The best way to learn about wedding toasts? Watch others. In these videos, some fail, some work, and we break down them all.
A good rule of thumb. If there's anything worth knowing, 95% of the time, the answer is in The Karate Kid. When Mr. Miyagi first sees Daniel-San reading a book to research kicks, punches, and martial arts, he says in disgust, "Learn karate from book?!?!"
Our other articles on wedding toasts will help, but, like Daniel-San, you can't learn from book. You need to see it in action. Below, courtesy of the goldmine of wedding toasts on YouTube, we've rounded up some real-life examples--some good, some outrageous, and some clunkers--and provided our mini-reviews, extracting a few lessons for your own toasts.
1) The It's-All-About-Me Toast
The video's called, "Interpretative dance during best man speech." And, yes, it's exactly what you'd expect. Mercifully, after a few seconds, he drops the dance, kills the Enya (yes, he dances to Enya), and reverts to an actual speech. But the damage is done. Yes, it's funny, and yes, it makes a better YouTube clip than a straightforward, well-executed best man speech, but it violates this core tenet: the best man speech shouldn't be about the best man. Period.
It's not your soap box. It's not your big chance to dazzle the bridesmaids. And it's not your audition clip for Saturday Night Live. Later in the speech, the best man says that the groom has "finally found a girl that he can legally date." Funny line to tell your buddies at the bar; lethal line at the reception. But the biggest violator? To flatter the bride, the best man turns to her and says, "When they first started going out, Jen was worried about all of [the groom's] ex-girlfriends. And I turned to her and said, 'Jen, [the groom] is done with gorgeous supermodel-type girls and hot, passionate relationships. He's stuck with you, baby!" Ba-dum-dum! Crickets. And for good measure, he throws in jokes about nipples, the groom's aureole, and Anne Frank. Stay classy.
2) The Backhanded Toast
A little too long. And it starts with the predictable, "For those of you who don't know me, I'm..." (Trust us. Almost every speech begins this way. Do everyone a favor and mix it up.) And it's just a wee bit too centered on the best man himself ("If I wasn't so awesome, I'd be crying.") Did we mention it was too long? So what do we like about it? For the most part, his ribbing of his brother is good-natured, he sticks to the safe stuff, and the irony has some warmth. But he could have used more material about the bride, and the closest he gets to praising their relationship is, "If it hasn't happened yet--if you guys haven't gotten sick of each other--it's probably not going to happen." Ahhhhw, now that's true love. [Sniff.] Can we get a tissue, please?
3) The Caustic Toast
Another example of how biting, clever jabs at the groom might be appreciated by a few buddies... but are toxic for everyone else. "They say the best man speech should last as long as it takes for the groom to make love." [Then he walks off.] Yep, it got some laughs. Do you want to risk that with the wrong audience? Another joke that's funny but could be a touch too far: "But [my anecdotes] isn't what today is about. Today is about Rich and the love of his life... horse racing." He saves himself toward the end (in part 2) with some flattering comments about the bride: "On a more serious note, I'm sure you will all agree that [the bride] is looking very beautiful today." [Pause for applause.] "She's also a true lady, and kind, caring, and generous, and really deserves a great husband.... Luckily Rich got there before she found one." Not original, but not bad.
4) The I-Totally-Forgot-I-Had-to-Give-a Toast
The lesson here? Write your speech. Literally. Actually write the words on paper, do your best to memorize, and then practice. Otherwise? You'll resort to crutching on words like "Awesome" again and again, like this guy. Don't get us wrong. He seems like a nice guy, and we're not trying to be dicks, but you can learn from this kind of half-hearted preparation.
5) The Prepackaged Toast
Guess how this one begins? After the obligatory thank yous, here's how he starts: "They say the best man speech should last as long as it takes for the groom to make love." [Then he walks off.] Yeah. The exact same line as above. This is one reason we're not big advocates of using (or buying) canned, prepackaged jokes. When the crowd has already heard it, it's a groaner. And guess what? All it takes is one person in the audience to have heard the joke before, and then it might make the rounds that your material is borrowed.
6) The Full-Disclosure Toast
We'll admit it. We like this guy's approach. Sure, he used some borrowed material we've heard before, but he just went out there and charmingly admitted it. (The British accent helps.) "My second disclaimer is, my speech does not really contain any original material. So if anyone is offended, it's got nothing to do with me." You can do worse than that. And it gives cover for sort-of-cliché-but-still-not-bad lines like, "As part of my research, I discovered that I'm supposed to sing the groom's praises, and tell you about his many good points. Well I'm sorry to say that I can't sing, and I won't lie." Again, obviously prepackaged, but his earlier confession helps it play. What we didn't like: even though he admitted it was vulgar and disrespectful to the bride, the "#72" girlfriend joke isn't doing the groom any favors.
And for our comprehensive guide to wedding toasts, click here.