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Raise Your Glass: The Ultimate Wedding Speech Guide

Weddings are the ultimate celebration, so if there is one place you should (in the words of P!nk) raise your glass, this is it! Toasts and speeches give the people who love you and have been a big part of your day the chance to share their joy about your marriage.

It’s also a time for thanks and to toast the health and happiness of the newlyweds, as well as hear a few funny stories from the best man

Who should make a speech?

Traditionally speeches are given by the best man, maid of honor, and the couple’s parents. These are all people who you know very well so use your judgement when you’re planning your wedding. Some people are infinitely more comfortable speaking in front of a crowd than others. It’s polite to ask everyone within the group if they would like to give a speech, but keep it low pressure. The old standard was to have the best man tell a few stories about the couple then have the bride’s parents thank everyone for coming. Feel free to mix it up but plan to devote less than 20 minutes to speeches or people will start to become impatient. If you know that more people in your wedding party would like to give speeches, open up some time for them at the rehearsal dinner.

The best man is expected to be toastmaster or master of ceremonies. He can agree with the bride and groom about who should speak when and give brief introductions to each speaker.

In some wedding the father of the bride speaks first and thanks guests for attending. He should talk about his daughter and how special she is to him. If the groom is going to make a speech then he comes next. Traditionally he will thank his father-in-law and thank both sets of parents. He should also talk about how wonderful his new wife is, not that she needs reminding. The maid of honor might make a short speech where she thanks the bridesmaids and talk about her friendship with the bride. Then the best man himself finishes proceedings with his hilarious contribution

Another order of toasts is where there is a toast to the bride first, which is made by the best man, a relative or close friend. The groom will then make another toast to the bride and thank his best man and toast the bridesmaids. Some couples decide to have a toast for both the bride and groom rather than an individual toast. The best man will then thank the groom on behalf of the bridesmaids and then there are two more toasts made by ushers or close friends. The father of the bride then completes the toasts and he thanks all of the wedding guests on behalf of himself and his wife.

It’s up to you when and who will make a toast - it's your wedding, do it your way! 

When to make a speech.

It’s best to find a time when all of the guests are together and settled. The end of dinner is an ideal time because everyone is fed and focused and it can serve as a transition to the more informal part of the reception. People are generally less focused when they are hungry, so it’s best to wait until the food has arrived. You don’t need to wait for every last person to finish eating but give everyone some time to get settled in and eat. Of course, the more people you have, the longer it will take for dinner to finish but estimate about an hour for a group of 200. If you are serving champagne or a special drink for the toast, remember to speak to your caterers about when they should serve the drinks. You want everyone to have a full glass when the toasts begin.  

How to deliver a speech 

If you are the one giving the wedding speech, preparation is key. Find a balance between humor and sentimentality. You don’t want people to feel like they are watching a comedian but you also want to keep the mood light. Plan for about two to three minutes of speaking then think of the key points you want to make. Some people make speeches that go up to ten minutes but keep that as a limit. If there will only be a couple of speeches, feel free to add in a story that lasts for a few minutes. If there will be speeches from the maid of honor, best man, and both sets of parents, keep your speech to just a couple minutes long. 

If you are drawing a blank, talk to other people who know the couple. Remember you want the speech to be interesting to everyone there and, more importantly, you want it to be PG. Think about your best memory with the couple. If you’re the maid of honor, feel free to focus just on the bride. Give the type of speech that comes naturally to you. If you know that you aren’t great with jokes, forget about them. If you’re uncomfortable being sentimental, keep it light. The speech should reflect you and your relationship with the bride and groom, so just be natural. 

Practice really does make perfect. You don’t need to memorize your speech but you should know the content very well. If you get a bit nervous speaking in front of others, find a place to set your notes so you don’t have to worry about holding them with shaky hands. Practice your speech on your own then practice it with an audience (even if it is just an audience of one). This will help you get comfortable with the pace. Keep in mind that it is always better to move too slowly through the speech than too fast. Remember to allow pauses for people to laugh and for you to take a breath. And, most importantly, relax! 

 

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