Raise Your Glass: The Making of a Wedding Toast

My brother-in-law is getting married this Sunday.  Marc, my husband, is his brother’s best man.  As is tradition at most weddings, Marc will be delivering a toast at the reception.

Last weekend Marc had a cohesive draft of the toast prepared.  He asked me for some feedback.  I read it through and was tempted to hold a writing conference with him.  If I were to confer with him, then the compliment would’ve been about the amount of voice that comes through using humor as a vehicle.  My husband, who is a pretty serious guy when he’s not surrounded by his immediate family or very close friends, put a healthy dose of humor into the toast.  However, it wasn’t a writing conference, which was good, because I would’ve violated the most important rule of writing conferences: teach one thing.  By the time I got to the end his toast, I realized there were two big things I needed to teach him.  Since my husband is a skilled writer and is not my student, I broke from the “teach the writer, not the writing rule.”  (However, in my own defense, the things I taught him could be applied to a lot of other pieces of writing he does going-forward!)  I had two things Ihad to teach him since there were only eight days left, at the time, prior to the wedding.

First, I noticed there were some places that were sparse.  I wanted him to elaborate.  However, I didn’t want to tell him to say more.  So I taught him about using a twin sentence to add more detail.  (In case you’re unfamiliar with the idea of a twin sentence, it’s when a writer looks a sentence they wrote and asks, “What else can I say about this?”  Then, the writer composes another sentence that adds additional, related details, thereby going along with the first sentence.)  Second, at one point in the toast, I noticed him saying things about marriage that seemed obvious (e.g., marriage will have its ups and downs).  I reminded him of something I’ve heard Lucy Calkins say many times.  I probably didn’t say it just like she says it, but here’s what I told him.  “Don’t write anybody’s words.  Write words that are precisely your own. You see, everyone knows relationships have their ups and downs.  Say it so that it in a way that makes your words sound like they could only come from you.”

After we tossed around some ideas, my husband went back to his home office to revise the toast.  I know he wants it to be as thoughtful as my brother-in-law’s best man toast was to us when we got married almost four and a half years ago.  Using the writing my husband already wrote along with the revisions he has made, I know he is ready to deliver a wonderful toast this Sunday.

I’m wondering… What are some things you have kept top of mind when writing wedding toasts, graduation speeches, or remarks for other public events?

My husband and I listening to my brother-in-law’s best man speech to us at our wedding in 2007.