Traditional etiquette is a good starting point for a speech but don’t feel restricted by it.
Is the climax of the groom’s speech really a toast to the bridesmaids? Do we really need the best man reading out Aunty Joan’s email? And do we even need a father of the bride speech when we all know the bride’s mum would be funnier? Surely not.
Every speech celebrates a unique couple (complete with different families, priorities & styles of weddings) and it’s ridiculous to think they should all start and end the same way. It’s also a bit lazy.
So this etiquette guide comes with a warning (like every good etiquette guide should). Most of it will make sense for you and your wedding, but some of it won’t.
Times evolve. Five years ago it would have seemed overly casual & somehow dismissive to read your wedding speech from your phone. These days, it’s commonplace. So question traditional etiquette & go with what feels right to you.
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Father of the Bride Wedding Speech Etiquette
The father of the bride is the wedding’s warm-up man. It’s your job to welcome all the guests, pay tribute to your daughter, and get everyone in the mood to party.
- Thank guests for attending as well as the people who played a crucial role in setting up the wedding but be careful not to get too carried away. The thank yous are actually the newlywed’s job.
- The main purpose of your speech is to remind the guests why your daughter is so darn incredible. Include funny stories from her childhood as well as those from her adult life. Don’t think you should leave the humour to the best man – you need to be funny too!
- Of course, the core of the speech should be heartfelt and sincere. This is not an opportunity to show off about her Grade 8 piano skills, but instead talk about what she means to you and what a wonderful person she is. Resist cliches and make sure you pay tribute to the unique individual she is.
- Don’t forget your daughter’s partner; talk about your happiness getting to know them and their family (whether truthful or not).
- Conclude your speech with a toast to the couple. Traditionally it was to the ‘health and happiness of the happy couple but these days people welcome something a bit different. Try to reflect the personality of the newlyweds and the theme of your speech.
- Make sure your speech is short & sweet; aim for about six-eight minutes (or about 1,000 words, certainly less than 1.300 maximum)
- Avoid suggesting you’ve contributed to the cost of the wedding even if it’s meant only in jest! A gentleman should never tell (even if everyone already knows).
Remember this is the standard etiquette advice but a modern wedding allows for more flexibility.
Click on our Father of the Bride Speech Advice page for more tips on how to write a witty and memorable speech.
Groom Wedding Speech Etiquette
Traditionally the groom has the most speech ‘to dos’ but it’s important that the heart of the speech doesn’t get lost. It shouldn’t be about thanking the caterers or namechecking each of the ushers; instead, it should be about making everyone in the room feel special and your wife feel blooming brilliant.
So follow this guide…
- At straight weddings, it still seems the majority of grooms speak ‘on behalf’ of their brides. (Congratulations if your bride is giving a speech; you get to split the thank yous which, as you’ll see, is certainly a blessing!)
- Start by thanking the father of the bride (or equivalent) for his kind words.
- Thank both sets of parents; yours for a lifetime of care (advice, washing, personal taxi service etc) and your in-laws for raising such a fabulous daughter.
- Traditional etiquette states you should also thank ‘everyone for coming’, your ushers, your best man and the bridesmaids. Depending on the size of the wedding party you may want to think about how you can thank the crucial players without individually namechecking them. Remember you’re not at the Oscars and no one wants your speech to turn into a long list of thank yous. Certainly don’t be tempted to thank the caterers, venue or anyone else who has been paid for their ‘help’.
- Traditionally it’s your job to hand out any gifts. This can make the speech a bit stilted (as presents are handed out) but you can avoid this by saying you’d like to give gifts personally later in the day (worth checking this idea with your partner first!).
- Of course, the centerpiece of your speech, its absolute core, should be explaining how happy you are about marrying your partner. This is your one chance in life where you’re legitimately allowed to shout about how darn fabulous they are without your mates wanting to throw things at you.
- Traditionally the groom toasts the bridesmaids but, as long as you’ve already complimented them, feel free to come up with something a bit more creative to end your speech. Maybe something about love that will appeal to all the guests.
- And finally, no longer than eight to ten minutes, please. That’s less than 1,300 words.
Our Groom Speech Advice page has loads more ideas on how to make your speech memorable (for the right reasons).
Best Man Speech Etiquette
Obviously, we know the best man’s speech is expected to be a comedy highlight but there are still a few bits of etiquette to think about…
- Everyone expects your speech to be a witty description of the groom with humorous anecdotes and funny one-liners but it should also be a thoughtful acknowledgment of a sincere friendship (you’re legitimately allowed to say the sort of thing a man usually only utters at 3am in a kebab shop).
- Of course, the best man must compliment the groom’s choice of partner. Make it sincere and make it seem like you actually know them by saying more than the usual wedding clichés!
- Traditionally the best man reads out messages from friends and family who couldn’t attend but that’s rare these days. In the world of Whatsapp, there’s really no need.
- Make sure you keep all the humour granny friendly. Do not include ‘in-jokes’, talk of exes, or anything edgy. Saucy is fine but beware – there may be children attending.
- No matter how rich your material or how funny you think your speech is, keep it to less than ten minutes. ‘That was a brilliant speech but I really wish it was longer’ has never been said.
- Some etiquette books say a best man shouldn’t toast the bride and groom as this has already been done by the father of the bride. In reality however (and according to Debretts which is good enough for us) the best man usually toasts ‘Mr and Mrs [newlywed’s Surname]’ and might announce the cutting of the cake.
- Then, finally, traditional etiquette states you’re entitled to exploit the free bar for the rest of the evening.
So that’s the etiquette advice, but for the full low down on how to write a fantastic speech, head to our Best Man Speech Advice.
Etiquette for Brides, Mums & Besties
This really depends on whether you’re replacing the traditional male speaker (for example mother of the bride instead of father) or if you’re giving an additional speech.
- If it’s the former, follow the same principles as the bloke would. If it’s the latter, yeah, the etiquette isn’t as rigid.
- If you’re giving a speech in addition to a male speaker (for example the bride and groom are both speaking) then you’ll need to discuss who does what. It makes sense for the bride to thank the bridesmaids for example but the bride and groom should each thank both sets of parents.
- Don’t think you can leave the humour to the blokes. Sure you wouldn’t dream of it anyway.
- If in doubt, toast the newlyweds (unless you’re one of them) or some romantic notion of long-lasting love.
Speech Etiquette for Same-Sex Weddings
Whether you’re the bride or groom, or you’re just speaking at a gay or lesbian wedding, the etiquette is pretty much the same as outlined above.
- For same-sex marriages, couples will obviously have to consider who’s going to give a speech (just one of you, both separately or how about delivering a joint speech?)
- Whoever’s speaking, remember to avoid ‘jokes’ about there being two brides or grooms. Just NO!