Summer Celebrations: Wedding Cheers

If the prospect of giving a maid-of-honor speech makes you want to run as fast as your dyed-to-match satin pumps can carry you, take heart: Vance Van Petten, author of "Ten Minutes to the Speech" and executive director of the Producers Guild of America, says using his "Four-H" rule will get you through your toast unscathed.

Start from the heart, expressing admiration and love for the bride and groom. Season the speech with lots of humor, using funny stories you get from the couple's family members. "If you don't get a really good version of how the couple met, you failed," says Van Petten ("Wedding Crashers" notwithstanding). Expose your own and the couple's humility by expressing how honored you are to be giving the speech and how lucky they are to have found each other. Finally, end with haste. A wedding speech should last between three and five minutes. Start early and practice telling the stories so you don't have to use notes. And above all, leave the bride alone. "For a wedding, a bride is sacrosanct," Van Petten says. "Never embarrass the bride."