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A View from the Stage: Night of the Living Speech

The beast was among them…dressed as one of them..and it was hungry.

The newlyweds were flushed with excitement.  They had painstakingly planned every detail of the reception….the perfect flowers…the perfect band…gourmet dinner…special dances…the……toasts…

It wouldn’t be long now. It had been too long since the thing had fed.  The unsuspecting victims were just now enjoying the salad course.  Soon the thing would eat too.  Only one thing would satisfy its insatiable appetite…time.  And lots of it.  It was just waiting for its cue…

…”and now ladies and gentlemen…a special toast from the Best Man…”

SUPPER TIME!!

The timeline was dead.

Fiction?  Unfortunately in too many cases, no.  I always remember a “toast” being something along the lines of “over the teeth and through the gums, look out tummy, here it comes!”..but too often a well-wishing Best Man or Maid of Honor sees this custom as their 15 minutes of fame – literally…15 minutes.

One question I always like to ask clients is “what is your goal for this reception”?  Most people say that they want their guests to have a great time, to stay and dance and make the event one people have great memories of.  In short, they want to throw a great party.

So why do so many people seem to forget what makes a great party?

True, a wedding reception is not an ordinary party…but there are some ingredients for successful parties that are universal, no matter what the occasion.  One of those ingredients is the ability for the hosts to take the focus off themselves and put it onto their guests.  This may seem contradictory to the very reason this event is happening in the first place- to celebrate the new union of the two most important people in the room.  But the happy couple is THE reason everyone is there in the first place and the big white, fluffy dress is a big clue as to who the center of attention is.  Making 200 guests – who have already dedicated an entire day to celebrating the rookie-weds – continue to sit through long speeches and toasts to further drive the point home can be the very definition of overkill.

And it can kill your timeline.

The bride and groom are most likely not going to be aware of what time it is – or rather, how much time they’re losing – at any given point of the reception.  Nor should they. But the band the bar and the bus boys definitely know what time it is.  That’s our job as planners and bandleaders and DJ’s – to keep things moving and on schedule.  And ready or not at the end of the night, the party is going to come to a close.  Hopefully by this point it’s your guest’s feet that are tired from dancing and not their rear ends from sitting all night.  You’ve probably paid good money for the band or DJ.  You should get the most out of your investment and let them do what they do best..fill the dance floor.  I’ve seen more than a few brides with that surprised look as though the dancing just started, and it seems we’re “already” thanking the audience and going into our last dance.

Besides, wedding toasts are kind of like inside jokes – filled with memories that approximately 2% (according to statistics I just made up for this blog post) of the entire crowd were involved in and thus, care about.  Making guests endure long winded speeches about things they weren’t involved in is kind of like inviting friends over to sit through  a slide show of your last trip to the Grand Canyon.

Don’t forget the show business aspect of throwing a party.  Appeal to the larger audience.  More elements that everyone can enjoy  – like dancing, eating and drinking – can help ensure a fun reception.

None of this is to suggest toasts should be done away with.  But if brides and grooms make it clear to their respective Best Men and Maids of Honor from the very beginning of the planning process that their timeline is limited, things can move more swiftly to the true business of partying.  A brief toast can still be funny, congratulatory and heartfelt.

And the time-eating beast will have to eat elsewhere.

Geoff Short

At the time of this posting, Geoff was the Sales and Promotions Manager at Jerry Bruno Productions (now Cleveland Music Group) and the bandleader for its band, The Avenue.

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