Guide to Wedding Speeches: What to Say, When to Say It & How Long to Speak

Even if you’re not the type to get stage fright, giving a wedding speech can be daunting. But giving a wedding toast or speech is also a true honour bestowed only upon a select few. And the memory of your speech will most definitely stay with the newlyweds for years to come, so it's worth making it a good one!

Have you been tasked with preparing a wedding speech? Whether you’re the best man, the maid of honour, the bride’s mum or the bride herself, the following tips should help you prepare a wedding speech that will leave smiles on everyone’s faces.

How many wedding speeches are customary?

First, let’s talk about who gets to give a speech at a wedding. Whilst it would be lovely to have the couple’s closest friends, siblings and other important people share a few words during the wedding reception, you don’t want the wedding speeches to drag on and keep guests away from the dance floor. The key speeches at a wedding reception are typically those from:

  • the parents of the bride
  • the parents of the groom
  • the best man
  • the maid of honour
  • the newlyweds

If there are others who you’d like to hear from, there’s always the rehearsal dinner for additional speeches. The atmosphere will be less formal and more intimate and will be ripe for funny wedding speeches. If you’re the bride or the groom, this is also a great opportunity to make a ‘thank you’ speech.

What is the best wedding speech order?

In traditional Australian weddings, the father of the bride typically gives the first speech, welcoming guests and expressing the family’s appreciation to everyone who showed up for the couple’s big day. The bride’s parents traditionally give the first toast as they’re usually the people hosting the wedding.

The groom then takes the mic to thank the father of the bride for the toast and to express his gratitude to the guests, his new bride and the bride’s parents. The groom's wedding speech ends with a toast to the bridal party.

After the groom’s speech, the best man takes over and responds to the groom’s speech, thanking him on behalf of the bridal party. The best man wedding speech usually includes a few funny stories about the groom and ends with a toast to the bride’s parents.

The father or the mother of the bride then thanks the best man, welcomes the groom into the family and shares some stories about the bride or the couple. This is often one of the most tear-jerking and highly anticipated speeches at the reception. This speech ends with a toast to the groom’s parents.

The next speech is usually given by the father of the groom. He responds to the toast from the father of the bride and raises a glass to toast the bride. The groom’s mother or another close family member may also share a few words.

After the speeches from the family members, the best man or the master of ceremonies (MC) reads letters, emails or messages from family members or guests who couldn’t make it to the wedding. The MC then wraps up the speech portion of the reception by thanking the guests and everyone involved in organising the wedding festivities.

Nowadays, it has become customary for the maid of honour to also share a few words, usually an anecdote or two about the bride. And whilst traditionally the bride, as the guest of honour, would just be sitting back and taking this all in, it has also become quite common for her to propose a toast and thank her parents, in-laws, guests and bridal party.

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How to write a great wedding speech

Public speaking can be nerve-wracking. At such an intimate event, you want your speech to be fun and memorable (in a good way)! Follow these tips on how to write a wedding speech that’s heartfelt, entertaining and unforgettable:

1. Keep it short

Even if you’re the bride’s or groom's best friend or parent, no one wants to sit through a 30-minute monologue detailing every single thing you have ever done with them. The cardinal rule of wedding speeches is that you should keep it as close to 2 minutes (for short/medium length speeches) or 5 minutes (for long ones) as possible. Any more than that and people will start to get restless, which will take away from the fun mood that you’re trying to achieve.

2. Try to avoid insensitive comments

This should be easy enough, but some people do say things that are just inappropriate and out of line. Awkward examples could be making jokes about how someone looks or telling a story about something embarrassing one of the newlyweds did when they were younger. You can (and should) add humour to your speech, but you shouldn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable.

3. Rehearse your speech

This is an absolute must. Weeks or months before the wedding, write down your speech and practice giving it whenever you have some free time. Try doing it in front of your friend or partner, and ask them to give their feedback about the content, length and delivery. Practising will give you extra confidence and help your speech flow smoothly during the reception.

4. Keep it simple

The best speeches say exactly what needs to be said, and nothing more. If you’re not the type to make jokes and try to entertain your audience, that’s perfectly fine. Keep it short and sweet. As long as you’re speaking from the heart, your speech will come across as genuine and meaningful.

5. Give it structure

When you sit down to write your speech, keep in mind that it should have a beginning, middle and end. No matter how short your speech is, it should flow naturally and not be a jumble of anecdotes.

6. Make it personal 

You probably have a lot of stories about the couple, so share them! Maybe you were there when they met or during another important milestone in their relationship. Their guests will love hearing about those romantic moments! Or maybe you have an entertaining story about the bride or the groom — if it’s about a positive trait of theirs, go ahead and include it in your speech. Just make sure the story is relevant and flattering to the person you’re talking about.

7. Address the couple equally

Even if you don’t know one of the newlyweds as much as the other, make sure you include both of them in your speech. Talk about their relationship together, not just about your memories with one of them.

8. Write it down

If you’re nervous about giving a speech, it’s perfectly fine to write down what you’re going to say and read from a piece of paper or a notecard. Avoid reading from your phone (or a tablet) as the glow on your face will make for some bad photos. But if you do plan on reading from your phone, make sure there’s enough battery and put it on aeroplane mode so you don’t get a call whilst making your speech.

A wedding speech is one of the best gifts you can give a newlywed couple, and the effort you put into writing and practising one will definitely be worth it. We hope these tips come in handy as you sit down to pen your wedding toast!

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