“So at this point we would like Mr. XYZ to come up and say a few words as he proposes a toast to…” And then you rise up with some trepidation, trying to remember your lines and checking yourself out one last time. It could be quite unnerving. I always thought of myself as that shoot-from-the-hip kind of adlibbing king, until I was in these same shoes described above and totally made a mess of it. I mean, it was an absolute shambles. So, I took the Mike at a friend’s 40th, and was so emotional, confused and out of sorts that early on in my speech I described the celebrant as “one who liked conflict?” I actually wanted to say he was one who always tried to help resolve conflicts amongst his friends, etc., while growing up. Phew! Almost like a Shina Peters “soonest recover” moment.
After that error it all sort of went downhill. And I went on and on about something totally personal that the audience was not interested in. My goodness! I wished I could disappear from the stage. The room was filled with uncertainty…”where is he going with this?” I was suddenly that person who raises their hand when the priest asks “if there is anyone who feels this union should not go forward”….. So I spent the better part of five minutes rambling on and trying to correct myself while being embarrassed to death. Once it was over, I wished I could practically ride into the sunset and never return.
As the celebrant, it can really get scary when you’re not sure what the person giving the toast is going to say. I remember one “toaster” at a wedding a while back, telling the crowd how the bride’s patience paid off. According to him, she had to suffer the guy’s philandering as a bachelor, etc. And she listened when Mr. Toaster would advise her saying “you’re the one he loves”. Another Toaster from hell released several “gbagauns” and broke so many fuses in his short speech that the 3-step wedding cake almost collapsed. But the one I would never forget was my good friend’s wedding where the MC used the groom’s mother as the subject of a joke so tasteless that I cannot even mention it here. I remember her gasping out – “Jesus!” Comedian MCs? Please never hire those guys, period! You can never control their tongue. I remember the one that did a very insensitive joke routine about stutterers. I almost froze in my seat. I sat with a father and two sons (my friends) who all stammered. Yes, he cracked the whole hall up, but broke the hearts of all of us on my table.
I had previously been the MC at a retirement party for one of my bosses back in the day, and I held that quite well. So what happened at the Hotel Derek? Why did I suffer that meltdown? I still cringe just from thinking about it.
Here are a few tips for a successful short speech or toast at any occasion:
1. Remember you’re there because the celebrant trusts you
2. KISS. Keep it simple, stupid
3. Never exceed 3 minutes! It’s not the Nobel Prize acceptance speech
4. Use a cheat sheet with short notes…adlib can come back to bite you
5. Make a connection with someone really close to you in the crowd…the celebrant?
6. Smile and try to have fun
7. Try not to make references to third parties or tell long tales…Stay PG
8. It does not have to be funny
9. Stay off the drinks until you complete this assignment
10. Try not to trip over anything as you return to your seat
So where you ever the Freddy Krueger any celebrant would love to forget? Made a hash of it yourself? Given the audience a few “oohs and aahs” in your time? Drop a comment and tell us about it.
By the way Karl, this is saying sorry…again.