Cheers, opa, mazel tov, cin cin—no one really cares how you finish. When it comes to wedding toasts, it’s about the performance leading up to the raised glass. We’ve all seen both sides of the double-edged sword: speeches that are too blandly saccharine (“True love is the soul’s recognition of its counterpart in another,” said Rachel McAdams in Wedding Crashers) and speeches that are inappropriately blunt, masquerading as humor (“You’ve always been there for me, like when I was in rehab and like the time I couldn’t find my car,” said Steve Buscemi in The Wedding Singer). You can resort to reciting a middle-of-the-road toast to play it safe, but there is a way to strike a thoughtful balance: memorable and meaningful but not too over-the-top (so long as you haven’t yet been over-served). Here, Vogue editors share the horror stories, thoughtful triumphs, and everything in between.
—This piece originally appeared on Vogue.com, b .
“I had to give a toast at my brother’s wedding this past summer and was being told conflicting advice from outside parties: Don’t be funny. Don’t drag it out. Don’t insult anyone’s wardrobe. As if! Ignoring everyone’s suggestions, I went off-the-cuff, which I know doesn’t work for everyone, but the best thing I can impart is to keep it simple. Find a topic that relates to the couple and you, and then it will resonate with guests. Mine touched upon the hardships my now sister-in-law would face dealing with my brother and our family dog, essentially comparing the two in terms of feeding and sleep schedule. If you’re lucky, there won’t be a dry eye in the house. Mission accomplished.”
—Edward Barsamian, Vogue.com Style Editor
“A toast can be more than a toast! I recently attended a wedding where the father of the groom wrote a funny song and performed it at the rehearsal dinner, and it was a total hit. I felt bad for the speech after his—it was a tough act to follow!”
—Andee Olson, Vogue.com Production Manager
“Lofty historical and literary references can be lovely in a toast, just be sure to wield the references properly. I once attended a wedding where the maid of honor tied her entire speech to the idea of the mythical chimera, and it was glorious. But I also witnessed a toast where the bride and groom were referred to as star-crossed lovers. It was meant with great affection, but even a basic Google search would have shown that it implied the couple was doomed to fail.”
—Virginia Van Zanten, Vogue.com Living Editor
“I have a huge family, which means that I have been to a lot of weddings. So when it came time to deliver my first wedding speech (for my sister), I had a few things in mind. First and foremost, keep it short—even the best speech loses its luster after three minutes. Try to keep the subject of the anecdotes focused only on the bride, the groom, and their relationship. Don’t give a detailed account of your personal history with one of the newlyweds. Practice on someone—if a joke doesn’t land, skip it. And try to find a balance between sincerity and hilarity. To do this, I wrote two versions of my sister’s speech: One was very sappy and the other was funny. The day before the ceremony, I merged the two. Everyone laughed, everyone cried, everyone laughed again, and I signed off before anyone’s eyes glazed over. That is what I would call a success.”
—Mackenzie Wagoner, Vogue.com Beauty Editor
“In Sweden, where we were married, speeches are an important, and planned for, part of the ceremony. They make it incredibly personal. Ours were introduced with a blast from an old brass hunting horn by my husband’s brother, the best man. There were about a dozen speeches, in two languages, and the added delight of an African song, sung by a family member just back from the country. It was amusing to learn about my husband’s business school capers; and I was moved by the way my relatives welcomed my husband into his new American family. We didn’t hire a videographer, but my brother kindly taped the speeches, which I later transcribed, and cherish.”
—Laird Borrelli-Persson, Vogue.com Archive Editor
“My advice is basically common sense—but the older I get, the more I realize common sense isn’t very common! One: Limit the number of drinks you have before speaking. Two: Never mention any of the bride or groom’s exes. Full disclosure: A bridesmaid at my wedding had a few too many and started out her toast by talking about how she’d been good friends with one of my exes, and as a result didn’t like my fiancé/husband at the onset. She unfortunately failed to transition to the part about how he ultimately won her over for a while, and it made for an awkward moment.”
—Alexandra Macon, Vogue.com Managing Editor
“Always make the guests laugh and cry and then laugh again . . . in that order.”
—Jorden Bickham, Vogue.com Executive Fashion Editor