A Wedding Toast?
There have always been quite a few subtle differences between us Brits and our American cousins in many walks of life, and writing a wedding toast is no exception. However, weddings in general are something that divide our two nations. For a start there's what we actually call the speech and they call the toast, then our Groom is their Groomsman, American weddings will frequently be a black tie event and then we have the American tradition of the rehearsal dinner. For anyone not familiar with this, it's a full on, no expense spared, banquet the night before the main event and at which you'll have a mountain of food and a series of speakers. It's finely tuned, orchestrated and about as 'rehearsal' as the Trooping of The Colour. In fact the entire wedding event in America is a testament to exceptional levels of planning, preparation and purchase power.
British weddings tend to be a lot of organising and gentle kerfuffle on the day, men in morning suits scurrying about with their shoelaces undone feeling the effects of the night before. American weddings are more like Operation Desert Storm without the shooting bits. So if you're a plucky British subject that's been asked to give a wedding toast over in the States, then read on...
So, that brings us to the key difference between the American and British weddings when it comes to the speeches: timings. Anyone that has been to enough British weddings, will certainly have become the victim of 'the long speech'. This is usually the father of the bride or the Groom - rarely the best man as they're pretty keen to get off stage, but whoever is the offender the net result is the same: rigid boredom so stifling that even with plenty of vin rouge on board, you're still struggling to muster a giggle. Writing a Wedding Toast is a different ball game entirely because the first thing clients will tell me is how many minutes they've got on stage. This is never a guideline either, these are hard timings to fit into a rigid structure. So writing a wedding toast is an interesting exercise is short, punchy sentiment versus comedy. Try getting away with a 3 minute speech at a British wedding and wait for the flak from the wedding professionals at the bar afterwards.
There'e a lot to be said for this approach though - nobody outstays their welcome at the microphone and nobody has to endure listening to the the flower arrangers being thanked. Any wedding speech nailed down to such a short time frame will need careful thinking about indeed because there's simply no opportunity to waste words. However, when it comes to the content it's almost exactly identical to the comparative speeches we have over in the UK and despite much debate as to who understands comedy better, it all works in exactly the same way. I've written wedding toasts for East Coast, West Coast and clients in the middle of the Plains and they all laugh at the same things we do, so never try writing a wedding toast thinking that you're going to have to make it like an episode of Friends. There's no need.
A rough Guide to writing a wedding toast
As a rough guide to writing a wedding toast, never waste time thanking anyone - it makes sense they were either paid or were happy to do it without recognition. Never become involved in anecdotes - there's no time and American audiences tend to prefer humorous overviews rather than granular detail of questionable events, but then don't we all? And don't even dream about being edgy. I am firmly committed to pitching the humour in speeches right down the middle and that doesn't make it any less funny. Some British clients prefer to make things a little more risky but never for an American client - it's just not what they're about.
In fact thinking about it, we could learn a lot from the country which gave the world the gold standard in customer service. Their weddings are viewed as entertainment spectacles so they're constantly thinking of the comfort of the guests, which when it comes to writing a wedding toast means short, sharp, snappy speeches, with all the woolliness taken out. Just my cup of tea.