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  • Holly Blum/The Word Whisperer

Can Brides and Grooms Influence Their Own Toasts?

When Marshall Field’s became the first department store to launch a bridal registry in 1924, weddings were relatively low-key affairs. Today, weddings are big business-- $60 billion to be exact. In fact, the average American couple spends an estimated $30,000 on their wedding, with much higher budgets in metropolitan areas like New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Weddings have taken on a life of their own, with couples putting each and every detail of their big day under the microscope. And rightfully so. Couples want the right venue/photographer/music/ florist/cake/wedding dress/tuxedo/ ring/ invitations…the list is endless!

Many details are within the couple’s control like selecting vendors and choosing the bridal party. But there are some details that are outside the couple’s control like weather and RSVP response rate. And what about the wedding toasts? Do brides and grooms have any influence over what other people are going to say about them on their wedding day?

The answer can be yes. When it comes to making sure that the wedding toasts are just as thought out as the rest of the wedding details, here are some tips you should keep in mind well in advance of the clink of the glass:

1. Speaker selection is vital. There is no rule that says you have to invite certain people to take the microphone. One of the most important things is to make sure that whoever you ask is comfortable with public speaking and actually wants to deliver a toast. Traditionally, the father of the bride, best man and maid of honor speak at a wedding, however, the speaker list is completely at your discretion. If you don’t feel confident that the best man will refrain from off-color jokes or embarrassing stories, don’t ask him to speak. If the maid of honor has glossophobia (aka speech anxiety), excuse her from having to take center stage. And if you are really struggling to shorten the speaker list, invite some friends and family to say a few words at the rehearsal dinner instead.

2. Set time limits. Weddings typically have timelines to plan out how long each aspect of the event should last. This helps maintain a healthy flow and ensures that no detail is missed. Remember that guests tend to have short attention spans, especially when it comes to listening to speeches. A good rule of thumb is to set aside 15 minutes total for the speech section. This means that if the bride’s father, maid of honor and best man are all on deck to speak, their speeches should be no longer than five minutes each. Couples should make this time limit crystal clear in advance of the event. This will help increase the likelihood that the father of the bride who has a tendency to ramble, for example, will stay on point.

3. Establish boundaries. Don’t be afraid to set guidelines for speakers. After all, this is your day to shine and you have the right to request that certain elements be left out of the toast. Ask nicely for your toasters to use discretion when sharing personal stories, anecdotes, photos and video clips. Ask them to leave the embarrassing stories and inside jokes aside and focus on the memories that will resonate with the whole crowd, not just a select few.

4. Encourage ample preparation. Encourage speakers to start writing their toasts at least 2-3 weeks before the wedding. Don’t worry—most toasters will welcome the friendly reminder, understanding that brides and grooms feel pressure to ensure each detail is carefully prepared. Remind speakers that the chances of their speech being recorded and uploaded to You Tube and Facebook is high, and they will benefit from the advance preparation. Show them a speech that has gone viral for all the wrong reasons to remind them what could go wrong.

5. Seek professional guidance. If you are still nervous that your toasters will deliver speeches that miss the mark, consider hiring a professional speechwriter. Wedding ghostwriters are becoming a hot trend, according to The New York Times and The Today Show. If your requests and reminders for preparation and discretion aren’t working, you can offer your toasters a gift certificate for a professionally written toast. Most will breathe a sigh of relief knowing that a professional will be helping them craft their speech.

When it comes to wedding planning, the devil may be in the details, but the details are what make the celebration meaningful and unique. Wedding toasts are no exception. By setting clear expectations and showing diplomacy, brides and grooms can exercise real influence over what their toasters will ultimately say. And perhaps the end result will be a You Tube example of what to say instead of what not to say.

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