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"What did they think of my Wedding Speech?"
"They said: As they can't hold me up as a Shining Example .... they'd
just have to show me up as an Awful Warning! ..... They were joking of course. ..... I think."
We have probably all been to a Wedding where a speaker didn't gauge how different the families
were and said something that either upset or offended one side. To help you avoid this embarrassing
situation plus looks that could kill from the bride's father, we have provided some useful hints
about "traditional etiquette" below.
The first and most important principle to follow is that the speech should be suited to the families
and guests involved. For example, if a very casual reception is intended, do make this clear to
the guests and speakers, otherwise they will be confused and uncertain of what is expected from
them. Nowadays it is common to depart from the strict formality of the past, so guests can no longer
rely on the 'traditions' to guide them.
In today's world the reasoning behind some of the traditions is no longer relevant, or their purpose
is no longer appropriate. Many weddings, if not most, now involve brides who are older than 20;
furthermore the new wife is often NOT financially dependent on the new husband.
If you are interested in the origins of older traditions, we recommend Wedding Customs & Folklore
by Margaret Baker, which is amusing and easy to read. It includes superstitions, love tokens, bride
stealing and lots more. If you think that the modern world is very 'liberal' and free about sex,
just read what our ancestors got up to.
The world has changed, but there are certain customs that are still expected and nice to observe
in celebration of the love and aspirations of the happy couple.
Some guidelines to consider:
A more formal wedding may have a toastmaster. The toastmaster opens the proceedings and keeps
them flowing smoothly. In the absence of a toastmaster the Best Man usually undertakes some of
The Toastmaster's role includes:
- Arranging the receiving line, and
- Introducing guests by name to the hosts.
- Asking guests to take their seats, after the receiving line has welcomed
- Announcing the arrival of the Bride and Groom, and escorting them to
- Introducing prayers before eating. If no clergyman is present, and
no senior member of the families wants to, then the toastmaster often
- Announcing the cutting of the cake, and inviting guests forward to
- Introducing the speakers, who will be proposing the traditional toasts,
- To the Bride & Groom - normally by the Father of the Bride, or an
old friend of the family.
- To the health of the Bridesmaids - normally by the Groom.
- To the health of the parents, of the Bride and Groom - normally
by the Best Man.
The traditional purpose of the reception is to welcome the guests who
have often travelled a long way to be with you. It is also an opportunity
to introduce members of the two families to each other. Unless the families
of the Bride and Groom actually live locally to each other, it is most
probable that they do not recognise each other, so some introduction is
The formal part of this welcome is achieved by arranging a 'receiving
line'. Wherever possible, the Bride and Groom together with their parents
should arrive at the reception venue before the other guests so that they
are available to meet them as they arrive.
The toastmaster or best man will arrange the receiving line. The best
place is in an assembly area or the entrance to the dining hall. The toastmaster
should introduce each guest, by name, to their hosts.
The traditional order in the line is:
- The Bride's mother
- The Bride's father
- The Groom's mother
- The Groom's father, then a small gap
- The Bride
- The Groom
This introduction is not the time for a chat but for a quick courtesy
comment. A compliment, thanks for the invitation, congratulations on the event,
comment on the lovely service, etc. At some venues the design of the building
or the number of the guests means that there is simply not enough space
to hold a full six-person receiving line. In this case tradition allows
for the Bride's mother to act as host, while the Bride and Groom circulate
among the guests to welcome them.
Once all the guests have been formally 'received' the toastmaster will
ask them to take their seats for the meal. There is usually a seating
plan and name signs at each table place.
Once the guests are seated, the toastmaster announces the arrival of the
Bride and Groom and escorts them to their places on the top table. The
guests stand and applaud during this. Normally seated at the top table
are the Bride and Groom, their parents, the Best Man and the bridesmaids.
If grace is to be said, then while everyone is still standing is a good
time. (Tip: The Bride and Groom should stay on their feet, as seeing them
sit is a visual cue for the guests to sit also). If a clergyman is present,
usually the one who performed the ceremony, then they will usually be asked
to say grace. Otherwise a senior member of either family or the toastmaster
may lead grace.
Once the dessert has been completed the toastmaster will announce the
cutting of the cake, and invite guests forward to take photos, if practical.
The real division of the cake is usually performed by the catering staff
and served to the guests with coffee.
Champagne: After the coffee, champagne or other drink is served.
At this point the toastmaster begins by introducing the speakers who
will propose the following 'traditional' toasts:
- The Bride and Groom - normally by the Father of the Bride, or an old
friend of the family.
- To the health of the Bridesmaids - normally by the Groom.
- (Presents now? ) - If the groom is giving gifts, now is a good opportunity.
- (Bride's speech now? ) - If non-traditionally the bride wants to
say a few words, now is a good opportunity.
- To the health of the parents, of the Bride and Groom - normally by
the Best Man.
At the end of the formal speeches the toastmaster may ask the guests to applaud
the Bride and Groom, or the entire top table, while they leave the reception
room. At modern weddings the bride may feel that she wants to say a few words,
there is no special order for this and it can be fitted into the order at
any point by agreement, make sure that the Toastmaster knows!
The Bride and Groom usually give presents to say thank you to:-
- the Best Man
- the Bridesmaids
- their Parents
There are traditions concerning the content of the principal speeches,
The Father of the Bride
- Welcome all the guests to the wedding, on behalf of your wife and yourself.
- Thank them for coming to help you celebrate the wedding of your daughter.
- Tell them about your daughter - skills, abilities, achievements, character,
reminiscences. It is common for there to be gentle teasing.
- Tell them about your new son in law - skills, abilities, achievements,
character, reminiscences. Perhaps more gentle teasing?
- Toast the Bride and Groom. "So, ladies and gentlemen, family and
friends, let us raise our glasses and join together in wishing them every
happiness. I give you the toast of the Bride and Groom, ... And ... May
God bless them."
- Thank the Bride's father for proposing the toast.
- Thank him for the wedding feast (if appropriate). Thank him for his
kindness and friendship.
- Thank him for his daughter.
- Thank the guests for their good wishes, and for coming.
- Thank everyone for their gifts.
- Thank your 'new' wife for marrying you!
- Thank the Bridesmaids who have helped your wife through the day. Comment
on their charm & beauty. - not too much, though, as you may make
your new wife jealous!
- As well as the traditional thank-yous the Groom may wish to add a
few words about how he met his wife, activities they share, etc. Gentle
teasing is allowable.
- Toast the Bridesmaids: "Ladies and gentlemen, will you join me
in drinking the toast of 'The Bridesmaids' - thank you."
The Best Man speaks on behalf of the Bridesmaids (and other helpers -
ushers, etc.), and
- Thanks the Groom for his toast. He also:
- Toasts the Parents: "I should like to add to the thanks to the
parents which (Bridegroom) has already expressed on this wonderful occasion.
I ask you to join me in drinking the toast of 'The Parents'".
- In addition to these two 'official' components, the Best Man's speech
usually includes various anecdotes about the Bride and Groom. Again it
is common for there to be gentle teasing.
- Telegrams, cards and emails may be read out from people who were not
able to attend.
There are no 'traditional' components to a Bride's speech. I refer back
to my comments on how the economic and social realities have changed over
As you can see, many of the traditional components of the wedding celebration
- It is a religious ceremony.
- The Bride's father is paying for the reception.
- The Bride will be financially dependent on the Groom.
Nowadays these assumptions are often invalid and you need to adapt to
the individual circumstances. Therefore many of the above notes on traditional
forms may need to be altered or ignored.
However, the structure of the traditions seems a good starting point for
- Welcome guests
- Celebration meal
- Speeches of congratulations and thanks
Traditions give people guidance on what is expected of them. If you want
to be different, let the guests know so they do not feel uncertain and
Remember: It's a PARTY!
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