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The How-To Lounge: Reception Speech and Toast Etiquette

While the toasts at a rehearsal dinner are casual, the wedding reception usually has its own set of more formal speeches. Having planned speeches at your wedding is in no way mandatory, but if you don’t account for them, they’re likely to happen anyway, so before the big day, it’s best to sit down for a few minutes to plan them out. To check out my tips on reception speech etiquette,

  • It’s a good idea to check in with your parents, maid of honor, and best man to see who would like to make a toast versus those who’d rather not. Usually at least one parent from either side will give a thank you toast to the guests and some words for the future. However, often parents like to propose a toast together, so talk with them to decide what works for your wedding.
  • Once you know who’ll be speaking, decide the lineup. Usually the best man will begin the process and the bride and groom will end it, but the order is truly discretionary.
  • The bride and groom should set aside an appropriate time for speeches — typically they take place just after everyone has been seated for dinner and all of the drinks have been poured, but it’s fairly common to have them after the cake has been cut as well.
  • It’s important that everyone speaking takes some time before the big day to prepare. This doesn’t need to be typed out and printed, but it’s smart to at least have an idea of what you're going to say.
  • Perhaps most important is to keep it short! I’d recommend no more than three to five minutes per person. Obviously, if you’re only having a toast or two, they can be longer, but watch out because speeches really can add up. Guests will get antsy if they go on too long, and really, who wants to waste the reception toasting when you could be dancing?
  • For the family and attendants: Don’t try too hard to make it extra funny, cute, or sentimental. You really don’t need a shtick to make a good toast. While it’s typical to include a small anecdote, make sure your stories don't get too personal. It’s best to keep things general so all the guests can appreciate what you’re saying.
  • For the bride and groom: Make sure to thank your guests for coming and being part of your important day. And don't forget to take a few seconds to acknowledge the people who put in the most time and effort.

While many people end up winging their speeches and toasts, I don’t recommend it. Just a touch of foresight can still leave room for some spontaneous words without the worry!

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Join The Conversation
kikidawn kikidawn 9 years
emilie11, My guy's bf is pretty cool guy, but he can be obnoxious when drunk - and no telling what he'd say like the story you told. I am going to have to impose a strict no drinking rule for him until the speeches are done. I am going to be so mad if he says something inappropriate ... my grandparents will be there!
emilie11 emilie11 9 years
kikidawn, I totally agree with you. I was at a wedding a couple weeks ago and the best man started his speech with: "I was told that my speech shouldn't last longer than it takes (the groom) to make love to his new wife tonight" awkward!!!
geekygirl geekygirl 9 years
i'm 'best man' (woman) for my brother at his wedding at the start of june, i've written my speech but i am really not looking forward to doing it. i like public speaking, but in work type situations, not in front of our family!!!!
DearSugarLover DearSugarLover 9 years
I have no intentions of getting married anytime soon, but I still think these wedding posts can be really fun. I figure if I learn all the rules of etiquette now, I can break them all when i do get married ;)
Hootie Hootie 9 years
I gave a toast at my baby sisters wedding last August. I was so scared, but it was great! I practiced my toast/mini speech many times.... Everyone just loved it.... Great gift to honor my baby sis & new brother-in-law!
Zulkey Zulkey 9 years
My fiance and I need to figure out how to give an appropriate speech at our rehearsal dinner. It'll be hard to find the right words to tell our parents how much they mean to us in a concise and not overly weepy manner.
kikidawn kikidawn 9 years
I am scared to death of the toast that my guy's best friend might give! lol
jopperma jopperma 9 years
Last summer I was a bridesmaid for one of my very good friends. The MOH wanted us all to SING a song from FULL HOUSE after her speech! A couple of us tried to talk her out of it for months... but nothing worked and 3 of the 7 bridesmaids (including me) ended up refusing to sing with the rest of them and just sat ducked down at the head table while they performed the most embarrassing rendition of some song from Full House ever! It was horribly embarrassing ... The Moral of the Story: DO NOT under any circumstances SING your toast!
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
Another wedding post, sponsored by Macy's! I hope they're at least getting their money's worth... and I hope we don't continue to have 2-3 wedding posts for the rest of spring! I understand it's great revenue, but geez, there is a whole site for that now! Why torture the rest of us? ;-)
KathleenxCouture KathleenxCouture 9 years
My boyfriend could've used these tips last year when he was BM at his brothers wedding. He decided it would be a good idea to wing the entire speech at a white tie reception. While it wasn't a complete disaster, you could tell that he wasn't prepared. The funny thing was that the MOH had a 2 page typed speech all elaborately planned. He did a good job though for not even rehearsing it to himself once! haha
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