Making The Most of an Important Toast

~ by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier + Certified Wine Educator, Proprietress of Épernay Wine & Spirits ~

Fall wedding season is upon us here on Nantucket and you have been asked to be the Best Man or Maid of Honor. With all the duties associated with the position, you are also responsible for offering a toast to the newlyweds. Not sure what to say or where to begin? Here are a few helpful hints to make sure you are memorable for the right reasons at your best friend’s wedding celebration.

The purpose of a toast is to drink to the health or in honor of someone by raising your glass together with others. While you don’t want to overthink your 60 seconds of undivided attention at the microphone, you also don’t want to wing it either. A little bit of preparation can go a long way to make a positive, lasting impression on such a special occasion.

First and foremost, you are paying tribute to your favorite couple. Not just the bride, not just the groom, but the two of them now joined as a pair. Set the scene for the audience on how the bride and groom first laid eyes upon each other just as you would see in an award-winning movie. Perhaps it was attending Murray Camp together with all their siblings in the summer of 2005, under the Grand Tasting tent at the Nantucket Wine Fest when wine was splashed all over her white pants, or at the dreaded cocktail party neither one of them wanted to attend at the yacht club. This can be followed by a light hearted story about the couples ensuing romance, including breakfast dates at Black Eyed Susan’s, meeting the parents for the first time for sunset cocktails at the Galley, or how he proposed on the open water while sailing on The Endeavor.

Consider your toast not only as a gift to the honorees, but also as a thank you to your most gracious hosts. Be sure to honor those who helped to make this special day happen, including your favorite aunt who allowed you to have the reception at her house in Sconset. A handful of audience tie-ins with your toast is a special way to make mention of other attendees in order to keep the audience engaged in what you have to say about the new Mr. & Mrs. While you continue to wax poetic about the newlyweds, there are a handful of taboo subjects that should most definitely be omitted from any toast.

There is no room for reminders of past (read: failed or heart broken) relationships with other summer campers or short-lived romances with the bartender from Cisco Brewery, even if they got the couple to where they are today. Nor should you mention the wild, crazy shenanigans of light night swims at Steps Beach that either side of the lovely couple participated in during their single days. Stories that especially should be omitted include ones that would embarrass Grandma, like that time you got kicked out of the Club Car, or that really are best left unsaid. Highlighting their triumph as a newlywed couple is what is being acknowledged, not your most recent personal woes or successes. Stay focused on the new shiny pair and what they bring out the best in each other.

Broadcasting the ultimate toast does take some practice, so be sure to set aside time for a dress rehearsal run-through to hone the perfect delivery. When you are handed the microphone baton, channel your inner Beyonce and speak clearly into the mic as if you were on stage at The Chicken Box. Keep in mind that your body language is also part of your presentation. Stand tall and proud, look out into the crowd and don’t be afraid to use a few hand gestures to get your story across. While it is acceptable to have note cards on hand, never ever read your toast from a script. You also may be tempted to have a glass of bubbly before your speech to calm your nerves, but it is a much better idea to save it as a reward and consume it after your stellar performance. Speaking of your glass, don’t forget to bring one with you for the grand finale. It is important to remember to hold the glass by the stem, not the bowl, for numerous reasons. Your hand will most likely be hot and sweaty from the stage lights shining on you, along with the pressure to perform.

Holding the bowl of the glass will leave unsightly fingerprints and will warm the contents in the drinking vessel as you pontificate about what an amazing team the newlyweds make. Besides, how will you be able to hold the mic, the glass of wine and your cue cards if you are desperately clinging on to your glass for dear life? Lastly, holding the glass by the stem (think of when someone is presented the rose on The Bachelor) will make it much easier to clink the bowls of the glasses together with others to create a harmonious ringing sound versus a dull, flat clunk and smashing your fingers in the process.

After all the well-wishes, thanks and gratitude have been expressed and the wine consumed, the words that you choose to share during your epic toast (and how you share them) will continue to live long and prosper with each forthcoming anniversary.