June 6, 2017

Cheers to the Happy Couple: When it's your turn to toast

Faculty , Presentation Tips , Toasts

By Karen Kalutz

Less than a week. That’s how long I have before I’ll be standing in front of a crowd to do something I’ve never done before—give a toast at the celebration of my son’s wedding.

Karen Kalutz and son Van

My baby boy Van is getting married. That's him with Sarah, in this photo I love. She has won his heart…and mine. I couldn’t be happier about that.

And I’ve been speaking in public for years, by the way.

So why am I filled with anxiety?

Because toasts are a challenge. I’ve seen them go terribly, horribly wrong. I most definitely don’t want to be that mother of the groom. The one who forgets to thank those who should be thanked. Who embarrasses her son with stories she should have kept to herself. Who makes everyone uncomfortable with too much sentiment. Or worse, brings the celebration to a halt with her tears.

I’ve been a wreck, worrying about all the things that could go wrong.

One of the books I came across in my research.

So I started searching. I went online. Who knew you could buy books of canned mother-of-the-groom toasts? I cracked open our bible (Strictly Speaking) to see what dear Reid, the father of eight sons, would’ve suggested. Then, I emailed my Buckley School colleagues for their thoughts.

After all that, here’s my plan—which seems like a good plan for any important toast:

  • Do not wing it. No, I don’t plan to stand up with notes. But I’m determined not to let my anxiety keep me from thinking through what I want to say.
  • Keep it simple. From our Buckley coaches, that was the most common advice—short and sweet. (Though Katie Pope did tell me about the elaborate toast her father made at her wedding. It included two actors showing up shirtless. No doubt, that was a moment to remember!)
  • Embrace “it’s a toast not a roast.” This is Jenny Maxwell’s mantra. “So many people feel pressure to be funny,” she says, “that I think they get themselves in all kinds of trouble telling an embarrassing story about the person they’re supposed to be honoring.”
  • Remember: It’s not about me. I tell our clients this all the time when they get nervous about their speeches, to put concern for the message ahead of thoughts of themselves. True, my toast is a bit of a variation on that idea, but the thought still carries: This is about my son and his bride, not about me.

Wish me luck! And let’s hope someone helps me remember Reid’s other rule, the one about having a cocktail before a speech: Always one, never two. I’ll save that second (and maybe third) drink for after the toasting’s done.


Here's an excerpt from Strictly Speaking with Reid's rules for toasting and a few simple etiquette tips.

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