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  • DJ Ben Boylan

The Complete Guide to Wedding Toasts

Learn everything about wedding speeches whether you are getting married, giving a speech, or a wedding professional


By Ben Boylan


David Perlman Photography

Were you asked to give a speech at a wedding and want help writing it? Are you getting married and want to know what to expect out of the toasts at your wedding? Or are you a wedding professional who is looking for the logistics of when and how the speeches will happen?


Public speaking is well known as many people's number one fear. And many people find wedding speeches to be boring. So why do we have them at all? When done right, they can be the highlight of a wedding. I'm a DJ who has worked at hundreds of weddings and heard a thousand speeches. So with the help of some top wedding pros, I'm about to teach you everything there is to know about wedding speeches.

  • A very brief history of wedding toasts

  • What's the difference between a wedding speech and a wedding toast?

  • Are wedding speeches given in a particular order? Who gives them?

  • Does the host still do a thank you toast?

  • What should you say in your wedding speech?

  • What makes a good wedding speech?

  • How should you start and end a wedding speech?

  • What are topics to stay away from in your wedding speech?

  • What are some of the most unique speeches heard by wedding pros?

  • What if you're asked to write a speech but can't attend the wedding?

  • Should you drink (or be drunk) before giving your wedding speech?

  • When should you be done writing your wedding speech?

  • At what point during the wedding should the speeches be given?

  • Where should you stand while giving a wedding speech?

  • How long should a wedding speech be?


A very brief history of wedding toasts


Toasts have been done regularly at weddings since the sixth century, explained Anise Catering. Wedding guests would pass a piece of toasted bread. Each guest would dip it in their glass of wine. When they were done, the host would eat it.


This removed the acidity from the wine and softened the bread too. Somewhere along the way, the toasters started saying a few words when they were passed the toast. The toast disappeared, but the words remained.



What's the difference between a wedding speech and a wedding toast?


A toast is a few words you say while raising your glass to the married couple. A speech is when, for instance, a best person or other guest gives a longer talk. And a toast is often done at the end of a speech. However, these two words are used interchangeably by most people.



Does the host still do a thank you toast?


Not as much. This tradition is disappearing


"Since many couples are getting married older, they are either omitting this or giving a quick thank you speech themselves at the end," said Tara of Dreammakers, an event planner specializing in NYC weddings.


Kate Arel of A Charmed Affair, an event planner based in the Catskills region of New York State agreed. "(The parents were) traditionally the primary patrons to the day, however this has changed significantly in recent years, with many couples paying for their own wedding celebrations, or funding coming from multiple family streams. Most commonly these days it's honor attendants giving speeches, with the occasional parents speeches."


David Perlman Photography

Are wedding speeches given in a particular order? Who gives them?


There is a traditional order, but it isn't always followed these days


"Typically wedding speeches have been given by the hosts of the party as well as the best person from both sides of the couple," said Jove Meyer of Jove Meyer Events, a New York City event planner who specializes in weddings.


"That being said this is changing and couples should ask the people that matter most in their life to speak, but also they should not have too many speakers, as guests do not always love speeches and most people are terrified of public speaking!" Jove added. "Parents/Hosts and one friend each is always my suggestion, otherwise it becomes too much talking and not enough partying!"


Here is the traditional order according to Brides Magazine:

  1. Host (welcome)

  2. Best person

  3. Best person

  4. Married couple


What should you say in your wedding speech?

  1. Introduce yourself

  2. Thank the hosts

  3. Talk about your family member or friend

  4. Talk about their partner

  5. Do a toast

Number 1: Introduction. Say who you are and your connection to the couple. "Chances are there are a few people in attendance that have no idea who you are," wrote Brides.


Number 2: Thank the hosts. In an online article, WeddingWire wrote, "Be sure you thank whomever you feel is important enough to mention, depending on the circumstances and who paid for or planned the wedding — parents, other family members, wedding party members, etc."


Number 3: Talk about your family member or friend

  • Explain how you know them

  • Tell a joke about them

  • Tell a story about them

Number 4: Talk about their partner

  • Explain how well you know them. And it's OK if you don't know them that well. "If you don't know one half of the couple all that well, try to discuss ways that they've made the newlywed that you do know a better person or are a fitting match to their attributes or lifestyle," wrote Brides.

  • Tell a story about them

  • Careful with jokes about their partner. The Knot wrote, "Make jokes about (your friend or sibling), but leave their new spouse alone."

Number 5: Do a toast. Raise your glass and say a few words to the married couple. Whatever you choose here will be fine.



What makes a good wedding speech?


Like I said, I've probably seen a thousand wedding speeches. The best ones share all of these characteristics:

  • They are short

  • They are sincere

  • They are funny

  • They are kind



David Perlman Photography

What are topics to stay away from in your wedding speech?


Lara Mahler of The Privilege is Mine, an NYC event planner who specializes in weddings, said "I would stay away from ex-relationships or anything incriminating from the person's past that may not be appropriate to say in front of family."


Weddings often have guests of many different generations, and work-acquaintances of the couple. The Knot said to avoid these topics:

  • Negativity about marriage in general

  • Past relationships

  • Previous marriages/divorces

  • Drinking, drugs, gambling

  • "Adult" humor or any other mention of sex


What are some of the most unique speeches heard by wedding pros?


"I have now seen two amazing presentations from groomsmen, structured like a business meeting. One involved an actual Power Point and a laser pointer, lots of business terminology smattered into the personal stories, and the other used a flip board with a wooden pointer. This one included hand drawn photos from the party, which really added to the stories they were sharing," Kate said.


And both Kate and Lara said they have seen guests perform a song or rap their speech. I've seen this too and it can be funny, but keep it short.



What if you're asked to write a speech but can't attend the wedding?


You can pre-record it and the DJ can play it during speeches


"There are always a few options," Kate said. "You can certainly decline the offer and opportunity regretfully if you are unable to attend. Or you can do a speech from afar. I have one couple doing a Zoom meeting for a speech from guests out of country, and another that will play a pre-recorded speech into a microphone for guests to enjoy."


Ask your DJ for help with the technical side of this.



Should you drink (or be drunk) before giving your wedding speech?


Try to wait until you are done with your speech


"A couple drinks to get you nice and loose (are OK), but being drunk might lead to rambling and going longer than anticipated." says Lara. Kate suggested speakers wait until after their speech to start drinking.


For better or worse, alcohol is a major part of most weddings. I have seen drunk speeches, drunk first dances and even a drunk friend officiate the wedding ceremony. There are often 2 hours left of the wedding reception after the speeches. If it's hard for you to limit yourself to 1 or 2 cocktails once you start drinking, wait until after your speech to hit the bar.



When should you be done writing your wedding speech?


You should finish your speech in advance, so you have time to review it


"No one should wing a wedding speech, or write it the day of the wedding, it is far too important for that! Wedding speeches should be written at least a month out, so you have time to sit with it, read it out loud, run it by friends and edit it," Jove said.


"If you are a confident speaker and do not want to write it all out then I suggest an outline with a great order, so you have a flow and something to remind you where you're going if you get lost or stuck!" he added.


"The first and very important piece to this is to write the speech and don't rely on ad-libbing the day of," Kate said. "While you may be an amazing speaker and have so many wonderful memories and stories to share, this often results in VERY long speeches, since you have no points to hit on."



At what point during the wedding should the speeches be given?


Wedding speeches are done during dinner


Speeches are almost always done at some point during dinner. When exactly will depend on your caterer and when they are serving the food. Everyone's attention should be on your guest who is speaking, not on a waiter picking up a plate.


"I like to do (speeches) in between food service, it ensures that all guests are seated and not too liquored up." Lara said. It also depends on what type of dinner you are having, a multi-course seated meal or buffet for example.


David Perlman Photography

Where should you stand while giving a wedding speech?


Either next to the married couple or directly in front of them


New York City wedding photographer David Perlman of David Perlman Photography says there are two great options for where to stand while giving a wedding toast.


"The great thing about having the speech giver stand next to the couple is that you can photograph them all in the same frame. However, oftentimes that is a very awkward set-up and might not feel right in the moment. Standing in the middle of the dance floor is also a really great option!"


David also added there are places you should not stand. "NOT in front of the band, DJ, or anything that will be an unpretty backdrop." When DJing a wedding, I always ask the photographer where the people giving speeches should stand. Then I let them know in advance.



How long should a wedding speech be?


5 minutes. Or 2 pages.


Lara and Kate agreed speeches should be around 5 minutes. This is not because they are boring. It is because "a long list of speeches and toasts can really cut into the overall celebration, and depending on scheduling, even push back details like food service, photos, and shorter service times with vendors," Kate said.


We all have that friend and relative who rambles on. But before the wedding, tell all the speakers that you'd like to stay to five minutes. Kate added, "if you know you have a lot of guests who want to give speeches, focus these more towards your rehearsal dinner. This event is typically a little more open in timing, and is a great time to really set the sentiment for the following day."



How do you use a microphone?


Hold it close to your mouth. Or stand close to the mic stand


Your job is to give a great speech. The DJ's job is for everyone to hear you. You can help the DJ by keeping the mic close to your mouth.

  • Don't hold it down by your belly button.

  • Don't hold it away from your mouth, and then bring it close to your mouth for emphasis

  • Don't do a "mic drop!" This can break the mic and make a loud screeching sound


Conclusion


So now you know how to give a wedding speech and you could practically plan a wedding reception. You learned how to give a wedding speech, who gives a wedding speech, when to give a wedding speech and where to give a wedding speech. Good luck with your speech - and most importantly, have fun!


Looking for a DJ to provide a mic for your speeches and follow them up with an epic dance party? Schedule a conversation.

The Complete Guide to Wedding Speeches

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