What NOT to Say at the Rehearsal Dinner

Teary-eyed bride. Grim-looking groom. Her father’s out back looking for the shotgun in his truck while his grandmother doesn’t understand the joke you just made.

This is not at all what you had in mind when you stood up in front of her family and his best friends from college, glass raised, smile on face, thinking you just hung the moon with your epic awesome rehearsal dinner toast. Whoops. You totally bombed it. Time to figure out why.

Toasting can be daunting. How do you stand up in front of a whole room of people, sometimes people you know and sometimes total strangers, and speak eloquently about the amazing qualities of Joe and Jane and the effervescent love that he has for her? Here are some tips on how not, according to John Beckwith from Wedding Crashers, to hear crickets in the crowd after your speech.

Do not talk about yourself.

I cannot stress this enough. No one wants to hear about the time that you did something funny or dumb that only sort of relates in a round-about way to the groom or bride. Talk about a lesson from Keeping up with the Kardashians. If you happened to catch Khloe’s wedding to Lamar Odum, than you’ll know that her sister Kim (by the way, she practically exudes jealousy from every pore of her flawless skin because her younger sister is getting married before her) only talks about herself in her speech to Khloe. Granted, this was at a bachelorette party, but the same rule applies. It’s just tacky to take the spotlight away from the soon-to-be-married by talking about yourself.

Instead, talk about a time that the bride or groom was truly there for you, or tell of something that highlights her ability to care for him, or how you knew he had finally met “the one” when he sold his bongo drums to start saving up for the ring. Humor is great, and even encouraged, but maybe run it by someone older than 40 before saying it to the whole room. Don’t be surprised if what you think is funny really isn’t.

Do not think that you can just stand up and, by some divine inspiration, have some great words hit you on the spot.

I have tried this strategy before and learned terribly that I cannot think clearly when all eyes are on me. Have something prepared. Talk to yourself in the mirror while shaving. Write your main points down on paper and hold it while you speak. Just don’t plan on winging it. And if something does hit you on the spot while in the middle of your toast, roll it over a few times in your mind before opening your mouth.

Do not mention past relationships. Just don’t.

Ladies, this one’s for you. This isn’t so much what you shouldn’t say, but what you shouldn’t do. Do not wear something too revealing. You’re in a room full of grandparents and young dads. While yes, the cute groomsman may have been eyeing you all rehearsal long, leave something up to the imagination! What’s the point of having old, wrinkly men stare you down while you are doing your best not to cry because your best friend is getting married? Gross.

Do not hesitate to give your toast.

Especially if it is a larger wedding and rehearsal dinner, the later you wait to speak, the less excited others will be to hear your words – no matter how well-prepared they may be. Hearing more or less of the same thing on repeat can be tiring. Be bold and courageous. Heck, get the ball rolling and be the first to stand up! More people will remember you and think your toast was pretty classy if you are the first to talk about how Joe and Jane met — not the 20th.

Along similar lines, do not ramble on.

The shorter amount of time actually spent talking, the less likely you will accidentally say something off color or insincere. Keep it short and sweet.

Do not disregard the rules of the rehearsal dinner.

If the groom’s father (or whoever is hosting the dinner) stands up and says that he’d really like to keep the toasting to family members, respect that. Remember this isn’t about you; it’s about the bride and groom. If they only want family members to say something, so be it; there is probably a reason for that. Save your grand public speech and pull your friend aside later to tell her what you were planning on saying. It will certainly mean a lot to her (or him).

Do not drink too much alcohol.

If you are worried about speaking in front of a large crowd, imagine how much worse it would be if you couldn’t actually recall what it was that you did or didn’t say. After all, you should at least know why her father is going out back to get his shotgun.

Do not think to yourself, “It doesn’t really matter what I say in my toast because people will forget who I am anyway…”

Wrong! Again, this is not about you. Even though that train of thought may seem utterly selfless, not-so, Buck-O. It matters 100% what you say. This is Betty and Ted’s big day and your toast to them, no matter what, should reflect that importance. Don’t half-ass it. Own your words.

Do not be so consumed with writing your toast in your head

Do not be so consumed with writing your toast in your head that you aren’t actually paying attention to what other people say. Pay attention to them! How embarrassing it would be for everyone to know you weren’t listening when you get up and repeat the exact story that another friend told literally 10 minutes ago. And maybe not even as humorously as he told it.

The bottom line is this: Speak from the heart. Sincerity is touching. Chances are, if you are close enough to the bride or groom to be a guest at the rehearsal dinner, you are close enough to have something heartfelt to say. Your goal should be to get a strong hug from the groom or the bride’s father, not a strong left punch to the eye. Speak the truth, and do it in a loving way, and you’ll hear clapping in lieu of crickets.

Give a good speech? Witness a meltdown? We’d love to hear about it. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

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