Wedding Toast Etiquette

You're planning the reception but don't know anything about wedding toast etiquette and helping people assemble appropriate toasts. Don't feel bad, you're not alone. Many people have no concept of how much wedding etiquette exists and the toast is only one small part of a much larger picture.

First, it helps to know the traditional order of toasts. Usually the father of the bride or an elder family member presents the first toast to the bride and groom. There’s a short speech first, most often a story about the bride, followed by giving respects to the groom, then a request for everyone to raise glasses to the bride and groom. Sounds simple enough, but it can feel incredibly daunting particularly for someone uncomfortable with public speaking.

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Some thoughts to keep in mind when planning this toast include keeping the story relatively brief. People are here to enjoy the reception, not an hour-long discourse, no matter how interesting or relative it may be to the moment. Hint: people checking their watches means you’ve gone on too long. Additionally avoid tales of old boyfriends or previous marriages. These can prove to be sore spots that spoil the celebratory atmosphere. Other no-no's include off-color humor or colorful language.

The groom gives the second toast, preceded by a speech thanking both families and honoring the bride's father if present. This is an opportunity for the groom to give thanks to the best man and to all guests present. Finally, he toasts the bridesmaids.

The third toast comes from the best man who may also say a few words about the groom, and something complimentary about the bride. It’s the best man's job to convey any well-wishes from people who could not make the wedding. Toasts that come after this point are voluntary from guests.

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For individuals who have no idea of how to put together their speech and toast, wedding toast etiquette gives some great advice: give yourself time to think about it and practice beforehand. You don’t need fancy words, just heartfelt ones. Sometimes starting out with a meaningful quote gives you a direction to follow with the rest of your wording. Focus on the couple, and why this moment is special for you too. For stories, you can recount some funny moments with the bride and groom, or talk about how they met if you were present at the time.

Keep things tactful – no revealing “secrets” no matter how amusing you may think they are. This isn’t a social networking site, it’s a wedding and in wedding party etiquette those giving the toasts know the boundaries.

Finally, wedding toast etiquette says that you do not have to memorize your speech. While doing so may make the talk sound more natural, having cards in front of you is perfectly acceptable and allays nervousness. It’s worse to forget what you wanted to say than it is to have to peek at notes. And, you can give the notes to the bride and groom to keep in their wedding memorabilia.

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