Three Life Lessons from Wedding Toasts

Tonight I gave my second-ever wedding toast. It was a faltering attempt, but I’m glad I tried it. And I’m glad I got to see the other toasts that came after for the bride and groom.

The wedding toast is a beautiful tradition of appreciation. Here are three brief takeaways from the epic toast chain that sprang up tonight:

1. If you have an opportunity and a reason, give one.

You only get one chance like this to show someone your appreciation in front of everyone they case about. Even if you are not a great speaker or not fully poised in front of a crowd, go say something. Share a story, give some advice, give heartfelt thanks or praise. Riff on it if you have to.

Unless you say something really offensive or stupid and as long as you have a decently close relationship to the bride or groom, there is little reason not to give a toast a go. Make the action about them and signal your intent to show appreciation. Give up on trying to look good. If you do that, you’ll be fine.

You’ll be glad you didn’t sit out, and – if you know how to speak praise truthfully – so will the bride and groom.

2. People will remember the  good acts you forget.

A wedding toast is the closet thing to hearing your own eulogy, When they’re heartfelt (and even when they’re given after a few drinks), toasts are very good ways to learn how people really think of you and how they are willing to speak of you.

What you find out from hearing or receiving a toast is that people remember good things you’ve done which seemed insignificant to you at the time. A phone call or a favor or a word of encouragement might have meant the difference between persistence and failure for a person.

They might have kept going because of something small you did. They have might have found love, a moral compass, purpose, work, or community because of a simple kind act you had the responsibility and empathy to give. Keep doing those acts if you want plenty of toasts at your wedding – and if you want to be remembered well after your death.

3. There are a lot of reasons to drink champagne.

Or more precisely, there are a lot of things in life to drink to. If you have enough loving friends and family and sufficient resources to give them all champagne and champagne glasses, you have something to drink to.

If we just traded words of encouragement at the wedding toast, the ceremony would be stale. Like the Eucharist needs bread and wine, the wedding toast needs a physical expression. What better expression than champagne? The good feelings of the toaster and toastee get physical expression in the sweet bite and bubbles of the champagne.

We can use this ritual of popping and drinking champagne to remind ourselves of the rarity of moments like this and of the general abundance of life and love in which we and the bride/groom get to share. With every repeated toast, we learn to count our good things. We drink liquid gratitude.

Here’s to you. May you receive many good toasts in your time.

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James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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