A Wedding Planners Guide to Toasts and Speeches

A simple guide…

Giving speeches at weddings is a tradition that dates back centuries. Traditionally given by the father of the bride, the groom and the best man, the purposes of speeches are to entertain, give thanks and provide a back story. The speeches offer a break in the format of the wedding day and allow guests to appreciate and celebrate the couple’s relationship.

From a wedding planner’s point of view the speeches often represent bridging the gap between formal ceremony and evening party. Time to clear the tables, open the bar and up the tempo! I specialise in marquee weddings in Sussex and Surrey so I’ve seen my fair share of speeches – good, bad and ugly!

History of Speeches and Toasts

Ever wondered why a ‘toast’ is so-called? Historically, the Romans would drop a piece of burnt bread into their wine in order to temper the acidity. Ever thought about the correct way to toast? Hold your glass in you right hand and extend it straight out from the shoulder. This gesture shows you come in friendship and peace. In ancient societies, marriage ceremonies represented a truce in waring neighbours. The leaders’ children were married, and the bride’s father would drink from his glass first to prove there was no poison in the wine. Over the next centuries the term ‘toasting’ gradually incorporated the honouring of people. By the 17th and 18th centuries toastmasters were employed to ensure that toasting was kept under control!

So what should wedding speeches include?

The best wedding speeches are a blend of humour, nostalgia and sentiment. From a wedding planner’s point of view I would strongly urge you to give your speech careful thought and consideration. Try not to cut and paste what you find online… I’ve seen, or should I say heard this too many times!

The father of the bride usually speaks first, at the end of the meal. It’s their job to welcome guests and thank them for coming. He should speak for the bride’s whole family, expressing what she means to them, including anecdotes from growing up, praising the groom and leading the toast for the newlyweds and absent friends.

We then move on to the groom’s speech and this should be addressed on behalf of himself and his new wife. He should pay tribute to his wife and include anecdotes about their courtship and relationship. The groom leads the toast to thank the hosts and bridesmaids.

The role of the best man’s speech is often misunderstood. His job is not to rip the groom to shreds, but to portray him to the guests in a favourable light. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the groom’s character, and his good fortune in finding love. The best man should take the audience into consideration when regaling anecdotes!

Top Tips

  1. Ensure speech givers liaise with each other so anecdotes aren’t repeated, and they can introduce each other.
  2. A toast should encourage guests to repeat the last line spoken. For example, “Please join me in wishing the newlyweds a lifetime of happiness, to the bride and groom.” Everyone repeats “to the bride and groom” and takes a sip of wine.

When should wedding speeches take place?

Traditionally speeches start after the meal although increasingly couples choose to break tradition and mix things up. You might decide to do the speeches before the wedding breakfast so the speech-givers can then relax. Or have a speech between each course to break things up. I’d suggest not planning a speech before the main meal, if things run over and your catering team are waiting to serve hot food, there could be problems!

Modern traditions and wedding speeches.

Couples these days are increasingly turning traditions on their head. It may be that the bride, maid of honour or mother of the bride makes a speech, they may be an alternative to speeches, for example you might invite a family member or friend to read a poem or sing a song. Indeed, modern couples may decide not to have speeches at all.

The traditional format of speeches might still work for families who are still one unit. As I mentioned earlier for example, the father of the bride is expected to speak on behalf of the family. But what if the bride’s father and mother are no longer together? In this case a bride might ask both her parents to speak, or both her father and step father to speak? Or heck, forget the traditional father of the bride speech if it’s too complicated and speak herself, or give the honour to a sibling? Basically, anything goes, the tradition of only hearing from male members of the bridal party is rather outdated in this feminist age.

In terms of beverages, Champagne is most commonly served for toasts, but you could absolutely think outside the box and have your guests toasting with a different tipple. How about your favourite cocktail? Espresso Martini perhaps?

Wedding Speech Nerves

Want to give your son, daughter or best friend an amazing wedding speech but terrified of standing up in front of everyone? You’re not alone, fear of public speaking is said to be one of the most common phobias in the world. You have visions of epic speeches from rom coms; raucous laughter and heartfelt tears in equal measures. The reality is, your legs might be jelly or the Dutch courage might have been, erm rather too much Dutch courage? There’s a fine line! Consider who’s speaking and when might be a good time for them to speak i.e. to ‘get it over and done with’ so they can relax and enjoy themselves, or there might be someone who’s more suited to take centre stage later in the day, when everyone’s a little more lubricated. Hypnotherapy can help overcome fear, increase self-confidence and help keeps nerves at bay on the big day.T

Wedding planner’s advice

As I said earlier, consider the timings of your speeches so they don’t impact on important factors of the day, like food service. I will always talk you through practicalities such as having enough extra Champagne flutes for the toasts. I will of course discreetly make sure everyone’s seated for the speeches, the music’s turned down and everyone has a drink. Waiting and kitchen staff are instructed to be discreet during speeches i.e. kitchen chatter to be kept to a minimum and waiting staff to be discreet but on hand for requests. Acoustics is a factor for marquee weddings too.

I hope this information offers some valuable advice. I am a professional wedding planner in Sussex and Surrey. I specialise in marquee weddings and would love to chat to you about my services. Please contact me to arrange a consultation.

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