Wedding Speech Etiquette

When we speak to clients most want a speech which feels ‘completely unique’ but also follows traditional wedding speech etiquette. Luckily we like a challenge…

What we advise is this… be polite, be grateful but don’t be tied down by old traditions which make speeches sound ‘samey’, clichéd or lazy.

That said, a marriage gets off to a good start if the groom remembers to thank his mum in law and it’s important to know the traditions before you decide whether to ignore, follow or shake them up.

Here’s a summary of the traditional Christian-based British wedding speech etiquette, followed by our Speechy take on it all.

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 groom’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; sentimental, yes, but try not to make it overly soppy (save that for the drive to the church).
  • Don’t forget the groom; talk about your happiness getting to know him and his family (whether truthful or not).
  • Conclude your speech with a toast to the couple. Traditionally it was to the ‘health and happiness of the bride and groom’ 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 minutes. 
  • Avoid suggesting you’ve contributed to the cost of the wedding even if it’s meant only in gest! A gentleman should never tell (even if everyone already knows).

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…

  • 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 beautiful bridesmaids. Depending on the size of the wedding party you may want to think about how you can give 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 passed along tables etc) but you can avoid this by saying you’d like to give gifts personally later in the day (worth checking this idea with the bride first!).
  • Of course the centrepiece of your speech, its absolute core, should be explaining how happy you are about marrying your wife. This is your one chance in life where you’re legitimately allowed to shout about how darn fabulous she is 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.

Our Groom Speech Advice page has loads more ideas on how to make your speech memorable (for the right reasons).

Best Man Wedding Speech Etiquette

Obviously we know the best man’s speech is expected to be a comedy highlight but there’s 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 acknowledgement 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 bride. Make it sincere and make it seem like you actually know her bu 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 becoming less common. Speak to the groom about what he wants to do but push for these updates to be done privately (generally they’re not very funny and it becomes a bit tedious).
  • 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.

For the full low down on how to write a fantastic speech, head to our Best Man Speech Advice.

Wedding Speech Etiquette for Women

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. 

Wedding Speech Etiquette for Gay and Lesbian Weddings

Whether you’re the bride or groom, or you’re just speaking at a gay or lesbian wedding, the etiquette is 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 (it’s just too dated) and forget about giving any political sermons about equal rights. People just want to hear about the love on a wedding day. 

Check out out advice pages for Gay Grooms and Lesbian Brides. Everything you need to know to make your speech great!

Speechy's Take on Wedding Speech Etiquette

Traditional etiquette is a good starting point for a speech but let’s not feel restricted by it.

Do we really need the best man reading out Aunty Joan’s email? Is the climax of the groom’s speech really a toast to the bridesmaids? And do we even need a father of the bride speech when we all know the bride’s mum would be much funnier instead? Surely not.

Every speech celebrates a unique couple (complete with different families, priorities and styles of weddings) and it’s ridiculous to think they should all start and end the same way. It’s also a bit lazy.

We wrote this article for Confetti . Hope you found it useful too!

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