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'How to give the perfect wedding toast' by Grace Dent

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For years, the responsibility of giving a wedding toast has remained the domain of men.

Images of rotund and red-faced chaps holding overfilled flutes of champagne aloft, bellowing for guests to raise their glasses has often been the norm.

But women are just as good at giving speeches as men. You need only look at Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's performance at the Golden Globes to know that the female of the species are just as witty, funny and clever as the blokes.

Despite all that, there is a skill in knowing exactly how to give a decent speech, and more importantly how to give the perfect toast at a wedding. With that in mind we decided to enlist the expertise of the brilliant Grace Dent who knows a thing or two about delivering a phenomenal speech.

As well as being one of our favourite writers she recently had to step in last-minute and give a speech at her brother's wedding, so she knows just how nerve-wracking it can be and how important it is to be prepared. Oh and then there's the small matter of the fact she's had to present a Bafta in front of hundreds of people. Rest assured, this woman knows what she's talking about.

While we've dedicated this to help those of you who might be gearing up for wedding season, this would work just as well if you were giving a toast at your nan's birthday, your parent's 40th wedding anniversary, or if you're just pretending to accept an Oscar in the privacy of your bedroom.

Don’t wing it: make sure you’re prepared

Don’t let anyone ever bully you into thinking that you don’t need notes. You do. There’s no shame in having them written down exactly as you’d say it. Because only you will know how you want it to sound.

Know your audience

Accuracy is key here. Make sure you’ve included all the important people and don’t leave anyone out - basically make sure it isn't one giant in joke. Also, you don't want to get anyone's names wrong, so make sure you have those written down. And you don’t want to make bad jokes. I was once at a wedding where the bride told the best man to sit down he was telling that many rude stories about the groom.

Practise, practise, practise

Just before I go on stage to give a speech, you'll probably find me rehearsing in the loo over and over. Days beforehand, like to practise speeches while I've got my heels on so I can imagine how it'll feel when I'm actually doing it. Just practise over and over and do it with a stop watch – you never know by how much you’ve gone over, as you probably don't want to go over five minutes.

Beginning the toast

To break the ice, and make sure everyone's comfortable, you could start with a joke. Something like ‘that was the longest meal of my life’ can work well. Being coy and twee is fine.

Remember: you’re not a stand-up comedian

Essentially, you want a fairly bland speech with bits of funny thrown in. If you’re a talkative person embrace being that person and make a note of it. This is meant to be an easy crowd but light humour is best. Don’t do embarrassing stories otherwise you’re forgetting your audience. You can say stuff that’s idiotic, loveable and annoying but nothing mean - this isn’t a chance to settle scores. You’re essentially telling it through the eyes of your love for that person, so make sure you’re not dropping anyone in it.

A note on crying

At some point you'll want to say "this is all really lovely but I’d like to say a few words that such and such a person isn’t here today", which is fine. And if you think you’re going to cry, then say so. “And I’m going to cry now..” is a great way to introduce the fact you’re going to get a bit emotional. But be warned: alcohol WILL make you cry, so go easy on the booze.

Finally, raise a glass

If you're celebrating a wedding make sure you say "to my husband/wife", "to our happiness". Check everybody’s glasses are full and end on a high.

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(Images: Rex Features)

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