Wedding Toast Etiquette

In my opinion, the best toasts come from the heart, and while toasts are appropriate at any wedding party, there are three times where they are expected: the engagement party, rehearsal dinner, and the wedding reception.

At this event, the first toast is made by the party host (normally a father) in the form of an announcement of the engagement. This typically occurs once all of the guests have arrived and have had a chance to mingle for a bit, about 30 minutes after the event starts. If both sets of parents are there, a toast from the other father is a nice touch. The couple themselves may also wish to raise a glass to their hosts, their future in-laws, or their guests.

The rehearsal dinner host (the father that did not do the engagement party) gives the first toast. This often occurs during the main course and is frequently met by a return toast from the father who hosted the engagement party. The rehearsal dinner is an intimate setting and thus a time when longer toasts and stories are welcome. Those making toasts might include the mothers, the best man and matron or maid of honor, and just about anyone else who has something nice to say.

Reception toasts should generally be short, to the point, and given by a small number of people (no more than 5). Traditionally, the best man makes the first toast at the wedding reception. This is the most formal of the wedding toasts and it occurs only after all the wedding guests have been provided time to grab a drink from the bar or a glass of champagne. At a dinner reception, the toast takes place as soon as everyone has dinner; at a cocktail reception, it is made right after the couple enters the reception. All toasts should be brief, lasting no more than a 3 minutes. It’s fine if the best man’s is the only toast made, though a companion toast from the matron or maid of honor is on its way to becoming a tradition. Fathers often say a few words, especially if either is in the role of host. Mothers are even getting in the mix, as well as the bride and groom themselves (at the lease to thank everyone for coming). It’s best to know in advance who is going to say something, and in what order; anyone not on the list should check with the couple, planner or coordinator before making an impromptu speech at the reception.

No matter the party, when it’s time for a toast, ask for everyone’s attention using a microphone (or in its absence, by gently <they do break!> clinking your glass). When done, raise your glass toward the couple, and then lead guests in taking a sip. (Couples: remain seated and don’t drink when being toasted – just smile and enjoy until the last toast is given!)

Regardless of how tongue-tied you feel, you can never go wrong with short, simple and sweet. A great speech should not take more than a few minutes and can be as short as a few lines: “Pat and Jan, may your love for one another always be as strong and deep as it is today. You are my dearest friends, and I wish you all the joy in the world. Cheers!” Be sincere, please do not try to wing it. Wedding toasts are best prepared ahead of time. When it’s time for your toast, it’s fine to take out your notes and refer to them.

No one wants their toast to be received to the chirping of crickets; avoid the following mistakes and you’ll be a shining star:
- Skip pointless stories about the couple’s childhoods (anecdotes are okay, just keep them relevant to the occasion). 
- Be sure not to talk about yourself instead of the couple; this is the time to check your ego at the door.
- Last and most importantly, do not mention any past problems the couple may have had, and never reference any of their old flames.

Cracking jokes and telling stories about the bride and groom is fine, just keep it lighthearted and clean and approach it with good intentions – this is a wedding, not a roast. If you want to express strong emotions (the good kind, of course), there is no better opportunity It’s okay if you get choked up; composure is great, but so is honest, heartfelt emotion. After all, it’s what the day is ultimately all about.