Wedding Toasts & Etiquette

There is no hard and fast rule of etiquette that requires the maid of honor to make a speech or a toast, so if you count yourself in the group of people that would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy, don’t worry. It’s quite possible that you don’t HAVE to make a speech. These days, wedding celebrations are so varied and personal, that it is not always a given to hear toasts at a wedding reception. It’s not uncommon in some regions for toasts to take place at the rehearsal dinner instead of the actual wedding, and it’s possible that the families may be very informal or nontraditional and may choose not to make toasts a part of the wedding celebration. Again, consider your couple: if they are very traditional, then you can probably expect to hear the best man make a toast at the wedding reception and if you choose to or if you are asked to, you may follow him with a toast of your own. The best thing for you to do is to simply ask the bride whether there will be toasts and whether she would like you to make one. If she asks you to make a toast, or if you’ve simply decided that you want to, here are some guidelines to follow.

When To Toast

The traditional best man speech takes place during dinner at the wedding reception. If there is no seated dinner and there is a buffet or a spread of hours d’ oeuvres instead, the toasts usually start after everyone has served themselves, but within the first one to two hours of the reception before too many guests have started to leave. Traditionally, the best man serves as the emcee and gets the toasts rolling, so be sure to coordinate with him beforehand and find him when it’s getting about that time.

How To Toast

First off, be sure you have a drink in your hand! Something like that is easy to forget when you’re nervous. It’s always in good taste to start off your toast by thanking the couple and their parents for inviting everyone to such a lovely event. If you have a short anecdote or story about the couple (and it’s in good taste), that’s a great way to engage your audience and get them laughing and relaxed. Conclude your toast by wishing the couple happiness and by raising your glass and saying something like, “To Jane and Joe!”

What Not To Toast About

Just because the best man rehashes Joe Groom’s drunken college conquests (and he just might), absolutely does NOT mean you should follow suit. If you want to be funny and tell a story, go ahead, but remember that there are several grandparents and maybe even great-grandparents in attendance! Don’t make the bride or groom uncomfortable, and for goodness sake, don’t scandalize Great Aunt Nellie! Your toast should focus on their love for each other and everyone else’s love for them, NOT past indiscretions or tasteless inside jokes.

You’ve probably also seen plenty of movies where the best man or maid of honor has had a stressful day and a little too much to drink and uses their toast as an opportunity to vent…please don’t do this! Keep in mind that this is a sacred, very special event, and it is not about you. That may sound harsh, but we’ve all experienced the awkward angry speech moment, right? Not fun.

How To Come Up With A Good Toast

Start thinking about your toast several weeks before the wedding. Do a little research and check out a book like Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations to get ideas for how to start it off with a quote or poem. Think about what makes the couple so perfect for each other, and express that in your toast. Look through old pictures or letters for inspiration. Be yourself-don’t feel pressure to be funny or sentimental if that’s not you-it’ll just sound unnatural and forced. The bride chose you because she loves you for who you are, so if you’re sappy and sentimental, feel free to get a little weepy and tell the bride how much you love her. If you’re sarcastic and cynical, be that…as long as you are not diminishing the bride and groom with your humor. The maid of honor can rock the wedding toast no matter her personality!