Wedding toasts: Speak up but follow the rules

Wedding toasts are the traditional way to honor the bride and groom. They can be as elaborate or as simple as the ceremony itself and have become as much a part of the event as the bouquet toss or the cake topped with a bride and groom.

The two occasions when best suited for wedding toasts are at the rehearsal dinner and the wedding reception. At the rehearsal dinner toasts are usually limited to family members and those in the wedding party. The wedding reception is more open and so those offering toasts at the reception will be family and friends of the bride and groom. 

Wedding toasts differ at the rehearsal dinner and reception

When you are planning the wedding reception, you should also plan the toasts. Shorter toasts are better at the reception. People have a limited attention span so most toasts should be less than a minute except for the wedding speeches by prominent members of the wedding party. Brevity is especially important if the reception includes dinner followed by dancing that will continue into the evening. 

The rehearsal dinner is usually less formal and has a smaller guest list which gives more latitude for people who want to make a special speech or toast for the soon-to-be-married couple. You may also want to consider using a wedding poem.

Although anyone who has a close relationship with one or both of the newlyweds may want to make a speech, it is a tradition for certain individuals to offer remarks first Those people include

The best man
The father of the bride
The father of the groom
The maid/matron of honor
The mother of the bride
The mother of the groom
Bridesmaids
Groomsmen

The toasting order may vary according to tradition or preference.

The bride and groom should also prepare something to say to each other and to those who have gathered for the occasion.


Rules for offering a wedding toast

Wedding toasts, a highlight of the wedding reception,  follow definite rules that you should heed. Otherwise you'll come off looking like you don't know how to toast. If you want to look like a pro and not a jerk, check out these dos and don'ts. 

Toasts should last only a few minutes and should begin as soon as the champagne is poured. Be sure everyone has something to toast with before you start.

 Keep your remarks chatty and short. It’s perfectly okay to funny, emotional or both.  Making jokes about the bride and groom is fine. Just be sure your material is funny and clean.

Don’t worry if you become emotional. Marriage is a time when everyone thinks about matters of the heart. Just don't get so caught up in your feelings that you ramble on and on.

If you have trouble with public speaking, start off with a quote and then relate that quote to something about  the bride and groom. Having a great line to open with will give you confidence and gain the audience's attention.

Another idea -- say something about a deceased family member or friend who was unable to attend. Talk about how proud or happy they would be that the bride and groom have found each other.

Whatever you say, do not:

  •  Tell stories about the couple’s childhood that have nothing to do with the wedding and are embarrassing to the bride or groom. This is not a roast. Be sure your story is relevant to the occasion.
  •  Mention any past romances or affairs.
  •  Refer to any past problems the couple may have had.
  • Talk on and on inspired by an overdose of alcohol and sentimentality.
  • Talk about yourself. This is not your gig …it’s about them.