Ask Team Practical: Wedding Toasts

It’s Ask Team Practical Friday with Alyssa! Hooray! Today we’re chatting about wedding toasts: how to structure them for your own wedding, and how to write them if you’re in the wedding party. We also snuck in a bunch of the best/worst/funniest toast moments the APW staff has witnessed (we’re not saying who’s seen what, least we have to go into witness protection), for your Friday enjoyment. So here we go. Wedding toasts, informative and entertaining:

“I have to write an MOH toast for a wedding and I’ve searched your archives for guidance – but I came up short. Am I missing something?”

Nope.  We haven’t really had anything about the nuts and bolts of toasts.  UNTIL NOW.  (You have to imagine that last sentence in the movie trailer guy’s voice.  It’s much more dramatic.) Let’s look at this from both sides.

I’m the bride/groom.  Shower me with love and adulation!

  • Decide if you WANT wedding toasts.
  • If you do, decide who you want to give them. Anyone can give a speech, so don’t let Great-Aunt Lois tell you that your sister can’t give a speech because she isn’t in the wedding party. On the other hand, don’t pick people because they’re “soooo funny!”  If you want “so funny,” hire a damn clown. Speeches can be entertaining, but it shouldn’t be a prerequisite. The prerequisite should be that these people are important to you.
  • Feel Free to buck the traditional toasting cast. Traditionally, the father of the bride, best man and then maid of honor all give toasts, with the groom giving the final one as a thank you to the guests and wedding party. (According to Wikipedia, which means it HAS to be true!) Riiiighhhht. So mostly men speak. Yeah. Clearly that’s not playing with the APW crowd. The only reason I mention this is because these are the people who probably think they have to give a speech. Talk to them early so they aren’t blindsided if you don’t want one, and know what your plans are if you do.
  • Talk to the people you love and make sure they are okay with giving a toast. Meg gave this advice, “We emailed the people we’d like to give toasts, and told them that if they wanted to give a toast to email us back. That took some of the pressure off, and allowed only the people who really wanted to say something to speak. And while part of us wishes everyone had decided to speak, the people who did pretty much made the wedding for us.” Think of it this way: what’s worse? Not having a toast from your stepfather or having to watch him struggle through a speech that he obviously doesn’t want to give?
  • Once you ask them to give a speech, back off. Seriously, let them do their thing and don’t bug them about what they’re gonna say.  If you can’t trust them, you probably shouldn’t ask them.
  • Think carefully about having open mic wedding toasts. That sounds like a really good idea till it’s gone on for 45 minutes, and someone gets up and says, “I don’t know the bride that well, but…” Really? You don’t know the bride that well? Sit your ass down! (True story.) There are advantages to just picking people you do know well, letting them talk, and then getting on to shaking your ass, not sitting on it.
  • Sit back and enjoy it. You might never again hear the normally reserved people in your life say such openly adoring things. So pay attention.

Wedding Party: Crap, I already have to wear a damn dress and now you want a SPEECH?

A wedding toast is meant to be given in someone’s honor, a way for you to say a few words in celebration of the happy couple and to show your love and admiration for them. If the very idea of this fills you with dread, don’t do it. There’s no rule that you have to do a toast.  If you just can’t, be honest about it and let the bride or groom know that it’s not that you don’t love them, you just cannot stand up in front of 100 people and speak. Do not let them bully/flatter you into it if you absolutely cannot give a speech. Explain that you’re mortally fearful, and then write them a loving letter instead (they can keep that forever, which is its own kind of beautiful.)

But if you’re going to do it, let’s talk about how.

  • Don’t stress too hard about this. Yes, it is important, but in the end the only people that will remember what you said in your speech to the happy couple is the happy c0uple.  (Unless you do something like announce the bride’s secret pregnancy to the room. Also a true story! The APW team is here for you!)  If your speech is only okay, that is fine.  It may not kill the audience, but as long as it’s honest and heartfelt, it will definitely touch the couple and make them feel loved. (Which is the point, right?)
  • Speaking of the point, remember that when writing your speech. You’re not the event’s hired entertainment, you’re giving a speech for the bride(s) and/or groom(s). Write your speech for them and about them. This isn’t about you, so keep the couple the focus of the speech and not some story that showcases how awesome you are. (You’re obviously amazing, you were picked to be in the wedding and/or give a speech. I just affirmed you, so you don’t have to affirm your damn self.)
  • Make it personal. Quotes and platitudes are safe bets, but the couple picked you because you’re you and you know them in ways other people don’t. Guests that love speeches feel that way because it’s wonderful hearing the personal stories and anecdotes about the couple. Make everybody happy by adding interesting stories about both partners individually and as a couple.  However…
  • Keep your audience in mind. Yes, you’re writing the speech for the married couple, but there will be relatives and friends there that you don’t know. Even if the story about you two getting hammered on R&R and putting boob prints on university cop cars won’t offend the bride’s family, remember that her partner’s family will be there also. Make it heartfelt, make it fun, but stay classy. (And avoid lots of inside jokes, they make people feel left out.)
  • Don’t try to be funny. This isn’t to say don’t be funny, just that if you make that your goal, you’ll more than likely fall flat. One of the rules of comedy, right up there with the rule of three and “If it BENDS…“, is if you try to be funny, you won’t be. Again, toasts aren’t supposed to be about you and trying too hard to get a laugh will just be uncomfortable.
  • Keep it short. Shoot for 2 minutes, top out at 4. Less than that is rushed, more than that and people will start to shift in their seats and wonder when they get to drink.
  • The weird thing about extemporaneous speaking is that you need to know what you’re going to say, but you don’t want it to be too scripted. Keep notes of the main parts you want to say if it helps you, but try to be natural. On the other side of that coin, don’t put this off. You’re going to want to practice just to get comfortable and if you put it off or try to do it off the cuff, it’ll bite you in the patootie.
  • Don’t get nervous and drink too much before your speech. Nobody wants to see their drunken bridal party speech on YouTube.

Alrighty Team Practical, lay it on us!  What are your tips for gettin’ your wedding speech on?

Photo of cassb123‘s vodka toast by D.A. Yates Photography & Design, from the APW Flickr stream.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com.  If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted.  Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh).  We’re not kidding.  It brings us joy.  What, you don’t want to bring your editors JOY?!?

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  • Shelly

    Going along with “Keeping your Audience in Mind”: If you are giving a toast, be sure to state your name and relationship to the bride and/or groom. It can be baffling as a wedding guest if you don’t know what relationship the toast-giver has to the couple.

  • I have a toast dilemma. My dad (who has a very good heart) has been looking forward to giving a toast probably since the day I was born (and has been writing it for equally as long). BUT he is the type of person who likes to shock people. For example, he got a big kick out of everyone’s reaction at my sister’s wedding when he said “And then [the Bride] brought her lover home to meet her parents.” And everyone was like, “did he just refer to the groom as his daughter’s LOVER?!?”

    Taking the speech away from him is not an option but I do want people to be AS DRUNK AS POSSIBLE so they find him funny. What do you think, right after cocktail hour before dinner or right before dessert? Part of me thinks wait as long as possible, but another part of me thinks that people stop drinking at dinner and might have sobered up by then.


    • Oh honey! That’s rough. Is it possible to have a heartfelt, private conversation with your dad? One where you tell him how much you love him, but that you are concerned that a shocking speech will upset some of the guest, or that you always a imagined a tender and sweet speech, without anything shocking? Let him know that you recognize how important it is to him to give the speech, but it’s equally important to you that all of your guests feel comfortable. Best of luck!

    • liz

      i totally love that your solution is not to try to change your dad, but to add alcohol. love love love.

      • Kathryn

        I’m with Liz here! It’s a great idea to think about setting your dad — and the speech he’s been crafting for years — up to succeed, rather than changing the speech itself. (By the way, your dad sounds adorable.) I’d vote later in the evening, pre-cake-cutting, because of the alcohol factor and also because people tend to relax as the evening wears on.

        But I may be biased. My own father asks for so little of me, so when it became clear that he really, really wanted to walk me down the aisle, I decided to chuck the plan to walk in with my partner. Is it what I would have dreamt up myself? No. But I’m taking quite a bit of joy in knowing I’m making my dad happy after all he’s done for me. Let your dad give his shocking speech — it sounds like it will be a great story to tell for years to come, and he’ll be so happy!

        • So agree in the “setting him up to succeed”. My Dad HATES being in front of poeple, is awkward and his jokes usually fall very flat. But he really wanted to for his little girl’s wedding. So my mum coached him for weeks, and my husband and I spent long hours trying to get the pronunciation of his one line of Danish (to welcome my in-laws) vaguely correct. When it came to it, I’m not sure they understood a word he was trying to say, but they clapped and smiled big and he felt very proud of himself.

          It was vastly imperfect but at the same time it was perfectly HIM, and that’s all that was important in the moment.

      • Yes! LOLs brilliant.

    • ann

      People DEFINITELY do not stop drinking at dinner.

      That is all.

    • amy

      At least you are PREPARED! My mom gave a fairly shocking speech that completely blindsided my groom and me. Discussed: feminism, why she thought it was a terrible idea when we got engaged, how she was glad I moved home to be with my fiance because at least I’d be close to family when our relationship failed … and … she also held up a giant WTF banner. And then she blogged about it!

      We laugh about it now, and it was allllll love (your dad’s speech will be, too) (plus it ended well, with my mom’s revelation that my marriage would be an equitable and supportive partnership) but it definitely would have been nice to know ahead of time that she was going to drop that bomb. And to be totally fair, there was probably some tiny part of my heart that saw this coming, because my mom is exactly who she is.

      TOO FUNNY. I’m glad you’re celebrating it.

      • liz

        anyone else feel like amy’s mom needs to start commenting on apw?

        • amy

          she really does.

      • Thanks for all of this!

        I can imagine the wide eyes during your mom’s speech Amy.

        I think you are right, just before the cake cutting is when people will probably be their most relaxed (and drunkest). And it will be a funny story. The “lover” story is, and it will make him happy.

        We’ll just go with it.

        • ha! my comment below came wayyy late, didn’t realize this whole conversation was happening while I took 2 hours to get around to posting it. hee. glad you’ve got it settled. :)

        • Edelweiss

          Can you let us know how it all works out? We were thinking of saving a couple of toasts for the cake cutting, but were worried it might be hard to get people to come back and pay attention at that point in the night.

          • Not everyone came back and paid attention to our cake cutting, but there were still a lot of people around (it didn’t help that we did the cake cutting in an area separate/apart from where all of the other “look at us getting married” parts happened). If you have to change places and do the cake later, you may be able to have the band/DJ/MC/your dad get on the mic and say something like, “Now we’ll hear a speech from Katie, maid of honor, and after that the cake will be cut in X location.”

      • Holy bananas!

    • haaaa that is kind of a funny problem. I mean I know it’s serious, but also.. kinda funny. judging by my own wedding, there were some who were drunk by the end of cocktail hour, some by the end of dinner, some by the end of the night, and many never did get drunk. we did our toasts right before dessert. I’m guessing if he loves to shock people, asking him not to be shocking will only make him more excited about it? I don’t know what to tell you, except just let it happen and have something to laugh about later.

      • DDay – you are right on, if I try to control him he will just get more outrageous (oh the things I’ve learned the hard way).

        And it is a funny problem to have, and it will continue to be funny after – if the story ends with “I can’t believe may dad said … at my wedding” or with “I was all prepared for him to be off the rails but it ended up being so sweet!”

        Thanks again everyone!

        • Aine

          Our best man is my fiance’s most acerbic brother, whose plan to shock people is to stand up and give a brief, sweet speech about how perfect a couple we are, and sit down. I predict some stunned silence on his side of the room, and my family going “Why didn’t they like his speech? It was so nice!”

    • I think your dad sounds sweet and hilarious, if a little too willing to venture to the edge of what’s appropriate in a wedding speech. And I second Liz’s comments about not changing him – go you! Another suggestion (to go along with the alcohol) is to maybe give some of your most trusted buddies a heads up that there may be some awkwardness and ask if they can be generous with their laughter/cheering/etc. That way, instead of crickets and potential embarrassing moment for pops, he’ll feel like he rocked it. Yes, this may encourage him to say a little more (too much?), but like you said, it’ll be a funny story.

  • Completely agree with all your points, and definitely about keeping your audience in mind. We’ve been to a few weddings where we didn’t know the groom as well as the bride, and so all of the little “in jokes” that the best man did went completely over our heads, and it’s much nicer to sit through a speech where it feels like people are being inclusive.
    Also, there’s a fine line between affectionate teasing and just being rude. I went to a wedding where the bride’s father said that the bride had been “a right little b*tch when she was younger” – which was horrible! (as was the moment when he turned to me and said “Right, Emma?”). So that kind of thing – no no no. But telling a story about how your daughter used to keep her window open for Peter Pan (as my dad did in his), or about how your husband told you that you’d hate him when you got to know him because he had a big ol’ dirty secret….which just turned out to be a rather geeky love of a television programme (as I did in my speech), that’s the good kind of teasing, where the speaker’s affection for the person comes through in the telling, and everyone can go “Ah, how silly, but how lovely.”

  • As a guest at weddings, I appreciate when toasts aren’t necessarily grouped together before the dinner is served. At that point, I’m pretty hungry and if anyone starts to ramble, I think “Dear lord, I’m going to eat the person next to me if you don’t shut up.” Have one or two o start with, another before the cake cutting, etc.

    One of my favorite toasts was at my friend’s wedding. Her maid-of-honor talked about how she and the bride grew up making gingerbread houses together around Christmas. One year the bride brought home her boyfriend (the groom) and he fit right in with the gingerbread house making. That’s when the maid-of-honor knew they were a special couple. Aww, right? The maid-of-honor didn’t try to be funny; it wasn’t a long speech; and it was entirely about the couple.

  • Jo

    Oh man. I’m so bad at toasts the typical way–we decided to veto toasts because they don’t really fit the rest of it, but I REALLY wanted to, as the bride, toast just about every damn person there. “Let’s play a drinking game called….Who Does Jo Love? Drink when you hear the name of someone present! Drink twice when there’s a good story about them!”

    • Jo, I love YOU haha!

      We just had Stephen’s brother say “Here’s to the bride and groom!” (drink) and then Stephen thanked people (drink) and we were done. More time for drinking and chatting one on one!

    • Amy March

      Thank you for figuring out how to keep people entertained at the rehearsal dinner- Bride and Groom themed drinking game here I come!

  • Cass

    I trusted my sister to give a great speech. But knowing her propensity to indulge in alcohol at weddings, I made sure to politely ask her to stick to some ground rules: Nothing too embarassing, nothing crass, nothing disgusting.
    She did a really great job and it was a very touching, sweet, to the point toast. :)

  • Beth

    What I want to know is which toasts are given at a rehearsal dinner, and how do those differ from toasts at a wedding?

    • I think that the parents of the groom give a toast at the rehearsal dinner (traditionally speaking, that is). But I think the content is probably about the same as weddings. But again, do whatever you want!

      • Katie

        We had any parents who wanted to do toasts do them at the rehearsal dinner and then only had the best man and maid(s) of honor do toasts at the actual wedding. But that’s because I come from a divorced family so that was our way of making a complicated situation slightly less complicated.

    • Ana

      The rehearsal dinners that I have been to have been hosted by the groom’s parents who gave a toast and also opened it up to anyone who wanted to say something…. Some people know it’s coming and have something prepared some do it off the cuff. The bride & groom don’t seem to have a say in what is going to go on. The toasts seem more casual than the formal speeches given just by the specific few invited to speak at the wedding reception. I have also seen where perhaps someone like the MOH whom the couple wanted to speak at the wedding felt shy, s/he will toast at the more intimate/less intimidating rehearsal instead.

    • Whichever toasts you want are given at the rehearsal dinner.

  • Kathryn

    What about completely unscripted (as in, unplanned) toasts and speeches? Is this a horrible idea? We’re having a small wedding for 60 friends and family, and honestly hadn’t given a second thought to planning who would give speeches and when they would occur. We’re hoping the evening will be a casual, joyful, and spontaneous one… but I also don’t want half of our 60 guests to get antsy while the other half rambles on unexpectedly. Who knows? Since we haven’t invited anyone to give a toast, we may not get any at all!

    Has anyone been to a wedding, or thrown one, without planning this sort of thing out in advance? Thoughts? Charming anecdotes or horror stories?

    • liz

      i’d throw out an fyi to everyone that you’ll be doing this.

      we did this at my grandmom’s 80th birthday. just put the word out that there’d be a mic if anyone wanted to recount a memory or say something sweet.

      it worked out great, because a few people planned something and a few others were inspired by them, and stood up off the cuff. there were ramblers- but the guests had stacks of food in front of them to divert their attention when bored, and my grandmom soaked up every rambly word.

      • yep definitely get the word out that you’re doing this, or possibly ask one or two people specifically to make a speech. nothing more awk than springing an open mic on a crowd and having NOBODY walk up. my sister did this for her rehearsal dinner (the surprise open speech time), a few people did get up and say something but nobody from her side was getting up so I went up there and made an idiot of myself. if she had toldddd meeee I could have actually prepared something coherent. heh.

    • I’ll chime in about this one! My husband and I are terrible dancers so we skipped the first dance altogether and had a toast-making competition instead. We asked people on our wedding website to sign up in advance and to limit their speeches to three minutes. Of course, on the actual wedding day no one really signed up and some of them went over three minutes. The idea was that it would be half-sweet/half-roast of the bride and groom, and of course all of my husband’s friends came up and made fun of him (warmly, obviously, but still making fun) and some of my friends came up and shared amusing anecdotes about my childhood. Since our guest list had been limited because of the size of our venue (my in-laws’ backyard), it wasn’t a huge crowd and we knew everyone that was there. Sure, a few people may have gotten bored or antsy, but whatever, this was OUR wedding. And sure, a few people went up who had no idea what they were talking about, and instead of a roast or a toast it was just a story that didn’t make sense in the context of the wedding, but oh well. I loved my wedding, especially the toasts, :)

    • I agree with Liz, and would add that it might be a good idea to have a couple of people who are willing to say something, and go first. Once a couple of other people do it, it will be easier for others to stand up too.

    • totesadorbs

      My best friend got married last summer. She didn’t have a traditional bridal party but her little sister and I were unoffically in that role. She didn’t have any of the traditional elements to the reception (no announcement, no planned speeches, no dancing)… they did cut the cake. It was more of a post-ceremony dinner. Small group (about 40 people). Part way through dinner, her mom came over to our table and said that she wanted to open the floor for people to speak and looked rather meaningfully in my direction. I love my best friend more than almost anyone in the world so I took a deeep breath, put on my big girl pants, composed myself, grabbed my glass, and took the floor. I spoke off the cuff, I outed the fact that we secretly called her now husband The Silver Fox behind his back, and I wound up tearfully telling everyone there how much I loved them both.
      After I spoke, her sister spoke, her dad spoke, my dad spoke (and I went into the ugly cry), and a few other close friends spoke. It was absolutely lovely – no horror stories, no embarassment, just a whole lot of love. I think it worked because it was such a small group of people. So in my experience, off the cuff speeches can absoutely work. But make sure there is someone to get the ball rolling (her mom’s subtle hint and my overwhelming love for her did the trick).

    • Caroline

      I don’t know if they planned some of the other toasts or not, but my sister and I both gave unscripted unplanned toasts at my mom’s wedding. She hadn’t mentioned it, but then my sis asked my uncle for the mike (or maybe he offered it around?). I know that our toasts meant the world to her because we were so supportive, and hadn’t always been. (when they go engaged, we were still upset about our mom dating people, and dating him seriously. But by the wedding we were very supportive. And I’m so glad to have my stepfather in my life. He rocks.)

    • meg

      Well, we covered this with the “open mic” speech section in the post!

      • Sarah

        Yes, but the post also kind of dismissed it as a viable option, and I think it’s helpful to discuss how to make it work if a couple wants to do it!

        • Kathryn

          I agree — and I can understand the dismissiveness for a larger wedding. But at a smaller, casual affair, where we’ll know all of our guests well, I’m curious to give it a try.

          I’ve loved all the suggestions and anecdotes! Thank you, guys, for weighing in.

    • Angel

      It really depends on your family and friends, I think.

      I attended a wedding that was small, only 60 – 70 people, and they hadn’t planned toasts, just had an open mic. The bride’s family hogged the mic, each spoke for at least 15 minutes, and no one else got a chance to say anything. Not only that, but what they did say was an airing of the family drama, including the messy divorce several years earlier – it began innocently enough with the bride’s father talking about his little girl being grown into a beautiful mature woman and choosing the best partner for herself she could have possibly chosen(and patting himself on the back for introducing them), but then her aunt had to get up and explain to everyone how the bride’s dad had “single-handedly raised these girls” after the divorce and how he’s such a wonderful person and the aunt was so happy for his triumph at seeing his little girl married to such a wonderful person and that the groom was so like the bride’s dad, and by the way, the bride and groom should start having babies right away. This was followed by the bride’s mom getting up to tell the bride how proud she was of her, despite their differences, and by the way, let’s have some grandbabies; followed by the bride’s sister talking about how her dad is the best dad ever and, by the way, “it’s my turn to be an aunt” among other things; then the bride’s dad” wanted the mic again since he had only spoken for 4 minutes the first time and felt he needed to address everything his family members had just said. The whole thing was so awkward, the bride & groom were squirming the whole time – especially with the repeated requests that they get pregnant right away. The groom’s family didn’t say anything, recognizing that 45 minutes of “toasts” was quite enough and the guests were hungry and the tiny room was getting stuffy. Eventually the groom’s sister dove for the mic and said, “And now, it’s time to finally cut the cake!”

      So, if you foresee the potential for family drama derailing the open mic toasts, I’d suggest using caution or having someone designated to pass the mic(and maybe hold it while people talk, for ease of taking away when their turn is over) and limit the timing of the speeches or something.

      • This sounds like the toast part of the engagement party in Bridesmaids (the movie).

    • We had an open mic at our wedding. We asked my cousin/our DJ to let people know that it was available, and they could see him anytime if they felt like saying something. We did not have a set time for toasts at all, so there was no awkward moment of nobody stepping up. My best person took it upon herself to ask me in advance if I expected a speech, and I told her it was entirely up to her. She ended up giving a lovely toast that caused tears and hugs.

      We had planned to thank everyone later in the evening, but when we walked into our reception, the crowd demanded a speech, so we ended up doing it right away.

      People who chose to speak did so after dinner (because it was pretty much served as soon as we walked in, exactly as planned) – some did it before and some after the cake cutting.

      We ended up having really lovely speeches from our respective sets of siblings, both of my wife’s parents, my dad, the entire company of my theatre who also sang a song, and my best person. It was totally lovely.

      But I would say that if you’re going to leave it open, you have to trust your crowd. We had a small wedding, where we both knew everyone intimately, and had no qualms about any of them deciding to speak. If you have a lot of friends that don’t know you both, extended family, or friends of your parents that are unpredictable, this may not be the best idea for your wedding.

      • Kathryn

        Thanks, Cindy, this is really helpful — and our wedding sounds very similar to yours. We know all of our guests really well, it’s a small crowd, and I figure — if it happens, it happens, and if it doesn’t, that’s fine too. I’m glad you had such a lovely experience!

  • LPC

    Let me add to the points of advice:

    1. Check your sound system/the acoustics.

    I gave what I thought would have been a wonderful toast at my brother’s wedding but with 200 people, high ceilings, and a bad sound system, I ended up shouting my words with the inflection of a slightly angry preacher from a stage, pretty much unheard.

    • THIS! I’ve been to a couple of weddings where the acoustics were difficult to work with and half the people sitting at their tables couldn’t even hear the toasts. You could see mouths moving, but not a sound and this went on for a good 15 minutes or so. Always check these things prior!

    • Kassy

      Yes. At my wedding, I actually stood up and (very politely) yelled at people to stop talking because I couldn’t hear the toasts over them. A better sound system would have been great.

    • meg

      Check your sound system for ALL PARTS of the wedding, please, y’all!!!

  • Hope

    When I was MOH for my best friend, I was very nervous about speaking in front of 100 people. I am also very emotional and cry at EVERYTHING. What worked absolute magic for me was to write an outline on a notecard, then practice it about 8 times. I did this the day before the wedding–actually said the whole thing out loud 8 times, sometimes in front of the mirror. It sounded awkward and I cried the first several times, but by the time the occasion came, I could make it through as cool as a cucumber with whole speech memorized. I even got compliments on my public speaking ability! I was so glad I didn’t back out because it was so meaningful to both of us.

  • carrie

    A friend of mine suggested that if you want the spontaneous toasts from anyone who wants to give one, do it at the rehearsal dinner. Hopefully it doesn’t go the way of Rachel Getting Married, but this seems like a great opportunity for it.

    Thanks for this post, so very timely!

    • Meredyth

      Oh man, the scene in that movie had me hiding my eyes! We’re doing open mic toasts and I’ve told people beforehand and also said to keep it clean and short, but the possibility of such a toast as this leaves me anxious still.

  • Kassy

    I second the advice to think long and hard about open mic toasts. We thought this would be a great idea. All our friends and family having the opportunity to get up and say how much they love us! What could go wrong with that? Well, nothing too terrible. We did get some dubious marital advice, but it was well-intentioned, at least. But it turns out that my husband’s friends are much more comfortable with public speaking than mine, and since he invited practically everyone he’d ever known–most of whom had never met me or had met me only one or two times–there was A LOT of “Kassy, I don’t really know you, but you seem to make Brandon happy…” That got old pretty fast.

    Also, if you are giving a toast, you might just run the major points past the bride and groom to make sure you’re not letting any cats out of the proverbial bag. At my best friend’s wedding, my MOH toast was very well-received by the guests, but the bride confided in me later that evening that while my toast began, “As you already know, J and A met online…” most people HADN’T known that. I had no clue it was a secret. Ooops.

    On the whole, though, I love toasts at all weddings, and really enjoyed the ones given at mine.

  • For anyone doing a toast, I would highly recommend checking out toastmaster’s. They have some free tips and whatnot on their website (

    I don’t do it (although I’ll be starting this fall), but my partner has been participating for about a year, and his public speaking abilities have dramatically improved (and he’s a shy guy).

    Try to only bring up an outline, not a word-for-word transcript of what you want to say. Reading off of a sheet of paper isn’t nearly as engaging as truly speaking to your audience, and it’s much more likely that you’ll stumble or trip up, or feel like you need to start a sentence again if you misread a word. I recently attended a wedding where the maid of honour’s speech got 10x better when she went off on a short unscripted tangent, lost her place in her notes, and had to finish by ad-libbing.

    Finally, I have a last-minute cheat toast that worked for me when I was a maid of honour and nobody told me that I had to do a speech until the DAY BEFORE – I wrote a short mad libs about the bride and groom, asked guests for *clean* adjectives, nouns, and verbs, and read the results. It was really fun, I got a lot of compliments on it, and it saved me from staying up all night trying to write a speech!

    • Edelweiss

      I heart The Mad-Libs idea like crazy! It makes me want to be a MOH again so I can steal that.

  • He Said What?

    My question is – what do you do when you just don’t trust one of the speech-givers? Our best man has a somewhat skewed sense of propriety, and is one of those people who thinks it’s fun to wind others up. I’ve been feeling for some time that he doesn’t have a feel for the importance of his role, and I’m increasingly terrified that he’s going to take the speech as a chance to ruffle some feathers. “As a laugh”, of course… :S The groom’s family know he’s been fairly wild, but mine have no idea about some of the things I got up to at university, and the best man is a mutual friend. Would it be totally out of order to ask for some kind of copy approval? Can I drop hints (I’m worried that’ll just make him even more determined)? Or should I just chill the heck out?

    • Geepuff

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a gentle reminder about what a wedding toast is supposed to be and in front of whom he’ll be giving the toast.

      Or, you could make an overall pronouncement to everyone giving a toast that any “questionable” remarks made in a toast will get the mic turned off and the speaker cut off (from the bar). Making it a rule for everyone and explaining why (my granny will be there and she still thinks I’m and angle baby straight from heaven, or whatever) might go over better than singling out the best man as a trouble maker.

      • He Said What?

        The other two speakers are me and my fiancé so a blanket reminder is still pretty pointed – but gentle reminders can be done. His girlfriend is my chief bridesmaid so I will try to enlist her.

        I have a horror story too – although it was witnessed by my hairdresser, not me. They went to a wedding where the best man had recorded the groom interacting with the stripper at his stag (bachelor) party – and then played the video during his speech. Apparently it was met with a total, stunned silence.

        • :-o

          Ooohhh nooooooo.

        • liz

          i shuddered when i read that.

  • Bubbles

    If you’re giving a toast, DON’T FORGET TO MAKE IT A TOAST! I was at a wedding recently, and none of the toasts ended with, “To Mr. and Mrs. Newlyweds!” As a result, none of the guests knew when to drink their champagne.

    • Stephasaurus

      When I gave my MOH toast at my friend’s wedding a few months ago, it technically wasn’t a toast…right after I finished the speech, people started applauding immediately and didn’t give me a chance to actually toast! But hey, instant applause is a good thing, I guess? :)

      Plus, in every wedding I’ve been to where people leave out that last phrase, no one ever seems to care, and people always drink their champagne anyway!

  • Geepuff

    Maybe this is just a southern thing (or a “my family is kind of wacky” thing), but I’ve been to maybe 2 weddings where toasts were given at the actual wedding. I usually only see toasts at the rehearsal dinner, and then everyone is invited to speak and the father of the groom wraps things up, typically after the drunkest groomsman has been politely excused from the party.

    I guess what I’m saying is that there’s no rule that says you have to have toasts at your reception. The fella and I are having a laid back party in a barn and I think toasts would be entirely too formal for the setting. Plus, we’ve paid the band already, I want to get as much mileage out of that money as possible.

  • Jes

    I could have used this advice last year. I was to give a toast and barely jotted down anything for notes. I wound up covered in snot and tears unable to say anything except for “I’m just so happy for you guys.” It was embarrassing to say the least (and I swear I hadn’t started drinking yet). Practicing is extremely important. The next wedding I gave a speech for I was prepared. Writing everything out may not have been as natural sounding, but at least I got more than five words out!

  • Katie

    Keep it short. Keep it short. Keep it short. I love my brother in law to death, but his speech topped out around 15 minutes and the guests were really antsy (and some were outright rude, which is not cool). I actually had no clue it was going on for so long cause I was in my happy haze, but for the good of all who are there – keep it short. Editing is your friend.

  • Ah great post- it reminded me to print out my MOH speech before we head to the hotel/venue for the weekend! I had about 6 different ideas for my sister’s MOH toast, in the end, it came to me all at once at 8 AM one morning. I struggled with keeping myself out of it and still making it personal- because I only know what my sister and her fiance are like when I’m there. The three of us are also very close, and it is important to my sister and I how much I get along with her fiance. In the end I walked that fine line, I am in the speech but not too much. I didn’t try to be funny, but when I read it to my friends and boyfriend they laughed-not a hearty guffaw, but a nice chuckle, that’s all I need. I’ll report back after the I’ve actually given the toast!

    • Print it out, and then maybe give them a copy of it too. Things like that are nice to have.

  • My MOH’s (I had two) split a reading as their speech. Our best man was a bit toasted and talked about how he doesn’t have feelings but we showed him how to love (he’s… a bit odd, but a lovely man). My mom read us a book she wrote, my FIL was short and sweet and my dad read a bible passage and talked about faith and love in marriages. All across the board but they were each special.

    Alyssa gave fantastic advice! I do agree with other commenters, especially about keeping it short. But other than that, you’ll be fantastic.

  • Amber

    We didn’t have toasts. We didn’t want to force people to get up and have to give an awkward speech. And we don’t need people getting up and telling us how great we are.

    • meg

      Well, though, I’ll tell you what. Most people are not forced, they are honored, to speak about you, and they don’t want you to take that away. Like lots of things wedding related, toasts aren’t for you, they are for them.

      Though in the end, they kind of are for you (surprise twist!). While I don’t need people telling me I’m great, that 15 minutes of people telling us how much they *loved* us and how devoted they were to supporting our marriage… well…. that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

      • liz

        this is way true. my sister confessed to me that she was scared out of her pants to give a speech. i hadn’t really thought about it so i shrugged, “okay. no speech. that’s no problem.”

        and she gave me puppy dog eyes, “NOOO. i WANT to! i’m just scared about it.”

        • That is a-frickin’-dorable, Liz! And yeah, I think a lot of people want the opportunity to give the toast but are scared/worried about the performance aspect of it, so it’s lovely if the bride and groom make it clear that this doesn’t need to be The Best Speech Ever (TM).

  • kyley

    After delivering what I consider a bang up MOH speech, and hearing a number of other wonderful ones here is what I consider the perfect wedding speech formula:

    Part 1: I love you both so much.
    Part 2: A lovely anecdote about their relationship and how awesome they are. (Try to stay away from something just about about the bride or groom, but about them as a couple. Talking about primarily the bride or groom withint the context of their relationship and their love can be lovely, too, if that’s your relationship to the couple.) This should be the bulk of your speech.
    Part 3: I hope you are always as happy, joyous, and in love as that moment. OR This proves how purmadly in love you two are. May you continue to be an inspiration to us all. Etc.
    Part 4. Everyone drinks!

    Keep it short and sweet, and it will be a homerun everytime.

    • Stephasaurus

      That’s pretty much EXACTLY how I outlined mine too (and everyone loved it). I also threw in a couple inside jokes about the bride and myself…but they were more anecdotes about silly things we did when we were kids, rather than actual “inside jokes,” so the audience didn’t feel left out — instead, they had a good chuckle. It went really well; people laughed in all the right places, and it was a good combination of humorous and touching. It’s not hard, it just takes some thought, some practice, and maybe just a little bit of wine before you actually speak. ;)

    • suzanna

      Yes to this outline. Solid. Gold. Seriously, people. That’s all you need.

  • Meredyth

    Off topic but, DC APW ladies, any suggestions about officiants in the VA area? Our wedding is a month from yesterday and we should have gotten that thing in lock down ages ago. We want someone who’s reasonable, both in the ceremony wording and in the price. I am sure some of you have suggestions on who to use or where to look. Thank you!

    • I’m not from DC/Virginia, but I suggest you inquire with your local UU minister. They’re usually pretty flexible about content/structure of the wedding, but fees vary person to person. Also, if you have a coordinator at your venue, ask them! They work with vendors and officiants all the time and might have a suggestion. Good luck!!

    • Marley

      Find the DC APW group on facebook! There should be ladies who can help!!

  • bri

    This is getting so bookmarked.

    A Question: Do the same people who give toasts at the rehersal dinner give toasts at the wedding? I’m curious how people have dealt with that overlap (especially since it looks like half our wedding will be at said dinner…)

    • Do you have to do toasts at both? I’d say you don’t.

    • liz

      weddings i’ve been to, it was the parents at the rehearsal dinner and then the maid of honor and best man at the wedding. dunno if that’s a “set rule” or not. just what i’ve seen.

      at ours, WE toasted everyone else at our rehearsal dinner (people had spent all day setting up chairs and putting candles out and then being bossed around by me to put the candles out a different way… those folks deserved an effing toast), and then our best man/maid of honor did toasts at the wedding.

  • Tori

    I’m going to repeat this tip: if you’re going to reference a difficult time in the bride and/or groom’s life in your toast, LET THEM KNOW. Our Best Man and Best Lady kicked ass with their toasts, but they both mentioned sour times from a few years back. As a result, I cried hard, ugly tears. A warning shot would have been appreciated.

    • Robin

      YES. My dad’s toast was nothing short of HUGELY inappropriate, and frankly, I’m not really over it yet (20 months later). What I *think* he meant to say, was something about how I was a challenging kid, but look how great I turned out, and proud he was etc. Except, what he ACTUALLY said….was a really long recap of how difficult I was as a younger person, and how I gave him a run for his money as a parent. Period, the end. It was seriously uncomfortable for EVERYONE. I thought my husband was going to punch him, and it took all of me to box it up and not let it ruin the night. And every single person there said something about it to me or my husband afterwards, and asked if I was ok.

      • I’m sorry, Robin. That sucks for you. Hugs.

      • liz

        that makes me sad for you robin.

        sometimes dads are a little emotionally constipated.

        i think you’re kickass, ps. “rough childhood” or no.

        • Robin

          Liz, he wins that prize. They should have had that as a father’s day card. Especially because, to date, he has NO idea that there was something wrong with what he said.

          At least my sister’s toast was amazing. And had numerous people crying in a good way. So there was that.

          • Danielle

            Maybe you can make that Father’s Day card. Seems like he might appreciate the subtlety ;)

  • I hadn’t thought we’d had toasts, until I read this. While they weren’t toasts exactly, we did have a few small “speeches” at our family dinner the night before. We stood up together and thanked everyone for coming. My parents stood up and welcomed my husband into the family and gave him some welcome gifts. My grandpa stood up and welcomed my husband into the family and included him in some family traditions. His parents stood up and welcomed me into the family. And then we stood back up and explained some of the smaller details of our wedding and what they meant to us (which prompted one of his aunts to go home and add two more details to a wall plaque she had made for us) and he gave me a gift.

    I knew from my siblings’ weddings what my parents would say and do. So we just let his family know so they wouldn’t feel caught off guard and could prepare something if they’d like.

    It was great.

  • Christy A.

    I loved our best man’s toast. It was completely meaningful and heartfelt, but unforgettable because instead of going for the laughs with what we said he walked up to the mike with “PLEASE, HOLD YOUR APPLAUSE ‘TILL THE END” written in Sharpie block letters on the back of his speech notes. It got a big laugh and everything was hunkey-dorey until my estranged and way-too-buzzed father decided to be helpful by shouting during his speech that he could read his notes through the back of his paper. So THAT’s where all the wine had gone…good times!

  • I had the unfortunate opportunity to witness a toast that was more roast than toast. The father-of-the-bride stood up and talked about all the messes he had been cleaning up after her in her adult life (financial and the like) and how now it would be her husbands job. Can you feel the awkwardness that was there?

    • meg

      OUCH. Can we add “toast that was more of a roast” to the Do Not Do list???

    • Danielle

      Oh dear Lord. Sounds like this dad should meet up with Robin’s dad and go bowling or something.

  • MamaMelli

    I attended a wedding where the original MOH had quit shortly before the wedding, and the poor bride had to upgrade one of her original bridesmaids to the MOH role. She chose her oldest friend, which has its obvious advantages, except that they clearly hadn’t spoken very much for a while. The replacement MOH stood up and said, “I knew it was serious when B called to tell me that she was moving from Florida to PA for D!” The couple had dated for 2 years before the bride moved to be with the groom. Major major cringe-worthy!

  • Tegan

    Best best-man speech I ever heard was my stepbrother’s best friend from high school. The guy was wild (as in, had to have his kidney replaced, his mother volunteered one of hers, and he STILL goes out drinking heavily every night…), and DURING the wedding casually strolled up to people (my sister among them) and went “so… recommendations for a speech?”

    But in the end, he got up there, made a crack about how he was sure everyone was wondering “what joe would say”, and told a super touching story about how he and the groom were super close, and how the groom would probably call him on his honeymoon because if they don’t talk, something has clearly happened! It was short, it was sweet, and it was unexpectedly good — all in all, a good speech.

    • meg

      “so… recommendations for a speech?”

      That’s going to be my new line, next time I give one. Awesome.

    • sushi

      I witnessed the flipside of that – was at a wedding where myself and another friend spent the last two courses trying to prep the drunk and unprepared best man with something vaguely appropriate to say in his impending speech. Who then went up and told a long rambling story about how he used to go drinking with the groom down by the river as teenagers and how nervous the groom was with women, while everyone tried to crawl under their seats in embarrassment. Oy.

  • Lizzie

    I was MOH at my friend’s wedding a couple years ago and was pretty nervous about the toast, but I ended up having a grand old time with it. Even at my best, I’m a notorious procrastinator, and the week before the wedding was one of the worst of my life (major medical emergency in my family, majorly important client meeting at a job that I’d been at for only a couple months, very little sleep), so I’d sorta practiced once in a car with a coworker who barely knew me and had looked at me skeptically and asked, “Are you really going to tell that story?” At that point, I panicked, because if I wasn’t going to tell that story (which I’d been planning – and yes, threatening – to tell at their wedding for almost 10 years), I had no idea what I was going to say.

    I stuck with my instinct and told it – it was the story of their first kiss, in a freshman dorm room the night before fall semester finals started. It happened after hours of whispering, and what they had said at the time was, well, just a little embarrassing but also adorably earnest and impossibly sweet. And I knew it was all true because I was there in the next bed trying desperately to not let them know that I couldn’t fall asleep. So after I outed the embarrassing/adorable things they had said to each other, and rolled my eyes just a little, I turned them around and used the same words to say how much I loved both of them and how amazing their relationship was, which my sardonic self would never would have been able to say in such a public setting in any other way. Then I surprised myself by tearing up. I’d messed up some of the other MOH duties pretty badly (like missing the bachelorette party that I’d planned for that Thursday and not finishing the huppah until the morning of the wedding because of the personal craziness I was in the middle of), but this one I knocked out of the park.

    So I guess I’d say that the teasing/embarrassing/unrehearsed toast can definitely go badly and I wouldn’t necessarily risk it a second time, but if you know yourself, and if you’re the right person to be giving the toast, and if find a sincere voice for it, it can be pretty awesome.

  • Kat

    Worst wedding speech ever (witnessed by a friend of ours who was the best man at this wedding) –
    During an open mic moment a guy got up and talked about his previous relationship with the bride, how amazing she was and how he still had feelings for her, then he walked out of the reception.

    Can you say awkward?

    • Mary Jane Swansson

      What do you do if someone wants to give a speech, but you don’t want to? What’s the best way to turn them down without hurting their feelings?

      My father is notorious for ruffling feathers with what he says, making making inappropriate jokes, taking “light hearted” jabs at my mother (whom he has been bitterly divorced from for over fifteen years) & her family, etc. He also makes racist/dirty jokes on occasion (he comes from Scandinavia, where making n-word jokes is like making mother-in-law jokes, here). We have tried reigning him in, in the past, and he simply believes that everyone else lacks a sense of humor, if they don’t find him funny, or find him offensive.

      I have already compromised on letting him walk me down the aisle, as opposed to walking alone. I knew that meant a lot to him. But as bad as this is to say, I can not trust him speaking in front of 300+ people.

      I am considering just having him speak at the rehearsal dinner, along with my fiance’s mother, and then having my mother & my fiance’s father speak at the actual wedding. That way everyone “gets a turn”, and I only have to worry about my dad making an ass out of himself in front of our bridal parties & people who already expect this out of him.

      But, I have not broached this with my dad, yet. Any advice would be great.

      • Read a little ways up the comments, sweetie, there are some good recommendations up there.

  • april

    My best lady completely and totally FAILED at the toast. Immediately went into how much fun she and I have had the last 14 years shopping and drinking together. Which is true, but not exactly “wedding material”. I would have preferred that 65 people NOT hear about my propensity for splurging on shoes and drinking… *sigh* She said “Cheers to my girl”….. “Oh and to her guy.” Nice. My husband and love of my life – the afterthought. =/

    Worse? We have it on video. I was so disappointed. At the brunch the day after the wedding, she asked me what I thought of her “off the cuff words”, and I flatly told her that it wasn’t what I expected, given the fact my husband and I have a great “how they met” story, and she could’ve brought down the house with our “They met in Paris on a blind-date”. It’s true. It’s an easy, quick, story. And she was also in Paris with me on vacation and saw it firsthand. MEH. Apparently, I’m still getting over it…

    So: if you’re asked to give a toast – at any occasion, not just weddings – PREPARE SOMETHING. Give it some thought. And then say something kind and thoughtful.

  • Jessie

    Has anybody had any experience having a wedding without toasts entirely? We’re considering this, and I’m wondering whether we’ll have any problems with our guests. Of course, we would talk to people like our parents ahead of time and tell them that we don’t want them to speak, so they don’t end up surprised at the wedding. I’m a little afraid, however, that even if we do that, certain guests will decide to take it upon themselves to start toasting… but I don’t know who they are, so I’m not sure I can speak to them privately beforehand! Additionally, I’m not sure that our parents will be okay with the lack of toasts. They certainly expect the opportunity to say something, and while my father has said that he will do whatever we want, he’s not thrilled about the idea of not getting to talk.

    The reason I would want there not to be toasts is that think I would find the whole experience really embarrassing. At our engagement party, my future father-in-law gave a lengthy toast about how accomplished we both were, and I remember feeling my face get bright red and wanting to go hide under the table. He certainly meant well, but I was uncomfortable hearing him boasting about our educations and our degrees to his extended family, many of whom had never met me before that, as opposed to anything about our relationship. Moreover, I just generally dislike having a big spotlight on me, but I know that’s hard to avoid during a wedding! Anyone feel similarly and how did you deal with it?

  • Kelsi

    DESIGNATE SOMEONE TO CUT THE TOASTS OFF AHEAD OF TIME! The dreaded “open mic night” can easily happen if whoever is giving the final toast does not indicate that toasts are done.
    Other than my brother, I made the mistake of not talking to folks in advance about toasts. The week was just too hectic and is slipped through the cracks to have a plan.
    At our wedding last weekend, my brother (man of honor), father, bridesmaid, and brother-in-law all gave sweet, surprising, and moving toasts. Then, because there was no designated transition, my loving aunt got up to serenade us with her a capella version of Van Morrison’s “Moon Dance”. It was a surprise at first (knew she was a little bit “in her cups”) but then went on a little too long and awkward – she really belted it out. Then other auntie got up to tell a rambling story about how I was a little brat when I was a kid. Great.
    Thank god my amazing brother took the subtle cue to jump up and thank everyone for coming and to enjoy their cake. Saved but still blushing.

  • Marley

    My sister/MOH recently asked if it would be okay for her to give a group toast along with my other sister and brother. We’ll have to stay tuned to see how that turns out, but if it puts her at ease and also includes more people I love I have reason to believe it will make it great!

  • TP

    My boyfriend was the man of honor for his brother’s wedding. Leading up to the wedding, I asked him a couple of times about what he was going to say. He didn’t even know if there would be toasts and refused to just ask. So as we were walking around the reception hall, the wedding planner came up to us and told him the toast would be in 15 minutes. Ummm, ok… Hehe, I panicked for him, but he gave the most touching speech about the bride becoming part of his close-knit, small family. Earlier in the day, she had asked him what is was like to now have a sister, so he mentioned that in his speech and how exciting it was to have a sister, a new member of his family. It was the sweetest speech I’ve ever heard; everyone was shedding tears. His off the cuff speech was the highlight of the night, in my unbiased opinion.

  • Natalia

    Hi I need help writing a toast as I won’t be at My sister’s wedding because my ex husband won’t give my son the child permit to go to my sister’s wedding which is abroad. So it is with deep sadness that I must write a speech to wish them happiness but also let them know how much it hurts me to not be able to be there…

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