How to Write a Perfect Wedding Speech (2024)

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If one of your nearest and dearest is tying the knot, it’s possible you may be asked to give a speech during the wedding festivities. And while having an opportunity to share your love and memories at a major milestone event is an honor, there’s no denying that it’s a big ask—especially if public speaking isn’t your forté. A wedding speech presents a unique challenge: There’s no set formula for how the speech should play out, but it often requires sentimentality, a touch of humor, and the good sense to know when to wrap it up.

Are you a member of the wedding party that wants to (or has been asked to) give a toast at an upcoming celebration? Read ahead to learn how to write and prepare for your big moment.

Who Gives a Wedding Speech?

Photo: Silvia Quadrini

First off, it’s important to make sure that the couple definitely wants you to give a toast at their celebrations. Traditionally, the maid of honor, best man, and parents of the couple will give a speech at the wedding. However, the couple should explicitly ask these guests well in advance to give a speech so they have plenty of time to prepare. They may also choose additional wedding party members to give toasts at the reception or pre-wedding parties; but if the couple has not asked you to give a speech, do not prepare one. Speeches are carefully placed into a wedding timeline so the day will stay on schedule, and an additional five minutes could cut into strategically timed moments of the celebration.

The to-be-weds also have the right to curate the day as they wish, and occasionally at a rehearsal dinner or welcome party, the couple may open the floor to additional toasts. But if this doesn’t happen, grabbing the mic unexpectedly for an off-the-cuff speech (especially after a few glasses of wine) will not be appreciated.

How to Write a Wedding Speech

Photo: Jose Villa

If you are asked to give a toast, it’s important that you don’t just wing it. “First, recognize that speechwriting is a creative process,” shares Allison Shapira, founder and CEO of Global Public Speaking. “Give yourself plenty of time to be creative (i.e. not the night before, when you already have so much to stress about). Wait for your most creative time of the day, and turn off any distractions. Spend some unrushed time thinking about your relationship to the couple, and what you’d like to say.”

While there’s no exact template to follow, there is a good basic formula to adhere to. “The framework I recommend for a wedding speech is: story, message, blessing,” she shares. “Tell a heartwarming story, share the message or value behind that story, and then offer a blessing or wish for the couple based on that message.”

“Typically, we advise our speakers to try to bring the audience on a journey where you initially try to make them laugh, then get to the real depth of the speech and earn some tears, then bring the whole speech full circle with a deep insight or story about the couple that ends with a funny final punch,” shares Steven Greitzer, CEO and founder of Provenance, an AI company that specializes in helping write personalized wedding vows, ceremonies, and toasts. “It’s important to have a good balance of humor and sentimentality because, if it’s a full roast, it can feel like you’re just doing a standup comedy show for your own benefit and it could lack substance. Or, if it’s too overly emotional, it can get heavy and perhaps a bit too somber for a wedding celebration.”

When choosing a story, Shapira recommends reading the room. “It should obviously be good-natured, without making anyone look bad. And, it all depends on the family dynamics,” she says. “What one family considers good-natured, another family could consider scathing. Choose someone in the audience whom you think could give you some helpful feedback, and practice the speech with them in advance.”

Photo: Maddy Rotman

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Greitzer adds that it's important that both members of the couple are highlighted in the speech. “Great anecdotes showcase who each person was before meeting, their synergy together, and their individual and collective growth,” he shares. If you don’t know one member of the couple very well, don’t be afraid to get creative. “One of the best speeches I’ve seen was from a bridesmaid who hadn’t really been able to spend too much time with her best friend’s fiance because of the pandemic,” Greitzer shares. “She creatively read texts she found in her phone that gave her a hilarious timeline of her friend falling in love.”

If you’re still not sure where to begin, consider giving an AI platform a try to help you form your toast. “The Provenance tools guide speakers to create unique, and personal ceremonies, vows, and toasts without the stress. It’s a partner in your brainstorming process; a way to help you verbalize what you were trying to say—but faster,” explains Greitzer. “Instead of being some outdated, mad-libs-style template, the expert-curated prompts inspire special stories and insights, ultimately weaving your responses together into a custom, editable first draft.”

A final writing tip from Shapira? “I definitely recommend creating an outline but do not recommend writing the speech out word for word. When we script the entire speech, it sounds too formal,” says the public speaking expert. “I recommend first brainstorming the content, rearranging it into a logical structure, then drafting a general outline which you can bring with you to the event. While it may look better to simply give the speech ‘from the heart,’ the stress involved in trying to memorize your speech is simply not worth it.”

How to Deliver a Wedding Speech

Writing a wedding speech is half the battle—next comes your performance. It’s important that your toast has a good flow, feels natural, and doesn’t drag on. Here’s where the idiom “practice makes perfect” rings true. Shapira advises giving yourself a few weeks of rehearsal to make your speech feel authentic and fluid. Her recommendations? “Read your speech out loud and make sure it stays within the time you have allotted. Read it to someone else and get their feedback. Record it and watch it back. We use a tool called AMPLIFY to get AI-based feedback.” She adds, “Don’t memorize the speech, but do read it out loud and make sure it sounds like your voice.”

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The ideal length of a toast is between two to four minutes, which translates to around 500 to 1000 words on a page. Still, Greitzer notes, “The perfect length for the wedding toast complies with whatever length the couple wants it to be. Many guests don’t realize that long speeches can impact the whole evening’s timeline and affect the caterer, DJ, and so much more.”

Photo: Rasa Juskeviciute

While it’s now common to see toasts being read off a phone, both experts agree that it’s much better to print out your speech. “Reading off of a phone comes with the risk of distractions from notifications, a weird backlight that can affect the color of your face in photos, finicky technical difficulties, and having that annoying sound interference with the mic,” says Greitzer. (You also should make sure your speech is legible with a large font and wide spacing so you can easily find your place.)

The final hurdle of giving a wedding toast is getting over your nerves. “Find a quiet place right beforehand to center yourself (perhaps the bathroom or a corner of the room), pause and breathe, and remind yourself why you care about the couple,” recommends Shapira. She also adds—perhaps unsurprisingly—that it’s best to hold back on alcohol consumption ahead of the toast. “No one expects a perfect or professional speech; they want a unique, authentic message. The speech isn’t about you—it’s about the couple. Once you reframe the fact that the center of attention isn’t on you, you can relax.”

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Photo: Jose Villa

How to Write a Perfect Wedding Speech (2024)

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