Pete Honsberger is a Lead Facilitator and the author of "Wedding Toasts 101", where he explains the necessary pieces to an unforgettable wedding speech. In his work, his mission is to help individuals, teams and organizations win authentically regardless of the game, objective, or opportunity. In his spare time, Pete is a play-by-play broadcaster for local American football, basketball, and soccer games.

In this episode with him, we talk about public speaking and how you can write the perfect wedding toast speech.

How Pete ended up in the industry

Pete shared that his interest in communications and presentations began in athletics. He had been fascinated with why certain coaches were more motivating than others. After he figured out that there was a presentation element in it, he became interested in communication, in which he majored.

Then, by his late twenties, he had been to so many weddings and had seen so many speeches that he noticed that most of them are just ordinary and forgettable. In the meantime, people started asking him about his own wedding speeches which were always pleasing the guests. He then decided to offer something with his communication skillsthat do not kill anyone’s creativity. Those speeches are big moments, and they shouldn’t be forgettable.

How to prepare a great wedding speech

Pete admitted that there is no perfect answer here, but you should keep in mind two things. The first thing is to put yourself in the shoes of the people that will be listening to you. What do they want to hear? What would be interesting to them?

The second thing is to think about the most interesting stories that you have with the bride or groom. Are there any humorous moments that other people should know about?

Then, the second thing is to always show up like you want to own the room. What are some ways with which you can project confidence while you are up there, giving the speech? Sometimes it has to do with just pausing a few seconds after you get the microphone just to let people know “Hey, I’m on stage here. It’s my turn to talk.”

How do you select what to include

Some stories only seem like a great idea, but they might be an inside joke between just you and that person, so nobody else would really get it. Write it out and then rearrange.

Pete recommends splitting it up into five or so parts. Bucket the stories you come up with into those five areas.

The opener is the first one. With it, you want to capture the attention in 30 to 60 seconds. It could be either one or a few short lines to just capture everyone’s attention.

Number two, Pete calls honoring the past. Take the audience down memory lane a little bit to understand better who this person is. But do not be too lengthy. A couple of stories like how you met, how long you have known them, how they have impacted you.

Then number three is the present and the future. Take people from where this person has been to where your relationship was before and to what they are doing with their life right now, how you are proud of them, and where you see them heading in the future.

Number four is for the significant other. You cannot forget the other person. If you are the best man, mention how you met the bride, what kind of interpersonal situations you have been in with the bride? Keep it positive. It should be 30% talking about the significant other maximum. 70% is for the person you know and are honoring with your speech.

And then, number five is the big finish. It is self-explanatory but you have to save one of the best stories for that part or use a movie quote or a joke. Something that will bring you to that mic-drop moment.

Wing the wedding toast or prepare beforehand

What Pete shared was that around 20% of the speeches he has seen have been winged. But you can tell when they are not very prepared because their speech rambles and goes in all these different directions. The other thing that he has seen and does not leave a good impression is when people are glued to their phone, tablet, or piece of paper, reading the whole time. It is like reading straight from your PowerPoint slide.

For the preparation, there is no magic number, but Pete recommends two, three, or more hours. And what he suggests as well, is practicing at least once in front of someone who would not spoil the speech afterward.

The stakes for a wedding speech are not incredibly high because if you don’t do a great job on it, you’re not getting in trouble. No one’s going to be mad at you for a long time unless you say something regrettable. And at the same time, the opportunity is great because you have the chance to make an impact to be one great memory in a day that’s supposed to be one of the best days of the lives of the people who are getting married. Just try not to wait for the last minute to practice because you never know what might happen on the day of the wedding.


You can connect with Pete Honsberger on his LinkedIn. Check out his book here or follow him on Instagram.

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