Wedding Reception Q&As

Answers to your questions about toasting, timing, and traditional reception rites and rituals.

Q: I am very confused about toasts and speeches. Who is supposed to toast whom and for how long? 

A: Traditionally, it's the best man's responsibility to propose the first toast to the bride and groom. Before the main meal is served at the reception, he is introduced by the master of ceremonies (often the bandleader or maiîre d'). He then asks everyone (except you and your groom) to stand. The type of toast he gives is personal. It can be sweet and brief or a bit lengthier, amusing and anecdotal. The sentiment, however, should always be for your future happiness. After his speech, the best man raises his glass and invites other guests to do the same.

If there are other members of the wedding party who wish to give a toast, they may do so, provided the number of toasts is kept to a minimum and the time spent well-wishing is not too long (remember, your guests will be hungry!). After the toast, you and your groom may then rise, express your gratitude, and toast each other.

Q: Who should give the toasts at the rehearsal dinner and wedding, and how do they differ at each event? 

A: Good question, since the toasting does vary for each occasion. At the rehearsal dinner, the atmosphere is often laid-back and informal. The toasts begin with the host of the evening (usually the groom’s father, but both of his parents may speak), then the best man, followed by the groom to his bride and her family and then the bride to the groom and his family. Other guest who wish to say a few words may also join in. And, since it’s a more intimate gathering, the toasts can be a little longer and more lighthearted than those given at the wedding.

When you and your fiancé take turns to speak (if you chose to do so), it’s a nice gesture to say some kind words about your future spouse as well as to thank both sets of parents for their love and support. Your fiancé can finish up the speaking portion of the evening with a few last words to the group.

At the wedding, the toasts should be shorter — no more that three of four minutes — and a bit more formal. The best man always has the honor of giving the first toast either right before or immediately after the main meal is served. After his toast, others may extend their own good wishes. Often the bride’s father and/or the maid of honor will opt to speak. Many couples also give toasts — to each other and to their family and friends. The couple’s toast takes place either after the others are finished or at the end of the evening before guests begin to leave.

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