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Pop the champagne! Tips for wedding toasts

Don't want to humiliate yourself or the happy couple during the reception? 'Martha Stewart Weddings' shares smart and helpful advice on how to make a memorable wedding moment.

Curious about how to give a proper wedding toast? Don't want to humiliate either yourself or the happy couple? Darcy Miller, editorial director of “Martha Stewart Weddings,” offers smart and helpful tips on how to give wedding toasts for the special day:

The Basics of Reception Toasts

Determining the orderThe couple should decide on the order of the toasts well before the wedding, and let each person know when he or she will speak. It's a good idea to write down the order and give it to the best man or the bandleader; he can serve as toastmaster, ushering speakers to the microphone and discreetly signaling them if the toast goes on too long. No one should feel forced to give a toast. If the best man is very uncomfortable speaking before a large audience, the maid of honor or the bride's father can step in for him.

If you have a feeling a lot of your guests will want to give toasts, you might limit the reception to the traditional toasts (from the best man, parents, bride and groom) and ask others to give their speeches at the rehearsal dinner. This gathering of family and close friends is more relaxed than the reception; there's less need for time limits, and a string of heartwarming stories will add to the light mood (though the best man could serve as emcee to keep things moving).

When to toastYou should schedule the toasts for a moment that's best for your wedding. Many couples do this before or after cutting the cake, when the crowd is already gathered. Others time it around the meal, having all the speeches occur once everyone is seated (if you're having a blessing, the toasts should come afterward), or spacing them between the courses. For a cocktails-only reception, you might kick off the toasts after all the guests have gone through the receiving line and have been served a drink. The best man can signal the start of the toasts by gently tapping the rim of his glass, or just by standing at his seat or stepping to the microphone and asking for everyone's attention.

What to toast withChampagne or other sparkling wine is traditional. Some couples serve a special drink just for this part of the evening. Of course, people can toast with whatever is in their glass at the time. If your drink runs out, simply raise the empty glass, then set it down without drinking.

Toasting Tips

Plan it outWhile you'll certainly want your words to come from the heart, you are not expected to wing it when you get up there. A few weeks beforehand, collect your thoughts and decide what you will say. Practice reciting your toast a few times until it's familiar and comfortable.

Be personalThe best toasts include personal accounts of first encounters or good times together; a wedding is not the place to dredge up embarrassing tales or old romances. Inside jokes will be lost on others, so make sure to tell a story that everyone can appreciate. If you're good at it, humor will surely be well-received, but don't force it. Just be yourself.

Keep it shortA toast can be as brief as a few sentences, and it should not go on for more than three minutes. Any longer and guests may lose interest — especially if there are many speakers still to come.

Write it downAlthough you should not read word-for-word from a note card, jotting down some key points can help you remember all you want to say and do so with confidence.

Stay calmIt's normal to be nervous. As you rise to give your toast, take a deep breath, look at the person you're toasting, and speak directly to him or her. And remember to speak slowly.

Wish them wellA toast to the bride and groom should end with hopeful wishes for a happy future. Offer personal advice, or pull inspiration from historical quotes, literature, even song lyrics —whatever represents your true sentiments. The final gesture is, of course, to raise a glass and take a sip.

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