Wedding toasts are a wedding day highlight for many—just not always for the people who have to give them. If you’re considering giving a speech at the rehearsal dinner or reception and worried about what to say, relax. We’ve got all the do’s and don’ts you need to write the best, most unforgettable (in a good way!) wedding toast.
From how to start, to selecting the best anecdotes, to sharing inside jokes (spoiler alert: skip them), here’s what to say when making a wedding toast. Because wedding speeches should be fun for everyone—even you.
Do pick a theme.
When asking yourself what to put in a wedding speech, look at it as a short story. You’ll want a beginning that sucks everyone in, a plot that keeps them engaged, maybe some comedy thrown in, and then an ending that has everyone smiling, laughing, or even tearing up. To come up with your theme, brainstorm and write down your favorite memories with the bride/groom, how you first met them, what your initial thoughts were when you met their partner, how they are as a couple, and the qualities you admire in them—the more you write down, the more likely a common theme will emerge.
Once you have your theme, build your speech’s story around it. Chances are even more ideas centered around that theme will come to you. Find that common thread and stick to it.
Don’t mention everything.
If you did your homework around picking a theme, you probably have a lot of thoughts and memories about the couple written down. While you’ll definitely want to share the best bits, you don’t need to go into a full-on chronology of your decade-long friendship. Pick the anecdotes that best illustrate your theme and save the rest for happy hour reminiscing.
Do explain how you know the bride/groom.
There are probably a lot of people in that room, and while you might be BFFs with half of them, the other half has no clue you’ve known the groom since puberty. Early on in your speech—maybe even as an easy opening—introduce yourself and explain your relationship to the couple. No matter how obvious your relationship, even if you’re the father of the bride, not everyone at the wedding will know who you are. Introduce yourself!
Don’t ignore half of the couple.
Even if you know every last detail about the bride—from her elementary school crush to her favorite Netflix series—and next to nothing about her partner, try to make your toast about both of them. After all, it’s both of their wedding day, not just your friend’s. If you truly don’t know the other partner that well, interview your friend. Ask why they love them so much, how they knew the other was “the one,” or even why they think you’ll love them once you get to know them. Incorporate both partners into your wedding speech for a toast that everyone can enjoy.
Do keep things positive.
Another easy opener is to simply congratulate the couple. Tell them how happy you are for them or how they inspire you. Maybe even throw in a favorite quote about love and matrimony. Keep the vibe positive at the beginning and throughout—this isn’t the time to recount heartbreak or make anyone uncomfortable.
Do tell a joke or funny anecdote.
This one can be tricky. Humor is tough, and if it doesn’t come naturally to you, feel free to skip it altogether. But if you want to try your hand at a funny wedding toast, find one of the easiest, and best, sources of humor—real life. Maybe you and the groom had a hilarious run-in with the bride’s parents, or the couple met at a mechanical bull riding competition. The funniest things are usually true stories, so use yours to your advantage.
Need more comic inspiration? Go to the source. Watch stand-up specials for examples of jokes that work (and don’t). Be self-deprecating if that feels right, or bring a related prop, like a blown-up photo of the bride and groom on that mechanical bull. Whatever you decide, test the jokes on a neutral party to make sure what you think is funny is actually funny.
But don’t tell inside jokes.
What may be hilarious to two people is totally nonsensical to everyone else. Try to stick to stories and anecdotes that could appeal to everyone. And don’t roast anyone too hard. You don’t want to embarrass anyone or make your audience uncomfortable. Maybe leave out the cringeworthy college frat party antics or overboard teasing. This is your friend or family member’s wedding day, not a Comedy Central special.
Unless you’re an improv all-star, a wedding speech is something you’ll definitely want to practice. If you can memorize what you want to say and how to say it, great! But if you can’t or you’re nervous that your mind will go blank, it’s ok to use notes. Just try not to read from them verbatim.
Practicing will help you become super familiar with your speech, helping to alleviate jitters and ensure it goes smoothly. Record yourself so you can hear pacing issues or detect spots that just aren’t working. Practice in front of an audience, too, so you can see where they laugh or smile, and where you might need to pause. The more you practice, the more likely you are to rock that wedding day toast.
But don’t go on forever.
Since you’ve already practiced your speech several times (right?!?), you should know exactly how long it takes. Make sure to talk to your bride and groom about how long they want your speech to be. For a wedding planner’s opinion and other toast etiquette you need to know, check our out blog “Your Wedding Toast Questions Answered.“
Don’t mention exes.
Do close strong.
Hopefully as you put together your theme and write your speech a closing will come naturally. Something sentimental that ties it all together and brings it back to where you started, perfectly wrapping your theme and ending on a high note. Still struggling? Don’t worry. No-fail ways to end a wedding speech include stating how happy you are for the couple, offering your best wishes, and asking everyone to raise their glasses. And trust us, no one’s going to be sad about taking a sip of champagne.