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Anyone familiar with traditional wedding etiquette will know that the speeches would fall on the male members of the bridal party; AKA, the father of the bride, the best man, the groom, the priest/registrar, and possibly the father of the groom.
The great thing about modern weddings is couples have the choice to lean to tradition or do things their own way.
Whether making up your own rules or being a little more ‘by the book’, this guide outlines the speech order at a wedding side of things and gets you on your way to making a decision.
Read More:Planning Your Mother of the Bride Speech
Speech Order at a Wedding
At most weddings, the speeches don’t kick off until the reception (either before or after dinner), and while it may not seem like the biggest deal, having an order as to who says what and when will ensure smooth sailing and good speech etiquette.
As we mentioned earlier, traditionally, the father of the bride, groom, and best man would lead the speeches, and then possibly anyone else who planned to toast the wedding (such as the priest/celebrant).
Nowadays, weddings are more fluid and many couples bypass some of the traditions. In the case of same-sex weddings/civil ceremonies, the speeches are often given by one or both members of the couple.
As it’s your wedding, you and your partner get the say in what’s what, and you can either embrace or shunt tradition. Many modern weddings include speeches from the bride, the mother of the bride, the mother/father of the groom, the maid of honour, and anyone else the couple would like to speak at their wedding.
Wedding Speech Order
Okay, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and look at a more traditional way of approaching the speeches.
Father of the Bride Speech
We know families can be complex, and sometimes, the father of the bride may not be present at the wedding for a variety of reasons, in which case, someone else can stand in.
However, if he is indeed present, his speech should traditionally cover the following topics:
- A welcome and a thank-you to the guests present, including nods/well-wishes to any absentees.
- Formally embracing the groom into the family.
- A dedication to his daughter/the bride and how proud he is, etc.
- A segment that celebrates the union and how well-matched the happy couple is.
- A toast to the couple.
Father of the Bride Speech: Dos & Don’ts
- DO: Keep it lighthearted and include a joke or two.
- DON’T: Be inappropriate – even a well-meaning but unnecessary joke may put a damper on the mood.
- DO: Keep any personal feelings about the couple/groom to yourself.
- DON’T: Rattle off a list of thank-yous to everyone involved in the wedding. These should be spread out among all the speakers.
- DO: Impart some marriage wisdom – but only if it’s positive and appropriate.
Next up, the groom will traditionally say a few words. Ideally, the groom will take on a few thank-yous, as well as pay a nod to the father of the bride in regards to his speech.
Groom Speech: Dos & Don’ts
- DO: Thank the guests for attending the wedding.
- DON’T: Make jokes that might make anyone uncomfortable.
- DO: Acknowledge both sets of parents.
- DON’T: Forget to close on paying tribute to your beautiful bride. After all, she did agree to marry you!
Best Man Speech
So, if there are any speakers who may be ‘loose cannons’, it’s probably going to be the best man!
Ideally, the best man’s speech should be injected with humour, banter, and anecdotes about his BFF (the groom), and should have everyone giggling into their champagne.
Best Man Speech: Dos & Don’ts
- DO: Echo the previous speakers’ sentiments and thank-yous (without being repetitive).
- DON’T: Be inappropriate with humour. It’s a wedding, not a stand-up show or a roast. Leave the controversy to Ricky Gervais.
- DO: Be complimentary – especially to the bride. Make her feel welcome.
- DON’T: Bring up any of the groom’s exes. It won’t be well-received by anyone. The same goes for in-jokes with the groom. Know your audience.
- DO: Lead everyone with the main toast. Encourage the audience to raise their glass.
The above speeches are the traditional top 3, but it’s not uncommon for others to say a few words, or even just make a toast. This can be:
- The mother of the bride
- The mother of the groom
- The maid of honour/head bridesmaid
- The bride
- A step-parent
Alternative Wedding Speech Givers
Some of us say, “to heck with tradition” and want to do our weddings our way! For those wanting to wander a more contemporary wedding speech path, we’ve included a guide on how to smash those alternative speeches.
Why should the menfolk be the only ones to have their voices heard?! Let’s be honest. The big day is mainly about the bride (who has likely been planning it since she was a wee whippersnapper!), and many brides like to make a toast too.
Speech Ideas for the Bride
- A collective thank-you to the guests.
- A tribute to the vendors and the venue, as well as any wedding coordinators
- A shoutout to the bridesmaids for all their hard work.
- A nod to both the bride and groom’s parents (especially if they helped pay for the wedding).
- A tribute to her now-hubby.
Maid of Honour Speech
The maid of honour is the best man’s equal and plays just as important a role in the wedding prep and the wedding itself, therefore she should absolutely have the opportunity to say a few words (if she wants to).
Speech Ideas for the Maid of Honour
- Compliment the happy couple.
- Thank the bride for entrusting her with the task of being maid of honour.
- A nod to the other beautiful bridesmaids.
- A toast to the newlyweds.
LBGTQ+ Wedding Speeches
Same-sex weddings often follow a similar protocol to het nuptials, with the exception of speeches. It is often a tradition that the main speakers at an LGBTQ+ wedding will be one or both members of the couple.
Wedding Speeches: Top Tips
There’s a knack to nailing the wedding speech – especially if you are a nervous speaker – and these top tips will help ensure there’s not a dry eye in the house!
- Avoid clichés. Nothing will make eyes glaze over more than words like ‘soul mate’, ‘love at first sight’, and so on.
- Rehearse your speech regularly. Don’t leave it until the day or ‘wing it’. Get into the habit of rehearsing it, and not only will you nail it, but the process will be less daunting.
- Record yourself. Use your phone or a voice recorder to record your speech and listen back to it (yes, we know it kinda sucks hearing your own voice!). Video recording is better because you can evaluate your posture, mannerisms, and so forth, and work on them while practicing.
- Be conscious of your body language. Believe it or not, a big chunk of a successful speech is in the way you present yourself – not the words. Hunched shoulders, averted eyes, shuffling, ‘umms & ahhs’, and fidgeting are a recipe for an awkward, lacklustre speech.
- Don’t go OTT with alcohol before your speech. Too much Dutch courage will backfire.
- Be authentic. Don’t try too hard to be funny, emotive, etc., unless you’ve got De Niro-style acting skills. Forced speech personalities are easy to see through.
- Don’t rush. Few are the folk who actually enjoy public speaking, but rushing your speech is bad news. Not only will it possibly cause offense to the bride and groom, as it will appear as if you don’t want to be there, but you increase the chances of tripping on your words, as well as kissing goodbye to an enjoyable speech for the audience.
In traditional wedding etiquette, speeches would take place after dinner, and everyone would then toast a glass of champagne to kick-start the evening’s festivities.
However, modern brides and grooms are forever shaking things up, and oftentimes, in contemporary weddings, the speeches will take place before the wedding feast.
The traditional speech order at weddings goes as follows:
- Father of the bride
- Best man
- Other toasts/anyone else allocated to provide a speech.
In the days of yore (and in many modern weddings), the father of the bride is the first speech-giver. However, owing to the complexities of modern family units, or personal preferences, the first speech-giver can be anyone whom the bride and groom requests.
The toast-giver is usually the allocated wedding host. In traditional times, this would be the father of the bride. However, nowadays, it can be any member of the bridal party, including the mother of the bride, maid of honour, best man, or even the registrar/celebrant.