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?
6 thoughts on “Raise Your Glass: The Making of a Wedding Toast”
Wow, what a neat post! I love how you took us through the things you taught your husband, and I think that process revealed a lot the positive, supportive nature of your relationship. Your quote about writing “words that are precisely your own” instead of “anybody’s words” is AMAZING! I think I will hang it up somewhere! 🙂 A personal connection — my husband and I got married in 2007 also!
Deb is so right with the advice of no inside jokes or references. The words sound and fall flat. I had to give a speech for continuation every year when I taught in advanced school, so I tried to have a theme to hook to, and connect to self, students, & then the parents/wider community-I suspect it’s like Deb’s wider audiences. With these speeches, we urged students to speak from the heart, tell one story, then broaden it to be meaningful for others. It’s not an easy task, but usually one is very motivated to do well (as your husband is). Thanks for sharing this conversation, Stacey, & best wishes for a happy time at the wedding.
My speech kids are working on their “graduation” speeches right now in class. One thing we talk about when they are writing these is the need to address multiples audiences. Not only are they talking to their fellow classmates, they must also address family and other guests. I remind them not to tell “inside” stories that no one else will understand.
How fantastic that you are both writers and able to give such feedback! This blog post has so many great writing hints. I particularly like your mention of “teach the writer, not the writing rule” – I have not heard this before. (Clearly, I’m not a writing teacher!) For me, when giving an important toast, speech, or eulogy, the most important thing has been to practice my words aloud, so that they are more automatic when the emotion breaks in. Thanks for sharing!
Wow, I recently put together the eulogy for my grandmother – it was one of the most humbling writing experiences I’ve ever had. With guidance from many family members and one of my dear friends who seved as an editor, I feel like I captured my grandmother “in my own words” but through the eyes of many people. Some things that changed as I had others read the piece were definitely for clarity – I ended up filling in holes for people so things “made sense.”
Okay, I said I liked this post. But really, I loved it. You were a beautiful bride. I don’t have many opportunities for public speaking, but when I do, I try to use concrete details about my life.
Comments are closed.