While it’s not a steadfast requirement, a groom's speech adds a powerful pre or post-dinner touch to the wedding if you address the crowd for a few short minutes. I’m confident that when you finish this article, you’ll actually WANT to say a few words.
Meet the Expert
Pete Honsberger has been a serial groomsman, speaker, and wedding toast advisor for most of his adult life. When it comes to wedding toasts, he's seen just about everything.
As a guy who grabbed the mic at my own wedding, and who has spent years cultivating wedding speech stories for my book Wedding Toasts 101: The Guide to the Perfect Wedding Speech, I can honestly say that it’s a beautiful moment and one you won’t want to skip.
And here’s the best part: Reading this is the only major preparation you’ll need to complete. So follow me and let’s set you up for success!
Groom Speech Tips
You only need a few minutes to prepare, and about two minutes to deliver your speech. This is your chance to recognize the hard work that others (and you) have put into this amazing day, to thank everyone for giving you the gifts of their time (and money, haha!), and to add another twinkle in your love’s eyes.
My advice? Keep it brief, but make it count. From my experience and those that I’ve witnessed, it’s so worth it.
Groom Speech Preparation
In my experience, you won’t need more than 15 minutes to complete all the steps in advance. Just be sure to have a tidbit for each and you’ll look like a pro. Most importantly, you’ll show the crowd, your family, and your partner that you genuinely appreciate them.
On the big day, it's customary to give your speech either right before or right after dinner is served. You'll want to speak to your planner in advance about fitting your toast into the reception timeline, but once it's go-time, simply gesture for a microphone and ask for the guests’ attention.
Groom Speech Template
To begin, simply prepare these five steps.
Step 1: Give Thanks
Regardless of wedding size, you’ve had people traveling distances and giving their time to be in attendance. Most (and hopefully all) have brought you gifts, many of the pieces of green paper that will serve you very well as you start your new life. And even more than that, they deemed you important enough to spend a day of their lives participating in your celebration.
Any and all of these efforts deserve a huge thanks. Now’s your chance to share that gratitude with everyone directly. In spite of our best efforts, my wife and I were not able to physically speak to every one of our 284 guests during our 2018 wedding. You likely won’t either, so use this opportunity to address everyone at once, and don’t forget to put some emotion on display.
For example, a simple way to thank everyone would be to say:
"The only thing I want to say is WOW. People have told me this would be the best day of my life, and I can honestly say it’s true, because of all of you (pointing at the crowd), and especially you (pointing at your partner). I cannot thank you all enough for being here."
You may choose to keep it even more simple, perhaps something like:
"I’m a lucky guy. To have friends like you, family like the [your last name]s, in-laws like the [in-laws’ last name]s, and a wife like [name of your partner] is all I could ever ask for. Thank you to everyone…and don’t let me down on the dance floor."
Whatever you do, make sure to show love and respect for your in-laws. Whether they contributed $1 or $100,000 to the wedding, remember that you’re marrying them as well as your partner.
Step 2: Give One Compliment to Your Partner
At its root, this person is what your wedding day is all about. Cue up a classy and perhaps playful compliment about their dress or tux, the work they did to make the day possible, their patience in dealing with you, their resilience in wedding planning while you were out of town on a business trip, or simply their unwavering love throughout a challenging process.
If you’re currently planning your wedding, you know exactly what I mean by “challenging process.” With so much to do and so many decisions to be made, there’s no way it could have gotten done without your better half.
Tell them this publicly. You only need one or two lines to share your appreciation and to make their eyes sparkle and their face blush with slightly embarrassed happiness.
“[Name of your partner], I’ll never forget seeing you walk down the aisle today. You are beautiful in more ways than I can count.”
If you know your partner would prefer something playful/funny, you can put on a very serious face and then say something like:
“[Name of your partner], you must be a parking ticket because you have FINE written all over you right now!”
Then pause for the inevitable roar in the room.
Step 3: Recall One Memory
You don’t have a lot of time for this, so pick out one noteworthy anecdote or short memory from your relationship, from the wedding planning process, or from your interactions with their family and friends. Share your most compelling and enthusiastic version of that story and you’ll delight the whole crowd.
You may have already been through the best man and maid of honor toasts, so this is your chance to toss in your two cents. The people don’t need a whole nickel here, so to speak, just two cents will do. Keep it short and sweet, and be sure to share something that hasn’t already been said.
“When [name of partner] and I first met, we talked for hours until our friends all wanted to leave. I started to panic since I didn’t want to stop getting to know them. So I suggested we keep the party going by getting some pizza while everyone else went home. We’re only here tonight because my [husband or wife] likes pizza!”
Here’s another idea:
“When I first met my father-in-law, he asked me what my intentions were with his daughter. I told him it was to treat her like a queen no matter where the relationship went. That’s what I said out loud. What I really meant was, ‘my intentions are to survive through this meal’. But I’ve made it this far!”
Step 4: Share One Reception Comment
Whether it’s about the dinner being currently served, the signature cocktail available at the bar, the DJ/band, or the overall atmosphere in the reception hall, pull out one comment to share aloud related to the evening’s experience.
The purpose of this is to connect the whole room with your vision for the night. If you want the dance floor absolutely packed, speak it into existence. If you have a specially requested song you want to tease, mention it here.
For example, my wedding included a Serbian dance called the “Kolo” in the middle of the reception. This was an opportunity for me to speak to that contingent of guests, to let them know that we would be participating in that tradition. For the uninitiated in that culture, it was an invitation to learn something new in a fun way. The pictures of that dance speak for themselves—a joyous mixture of great and horrible Kolo dancing from guests of several different backgrounds having fun together.
Maybe your reception comment is about a special treat that someone’s grandmother has added to the dessert table. Or maybe the décor was chosen for a personal reason. Heck, this is even an opportunity to explain the table favors and how you want people to enjoy them.
“You might notice the noise-makers in the middle of your table right now. And you might be wondering why those are there. All I can say is to put one in your pocket now and trust me. You’ll know when it’s time to use them.”
Step 5: Give Thanks Again
One more round of thanks will put a bow on your short, sweet, and powerful groom toast. If there’s anyone you forgot to thank the first time, now’s your chance. For your new spouse, their family, and yours, this is one more well-deserved shout-out to them.
It may be in your favor to mention the priest or officiant of the wedding, as well as the staff who is working hard to make the reception flawless and fun for the guests. A half-joking “please give an extra scoop of the mac & cheese to Uncle John and pour the drinks strong for my college friends” will earn you a good-hearted chuckle as you wrap things up.
You’re welcome to ask people to raise a glass to share a toast. May I suggest, however, that the toast is to your partner, your families, and all of the friends here tonight.
What to Know About Virtual Toasts
If the wedding was unexpectedly modified, made virtual, or downsized due to conditions outside of your control, then attendees have gone through even more to be present. If they are attending via Zoom or live stream, they’re sending the message that they’ll be there for you even if they can’t enjoy the open bar (which, let’s be honest, is a sacrifice).
At my brother’s wedding in the summer of 2020, a party of 200 was reduced to about 50. Those who attended went to great lengths to still be there amidst uncertainty. So many would-be-guests showed their love in different ways, like commenting/making song requests on the live stream, pre-recording messages of congratulations for the couple, replicating the reception in their own homes by dressing up to dance in their living rooms and so many others. While it should have been sad to have loved ones miss out in-person, the creativity and support were overwhelming and absolutely unforgettable.
Remember this when preparing your speech and adjust steps one, four, and five accordingly. After all, your goal is to connect with everyone on Zoom just as you want to connect with every guest in the room.
Congrats! Now that you've mastered your toast, feel free to share the below link with your best man to ensure that his speech is just as impactful.