Take the wedding toast, for example. We only get married once, 'til death do us part. That's the idea anyway. At least it's safe to say most of us don't marry often, so it is an important occasion, a gathering of family and friends who want to help us launch our married life.
At my wedding the best man made a truly wonderful toast. I remember our surprise and delight as we clinked champagne glasses as a married couple. But, I must confess, I don't remember a word of it, and my husband remembers even less. Well, it has been several decades. The important thing was that we felt well-toasted at the time and it lived up to the festive occasion.
Author Debra Fine gives eight tips to make a wedding toast that caught my eye - of course, I'm interested since we are just beginning to plan my daughter's wedding for summer 2009. The first tip is to know your audience and what they will find touching or funny. Also know how much time is allotted - you don't want to be yanked offstage mid-speech. She suggests checking the sound system before the "audience" arrives although I thought part of every amateur toast was that horrible screech.
Make sure the toast is appropriate. What might be right at the bachelor's party will not be fitting at the wedding. Duh! Think of how you want your words to be remembered, focus on the bride and groom, and say something complimentary - the point is to say something nice. Practice is important and can't be overdone, preferably at the event site.
It's important to get the audience's attention before you begin your toast, she notes, and says a good way is to stand up and use eye contact to quiet everyone and get their attention. I think it might be more effective to clink glasses or say "Excuse me, excuse me."
Hold yourself confidently. "Stand up, put a smile on your face, maintain excellent posture and keep your body open (i.e., no crossed arms; feet just less than shoulder width apart) and hold a glass containing appropriate beverage in one hand," says Fine. It's important to connect with everyone so begin the toast looking at the honorees then make eye contact with a few people in the crowd to look at though you are addressing everyone. It's also important to speak slowly and deliberately.
When the toast is complete, lift your glass and ask everyone to join you in toasting the couple, then take a delicate sip from your glass. This ends the toast with a touch of class. Do not chug down the contents - you can drink what you choose to calm your nerves afterwards. Whew! Maybe we'd better all just join Toastmasters.
Now I propose a toast to haute couture designer Yves Saint Laurent, who died Sunday night at the age of 71. I didn't know much about him until I read the obits Monday but when I learned he was the first to put women into pantsuits I opened my arms wide and shouted to the universe (having no opinion on where his soul might be lingering), "Merci, merci, Monsieur Saint Laurent!" with my best French accent.
I still remember the resistance in the late 1960s to women wearing pants, even the nicely coordinated pantsuits that first made the scene. Hotels and restaurants in London and New York turned away women in Saint Laurent pantsuits. Many offices banned them but women slowly, tentatively began to show up in them. Those were the days when women wore jeans only to horseback ride. Apparently one of Saint Laurent's greatest regrets was that he didn't invent blue jeans, calling them "expressive and discreet." And now very expensive!
He is also credited with designing the "trapeze" dress in the late 1950s that, with its raised waistline, freed women from their girdles. Another toast is definitely in order for that!
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.