Rehearsal dinner speeches are the perfect opportunity for the couple’s nearest and dearest to give a heartfelt salute to the soon-to-be-weds and create indelible memories in the process. Following a template similar to a wedding reception speech, these speeches, when done right, are funny, tender, moving, and insightful, capturing something ineffable about what makes these two people so special—to each other and to you and the others who love them. Here are some of Zola’s tips and advice on how to write a rehearsal dinner speech.
The host of the rehearsal dinner gives the first speech and wedding rehearsal toast; in heterosexual couples, this is traditionally the groom’s father. Next is anyone in the wedding party who isn’t speaking at the reception (typically anyone besides the maid of honor, bride’s parents, and groom's best man). Finally, any other friends, family, and wedding party members may speak, if the mic is open to others.
Here are some questions to help you focus on meaningful anecdotes you might be able to incorporate into a speech:
Start with a straightforward introduction that describes your relationship to the couple or to one of the people getting married: “Hi everyone, I’m Lisa. Christine and I met through a student newspaper at Berkeley.” Then jump into the wedding speech. Be sure to also follow the rehearsal dinner etiquette.
Your aim should be to reveal something about a person’s essential values or personality, giving an inside look at their defining characteristics through your eyes. Showing how they’re thoughtful and loyal makes for a better story than simply saying that; for example, share the story of how your friend cheered you up by bringing over your favorite snacks and binge-watching your favorite show.
Remember, the rehearsal dinner includes those nearest and dearest to the couple. So feel free to keep it casual and go for those inside jokes that only those closest to them would know. You won’t have to explain that one spouse loves to sleep in or the other is always late, for example, the crowd will understand and appreciate these notes, and that’s what they really want to hear anyway! And be honest—people want to hear how you see the couple, not what you think others want to hear.
Besides that, there’s not much that’s off-limits. Remember, this is an insider group, and most people will understand (or at least forgive) minor antics and indiscretions if the story ultimately shows the person in a positive light. Of course, keep in mind what’s appropriate for the audience and make sure it’s a story they’re okay with you sharing with others.
Be sure to take a moment to address the person you’re saluting directly. And don’t forget to mention their soon-to-be spouse. Whether it’s the traits they share or the way they balance out their differences, be sure to recognize how you believe they make for a winning partnership.
Even the longest speeches, reserved for the host of the rehearsal dinner, should be under 10 minutes; the wedding party should keep it under seven minutes, and everyone else under five. Katelyn’s Wedding Words, Professional Vow and Speech Writer, tells couples, “It’s totally okay to give your speakers a time limit. After all, you don’t want to cut into dinner or dancing time because the speeches ran long. All speeches combined should not go over 20 minutes. Having 4 speakers? Allow them up to 5 minutes each.”
Remember everyone’s here for the couple and the celebration; no one’s ever wanted a wedding speech or rehearsal dinner toast to go on for longer. Stay away from reading a poem or lengthy quote to wrap it up. A simple way to end: “Everyone, please join me in raising a glass to the wonderful couple.”
It’s not easy to give a good rehearsal dinner speech: you have often years of thoughts and memories of the couple swirling around in your head, not to mention waves of emotions, and it’s hard to know where to focus and how to organize them. Plus, it’s not often that one has to characterize or consider in-depth one’s relationship with a friend or family member, much less distill everything into a rousing speech in front of a crowd.
Finally, stay away from fill-in-the-blank examples you can find online—they can come off sounding canned and impersonal. Instead, start by thinking deeply about the most meaningful memories you have of this person and build your speech from there. Don’t forget: No one will remember any rehearsal speech or wedding rehearsal dinner toast every word years later—all they’ll remember is how the speech made them feel.