Your best friend's wedding is approaching and you have no idea how to write a Maid of Honor toast. I am a writer for a living, but when I was called upon to write a toast, I had such intense writer's block that I would have cribbed lines from Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech if I thought I could get away with it.
How do you know what's too jokey? Or too sappy? Or what's edgy enough to appeal to the bridal party and other Youngs present without taking a gamble on whether her Great Aunt Miriam will appreciate that hilarious first-time-you-did-cocaine-together story? What's too long, and what's too short, and how much do you talk about yourself? Can you say you're single? Can you say you're desperate? Do you need to cry in order for it to seem authentic? (Yes.)
After my own trial by fire, watching at least five other maids of honor read their own speeches, and asking Cosmo's editor-in-chief (and frequent public speaker) Joanna Coles for advice, I think I have pretty conclusively discovered the formula for a successful speech. I'm the Doc Brown of wedding toasts, basically. Get in my DeLorean.
1. Open by introducing yourself and saying how long you've known the bride.
Or else they'll think you're a Dementor who snuck into the reception and Great Aunt Miriam will cast a Patronus on you. "Hi, everybody! I'm Anna. I've been best friends with Jenna since we were twelve years old."
2. Tell a story about when you first met, unless you met during something horrible like a funeral.
"The first time I slept over at Jenna's, I told her I was allergic to nuts, and every time I ate them, I had to go to the hospital immediately. She didn't believe me, and dared me to eat Nutella, and so I did, and her parents had to take me to the ER. Haha! Jennaaaaa!"
3. If you were in a sorority and/or partied a lot with the bride, make allusions to said partying without actually saying "We got hammered."
Kinda like how popular boys used to do this in the high school yearbook, so as not to get in trouble. "Jenna, remember the D Phi E Halloween party? No, you wouldn't, would you. LOLOLOLOLLLLL."
4. Talk about how you felt about the groom the first time the bride mentioned him.
Amended: Lie about how you felt about the groom the first time the bride mentioned him. "As soon as Jenna called and told me she'd met a new guy named Mike, and she really thought he was the one, I was so excited to meet him." (In real life, she probably texted you like, "this guy mike won't stop calling me. he's a troll. haha w/e I was drunk")
5. Lie about your first impression of the groom if necessary.
"As soon as I met Mike I understood why Jenna liked him so much. He's sweet, smart, hilarious, and — let's be honest—has amazing shoulders from rowing crew." (He's prematurely middle-aged and a mouth breather. He was the coxswain on crew, otherwise known as the tiny guy who does no rowing and yells at the hot guys to row faster.)
6. If you barely know the groom, choose your descriptions carefully.
7. Talk about why their love is the greatest love of all.
This is where you'd be like, "They did long distance for a while and made it work," or "When Jenna had a family emergency, Mike supported her," or whatever.
8. The two most useful words of any public speech are "In conclusion."
Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles says, "Everyone relaxes and perks up because they know you're about to wrap up. I try to use this about a quarter of the way through any speech I give." Since "in conclusion" might be too formal for this occasion, you can swap it out for "I'm almost done," or "Finally, I'd like to say..."
9. Close it out by saying how much you love her, and/or them, and how happy you are for both of them.
I'm not going to lie: Crying will probably work in your favor. To that end, drinking one to two glasses of wine might be a good idea. No more than that, though, because you don't want to be crying for the wrong reasons.
10. Fight the temptation to ad-lib.
If you are not a Saturday Night Live castmember, going off-script is the best way to fly off the rails and turn the whole thing awkward.