The Wedding Speech Order You Should Follow at Your Reception – Brides

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When you think about it, wedding speeches are to the reception what vows are to the ceremony. They inject emotion, joy, and personality into your event—and give all guests a chance to know the couple (and the people closest to them) a bit better. Since these special toasts are arguably one of the most important parts of your party, you likely want to do all you can to ensure they go off without a hitch, from timing them right to observing the correct flow.

As with most big-day details, there is a traditional order of wedding speeches to follow. While this age-old format makes a lot of sense—it gives your wedding’s biggest VIPs (your parents!) the opportunity to speak first—it isn’t mandatory; in fact, there are plenty of ways to adjust the wedding speech order at your celebration so that it better reflects your family or your priorities. “Nowadays, couples have their choice of following whatever order they’d like—or doing away with speeches altogether,” says wedding planners Bianca Hall and Erica Vanco of Estera Events. “Weddings only need to follow the rules and values that are important to you as a couple.”

Meet the Expert

  • Bianca Hall and Erica Vanco are the co-owners and lead planners of Estera Events, a firm based in Chicago. 
  • Bree Swartz is the owner and creative director of Blossom Events, a Brooklyn-based full-service boutique design and planning company.
  • Kelly McWilliams, the founder of her eponymous wedding planning business in southwest Florida, has been in the industry since 2002.
  • A wedding and event planner and the founder of Rachel Behar Events, Rachel Behar is based in Brooklyn.

It’s important to remember that while wedding speeches hold deep value, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. To help you navigate both the traditional and modern wedding speech order, we tapped Hall, Vanco, and a mix of other wedding planners for their best advice.

When Should Wedding Speeches Happen During the Reception?

Before we get into the order of wedding speeches, it’s important to first determine when they should take place. Should the slate of toasts happen before or after the meal? According to our experts, there’s a sweet spot: It’s best to start speeches when food service begins. You have a few options. You can time a few speeches at the start of the meal, during the salad course, or begin during the main one, which often takes a little longer to get through. Another option is to hold off on speeches until dinner is just about finished; this allows satiated attendees to digest before getting back up for a full—and uninterrupted—night of dancing.

Wedding planner Kelly McWilliams, who has it down to a science, recommends the following reception timeline, with speeches peppered in strategically:

  1. Introductions
  2. First dance
  3. Parent speeches
  4. First course
  5. Best man or maid of honor speech
  6. Best man or maid of honor speech (the better speaker always goes last!)
  7. Cake cutting
  8. Second course
  9. Parent dances
  10. Couple speech
  11. Dance floor opens

The Traditional Order of Wedding Speeches

The traditional wedding speech order is a little old-school. “It originated as a way to reflect the dynamics of the families involved and symbolize them blending together on this special occasion—beginning with the bride’s parents, then the groom’s parents, followed by the groom and the best man,” say Hall and Vanco. “The curated sequence was also meant to conclude the formalities with lighthearted anecdotes and camaraderie, leading into the rest of the celebration.”

Below, you’ll find the traditional order of wedding speeches, which is as follows: the father (or parents) of the bride, the father (or parents) of the groom, the groom (or couple), the maid of honor, and finally, the best man. 

1. The Father of the Bride or Parents of the Bride’s Speech

Historically, the bride’s father—or both of her parents—take the first speech of the night. “This is typically the way it was done because the parents of the bride would traditionally pay for the wedding, and having them kick off the toasts indicates to guests that they were the hosts,” say Hall and Vanco. 

2. The Father of the Groom or Parents of the Groom’s Speech

The father or parents of the bride are usually followed by the father or parents of the groom. This formality gives a nod of respect to another essential couple of the evening. “Having the parents of the couple kick off the celebration is highly recommended. They are full of love, joy, and gratitude, and really sets the tone for the evening,” says Bree Swartz, a wedding and event planner.

3. The Groom or Couple’s Speech

Tradition indicates that the groom (or both the bride and the groom!) make a brief speech next as a way of thanking everyone for gathering to celebrate. “Having the bride and groom toast next keeps the energy up—and they can express their gratitude to their parents and guests,” says Swartz. (This may be the traditional approach, but many couples give their toasts first or last—as always, do what’s best for you).

4. The Best Man and Maid of Honor’s Speeches

Though the traditional wedding order would jump straight to the best man’s speech, these days the maid of honor typically always says a few words, too. The best man’s speech is usually saved for last.

It is typical for these wedding party VIPs to come at the end of the speech portion of the evening—and their remarks do typically follow the parents’. “Having the best man and maid of honor raise a glass towards the end of dinner helps kick off those party vibes that guests are looking for when it’s time to hit the dance floor,” says Swartz. 

Getty Images / Anchiy

How to Switch Up Your Wedding Speech Order

While the traditional wedding speech order does provide a blueprint (and offers a good model for honoring your wedding’s VIPs), it certainly isn’t set in stone. “The speech order may change based on various factors such as family dynamics, cultural traditions, or personal preferences,” Hall and Vanco say. And it’s possible—probably, even—that you won’t do all speeches at once. All of our planners champion couples to make their own decisions that align with their vision. “The only ‘wrong’ wedding speech order is one that doesn’t represent your style or feel right for you,” says Swartz. There are plenty of ways couples can shake up wedding speeches however they see fit.

Reduce the Number of Speakers

Many couples choose to shorten the length of their ceremony, and they can take the same approach during the speech portion of the reception to improve its overall flow. “We like keeping this to three speech-givers maximum,” says wedding planner Rachel Behar. “We’ve all seen them drag on and everyone just wants to get to dancing!” 

Space the Speeches Out

If having a full suite of speeches is important to you, but you want to keep everyone’s energy up, take a brief pause; this can have the same impact as curtailing the total number of toasts. “We usually recommend a break in toasts before inviting the best man and maid of honor up. This gives guests a breather, and they are more likely to stay present when taking in two to three speeches at a time,” says Swartz. 

Stick to the Rehearsal Dinner Only

It’s quite common to hear speeches at rehearsal dinners these days. In fact, “some couples may choose to do all speeches the night before at the rehearsal dinner, rather than having any on the wedding day,” say Hall and Vanco. This will definitely encourage a simpler, tighter reception, and allow those preparing speeches to relax and enjoy the main event—but this certainly isn’t for everyone.

Let the Most Nervous Person Go First

For couples unconcerned with the traditional order of wedding speeches, allowing the most anxious speaker to take the mic first is a compassionate choice. “If anyone is naturally nervous, have them go first,” affirms Behar. Remeber that “weddings need only follow the rules and values that are important to you as a couple,” Hall and Vanco say, so if ensuring that everyone stays as comfortable as possible during your party is a priority, this might be the right option for you.

Include Other Speakers

If the couple has a very important person in their life who isn’t necessarily a parent, maid of honor, or best man, there is no reason why they shouldn’t make a speech. “The only requirement is that this person be meaningful to the couple and should be a leading force in their lives, and that it feels natural and special,” says Behar. Hall and Vanco agree: “While each speaker contributes to the celebration, no one speaker is essential, allowing flexibility for couples to tailor the order as they see fit.”

Tips for Writing a Memorable Wedding Speech 

A great wedding speech is sweet, succinct, and best expressed when memorized—though Hall and Vanco say printing it off is fine. Here are some of our experts’ best tips for writing a wedding speech that knocks it out of the park.

Speak from the Heart

Sure, we live in the era of AI—but your wedding toast should’t be penned by a robot. “We recommend writing from the heart,” says Swartz. All of our experts agree that writing honestly about your connection to the couple and their best qualities makes for the best possible toast.

Follow an Outline 

Adhering to a loose structure, though, will help you stay on track, and there are plenty of online templates to lean on. “Go for an engaging opening, share meaningful anecdotes or memories, and offer well-wishes for their future together, while maintaining a balance of sincerity and humor throughout,” Hall and Vanco suggest as a framework. McWilliams echos the importance of nailing the opening, so be sure to focus on this part as you build out your toast: “Wedding speeches that resonate most start with a story and not an introduction,” says McWilliams.

Thinking about the best way to open your toast? Skip the obvious first line, “For those who don’t know me…” and lead with a story, instead. “The truth is that nobody cares who you are until you tell a story that attaches you to the couple,” advises McWilliams.

Consider the Audience 

If you’ve grown up with the bride or groom, there’s a good chance you have some colorful stories to share. However, the ability to read the room is key. “Consider the audience and tailor your content to resonate both with both the couple and their guests,” say Hall and Vanco. Save those crazy college stories for the bachelorette party. “Stories that contain anything that could embarrass the couple or anyone in the room should not be included,” adds McWilliams.

Keeping your speech concise is also crucial for keeping your audience engaged. “No more than five minutes,” confirm Hall and Vanco.

Focus on the Couple

Sure, you should (at some point) introduce yourself—but remember who the speech is about. Focus on stories about the couple; you should be a secondary character, not the main one. “Give insight to the couple from when they were younger, to their school years, to now. Shine a light on who they were and who they have become,” says Behar. You can then parlay your observations. “Share the moment you knew this time was different for these two love birds or when you knew they were the one for each other,” offers Swartz. 

Offer Advice 

If you’re in a long-term, committed relationship, a wedding speech can be an ideal time to offer sage advice. “Find words of wisdom or draw from your own experience on what it takes to build a lasting partnership, and raise a glass as you share your wishes for this next step in their journey together,” says Swartz. If you don’t have the personal experience to back these sentiments up, stick to warm words, instead. “I think including your personal hopes for their future is very thoughtful,” says McWilliams, who suggests saying something like, “My hope for you, and I think all of us here, is that you have a lifetime of the love and happiness that you have always shown us and that you are feeling here today.”

Tips for Delivering a Memorable Wedding Speech

Crafting a great speech is important, but delivery is everything. Set yourself up for success with some of these public speaking tips.

Print It Out (and Use a Large Font)

To avoid looking disengaged and oddly lit, our experts recommend not reading off your phone. Instead, print or write out your speech in a large typeface. “It is typically dark in the room and if there are lights, they are very bright,” says Behar. “The larger the font, the easier it will be for you to read.” 

Remember That Practice Makes Perfect 

Familiarizing yourself with your material is so important—we cannot overstate this. “Practice your speech beforehand to build confidence and ensure a smooth delivery,” Hall and Vanco say. If possible, read your speech out loud for another person you trust to gauge the audience’s reaction and get comfortable with flow.

Speak Slowly

Though you might be nervous, giving a speech isn’t like completing a race—faster is not better. Speak slowly and clearly while focusing on the couple. “Making eye contact with the couple can help you focus on the gift you’re giving them versus focusing on the crowd of people,” says Swartz. 

Taking space to breath will also keep your pace where it needs to be: “Embrace the moment with enthusiasm and sincerity, and remember to breathe and take pauses as needed,” Hall and Vanco suggest. If you’ve built in some laughs or tearful reactions, give them time to play out. 

Stay Calm 

Above all else, take control of the moment and stay calm. “Remember why this is meaningful to you,” says Behar. Additionally, Swartz suggests taking deep inhales and even slower exhales to help you feel grounded. “I’ve seen some ladies take off their heels before they toast so they feel extra grounded, and I’m here for it,” she says.

Ultimately, those giving speeches should practice and speak sincerely. And when it comes to the order of those speeches? Couples should do whatever they want. “This is your night to celebrate your love in your own way, and you should be nothing but excited to have your chosen loved ones raise a glass to you,” says Swartz.

This post was originally published on this site

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