Five Steps to a Perfect Wedding Speech

When I was co-Maid of Honor with my sister, Maija, for our sister, Lindsey's wedding in 2009, we were asked to give a speech. Let's just say it: we had no idea what we were doing. A few months before the big day, Maija and I went to our local bookstore and sat down on the floor of the wedding section. We read over all the myriad of tips on how to give a successful speech, and in the end, we did alright. We were able to come up with a funny, touching, and personal toast that wowed our crowd.

By the time my wedding rolled around last year, Maija was a pro. Check out those notes she brought! She and Lindsey gave a lovely speech filled with a tears -- both of joy and from just laughing way too hard.

In my work as a wedding planner, I have seen and heard a lot of speeches, and I'm prepared to boil it down to five simple things to keep in mind to make it a great one. Whether you're the maid of honor, father of the bride, or a dear close friend, I hope these tips will alleviate the pressure of landing a good toast!

1. Keep it short. I'm putting this first, because I actually think it's the most important. Chances are, you won't be the only person giving a speech at the wedding. And, chances are you'll be giving your speech during the sit down dinner part of the reception. People are hungry and have short attention spans. Try to keep it to around two minutes, three at the max. If you're writing your speech down, keep it to about 500 words.

2. Establish who you are in relation to the couple. Even if you're the bride's sister, there will be people at the wedding who you haven't met or won't recognize you. Telling the guests who you are, and perhaps thanking the couple for asking you to speak, gives context to the rest of what you're going to say.

3. Tell a story. Gone are the days of embarrassing the bride and groom with jokes. If you must, you might find that just playful poking is appropriate. Instead, tell a sweet tale. Maybe share about the first time you met the significant other, or when you knew for sure they were in love. If you were involved in the proposal, recount it for the guests. If you've known the bride or groom since childhood, a charming anecdote about growing up might bring a tear to their eye.

4. Give your well wishes. If you're married, this might be a good chance to share some advice. Perhaps simply saying, "I wish you many years of happiness," will suffice. Either way, make sure to include some hope for the future for the happy couple.

5. Raise your glass. It's not a toast without this part! This is your time to tie it all up, and include the rest of the guests. Asking them to join you in the clinking of your champagne glasses rounds out your speech and poof! you're done. Good job!