Wedding toasts are tricky—especially if it’s your first time. You’ve got a lot of different people to please, and couples can be extra-sensitive on their wedding day (or at their rehearsal dinner). After all, they’ve got a whole room of the most important people in their lives looking at them. Because of this, there’s a lot of pressure on these speeches. With that in mind, we’ve gathered some helpful tips to guide you towards the best wedding toast that you and your favorite couple will remember fondly for years. So, keep your notepad at the ready and prepare for some key(note) advice. This is our ultimate guide to writing and giving a wedding toast.
Are you unsure if you need to come up with a wedding toast or not? Generally speaking, the following people give a toast at the reception:
That being said, the couple may request that another important family member (such as a grandparent or the mother of the groom), bridesmaid, or groomsman also speak.
Give some thought as to what you’re going to say and jot down some notes, whether or not you plan on using them at the reception. You might trip up your words or lose your train of thought if you “wing it,” so our advice is to, well, not. Respect the couple on their wedding day by giving your wedding toast the thoughtful preparation it deserves. That means preparing it well in advance and rehearsing a few times in order to gauge the length and flow of your speech. Trust us, both the couple and you will be grateful you did.
Be true to yourself. If you’re not naturally funny, don’t try to be. If you’re not one for mushy sentimentality, don’t go there. Be honest and give a few words about why your relationship with the bride and/or groom is a special one and why you admire their partnership. It’s as simple as that.
For those fearful of public speaking, you may be happy to hear that most wedding toasts are somewhere around three minutes long. Remember, you’re performing a wedding toast, not a filibuster. All you really need to do is introduce yourself and explain your relationship to the couple, share a special memory or story about the pair (or the bride and/or groom separately), say congratulations, and wish them a long, happy future. Keep it short and sweet.
You won’t believe how many people forget this essential wedding toast component. The whole purpose of a wedding coast is to wish the newlyweds well, so make sure this word makes it into your speech.
Don’t stare down the couple, but keep in mind that they are the recipients of your speech and the most important people in your audience. You are not putting on a show for the wedding guests, but toasting your good friend (or sibling, son, or daughter), their new spouse, and their future. A little eye contact goes a long way. That being said, don’t be afraid to glance down at some note cards here and there.
Make sure you know the reception timeline and general order of events—don’t even think about bugging the bride or groom with questions about when you’re “on.” Speak with the wedding planner (or the person acting in this capacity—even the DJ or bandleader might know) so you know when and where you are supposed to give your toast, what kind of mic you’ll have, and where to place your notes if necessary.
Follow this general outline for your wedding toast, and you’ll be golden:
Greeting and self-introduction
Thanks to the hosts for the great party
Funny, attention-grabbing opening line
Great anecdote(s) about the bride/groom (best if it supports #3)
Reasons why the bride/groom is great (as demonstrated in #4)
Reasons why the bride/groom’s partner is great, and why they’re a great match
Great anecdote about them as a couple (best if it supports #6)
Congratulations, a beautiful quotation, and/or sweet wishes
Toast to the happy couple’s future
There are many different types of toasts you can give. But whether you decide to give a funny wedding toast or a more sentimental one, there's a right and wrong way to do it. Here’s a list of things you should DO when giving a perfect wedding toast:
The best wedding speeches are those that let the audience know a little bit more about the bride and/or groom—in a good way—so try to include some funny or sweet stories from their childhoods, adolescence, or young adulthoods. Ask the couple’s parents, siblings, or other close friends for any great tidbits that you could weave into your toast for greater authenticity.
Good stories make for good toasts. Take your listeners on a little journey about the couple and how we arrived at this special day. If you’re part of the wedding party representing just one of the newlyweds, explain what kind of person s/he is (as demonstrated by X anecdote from the past), how you know each other, how s/he met the other newlywed, how their relationship grew, why they are such a great match, and what you hope for their future. If you can weave in a little thematic joke or a narrative through-line, even better.
A perfect wedding toast includes a healthy mix of humor, sentimentality, good-natured ribbing, and sincerity. You want the couple, and the rest of the guests, to feel both amused and touched by your words. If you’re naturally funny, include some clean jokes that won’t hurt anyone’s feelings (jokes at your own expense are alway a safe bet). If you always botch the punch line, it’s perfectly fine to stick to a straightforward message of warmth and congratulations.
Not all of us were born with the gift of gab. If Wordsworth you are not, there’s no shame in stealing some great lines from the masters. Look up some quotations on love, relationships, or marriage to either guide your speech’s theme or to pepper in at the beginning and end for greatest impact. Writers and essayists like Martin Luther King Jr., Pablo Neruda, Shakespeare, or any of the Romantic poets are good places to look for inspiring quotations.
Nowhere is the phrase “practice makes perfect” more true than in public speaking. Besides familiarizing yourself with the material, you’ll be able to hear any mistakes, awkward phrasing, or weird timing when experiencing the words out loud. Practice reading your speech to a partner or friend, get their feedback (and have them time you so you know if you need to add or cut), and practice again until you feel solid.
If you have a bring-down-the-house kind of wedding toast but no one can understand it, what good will it do? Make sure your one-liners zing and your heartfelt wishes bring tears by speaking loudly and clearly, enunciating your words, and appropriately using a microphone or other AV equipment that’s provided.
This one is obvious, right? The key here is to know your audience. Remember that you’re addressing the entire guest list—which might include ages 3 to 93. Joking about adult topics must be done subtly and in good taste. To keep things classy, be intentionally vague and keep the examples lighthearted. Don’t go into sordid detail, don’t share anything that could get anyone in trouble, don’t reveal anything truly humiliating, and avoid bathroom humor.
So that your speech doesn’t feel awkwardly lopsided, be sure to say some kind, sincere, and personal words to both of the people who just got married. If you are friends with both of them, even more reason to share an anecdote about why they are great individually and doubly great together.
No matter what else you say or do, end your wedding speech with positivity. Congratulations on the marriage, happy wishes for the couple’s future together, and a general toast in their direction are customary (for a reason) and always well-received.
And here’s a list of things you should NOT DO when giving a great wedding toast:
Tell a short (short) story, not a novel. No one wants to hear you digress about something unrelated to your key message, or worse, about yourself. Remember, this isn’t your show—this moment is about the newly married couple, so resist the urge to go off on a tangent.
Making people laugh is good. Making people uncomfortable is not. Offensive, off-color, or any mean-spirited joke at the expense of an individual or group is a no-fly zone. If you have to stop and ask yourself, “Should I say this?,” it’s a good indication that you should just not. And if you normally swear like a sailor, watch your language and avoid profanity.
If only you and the bride or groom (or a small handful of other people) will understand what you’re talking about, then it’s probably not good material to include in a wedding speech. You don’t want to alienate your audience by making them feel like they’re not in on the joke. Stick to universal topics and be inclusive in your story- and joke-telling.
While it might be tempting to throw back a few after the “I dos” to loosen up for your moment in the spotlight, use common sense. Has consuming alcohol in a short amount of time ever helped you be more articulate, quick on your feet, or sensitive to the passage of time? Our guess is no. Wait until after your speech to take advantage of the open bar, because it will be clear to the crowd if you are not in your best frame of mind.
Every public speaker misses a line or trips up their words now and then. Rather than drawing attention to an error by apologizing profusely or joking about how bad a public speaker you are, simply make a quick correction or skip over it and move on. Dwell any further, and your audience will get uncomfortable or lose confidence in you.
While you certainly don’t need to memorize your speech, it’s public speaking 101 that just reading aloud from a piece of paper (or your phone) without acknowledging the crowd is a no-no. Know your speech well enough so that you don’t have to look at it word-for-word. Take time to look around, make eye contact (especially when you’re addressing the happy couple), and pause for laughter or applause.
Being nervous is totally normal—but if your nerves are too apparent, they can distract your audience or put them on edge. A clear sign of being nervous is racing through your speech like you’re competing for a NASCAR trophy. Take deep breaths, use the above tips about audience engagement, and speak clearly and slowly. We promise, it’ll be over before you know it.
That being said, don’t be long-winded or hog too much of the wedding reception’s precious timeline, or your audience will start wondering when they can get on the dance floor rather than pay attention to your eloquence. Stick to whatever time frame the couple recommended, or if you’re on your own, aim for 2-3 minutes.
This day is not about you, so your toast definitely shouldn’t be. A personal anecdote about you AND the bride and/or groom is great, so long as it illuminates funny (and flattering) points about the other’s personality, talents, or achievements. Watch how many times you say “I” and “me” and cut back if you find these words dominating your speech to avoid coming off as insincere.
At all. Ever. Seriously. Don’t do it. It will make things awkward, and like we said before, people are extra-sensitive on their big day.
If you have any doubt whether a joke will offend the bride, groom, or their parents, leave it out of your toast. Keep in mind, it’s a toast, not a roast.
All the tips in the world can help you write your wedding speech to a point. Asking yourself a few important questions, however, can really aid you in honing in on what you’d like to say. As you sit down to write (or revisit) your wedding toast, remember to ask yourself the following. Give your answers some good thought and don’t be afraid to change them.
What tone should you be aiming for? Wedding toasts can span a variety of tones, from playful to very formal. Before writing anything down, ask yourself what tone would be most appropriate for the couple, their guests, and the occasion. For example, if the wedding is a black tie affair and the couple is going all out, we recommend avoiding embarrassing stories or dirty jokes. If the couple and reception are more laid back, feel free to go for a few laughs. If you’re unsure if your speech should lean heartfelt, funny, or elsewhere, ask the couple for their preference.
What story (or stories) are right to tell? As a best friend or family member, we’re betting you have a lot of stories and memories with the bride(s), groom(s), or both. That being said, not just any story should be included in your toast. Consider memories that display the couple’s best qualities, or one that shines a nice light on their relationship. You can also include the story of how you know the bride(s) and/or groom(s). We recommend sticking to two stories tops—how you know the couple and a fond memory.
How can I back up what I’m saying? When describing the bride(s) or groom(s) great qualities, try not to list them out and move on. If you want to mention how kind and thoughtful the bride is, ask yourself if you have a short story that can back that up. Doing so is more interesting and convincing for the audience.
Do I have any advice for the couple? Perhaps you’re married or are in a successful life partnership. If this is the case, ask yourself if there’s any advice you’d like to offer the couple that they can take into their new marriage and beyond. We recommend zeroing in on one detailed piece of advice or 1-3 quick ones (e.g. never stop dating your partner and always communicate).
How am I doing on time? Throughout the toast writing process, remember to check in with yourself and ask how long your speech is. It’s easier to be aware of timing while writing than to go back and have to edit things down. We suggest, after writing each “section” (introduction, story, etc.) that you time yourself while reading it allowed. When you’re finished, do the same to ensure you land around 2-5 minutes.
There are really never any circumstances under which the following topics are a good idea to bring up in a wedding toast or speech. Don’t touch these subject matters with a 10-foot pole:
With plenty of tips in mind, let’s put them into practice. The following are a couple wedding toast examples. Feel free to take inspiration from them and personalize with your own stories, qualities, jokes, and more.
A maid of honor or best man speech should be heartfelt, earnest, and perhaps a bit humorous. For example:
Good evening, everyone. Tonight we gather to celebrate the marriage of [Name] and [Name]. As many of your already know, I’m [Your Name], the sibling/cousin/best friend of the bride/groom. I’m so grateful to be part of this important day and beautiful celebration.
Bride/Groom, as long as I’ve known you, you’ve been exceptionally kind and open-minded.
Share a story or two that display these traits.
I’m thrilled that you’ve found someone that shares and appreciates these qualities of yours, as well as many more.
Share a memory about the couple or spouse.
Tonight, we celebrate the union of two beautiful, wonderful people. Please join me in raising your glass as we toast to the Bride and Groom/Brides/Groom and their happiness for years to come.
The father or mother of the bride or groom, or another important family member, may also share a toast with the crowd. For example:
Today I am overjoyed to officially welcome Bride/Groom into my family. As long as I’ve known them, they’ve made my son/daughter/child/niece/nephew/grandchild immensely happy and I look forward to watching this happiness grow for years to come.
Share 1-2 memories from the bride or groom’s childhood or young adult life.
When you first introduced me to Bride/Groom, I could immediately sense your immense love and care for one-another.
Share a memory about the couple.
Bride/Groom, I know you will always love and support [Name], as I have. I’m honored to join our families and love you both so much. Congratulations!
Being asked to give a rehearsal dinner or reception toast can bring on the pressure. However, if you follow our tips and speak from the heart, odds are you’ll do a wonderful job honoring the couple. Prepare, breathe, and be ready to celebrate!
For other need-to-knows regarding wedding planning and attending wedding ceremonies, take a good look at our Expert Advice.