A wedding toast or speech is one of the most personal, heartfelt gifts one can give to newlyweds. Great wedding speeches give guests a glimpse into the real lives of the couple and honors the impact of their love on each other and all who encounter them. No pressure, right?

If you’re preparing to give a toast or speech at an upcoming wedding, you’re in the right place. Below you’ll find expert wedding toast tips and advice to help you craft a speech that the couple and their guests will remember for years to come.

Here are our ultimate tips on writing a great wedding speech or toast:

  1. Introduce Yourself
  2. Have a Thesis
  3. Add Supporting Stories
  4. Stick the Landing

Introduce Yourself

The quickest way to undermine your awesome wedding speech? Forget to introduce yourself and leave people whispering “Who is this guy?”

Typically, the maid of honor, best man and/or the couple themselves will prepare a toast or speech to give during the wedding reception, though parents of the bride and groom or other significant people in their lives may also step up to the mic. No matter what role you play in the wedding itself or in the couple’s lives, it’s important to introduce yourself and your relationship to the newlyweds before launching into the body of your speech.

You may choose to introduce yourself in a straightforward way — “Good evening, everyone. I’m Kelly Johnson, and I’m the bride’s sister” — or take the opportunity to set the tone for your speech with humor: “I’m Kelly, who many of you will know as the star of my sister and I’s iconic rendition of ‘Spice Up Your Life’ at the 2001 Mount Rose Middle School talent show.”

However you introduce yourself, do it at the top of your toast or speech, and don’t forget to thank the couple for the opportunity to speak on their big day. Be sure to smile, relax, and remember that no one will care if you flub a few words or find yourself with shaky hands — they’re paying much more attention to the couple and their love story than they are to your nerves, so be yourself and have fun!

Have a Thesis

Let’s throw it back to high school Comp 101: What is a thesis? Put simply, a thesis is a central idea considered throughout a speech or piece of writing. It’s the theme around which you’ll build your wedding speech or toast, and it should have something to do with the couple.

When choosing your wedding speech theme or thesis, think about what makes the couple unique. Perhaps you’ve always been struck by how the bride and groom inspire the best in one another, or maybe you feel called to talk about how their love seemed meant to be from the start. If you’re struggling to come up with a wedding speech topic, do a little brainstorming: What words leap to mind when you think about the couple? What stories about the couple do you love that supports those descriptors?

The thesis of your speech should largely celebrate the couple’s relationship with each other, not your relationship with the couple or one individual in that couple. For example, “Eve and Jeremy have the kind of love that keeps them smiling, even on the bad days,” is a much better and more appropriate thesis than “Jeremy is hilarious; have you heard these stories from our fraternity days?”

Basically: Choose a thesis that highlights their one-of-a-kind dynamic — not one that puts you in the spotlight.

Add Supporting Stories

Once you’ve chosen a thesis around which to build your speech or toast, it’s time to pick a few key supporting stories to drive your point home. Select a few first-hand memories you have of the couple to weave into your speech, making sure that they act as evidence that your thesis is true.

For example: Talking about the time Ben brought Nora flowers in kindergarten is a great supporting story to a thesis of “Ben and Nora have a lifelong love story.” It is sweet, appropriate for the audience and setting, demonstrates your thesis well, and gives the audience a peek into a little-known corner of the couple’s lives.

Here are some quick dos and don’ts for choosing stories for your wedding speech or toast:

  • Do make it personal. No one wants to hear the same boring platitudes about love and relationships that they’ve heard a thousand times before. Choose real memories or stories about the bride and groom that you enjoy or feel best exemplifies who they are as a couple.
  • Do keep it heartfelt and upbeat. Don’t be a downer! While there are circumstances in which it might be appropriate to touch on more emotional topics — the absence of a passed-on parent, for example — it’s important to keep the tone of your toast or speech generally “up.”
  • Do add humor, if that’s your style. An earnest but entertaining wedding speech can be a highlight of any reception, but don’t force yourself to be a stand-up comedian, especially if that’s not in your wheelhouse. Add humor if it feels natural, always keeping the jokes PG-13.
  • Do time it out beforehand. Aim for five minutes or less — nobody likes a longwinded maid of honor!
  • Don’t include inside jokes or inappropriate stories. You don’t want to lose your audience, or worse, offend someone. Again, keep things appropriate, even if you’re choosing a more comedic style of speech.
  • Don’t rely on any gimmicks, costumes, prop comedy or “roast”-style jokes. When in doubt, keep it simple, personal and sweet.
  • Don’t start drinking before your speech. Even if you find yourself with a case of the jitters, you should have no more than a glass of Champagne before taking the mic. Trust us on this one.
  • Don’t be afraid to use notecards or your phone! You should run through your speech a few times in front of a mirror or friends before the big day to familiarize yourself with your delivery, but memorization is not necessary.
  • Don’t wing it. This is one scenario in which an off-the-cuff, no-prep-necessary style of presentation isn’t appropriate. Start planning your speech early, taking the time to edit it and polish your delivery well in advance of the wedding day. Otherwise, you run the risk of coming off underprepared at best and uncaring at worst. Yikes.

    Stick the Landing

    As you wrap up your wedding speech or toast, bring it all together by clarifying how the previously mentioned stories and memories led up to the present moment or support your thesis. Essentially, you’ll want to talk about how the people at the sweetheart’s table are better, happier, more fulfilled individuals because of each other, which should be thanks to the trait you focus on in your thesis.

    Then, congratulate the couple on their marriage (that’s the whole reason you’re here, after all!) and wish them many happy years together. End by asking everyone to join you in a toast — bonus points if you can incorporate an echo of your thesis into the toast itself, wrapping up your speech in a lovely, thematically consistent bow.

    Planning for your own big day?

    If you’re reading this blog in preparation for your own wedding day, congratulations! The Heritage Center would love to be a part of making your wedding ceremony and reception truly extraordinary. Our event planning experts have seen and done it all when it comes to weddings, so whether you’re dreaming of a small, intimate ceremony or a block-party-sized blow-out, we can help make it happen! Contact us today to connect with a wedding planner and start bringing your vision to life.