Why wedding toasts really make us cry
Have you ever gone to a wedding and listened to a toast that really spoke to you or made
you feel some powerful emotions? Have you ever asked yourself why, or thought about how the speaker raised those emotions in you?
I’m willing to bet they did at least two things: told a good story, and spoke from the heart.
As I was listening and watching the other friends and family members of the bride and groom speak, a few things crystalized in my mind.
First, no good story starts with “The bride was born on April 19th…” and includes an entire backstory about the person about whom they are speaking. They all begin with the moment that something changed, or a story that shows character through action and events: The initial spark of friendship. Or what happened when the bride and groom met for the first time. Or the moment they realized their partner was “the one.”
Or a story that illuminates how heroic the groom is by telling about how one time he went out of his way to rescue a beloved pet in a snowstorm.
The best stories told in toasts—in fact the best stories told at all, whether written or spoken—are stories that say something universal about a person (real or imaginary), and are delivered with panache. Those are the stories that make people laugh or cry.
Second, I realized the real reason that most people are afraid of public speaking—even in front of a whole room full of friends and family. And it’s not just because all eyes are on you and you don’t want to stumble over your words. It’s because of the vulnerability involved in speaking from the heart.
It takes a lot of discomfort and vulnerability to stand up in front of a crowd and pour your heart out. To feel the emotions yourself as you stand up and speak. You risk tears and showing up not as a stoic or jester, but as a human.
But I guarantee that the people who are infusing their toasts with emotion, that are allowing their real feelings to show through no matter how many jokes they slip in there…those are the speeches that can make the audience cry.
At the end of the day, all an audience wants—whether a crowded patio of wedding guests, or a 55 year old curled up with a mystery and a cup of tea—is to feel. To be swept away.
That’s the power of writing and storytelling. I know that’s why I read. And I know that my writing is better when my own heart is in it. When the characters’ emotions are on the page.
When I’m trying to say something universal about what it means to be human.
Vulnerability is hard. It’s hard to share your emotions with anyone, let alone strangers who might be judging the words you’re writing. And I think that some less experienced writers get too caught up in plot and action and adventure, when really all of that is just the panache. They fail to dig deep.
Without heart, without vulnerability and your own personal “why” for writing your book, there may be a chance that the magic connection between author and reader will be a weak one. And I don’t want that for you.
And I don’t know about you, but if I’m getting up on stage with a microphone and sending off a bride a groom whom I dearly love, you better believe I’m going deep. I’m striving for that big-heavy-hitting emotion. Because that’s what people connect with and remember.
Words and story, after all, have the power to connect us all together. To make us feel seen and not alone in our emotions. All of this is to say that vulnerability is hard, yes. But push through it. That’s when the magic really happens.