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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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