maid of honor giving a toast at an outdoor wedding reception
Kathryn White Photography

So you're the best man, maid of honor, father of the bride or groom, mother of the bride or groom, or another member of the wedding party, and have been asked to give a speech at your loved one's nuptials. Whether you're experienced at public speaking or a novice, it can be nerve-wracking to get up in front of all those people, but by following a few simple steps, you'll be ready to knock it out of the park. Read on for the ultimate guide to help you give a wedding toast guests are sure to rave about long after the party’s over.

Wedding Toast Tips

Here's a step-by-step guide to giving a wedding reception toast, but if you're giving a rehearsal dinner toast, this advice is applicable, as well.  

Introduce yourself.

There are bound to be wedding guests there that don’t know who you are. If you’ve only met their fiancé(e) a handful of times, chances are you won’t recognize a lot of their friends and family members. Before you begin your wedding speech, introduce yourself! Tell people in a few words how you know the bride or groom so they have a better understanding of your relationship to the newlyweds.

Tell a story.

Throw it back to your days in school by telling an old story about the bride or groom. Do you have a memory of the two of you discussing the qualities you wanted in your future spouse on the playground when you were 12? If they’re someone you met later on in life, can you recall what they told you after their first date, or talk about what they were like before their spouse came along? Try to brainstorm with others for some good stories you can share. The best wedding toasts feel personal, and the right anecdote can add that unique touch. 

Make a joke (or two).

While this shouldn’t turn into a Comedy Central special, it’s definitely okay to crack a few jokes. Perhaps, they had a funny first impression of their significant other (that won’t cause hurt feelings), or maybe they had a bad habit they were forced to break once they’d found the one. We recommend sprinkling in only a handful of quips throughout your speech, versus making it chock-full of embarrassing events (don't mention any exes!) and inside jokes. 

Be sentimental.

The most important part of the speech is letting the bride or groom know how much they mean to you, and how happy you are to see them find the person they want to spend their life with. Give an overview of the relationship you have with that person and let them know how much they’ve influenced your life. If there’s ever a time to be sappy, the wedding toast is definitely it.

Address the happy couple.

With that being said, make sure you’re not giving the speech solely to one person. This special day is about your loved one and their new spouse, and while you may be closer to one person versus the other, do your best to include both of them. Reach out to their spouse’s friends for some insight if needed, or make note of all the wonderful ways your friend’s S.O. has had a positive influence on them. Talk about his or her first impression, or what they said right after their first date. Memories like that are what the newlyweds will be happy to hear.

Keep it short and sweet.

Remember, this isn’t a one-man show. There are likely multiple people making speeches; therefore, we recommend keeping your toast between two and three minutes. Find out how many other people are speaking and adjust your time accordingly. It’s better to err on the shorter side, as people are probably eager to get to the dance floor!

Memorize and practice.

After you've written your toast, we highly recommend memorizing it, as well as practicing it several times, both by yourself and in front of others. While you can certainly hold a few note cards on the big day if it makes you feel more comfortable, you'll be able to give a more natural-sounding speech if you've committed it to memory. And don't forget to have a champagne glass nearby so you can raise it at the end of your speech. 

Don’t panic.

There’s no need to freak out if you’re asked to make a speech! It’s an honor to toast to a close friend or family member, and it doesn’t require the same prep work as those graded speeches you delivered in school. Write out your thoughts on note cards and practice in the mirror before you stand up in front of everyone. As long as you take a deep breath and speak from the heart, you’ll totally nail it. 

Wedding Toast Example

This is an example of a maid of honor toast, but the structure can be easily translated to a father of the bride speech, best man toast, or other speech. 

Good evening, everyone. For those of you who don't know me, my name is Jordan Riley and I'm Blake and Aubrey's maid of honor. I've known Blake since we were in third grade. I had just moved from California and was so nervous on my first day at a new school. Blake noticed that I had a Tamagotchi on my backpack, invited me to sit with her at lunch, and we've been best friends ever since. I'm truly honored to be here on her wedding day. 

As our first meeting would indicate, Blake is a friend to all, and has never met a stranger. She's always planning nights out, trips, reunions, and dinners to ensure our friend group stays connected. But Blake isn't only there in the good times—she's one of the most empathetic and supportive people I know. When I was going through a difficult time a few years ago, Blake was the first person by my side, holding my hand, and bringing me my favorite tacos. 

I was with Blake the first time she met Aubrey. The previous night, Blake told me she was giving up on finding a relationship and was just happy being single. But as soon as I saw Blake and Aubrey talking, I knew she was throwing that plan out the window. There was instant chemistry between them, and it wasn't just the beer talking. Aubrey is the yin to Blake's yang, providing stability and a calm demeanor to Blake's more, shall we say, energetic personality. I've been inspired by their support and love for each other, and can't wait for more sushi nights, football games, and yes, even camping trips together.  

Let's raise our glasses and send our well wishes to the newly-married couple, Blake and Aubrey. Cheers!