The traditional protocol is that the first wedding speech is given by the Father of the Bride, the Groom and the Best Man at the wedding reception. At many weddings, sometimes due to family circumstances, a speech is given by the Mother of the Bride, the Father of the Groom, the Brother of the Bride or the Bride herself. Although most guests look forward to hearing the speeches, the speaker often views this with an element of trepidation, not being familiar with addressing a large audience of people, many of whom they know.
Public speaking ranks high on most people's phobia lists! However, if you are a key part of the wedding party you won't be able to avoid it this time. The best approach is to make sure you are prepared and rehearsed and you'll have nothing to worry about. Bear in mind that a wedding speech that lasts between five to ten minutes will hold your audiences attention better than a longer diatribe of words and is more likely to remain punchy and entertain rather than bore.
The normal order of the wedding speeches if protocol is followed is Father of the Bride, followed by The Groom, followed by The Best Man - any other wedding speeches would follow after these three speakers. Due to many circumstances, some weddings will choose to change the order, or the people, who will perform speeches from the traditionally accepted order.
At the wedding reception, if the traditional order is followed, the Father of the Bride will be the first to speak (if the father of the bride is not present, then whoever escorted the bride down the aisle may undertake this speech). In his speech the Father of the Bride should include thanks to the guests for attending, thank anyone who contributed financially to the wedding, compliment his daughter on her looks and her choice of husband and welcome his new son-in-law to the family. He should conclude his speech with a toast to the bride and groom.
The groom then responds on behalf of his new wife and himself and thanks the bride’s father for his toast. In his speech the groom should thank the guests for coming and for their wedding gifts, thank both sets of parents, compliments his bride, thanks his best man and then thanks and toasts the bridesmaids.
The best man will then respond and thank the groom for his toast to the bridesmaids. In his speech the best man should congratulate the bride and groom, reads any messages from those unable to attend the wedding and concludes with a toast to the bride and groom.
Most wedding reception speeches conclude with the best man. On some occasions other members of the bridal party may wish to speak and, should they wish to do so, the protocol is that their speeches should follow that given by the best man. Should the bride wish to speak, she would follow the best man and she will thank the guests for coming, thank her parents and bridesmaids, compliment her groom and proposes a toast (to whom would be a matter of the bride's personal choice). The chief bridesmaid then responds to the bride's toast and thanks the bride, compliments the ushers and proposes a toast. Any other speakers would follow these.
Should the bride choose not to make a speech, then any other speeches, the Father of the Groom for example, would follow the best man's speech. Each speech should conclude with a toast and be responded to by the following speaker. Ultimately, if additional speakers follow the best man's speech, then it would be appropriate for the final response to be made in a short speech from the Chief Bridesmaid, concluding with a toast to the bride and groom.
If the wedding has a Master Of Ceremonies, it will be courteous to advise him of all the speeches in advance and agree the order in which they will take place. If a Master Of Ceremonies is not present at the reception, then the order of speeches should be agreed with the groom and best man beforehand - this should avoid any confusion and potential surprises at the time.
Immediately before the wedding meal is when your guests are most attentive and those giving the toasts are likely to be most focused and articulate. However, toasts may also occur between courses or after the meal. It's always better to identify ahead of time all of those who plan to give a speech at the wedding. That way your Master of Ceremonies or Toastmaster (if you have either) can introduce each person who is toasting, and create a smooth transition from one toast to the next. Alternatively (and most often) the speeches commence when the father of the bride stands and taps his glass to get everyone’s attention.
Nothing is more awkward than starting the toasts and then discovering the bubbly has not been poured. Usually, the pouring time is arranged in advance with your caterer, but it doesn't hurt to do a quick visual inspection right before the first toast. An experienced wedding caterer or master of ceremonies usually does this for you.
The toast proposer should stand and be close enough to make eye contact with the bride and groom while, at the same time, being clearly visible to the guests. Remember, nothing should move but your lips - swaying or pacing while you speak is an annoying distraction for your audience. The bride and groom remain seated while being toasted.
If you are not accustomed to public speaking, be aware that your delivery needs to be more deliberate than if you were in a personal conversation. Otherwise, guests will have a difficult time understanding you. Even with a microphone, speak in a strong, solid voice the way you would when speaking to someone several feet away.
An extremely brief toast (under a minute) suggests you are unprepared or have very little to say. The bride and groom deserve better! On the other hand, a long, rambling speech (over 10 minutes) will challenge people's attention. The most effective toasts are usually in the 5 - 7 minute range.
Don't wing it. Use note cards as reminders of the points you want to include or at least an outline of what you plan to say. In general, introduce yourself, explain your connection to the newlyweds, and offer an amusing personal anecdote or two about the bride and/or groom and then end on a serious note of good wishes. Overall, speak from the heart, as the audience will detect any insincerity immediately.
... you may wish to ensure that you have a glass of water to hand in case you have a 'dry mouth' whilst giving your speech
The speeches given by the father of the bride (or parents of the bride or groom), the groom and the best man should be unique. There are many places that will assist with preparing your speech, give you snippets of humour to include and inform you of the most suitable content. However, overall the speech given by the bride's father or by a parent of the wedding couple should come from personal experience and be given from the heart. The best man can include more humour in his speech and draw on personal anecdotes concerning the bride or groom (or both), but the level of restraint in the content needs to be reflective of the couple's wishes and of the wide range of guests present - humour should not sacrifice respect and good taste in the best man's speech.
The wedding speeches should be of personal and unique content, covering the formal requirements of each speaker, include personal experiences and - only if you feel comfortable - an element of light humour or anecdotes.
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