The Definitive Guide to Wedding Toasts

For better or worse, your wedding toasts will be remembered for a long time.

Groomsman delivering wedding toast

​MK Sadler 

Toasts can be the best part of a wedding reception, or they can be the worst part. The great wedding toasts are truly memorable, bring tears to guests’ eyes, and are talked about for days after the event. The bad ones? Well, those go down in history, too. They can be embarrassing and uncomfortable—or might just be downright boring. There's really no one to blame for this occurrence. The mix of various age ranges, an audience mainly comprised of people you really don't know, all those emotions you've been dealing with, the sheer exhaustion of the day's (or week's) events, and presence of alcohol can make for plenty of difficult obstacles to maneuver around. The best way to handle this situation is to adequately prepare yourself ahead of time. And maybe rethink some of those celebratory shots—at least until after you've delivered your speech.

Want to make sure your wedding toasts are forever heralded for sheer brilliance, instead of going down the doomed path to infamy? Here are some key tips to make sure those speeches are everything you wanted and more.

Wedding Toast Template

Okay, first things first: The easiest way to give the best wedding speech of all time is to get your thoughts in order and establish a nice flow. Here are some of the key features your toast should include.

1. Identify yourself. Chances are there are a few people in attendance that have no idea who you are. Take a second to briefly introduce yourself and explain your relationship to the couple. Consider who might be speaking before you, and if they will reference you, to better plan how your own intro will sound following them.

2. Thank the hosts. Let's not forget who actually made it possible (aka footed the bill) for this whole shindig in the first place. Your first thoughts should be an expression of gratitude to whoever is hosting this event, usually one or both sets of parents, or more modernly, the newlyweds themselves. An acknowledgment of all the guests in attendance—or your audience—can go a long way, as well.

3. Congratulate the newlyweds. This is the whole reason why you're here, so don't let the seemingly obvious slip your mind. Make sure to applaud the union of the couple and provide a few words and well wishes for their future.

4. Pepper in personal stories. Your value as a toast-maker is your close relationship with the newlyweds and first-hand experiences with them either solo or as a unit. Share some of those stories with the rest of their family and friends to bring their bond to life. Ideally, add an anecdote about the point in their relationship when they knew they had found their person. If you are closer with one of them, or have had limited interactions with them as a couple, take this opportunity to share some of your favorite characteristics about your BFF for the guests, or newly-minted in-laws, that may not know them so well. Try to link these personality traits to their new spouse and how they might complement each other.

Wedding Toast Tips

Once you've found your personal rhythm, follow some of these tips to ensure you nail the delivery of your wedding toast.

1. Speak to both halves of the couple. Even if you know one much better than the other, it's important to remember that you are celebrating their relationship together. Not your relationship with your best friend. If you only talk about one entity, you'll be alienating at least half of the guests in attendance who may only know their counterpart.

If you don't know one half of the couple all that well, try to discuss ways that they've made the newlywed that you do know a better person or are a fitting match to their attributes or lifestyle.

2. Keep personal stories in good taste. Keep in mind who your audience is. It is usually comprised of multiple generations of your BFF's close family, friends, and even work colleagues. Don't tell any stories that may come across as inappropriate or that grandma might not want to hear. Similarly, your friend's boss really doesn't need to know any details about how the bachelor party went down.

3. Don't mention exes. Similar to the previous statement, remember who is listening to your toast. Even if you think talking about how bad your buddy's ex was would flatter their new spouse, it's better to refrain from any negative statements altogether. Keep your tone light and positive, and always bring it back to the newlyweds and the present moment.

4. Be yourself. Stay true to your own personality and don't try to put on a show for the crowd. If you're normally the sentimental friend, let your words reflect that side of you instead of trying to come up with an open mic set. Your best friends will definitely be able to tell that you're not being genuine, and even the crowd can usually pick up on something being amiss.

5. Time it. Great toasts are usually around five minutes long—enough time to share a few sweet memories or sentiments, but not so long that guests lose interest. Rehearse your speech several times before the big day to make sure you've got the time down, and also to memorize the key points you want to make. Practice your toast out loud, instead of running through the words in your head. This can make a big difference in timing and allows you to hear any parts that might sound off and need revision.

6. Be mindful of body language. A great speech isn't just a witty compilation of words, it's also about the delivery. Make sure you're standing tall—never, ever remain seated—and exuding confidence, in a location where everyone can see you (otherwise they will tune you out). Don't cross your arms or keep your hands in your pockets, as this comes across as distant, and make sure to keep the mic at mouth level so everyone can hear you. Don't forget eye contact.

Practice delivering your toast in a mirror so you can take note of your gestures and positioning. Make any tweaks you deem necessary to perfect it.

7. Don't forget to smile! This should go without saying, but there are times when those public-speaking jitters get the better of you and that lighthearted speech ends up being delivered with a painful grimace. Remember: You're talking about a couple that you know and love and have probably shared a ton of laughs with. Make sure that your face reflects the love in your heart with a great, big grin. If you feel your nerves getting the better of you, look at your BFF—aka the subject of your toast—while you recite your speech and forget about the crowd.

8. Keep drinks to a minimum. A glass of bubbly before giving a toast can do wonders to take the edge off and loosen you up a bit. But try to stick to one glass, and remember this throughout the day (hello, pre-ceremony shots and getting-ready drinks), too much alcohol can turn your carefully crafted sentiments into a big, slurred mess.

Get Brainstorming!

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to start brainstorming ideas for your speech.

  • Who is speaking immediately before or after you, and how will this affect the content of your speech? (Perhaps you would want to include a reference to their toast.)
  • What is the general tone you want your words to reflect? Joyful? Serious? Funny? Sentimental?
  • Are there any specific themes in the couple's relationship or life you want to highlight? What are some anecdotes that fit those themes and bring them to life?
  • What's a memory of the newlyweds that instantly comes to mind and always makes you smile?
  • When you picture the couple's life together in a few years (or from this moment forward) what do you see?
  • How will you wrap things up and ask everyone to join you in toasting the newlyweds? (Cheers? Please raise a glass...? On that note...? L'chaim?)

Common Questions

1. Who speaks? Wedding toasts are usually given by three important parties: The hosts, the maid of honor and best man, and the couple themselves. If the parents of the bride are hosting, they’ll give a speech at the reception, while the parents of the groom will usually speak at the rehearsal dinner (particularly if they are hosting that event). Alternately, the parents of the groom may speak during the reception as well.

2. Does the bride speak? Traditionally, the bride does not formally address the wedding guests and it is the responsibility of the groom to deliver their sentiments as a couple. Of course, this custom is not set in stone and many a modern woman has taken the mic into her own hands and spoken a few words. However, it does provide a great excuse for any public speaking averse brides out there.

3. When should they speak? The order and timing of toasts can vary widely. Often, the father of the bride or the hosts of the event will give a toast as soon as guests have seated for dinner, thanking them for attending and congratulating the newlyweds. This will be followed by the best man and maid of honor, who may speak immediately following the hosts or later during dinner service. The final toast is by the newlyweds, who again can immediately follow the best man and maid of honor, or who can choose to save their toast until the end of the meal, concluding their toast with an invitation to the dance floor. If the parents of the groom are planning to speak during the reception, their toast should occur after the parents of the bride, before the maid of honor and best man.

Still at a loss for words? Check out some of these tried-and-true quotes and sentiments to inspire your own wedding toast.

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