Wedding Toast: Who, What, When, Why

Posted by mallen on Sep 26, 2009

wedding-toastWhen plotting and planning the reception elements, the inevitable questions arise, “Who toasts? What do they say? When do they say it?  Why must we do this?”  Let’s take a look at the traditions (and modern suggestions) to wedding toasts:

  • Who proposes a toast? – Tradition has the Best Man starting the toasts.  And traditionally, he is the only one who does.  Now, it’s very rare that the only person to speak (or want to speak) at your reception will be the Best Man. The Father of the Bride (traditionally the host of the festivities) may want to say a few words, as might the Father of the Groom. The Maid of Honor may want to raise a glass as well.  So far, that’s at least four people wishing to speak.  And at some point, won’t you want to respond to so many well wishes too?  So let’s review the next point…
  • What do they say? The Best Man should toast the bride and then the bride and groom as a couple.  The Maid of Honor typically speaks of the bride’s virtue and extends well wishes to the new couple.  The Father of the Bride will welcome guests to the festivities and the groom into the family, while the Father of the Groom might toast the hospitality of the Bride’s family and welcome her into the fold (assuming that the bride’s family is hosting the event. )  The Bride and Groom will want to thank the toast makers for their kind words, express their love and gratitude to their parents and thank everyone for sharing this special day with them.
  • When do they say it? I have two schools of thought on when toasts should happen. When accommodating more than three toast makers, I suggest the Best Man give his toast when your guests are seated for dinner, before the food service has begun.  At that point, guests should have at their tables a full glass of something (champagne, wine or water) with which to raise in your honor.  Immediately afterward have the Father or Parents of the Bride speak, and then serve the first course.  Once the first course plates are cleared and wine glasses have refilled, have the Maid of Honor say a few words followed by the Father or Parents of the Groom. Otherwise, the simplest approach is to start with the Best Man, who’ll then introduce the Maid of Honor, then have a short welcome from one parents (on behalf of all of them) before the food service begins – thus avoiding any interruption to the flow of the meal (especially if the menu is buffet  or family style.)  The Bride and Groom may wish to hold their toast to their guests until cake cutting, after the reception has proceeded for a while but isn’t quite over yet. (NOTE: The only time the Bride & Groom should raise a glass and drink is at this point, when they are toasting their guests or others.  It’s an etiquette faux pas to raise your own glass and drink when you are being toasted, as if to say “Here’s to me!”)
  • Why must we do this? Just like any wedding tradition, you don’t have to schedule toasts.  But, I can guarantee that people will want to raise a glass to you, sing your praises, bestow well wishes and blessings, and perhaps generate a laugh or two.  Some of the most memorable moments of a wedding happen when someone you love and who loves you speaks of you and your partnership.  It’s heartwarming, it’s endearing, and it’s sentimental (and surprising the words expressed in this moment of celebration.)

With the evolution of many wedding traditions, so this will evolve.  Encourage those invited to speak to keep their toast between two to three minutes, thus allowing for concise thoughts and to keep guests’ attention (and not prolonging into a “speech”, especially with multiple toast makers on deck!).  Ask them to write down their thoughts; few people can speak eloquently or humorously without some preparation.  And remember, the rehearsal dinner is a fantastic time to open the floor to as many guests as wish to speak and share their stories and celebratory thoughts.

“Happy Planning!”