bride and groom, a black couple, laugh while listening to wedding speech during their reception
Craig Obrist Photography

Wedding receptions are, undoubtedly, about the newly married couple in love, but there is still a lot going on. Once the ceremony is over, the wedding day can quickly go from dignified to uproarious (in the best way possible, of course). The toast is possibly the last time every guest will be seated, hushed and focused on one thing all at the same time, and the right wedding speech order means that the reception will flow properly. 

Traditionally, the wedding speech order usually goes something like this. 

1. The best man

You might think that being best man is all about planning a raucous bachelor party and not much else, but this job does have a few best man duties to prepare for, most important being the best man speech. And when it comes to the wedding speech order, the best man usually goes first. The best man should introduce himself and explain how he knows the couple. For example, he can tell the story of how he and the groom have been buddies since high school and how they met the bride-to-be during spring break their junior year of college. He can then say something positive about the couple and their relationship, show gratitude for being part of their day and wish them happiness. (Pssst! Here's how to write a best man speech.)

2. Maid of honor

When thinking about who gives speeches at weddings, the maid of honor is usually top of mind. While the maid of honor can follow the same outline as the best man’s speech, it’s more common to focus on the bride. Drawing from past experiences together, the MOH can tell a heartwarming or funny story from their friendship or from wedding planning escapades. For example, maybe the veil didn’t arrive until the day before the wedding or putting together the favors was a complete nightmare, but the bride managed to keep her cool through it all. (Here are all our tips on how to write a maid of honor speech, from start to finish.) 

3. Parents of either spouse

If one or both sets of parents are hosting the wedding, they may choose to say a few words to welcome everyone to the event as part of the wedding speech order. This toast will be fairly fast, especially if the parents made a lengthy or heartwarming toast at the rehearsal dinner. The father of the bride speech or parents' toast usually welcomes and thanks the guests, and then raises a glass to the other set of parents and the newlyweds.

4. The couple

Sometimes the couple will opt to make a toast, particularly if they are hosting the wedding. The main purpose of this toast is to be a wedding thank-you speech to everyone involved: the bridal party, family and guests. Couples may also express their excitement about starting their new married life together. Again, this is an optional (but nice) part of the wedding speech order, so if the couple is hesitant about speaking in front of a crowd, they can go from table to table during the reception to express their thanks in a more personal, intimate way. 

Wedding toast length and content

Keep it brief. One to two minutes is ideal, and three minutes is the max. Even if there’s a lot to say, talking for three minutes can feel like a long time! Just one message needs to be conveyed: one story, one wish for the couple, one heartwarming song lyric. The best speeches don't necessarily have perfected, eloquent wording; instead, they evoke an emotion. Simple, short toasts can still be filled with charm. 

When it comes to what to say, your intention should be to make both spouses and all guests the same time. Inside stories may amuse the couple, but they can easily get lost on the crowd. Don’t bring up old flames or problems the couple has faced. Not sure if that story from freshman year is appropriate? Leave it out - children, parents, and grandparents are listening! Avoid insult humor, too. Remember, this is a toast, not a roast! For more tips, here's how to write a funny wedding speech.

Alternative and extra speech-makers

Every couple has their own preferences and relationships when it comes to who gives wedding speeches and toasts, and nobody should ever feel forced to give one. If the best man or maid of honor isn’t comfortable speaking in front of a crowd (or if there isn’t a best man or maid of honor at all), either skip it or hand the baton to somebody who will love getting up in front of a sea of eager faces. If a lot of people want to make a toast, consider arranging traditional toasts during the wedding and plan the rest for the rehearsal dinner.

Rehearsal dinner toasts

At the rehearsal dinner, the groom's father (or whoever is hosting the dinner) usually makes a speech, along with anyone else who wants to toast but won’t be getting up at the wedding. Since fewer people will be in attendance, these rehearsal dinner toasts can be longer and more involved than wedding day speeches. Say hello and introduce yourself, then welcome everyone and say how excited you are for the wedding. Tell a sweet, hilarious, or intriguing story that’s related to the couple or the wedding. For example, give your first impression of meeting the bride or groom; talk about how the couple met or got engaged; or share a childhood memory, like how the bride used to try on her mother’s wedding gown when she was a teenager. End with something sentimental and heartfelt about the couple or a quote about marriage, then wish the couple well.