Nailing the wedding speeches
Photo credit: Richard Galloway Photography
Wedding speeches can be a very nerve-racking aspect of any wedding. Who makes the speeches and in what order? Who thanks who? How long should they be? Here is the traditional wedding speech etiquette – but remember that speeches can be adapted to best suit your wedding.
The Father of the Bride
This is usually the first speech of the day, and the hardest to get right. Some fathers go for the tear-jerking public confession of love for their daughter, whilst others decide that this is an opportunity to give an alternative best man’s speech. The ‘right’ answer is usually a combination of the two. This speech can be given by whoever gave the bride away. Traditionally:
- Thank people who have travelled a long way to be with you.
- Acknowledge the key elderly relatives who are sharing it with you.
- Compliment the bride – strike a good balance between sincerity and humour. Possibly tell some stories or anecdotes of her childhood.
- Compliment and welcome the groom (and if possible his family).
- Traditional toast: “to the bride and groom.”
In the second speech, the groom traditionally says some heartfelt words about his bride and his new family. This is also the speech where the extensive thanking takes place. Traditionally:
- Thank the father of the bride for his toast and thank the guests for coming as well as for their gifts.
- Thank both sets of parents. It is traditional to present both the mothers with flowers.
- Thank the best man for his support, the guests for attending (particularly those who have travelled a distance), and everyone who contributed towards the wedding. It is not appropriate to thank your suppliers, but if a relative made the cake or arranged the flowers for the church they should be thanked.
- Compliment the bride, and say some heartfelt words about the day.
- Thank and toast the bridesmaids.
- Traditional toast: “to the bridesmaids”
The Best Man
The final speech of the day – and perhaps the one people look forward to the most! The best man’s speech is expected to be witty and humorous, revealing some funny stories about the groom. It doesn’t have to be long – some of the most effective are short and sweet, with amusing “one-liners”. Many say that the best man’s speech shouldn’t last longer than it will take the bride and groom to consummate their marriage! Traditionally:
- Read any messages from absent friends.
- Tell stories about the groom – often including some funny anecdotes.
- Tell a light-hearted story to embarrass the groom
- Include stories about the newlyweds – and compliment the bride.
- Traditional toast: “to Mr and Mrs…”
There is little etiquette dictating what the bride does or doesn’t say, but it has become fairly common for brides to say a few words, perhaps thanking the guests for their support and thanking the groom’s family for making her feel part of the family.
Announcing the wedding speeches
If you have a toastmaster or master of ceremonies they will announce each of the speeches. Otherwise this is a job best given to an usher rather than the best man being left to introduce himself. The formal introduction is as follows “Lords (if present), Ladies and Gentlemen, pray silence for the father of the bride / the groom / the best man, Mr…….”. It is acceptable to replace “Ladies and Gentlemen” with “Distinguished Guests”.
At the end of the speech, to ensure a resounding toast rather than an embarrassed mumble, the person giving the speech should make it very clear what the toast is and what the guests should do. For example, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding for the toast (brief pause)… the bride and groom”. As you hold your glass up the guests should raise their glasses, repeat back “the bride and groom” and take their seats as you take yours.
Wedding speeches are traditionally after the main course has been cleared away and before dessert is served. This then allows time for cutting up the wedding cake while guests eat their dessert. Guests will be poured a glass of champagne for the toasts and can finish it with their dessert.
If you opt for speeches before the meal, ensure that guests have been given a drink and canapés first, and keep them on time for the sake of the caterers. Nervous grooms often opt for speeches at the start of the meal to get them “over and done with” so that they can relax and enjoy the meal. Bear in mind that your guests will be relaxed and receptive after a good meal and a glass or two of wine, so after the main course is usually the better option.
On average the speeches last a total of 45 minutes to an hour. Keeping them short and sweet is often favourable for the guests! Adequate preparation is the key to speech success; if you follow our top tips for writing wedding speeches, your speech will definitely be the highlight of the reception. Most importantly, remember that the guests are all there for you, and with you.