How to Write an Excellent Maid of Honor Speech


Because we all have our strengths (or not)

by Stephanie Kaloi

maid of honor giving a speech

So you got picked to be a maid of honor! Congratulations. Chances are, if you’re recently appointed to your role, you’re probably still adjusting to your awesome new title and potentially many and varied appointments and duties. Aka you haven’t even begun to think about delivering what is obviously going to be a five-star, ultra-stellar toast at the wedding reception. For some of you, this is NBD. You’re sitting there like, “Stephanie, I’ve got this. I’ve been mentally writing my maid of honor speech since the day my BFF and I met in second grade and she helped me get off the bus and I will finish it tonight, ten months before the wedding, and it will be perfection.” And that’s cool! Snaps to you. Please spread some of that gumption around. But for the rest of you who are like like, “OMG GIRL WHY DO I HAVE TO GIVE A SPEECH PUBLIC SPEAKING MAKES ME CRY I CAN’T DO IT WHAT DO I DO,” I got you.

So let’s break it down: In its simplest form, the maid of honor speech is one to four minutes wherein you will wax poetic about how much you love your BFF, how you can’t believe that she and her partner found each other but that they are so perfect together, and how you can’t wait to see what kind of life they will build together. You’ll throw in a few anecdotes (tales from summer camp or college, erring on the side of caution and eschewing details that no one except the two of you need to know). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll toast the couple, and it will be brilliant. But if any part of you is worried about how that might come together, I’ve got some very specific tips on how to make it happen:

woman and man laughing at wedding

5 tips for writing the best maid of honor speech ever

don’t wait too long: I’m not saying you really need to prep for ten months. That’s way early. Ten minutes? No, no, let’s not do that. Instead, try to start writing your speech the month before the wedding so that you can practice on a friend (not the one who is getting married) or partner, and adjust as needed.

don’t worry about the best man: Best men have a rep for being… uncool during their speeches (truly, dudes, let’s avoid that), but that doesn’t mean you HAVE to dig deep and bring on tears if that’s not your style. If you want to be funny, be funny! Totally steal the best man’s thunder. It’s fine.

don’t treat it like a joke: That said, your maid of honor speech is not the time to try out your future career as a stand-up comedian. No one is expecting Maya Angelou to suddenly appear and speak through you, but they probably are expecting something heartfelt and sincere. So really consider the speech and take it seriously, even if humor is your vehicle of delivery.

Get personal: Obviously this is not the time to use every awful partner your friend has had as evidence for how excellent her chosen life-mate is, but it is the time to share a few personal stories. You’ll want to talk about how happy you are for the couple, how much as you knew your BFF was your BFF the second she traded shoe laces with you, you knew that her chosen partner was perfection when they showed up to her house wearing bacon-themed socks. You dig? After that, wrap it up nicely and sweetly, toast the couple, and have a seat.

when in doubt, use the formula: Just about everyone gets the jitters when they’re in front of a large group and have to speak—it’s fine! If you’re super freaked out, just use the formula:

  1. I love you both so much
  2. Insert anecdote about the couple and how great they are
  3. I hope you are always happy
  4. Toast!

In fact, here’s a sample maid of honor speech that follows the formula perfectly:

a sample maid of honor speech

Haley and Rachel,

I love you both so much. Haley, not only for you being one of my best friends, but for being there for me when being my friend didn’t just involve late night Wal-Mart runs and hours of watching ’80s movies. We’ve grown up together and I am so very grateful that we did not grow apart. And Rachel, I love you, too, for not only being such an incredible partner for my Haley, but for being a great friend to me also.  I know you didn’t expect that dating Haley would include helping her flaky friend after she locked her keys in the car three times in one month, but you are a doll for doing so with a smile and only laughing at me a little.

However, what I love most about the two of you is how you are together. I’ve never seen two people that fit so well in each other’s lives; it’s hard to imagine a time when you weren’t “Haley and Rachel.”  It may seem to some like you two were just meant to be and that fate put you together, but I think to look at it that way diminishes how amazing your relationship really is.

Having been there from the beginning, I know that what appeared to be seamless was the effort of two people who truly loved one another and were determined to make their relationship work. They didn’t just magically fit into each other’s lives; they rearranged their lives to make room. They changed priorities, made time for one another and learned to love each other’s little quirks… like Rachel’s not-so-secret love of R&B vocalists.

But nothing shows this as much as Haley, Rachel, and the hockey debacle. You see, when they started dating, Rachel noticed that Haley had a framed Gretsky jersey in her living room. And, deciding to play it cool, Rachel started asking Haley if she wanted to go to local hockey games and watching the latest game on TV just so she’d have something to talk about to Haley the next time they chatted. Haley, oblivious to all of this, thought Rachel really liked hockey so she enlisted my brother to teach her more about the game. Because, you see, Haley never watched hockey. The jersey belonged to her Uncle Mike, and Aunt Laura gave it to her as a reminder of him after he passed away. Meanwhile, both my brother and Rachel are pretending to know more about hockey than they actually do and were starring in their own sports-themed comedy of errors.

Eventually, they figured it out… and by eventually I mean seven months later. However, once these two worked on their communication skills, they had a new favorite hobby to do together… and further proof that Uncle Mike really is watching over Haley. AND, he’s bound and determined that she marry a hockey lover!

And it only goes to show not only how goofy these two are for each other, but how much they truly are committed to being in each other’s lives. Your love makes us smile, makes us tear up with joy and makes us believe in the kind of love cynics would make you feel is impossible. Thank you for being an inspiration and my friends.

To Haley and Rachel! (everybody drinks)

Have you ever written or heard a truly great maid of honor speech? What works—and what doesn’t?

Stephanie Kaloi

Stephanie is a photographer, writer, and Ravenclaw living in California with her family. She is super into reading, road trips, and adopting animals on a whim. Forewarning: all correspondence will probably include a lot of punctuation and emoji (!!! ? ? ?).

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  • Amy March

    The ones I’ve seen that really felt like a struggle have been poems/songs/listicles etc. It is already hard to give a nice thoughtful personal speech in front of a crowd. Unless this is really your thing, don’t complicate the job with unnecessary requirements.

    • idkmybffjill

      Oh man, listicles. ” I read an article about the things you’re supposed to never do in a best man speech, and here is what they are”, lskdflasdkjldjf. worst.

      • Lisa

        Lol, reminds me of my graduation speech, where Baryshnikov spent 10 minutes name dropping the important people he’d called for speech writing advice who’d ALL told him “Keep it short.”

        • idkmybffjill

          Oof yes.
          Although, honestly Baryshnikov could read me the phone book and I’d be delighted :).

          • Lisa

            He started off so well with jokes about how most of the audience was probably wondering why the old man from SATC was on-stage and that he took the gig because then he’d get to graduate from the school before his daughter (who was a junior at the time), and it lost a lot of steam after that.

          • idkmybffjill

            Damn. Should’ve just danced.

  • idkmybffjill

    OH MAN, We had two MOHs and two Best Men (we couldn’t choose, sorry!), and ALL of them just knocked it right out of the park.

    Funnily, both the MOHs gave very heartfelt funny speeches, and both Best Men wept.

    The biggest thing they all did was give good crossover anecdotes – my girls talked about my husband and his dudes talked about me. It was very touching and lovely.

    Also – I just love wedding speeches. They were some of the things I remember most clearly from our wedding because I was calmed down after the intense emotional blur that was the ceremony. Speeches forever!

    • Ashlah

      I wish I remembered our wedding speeches! We weren’t planning to have any, but the DJ ended up opening the mic to guests. I remember who spoke, but not a single word any of them said (nor a single word of what I said in our toast). I highly recommend, to anyone currently planning, having your speeches recorded (just ask a guest to use their phone if you have no videographer).

    • Katherine

      The same thing happened at our wedding. Our MOH gave a hilarious speech, and by the end of our Best Man’s speech, everyone was in tears.

  • A.

    In my experience, it can’t be said enough that MOH (and Best Man) speeches that focus on BOTH members of the couple stand out more than those that are purely a BFF/sister/origin family lovefest speech. Not saying that you can’t honor your specific relationship with the bride (that would be silly!), but it [usually] shouldn’t be the majority focus. Even if you don’t know the spouse-to-be very well, try to remember that the speech is [usually] about honoring their new marriage first and foremost.

    • suchbrightlights

      I want to thank you for this in retrospect. I gave a speech for my good friend at her wedding to my *other* good friend. I’d known the groom for quite a few years and although they’re both dear to me (they’ll both be standing up on my side at my wedding!) I’m closer friends with the groom than I am with the bride. It was important to the bride that I “say nice things about” her husband, so I wrote a speech that started with what I knew about the bride from the way the groom had talked about her before the bride and I met, then talked about her wonderfulness, then their wonderfulness together. It ended up being more 50/50 than I planned, and I really wasn’t sure how it was going to go over.

      Both of them told me they loved it, but I’ve still been uncertain about it in retrospect. Most of the “how to write your MOH speech” advice I’ve read has been “bride bride bride bride bride!” since, well, it’s coming from someone close to the bride! (I presume the people standing up for the other spouse are told the same thing- “focus on your friend.”) Thank you for putting this into perspective- that the speech should be marking the moment and honoring their marriage.

      • idkmybffjill

        Yes! It absolutely should. 50/50 is NAILING it.
        For me, I pretty much already knew how my friends felt about me. I didn’t necessarily know how they felt about my husband and it was wonderful to hear that expressed.

  • Sara

    One very big thing that I would recommend – do not tell everyone to raise a glass til the end of the speech. I’ve been to several weddings where the speech givers (men and women) start their speech with “I’d like to raise a glass to X and Y” and then give a full speech. People, our arms get tired. Say it at the end “So let’s raise a glass to X and Y! I love you guys!” Or just say “to X and Y” and just raise your own glass.

    I was the MOH at my college roommate’s wedding and one of the groomsmen got in my head about how ‘no one likes MOH speeches’. So mine was like 6 sentences – short , sweet, had two laughs and I was done. Then the best man (grooms’ brother) did a very long and sappy speech, so really my worry was for nothing. That groomsmen was a dick. :)

    • Jessica

      Out of all the speeches I’ve heard, MOH speeches are usually better structured, funnier, sweeter and practiced. BM speeches, from what I’ve witnessed, have been rambling messes with anecdotes that make no sense and aren’t funny to anyone. Glad you showed that jackass up!

      • JLily

        Same. The best man at our wedding gave a wonderful speech, but at all other weddings I’ve been to they have either been “funny” but actually just make everyone uncomfortable, super short with shifty eyes, or, like, bizarre inside jokes and shouting.

  • sofar

    Try to say something nice about BOTH members of the couple, if you can. I’ve seen so many speeches that turn into a love-fest for the friend of speech-giver and contain all sorts of “You’re so lucky” jokes aimed at the other person.

    But I love the speeches that take a moment to appreciate the other person: “Ben, I realized you were perfect for my friend when you did that nice thing/we shared that moment.”

    Oh and don’t get into “fancy” metaphors. DO NOT use quotes about love you found with Google. Use real examples and real words. I once heard a maid of honor say all sorts of fancy (but generic) words about love and destiny and quote a bunch of love poems but said nothing specific about the couple. And then the best man told a single heartfelt REAL story and brought everyone to tears.

    • idkmybffjill

      But I love the speeches that take a moment to appreciate the other person: “Ben, I realized you were perfect for my friend when you did that nice thing/we shared that moment.”

      yes yes yes yes yes

      Hearing my MOH’s say super nice things about my husband… ruled. It was incredibly special for me.
      More special than hearing a bunch of our inside jokes or something.
      And hearing his best men compliment me? I’m friends with both of them but we’d never said those kinds of things to each other and it was super lovely.

  • Ashlah

    The biggest “don’t” is not preparing a speech at all. It seems like the most obvious advice ever, but I’ve been to multiple weddings where literally no one prepared a speech, and the guests all cringed their way through very uncomfortable, awkward rambling. In fact I’ve been to more weddings like that than the opposite. You might think you can give a heartfelt speech off the cuff–don’t. At the very, very least, have an idea of the anecdotes you want to share or the sweet feelings you have towards the couple. You will not be able to pull it out of your ass with the entire wedding crowd staring at you.

    The second-worst speeches I’ve seen are the ones that were obviously parroting the very first Google result they found, with words that clearly didn’t actually resonate with them at all. Inspiration from the internet (like, uh, right here), and even stealing a few lines you’re moved by is fine, but if you put in zero effort to personalize your speech, it’s painfully obvious and makes it look like you don’t care about your friend(s) at all.

    • Ashlah

      And a bit of semi-related advice for brides and grooms: Don’t put people on the spot in front of everyone and force them to give speeches! If you want to open the floor to speeches, go for it, but please don’t pressure someone in the moment who hasn’t volunteered. If you want/expect your parent or sibling to make a speech, tell them beforehand.

      • Jessica

        We asked the families beforehand who would like to give a speech, and literally everyone on my husband’s side reacted like we asked them to touch raw nuclear material. I get not being into public speaking, but they went into “We’re OFFENDED you even asked us!” territory. Ugh.

        It turned out his (super religious) father and brother dealt with it by just praying and saying blessings over us. It was a little weird, to me, but hey, at least they did something.

        • Ashlah

          What a bizarre reaction! I guess it’s especially good you didn’t put them on the spot at the wedding then! I might react in the “omgno public speaking” sort of way, but I would be the absolute opposite of offended.

      • Jane

        Also – be really careful if you just open up the floor. I’ve seen people talk about how the couple broke up and got back together, when the bride clearly didn’t want to relive that during their special day. And I’ve also seen too many people give long rambling speeches, so the speeches took forever. So, go for it if you want, but definitely think carefully about it!

        • Ashlah

          Oh yeah, there are definitely plenty of reasons not to do this! We ended up having an unplanned open mic, and thankfully it went just fine. Definitely a know your crowd situation (and also a be prepared for unpleasant surprises situation).

          • Jane

            Yeah – this is when you want to empower a DoC or friend to cut things off.

    • Sara

      At a friends’ wedding the best man – who was known for being long winded to begin with – clearly didn’t prepare a speech AND had recently found religion. It was literally a 7 minute long rambling speech that walked the line between preachy and nonsense. The couple in question, btw, were atheist. So it was doubly cringe worthy.

      • Ashlah

        Oof.

    • JLily

      Agreed. If it has to be off the cuff, because you’re put on the spot or something, keep it VERY short. Like 2 sentences.

  • JLily

    I would add: have a POINT to your anecdote. It shouldn’t be that hard to tell a short story about your friend, relate it to a bigger reason for why you love them, and then something about how happy you are for them, a compliment about the couple, etc. Just like high school english class, be aware of your thesis throughout your speech.

    If you don’t think about this in advance, you might end up telling everyone that you love your sister because she’s pretty (?), or that your sister is the dumb one in the family and your are happy she accomplished her goal of finding a husband (as was the case at my wedding…with both speeches from my sister and brother…oyy) even if this is not what you actually feel.

    • idkmybffjill

      Yikes!!!
      Recently heard a best man speech where he just talked alot about the road trips he took with the groom. No “And now he’s on the best trip of his life”, no “And wife loves road trips too”, no “and then his wife began to join us for our trips” Just a story. Unrelated to the wedding or his new wife.

    • Jane

      yeah – my speech was a very light-hearted roast of my sister and BIL united by the theme “my sister is always fighting the patriarchy and one way she’s doing that is by marrying a guy who is just like our mother (instead of just like our father). Which doesn’t sound that funny or heartfelt but really was both, I promise.

      And – because it was a little more complex, it really did take a lot of prep. Like, I didn’t write out my toast word for word, but I had a set progression and thought very carefully about how to do all the transitions.

  • My husband’s brother talked about how awesome he was. My dad mentioned how awesome my husband was in his speech. My sister talked about how awesome my husband was in her speech… no one really talked about me at all. Although I’m glad everyone likes my husband.

    Probably should have talked to people about what they should say in a speech, since no one had really been to weddings as an adult. But then again, I hadn’t been to any weddings really as an adult either, so it wasn’t until I started going to them that I realized how nice the speeches could be and got slightly disappointed by ours.

  • Katharine Parker

    Bring your notes. Even if you’ve memorized your speech, you’ll want a written reference.

    Also, time yourself when you’re practicing. Do a few passes, and edit ruthlessly. You’re much better off with a tight, well written three minutes than a rambling 10.

    • idkmybffjill

      “edit ruthlessly”

      Always excellent advice.

    • sofar

      So much this. I’ve taken enough public-speaking/presentation-based classes to know that people ALWAYS underestimate how long their speech is. Ask them, and they’ll say, “Oh, it’s like three minutes,” but it’s really 15. It’s shocking how few people actually time their speeches.

  • Anon

    Any tips for giving a speech when you’re not a fan of the spouse? Just not being the MOH isn’t really an option in this case.

    • Amy March

      Be pleasantly bland. You job is to say who you are, why you are speaking, share something nice about your friend, a pleasantry about how happy you are to see how happy she is with spouse, and raise a glass.

      Sometimes this is a heartfelt moment, but for you it’s going to be more of a suck it up moment, unless you want to develop a fear of public speaking.

    • Katharine Parker

      Keep your speech mostly about your friend, include a line like “it’s wonderful to see how dearly groom loves bride–she’s the greatest” and make the speech short. Yes, ideally the speech would be about their love and the two of them, but if you can’t do it, you’re better off making a nice speech about her. Avoid anything that can be construed as negative or passive aggressive. Focus on her, keep it nice but brief about the spouse.

    • Jane

      That’s so difficult. Maybe try to think of what your friend likes most about her spouse and see if you can remember a time when you witnessed that behavior?

      • idkmybffjill

        This. Or even just quote the friend, “Jill loves Jack so much, I remember when she mentioned this story about why she loves him.”

        You don’t have to buy it, but if she does – just quote her!

        • Jane

          Exactly. It will ring true to her because she already believes it.

  • JC

    My recommendation is to aim for funny or a lightly-heartfelt tone. Do not aim for tear-jerker. If you aim for tear-jerker, write it as a tear-jerker, perform it as a tear-jerker, and then you do not tear up and the audience does not tear up, it comes across as an absurd theatrical performance and not a sweet nod to your loved one. I wish I could give you all an impression of the MOH speech I witnessed that made this mistake, but I would just look mean because you wouldn’t believe how bad the speech was.

    • idkmybffjill

      Like Monica’s anniversary toast to her parents on friends?

  • Laura

    Also, limit yourself to one drink. Or maybe two. There’s plenty of time to celebrate after the speeches! The most cringe-worthy speeches I’ve seen were alcohol-induced (I’m looking at you, sister of the bride who snot cried through her speech and concluded by wailing “I just can’t believe [Groom] is stealing my sister and best friend away!!”)

  • a few

    Still the best speech I have heard was my sister’s MOH speech – she bought a lottery ticket with ‘special / lucky numbers’ for us as a couple. For the speech, she gave a little snippet about each number (7 – for their first date in July, 22 for their anniversary on 9-22 in the years to come. She also weaved in a short story about us as kids/sisters. at the end, she announced that these were all special numbers to us and that she bought a lottery ticket and wished us luck in the lottery and our future life together. It was very fun and heartfelt. People asked us later if we won from the lottery ticket, and she got several compliments that it was the best speech people had heard (including the wedding DJ!). She has had several friends use that formula for their own wedding speeches since then.

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    If you don’t actually like your bff’s spouse, skip the bit about how they’re so great together, and instead string together a whole bunch of lyrics from classic love songs. The crowd will be entertained and miss that you never actually said anything nice about the union. Proceed as normal.

  • erika22

    Does anyone have any advice/suggestions for how to go about having people give speeches at a dual language/culture wedding (short of having someone translate after each speech). We were thinking maybe having nice printed translations to pass out during the toasts (though we don’t want to read them beforehand and ruin the moment), or maybe just accepting that not all of the guests will get to appreciate the words of each speech (but will be able to appreciate the tone/emotion at least?). Did anyone have to do this for their wedding, or have you seen it done well somewhere else?

    • Jane

      Instead of translating a whole speech at the end – could you have a bilingual person give the speech and switch back and forth throughout? I know that seems like a tough task for the speech-giver, but I’ve seen it done.

      How are you doing the other parts of the wedding? At that same wedding, a lot of things were done all in one language either with translations or not. Like, there was a full Catholic mass and nearly everything was in one language but then some of the readings and songs were in a different language and the sermon was in both. It seemed like the language choices were based mostly on whose family cared most about that part of the ceremony.

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