breaths. Think pleasant thoughts. Maybe have a glass of wine, but don't overdo it. You definitely want to avoid that sloppy, drunken honor attendant cliché. Remember, when it's all over, you get to party hard! So speak slowly, and no, no one's going to care that your hands are shaking or if you need a few seconds to get it together. It's all about the bride and groom anyways!
If you feel like a speech isn't the right thing for you, knock their socks off with a dance performance, a song, or a reading of an original poem. Salute them in whatever fashion feels most comfortable. That said, if you're planning something really outlandish, check with the bride first. You don't want to upset her on the big day!
And most importantly, don't try to top this..
With all that being said, I feel a lot more confident in my writing capabilities. Practice makes perfect though and those personal touches will only make you, and myself, more relatable. Time to devour the details of this coveted mission once and for all. Wish me luck!