Thursday, May 07, 2015

How to give a wedding toast

Did your best friend ask you to give a toast at their wedding? Are you getting married and want to give your maid of honor some advice on making a toast? This guide is for you, a step-by-step guide to writing and giving a wedding toast whether you are the Best Man, Maid of Honor, an ex-girlfriend or favorite uncle. This is not advice, this is a flow chart.


Step 1: Get a piece of paper.
You are writing a toast. Do not wing it. Write it out. You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) read it off a piece of paper, but you should have thought of something beforehand and written it out so you have a sense of where you are going. And don’t procrastinate! Start this process up to 3 months before the wedding, and let it marinate.


Step 2: Brainstorm stories.
Come up with 4-5 favorite stories about your beloved friend, niece, brother.


Step 3: Edit your ideas.
Throw out the most embarrassing story of the 5; it may seem funny to embarrass your friend but half the people in the room don’t know you and they will think you are a jackass.


Then throw out the one story that you love the most, the story about how you first met/first bonded/declared yourself BFF to the bride or groom; you love this story the most because this story is actually about you. Take it out. This sounds mean, I know, but the wedding is not about you. Here’s the kicker, though: polish that story because you are going to give a kick-ass toast and then all the wedding guests will come up to you during the reception and ask how you met/bonded/became BFFs with the bride/groom and you will get to tell that story individually to people all through the night as they shower you with adulation.


Step 4: Put the stories in context.
Now that you have 2-3 stories, figure out how each story relates to the bride, groom or their relationship. For example, “after we changed the tire, I knew that Paul would make a great husband for someone one day” or “...because that’s the kind of person Pam is, she sets her mind to something and gets it done.” Explain what each story reveals about your friend.


Step 5: Introduce yourself.
Write your own one sentence introduction. “Hi, I’m Peter and I’ve known Paul since we were freshman roommates at college.” “I’m the Maid of Honor, Patty, and I’m Pam’s sister.” Do not use more than one sentence; do not use an inside joke that only the bride or groom would know. Be simple enough that the grandmas can turn to their husbands and explain, “THAT’s HER SISTER.”


Step 6: Practice.
Out loud. Don’t read the words over in your head; speak the words out loud. Then do it again. If you’re stumbling over a word, find another way to express your thought.


When you’re feeling good, time your speech. If you are over five minutes long, cut out one of the stories. If you go over five minutes, no one will speak to you at the reception because they will think that a) you are long-winded and b) they’ve already heard all of your best stories. If you go under five minutes, everyone will want to talk to you, compliment your toast and hear more from you.


Step 7: Deliver.
Stand tall, save your alcohol for after you speak (okay, have a sip for courage). You’ve left the written toast in your pocket or purse and you stand up, move to a central spot and give your one sentence introduction. Then talk to the entire room, smiling to the back of the room and glancing back at the bride and groom. Don’t worry about using the exact words from the page. Tell your first story and what it reveals about the groom, tell a second story and what it reveals about how the groom would be as a husband, and maybe the third story about the first time the groom told you about the bride.


Step 8: End the toast.
This is important, your audience wants to know when it’s over and okay to laugh or cry or applaud. Raise your glass and officially end your toast. Let people know it’s over with an announcement, something like: “On that note, please raise your glass and join me in wishing the couple a long and happy marriage.”


Step 9: Acknowledge.

Stand for a moment and smile. No need to hide yet; you did a great job and people want to look at you. Then, go over and kiss or hug your friend and his or her new spouse.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

No Longer 100% White

The New York Times Motherlode blog published my latest essay on April 15, 2015:
Former Gov. Jeb Bush made news recently because he checked “Hispanic” on a voter registration form. This is obviously ridiculous from a scion of the Bush family (and Mr. Bush has said he made a mistake). Yet, I understand, because the family he raised is not unlike mine... READ MORE
I was grateful for all the thoughtful comments I received through Twitter and on the NYTimes page. Although not everyone agreed, it was generally a civil discourse on a subject -- race -- that seems supercharged lately.