Wedding Speeches And Toasts – Purpose
A wedding is part ceremony and part celebration. Wedding speeches and toasts weave the event together and lead the wedding party & guests naturally from ceremony to celebration.
Good planning will use wedding speeches and toasts to help the structure the day. Who gives what speech or toast and when they do it are decisions that naturally define the different elements of the wedding. For example, a post ceremony champagne toast helps contrast the formality of the wedding ceremony from it’s very happy outcome. It’s the first opportunity to proclaim to all the world that two lives have been joined together.
Who Makes A Speech?
Friends and relatives who are significant to the happy couple may all be considered to present a toast or give a speech. But few of these candidates should actually be asked to speak publicly. Some folks are simply tongue tied on their feet. Others may not be trusted to remain sober enough to not embarrass themselves or anyone else. Frequently, the pressure of time is a limiting factor.
Seeing a well proposed toast, other guests may be tempted to spontaneously rise to their feet. This should be diplomatically discouraged. Few can stand and give an impromptu address that is articulate, witty and clear. Even fewer can compose their thoughts well enough to arouse an emotional response from their audience. A tedious, inarticulate ramble will not add to the event. Equally tiresome are speeches frequently interrupted by waves of weeping. A speaker who utterly lacks emotional self control adds nothing to the wedding; no matter how genuine are their feelings for the bride and groom.
Speakers should rehearse their speeches well before the wedding. Read them aloud before a mirror. Better yet, record the speech and play it back. Listen for blurred words, inadequate pauses, too long sentences, incorrect grammar. Write out the speech on easy to read cue cards.
What to Say
Speakers should not talk much about themselves. The day belongs to the bride and groom and no one else. Witty anecdotes about the bride or groom that the speaker actually witnessed are fine. References to good deeds done by the bride or groom are fine. Mention of family members who could not be at the wedding and who had a special regard for the bride or groom are fine. But how the speaker did better at school or sports than the bride or groom is unnecessary. How the bride wrecked her father’s car or how the groom was drunk at his stag are off limits. References to sexual indiscretions or the cost of the wedding are unforgivable.
No one who is likely to be drunk or say anything embarrassing should be asked to speak. The worst offenders in this regard are brothers of the bride. Too often a bride’s brother will try to be funny at his sister’s expense. They may joke about their sister’s weight, the number and calibre of previous boy friends, the efforts their sister made to trap her new husband, etc. Even if the intent is innocent, the damage is done. The bride is humiliated and her day is ruined. It is the absolute right of the bride and groom to know in advance what will be said at their wedding.
Speeches where attempted humour is actually funny can be show stoppers. Brothers of the groom and sisters of the bride seem able to pull this off better than other members of the wedding party. Here are two examples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9ZQcJJBmj4 & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYAALw1hDJ4.
Speeches should be brief – not more than 6 minutes. If a speaker can’t organize & express his or her thoughts in that time, an extra 15 minutes won’t help. Guests will start chatting with their neighbours if a speaker drones on and on; oblivious to the time. Guests have just had a good meal and are looking forward to a fun filled evening. They will be patient with a tiresome speaker for only so long. Four speeches of maximum six minutes each provides for almost half an hour of speeches.
Champagne Toast After the Ceremony.
Many venues offer the first toast of the wedding soon after the ceremony close by where the ceremony itself will take place. This is an especially good idea when the ceremony and reception will be held in the same venue. It works best when the ceremony takes place outdoors and the reception will be held in a tent or a barn close by, since the toast helps assemble the guests.
When the minister has announced “you may kiss the bride”, or “I now pronounce you man and wife”, there is invariably a round of applause with cheers. At that moment champagne corks start popping and this unmistakable sound of celebration highlights the guest reaction. This toast is normally quite simple and can be presented by the master of ceremonies, the best man or even the Minister. For example, “ ladies and gentlemen, (pause), on this beautiful day, (pause), in this wonderful place, (pause), for the first time ever , (pause), let us raise our glasses and toast the health, happiness, prosperity and long life together of the new Mr. and Mrs…..”
The champagne toast is partly ceremonial and partly a transition tool to carry the wedding from the ceremony to the rest of the day. Better yet, for many guests the champagne flute will be a fashion accessory to highlight their hair, make-up and nice clothes. They will keep their glass close by to have it refilled during the service of hors d’oeuvres which will normally follow the toast in a very few minutes. As such, the first toast becomes an important part of the day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-hTbuu4QPk
Speeches During vs. After Dinner.
Brides frequently plan speeches during dinner. This should be avoided. If the wedding dinner is a plated multi-course meal, speeches will halt the plating of a next course. All food that would have been served next must be held. Freshness, taste and presentation can all be compromised. The more speeches that are planned during dinner, the longer will be the delay to food service. Some guests may still have been eating one of their courses. These guests will have their dirty plates in front of them throughout whatever speeches interrupt dining. Bah!
For a wedding meal that is planned with any degree of formality neither toasts nor speeches should take place until the last dessert plates have been cleared. Even with a less formal approach don’t start speeches until dessert & coffee have been served.
It is customary for waiters to stop clearing tables and stop serving dessert or coffee during speeches. This eliminates dish clatter. But it means that the entire front of the house catering crew stands down during speeches. The caterer will have calculated this when preparing the wedding budget. Clients are advised to discuss options in this regard. The most practical approach is to delay speeches until dessert dishes are cleared. Refill coffee for anyone who wants it, announce a 10 minute break for anyone who needs to leave the table and then, promptly at the stroke of 10 minutes, begin speeches. The bar should be closed during speeches to allow the hall to fall silent.
Master of Ceremonies*
The Master of Ceremonies, (M.C.), is the traffic cop in the intersection; the ringmaster in the circus. The M.C., (along with the caterer), is responsible for the smooth flow of events from the end of hors d’oeuvres until the beginning of dancing. Since the M.C. carries considerable responsibility for the success of the evening, choose him or her carefully. The M.C. should be able to his their voice, even without a microphone, and be self-confident enough to address an audience. The M.C. should know all speakers by sight and be able to pick them out as their time to give a speech or propose a toast approaches.
The M.C. will introduce all speakers and monitor the length of their speeches. A gentle reminder to speakers who are running long is entirely in order, provided the bride and groom have arranged this with the M.C. before the wedding. Do not pick your M.C. the day of the wedding. The choice should be made weeks beforehand. The M.C. should be well briefed as to the schedule of wedding day events, the sequence of speakers, how guests may call for the newly weds to kiss during dinner and all other similar details. The M.C. should know how to use the microphone and coordinate with the sound system technician, (or D.J.) to adjust volume. If a wedding planner is at the wedding the M.C. should coordinate his efforts with the planner well before dinner. Just after guests are seated for dinner the M.C. will stand up and introduces himself, give to guests any explanation of the meal service and then introduces whomever will say Grace.
As dessert dishes are cleared the M.C. will introduce the head table guests and other notables in the room. Guests who have travelled considerable distance to attend the wedding should also be acknowledged. The M.C. could read then messages of best wishes from those who could not attend the wedding.
The Parent’s Speech
Post dinner speeches from a parent or grandparent are intended to express the emotion of the day. They are designed to welcome all guests, to bring guests together as a group, to express the friendship or love that the speaker has for the bride, the groom and possibly other members of the family. The speeches may well express (hopefully, restrained) emotion. Guests will appreciate a light touch and some humour. Speeches should offer some history of the two families just joined by the marriage, an insight into the speaker’s relationship to the bride and groom. Most important is a declaration of best wishes for the newly married couple.
The honour of the first speech is traditionally given to the father of the bride, especially if he paid for the wedding. If the father of the bride is unavailable to speak another senior member of the family will do nicely. Certain topics are mandatory:
- Welcome all guests at the wedding, with special mention of those who came from overseas or otherwise travelled a great distance. These guests have spent considerable time, money and effort to attend the wedding and their acknowledgement is appropriate. If these guests are from a country known for it’s very hot or cold weather, a joke about the shock of a Canadian summer or winter will always raise a chuckle.
- Describe the joys of the father-daughter relationship they shared when she was young. Stories of watching his daughter grow, her strengths and good deeds, her favourite pet or pony, her good school grades or other accomplishments are all appropriate will bring an appreciative chuckle from every other parent, friend or relative in the audience.
- Return to the theme of a welcome. From the description of how his daughter has grown with the love of her new husband it will be easy to extend praise to his new son-in-law. There should be something admirable in the new husband that the father of the bride can compliment with sincerity. If he is a sports player, compliment his skill. If he is successful in business, compliment his acumen. If he works for the police, fire department, or is in the military, compliment his service to the community and country. These compliments make it easy to welcome the new son-in-law to the family. It’s easy to make a joke here such as “I didn’t lose a daughter, I gained a baseball team”.
- The welcome should be extended to the family of the new husband. Describe how the two families will have the shared pleasure of watching the newly weds grow together. Describe how the new son-in-law will be like a new son in the family.
The speech can conclude with a toast to the bride and groom. This toast offers the opportunity to end the speech with a flourish of eloquence or even poetry. A few lines of Shakespeare are never misplaced. My favourite toast is presented to the newly weds when one spouse or the other is in the police, fire department or the military:
- “Ladies and gentlemen, let us raise our glasses to my daughter and her new husband.
- May they never know sorrow.
- May they always enjoy health and prosperity.
- May she (or he) always find comfort in the knowledge that he (or she) is doing his (or her) duty in service to our community & our country.
- May he (or she) always be supported in his (or her) duty by her (or his) loyalty and strength.
- And let us hope that in time to come there will be a whole string of young ladies & gentleman to follow the examples of strength, wisdom and courage of their parents in service to their family, their community and their country.
- I give you the health of the bride and groom.“
Speeches by the groom and the bride will focus on each other: how they met, what they mean to each other and their hopes for their future together. Since the speeches are largely about their love for each other and their gratitude to all who helped make the wedding wonderful, emotion may flow freely. Nothing at all out of place in this. It’s completely appropriate. Some grooms are genuinely funny
Study the successful speeches of others. They help tie a wedding together like few other parts of the day.