Building Your Wedding Guest List
& Seating Chart
Should you have A + B lists? What about separate guest lists? Where will they all sit? We'll cover it all.
But writing down your feelings in a cohesive, comprehensive way doesn’t come easy for everyone. You can feel all the feels, but still find yourself unsuccessfully fending off that pesky writers block. You’re not alone—even the most seasoned writers need an extra push and inspiration to find the right words sometimes.
Our friends at Food52 said it well: there’s a certain art to giving a great wedding toast. So if you’re finding yourself a bit stuck, or your loved ones need a little inspiration, we’ve put together some tips to get the toast-writing juices flowing.
Traditionally, wedding speeches were common practice for those hosting the wedding, select wedding party members, and from the newlyweds themselves. Ultimately, however, it’s up to the couple to decide who will give a toast, and to extend them an invitation to do so.
Some couples even like to allot a chunk of time during the reception to have an open mic session for speeches and toasts. Those, however, can be unpredictable and linger for longer than intended. You know your guests best, and it’s up to you to decide which format works best for you.
Wedding speeches and toasts are particularly unique. They should be a mix of sentimental, entertaining, concise, and definitely memorable. That’s a lot of boxes to check. We have some general rules that are excellent starting points for any toast-giver:
1. Start writing early: We recommend starting at least a couple months in advance of the wedding. Give yourself enough time to really articulate your thoughts and to change your mind without scrambling before the big day.
2. Scribble all your thoughts down: Initially write down everything that comes to mind. If something comes to you as you’re running errands, make a note of it on your phone or in a notepad.
3. Make an outline: Take all those thoughts and choose your favorite ones. Organize them into an outline to see how they flow. Rework it if you need to. Now that you have all your main bullet points, fill in the gaps to articulate full sentences.
4. Don’t forget to mention the other partner: Whoever’s side of the family you’re on, make sure you mention their partner. This day is about the both of them, so it’s in good form to recognize them both.
5. Skip the roasting: Leave out any negativity and jokes in poor taste. Wedding toasts are meant to be memorable for the good feelings, not the bad ones. A lighthearted roast here and there can fly, but don’t make the entire speech a roast.
6. Give yourself a time limit: Time yourself! The sentimentality of a wedding toast goes out the window if the audience feels like you’re rambling. Keep it under a couple minutes and you’ll be golden.
7. Practice and then practice some more: A memorized speech is always best. Practice in front of a mirror, or record yourself on your phone to make sure you’re keeping eye contact. If you tend to speak quickly when you’re in front of a crowd, practice slowing down and vice versa. Practicing in front of a trusted group helps, too!
8. Make bulleted notes if you’re nervous: You never know when you’ll need a gentle line reminder.
9. Raise your glass: End the toast with a heartfelt congratulations and a raised glass. You nailed it!
Traditionally the mother and father of the bride gave speeches because they were considered the “hosts”. This may very well still be the case for some. If your parents are on the invitation as hosting the reception, then they should have the first toast early on to welcome the guests.
But nowadays as more couples are footing the wedding bill, parents aren’t hosting as often. Apart from the wedding vows, hearing parents gush about their children on their wedding day is always memorable and emotional. A toast from parents are always welcome in our book.
Parents undoubtedly have a slew of memories and beautiful things to say to their child as they send them off into married life. So much so that it may seem daunting trying to condense it all into an eloquent and thoughtful toast.
Start with a simple welcome to your child-in-law, and continue with what you’ve prepared. Childhood memories, seeing how they’ve matured, and things they’ve taught you are great starting points, too.
Sample Parent Wedding Speech
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome [Child’s spouse] and their family to ours. We can’t think of anyone more deserving of our [Child]. It’s been an absolute pleasure seeing their love grow and creating the opportunity for our families to join together.”
Wedding toasts have a notorious reputation for wise-cracking jokes and embarrassing moments. Parents shouldn’t feel pressured into writing something funny. If dad jokes are characteristic of dad, then he can by all means stay true to himself, for example. Just remember that ultimately the toast is for the couple, and the goal should be to make your toast memorable for them.
Maid of Honor Speech
It’s understandable that the pressure to deliver a great speech for everyone intensifies for the members of the wedding party. The same tips, however, apply to parents and close friends alike.
Talk to the bride and groom to get a feel of who will be at the wedding. If your audience is more conservative, then stories about your rowdy spring break from 2007 may not be the best anecdote to share. As a general rule, remember that the crowd will at least consist of the couple’s close friends and family, so your toast should be as tasteful as possible.
If it’s your style to throw a joke or two in, then do it! But before the big day, imagine yourself on the receiving end of your joke. Would you be uncomfortable if it were your wedding? If so, it’s probably a good idea to rethink your joke. Inside jokes may not be the best pick either—you’ll want to try and choose a joke the majority of the audience would enjoy. Quotes and references are always great additions, too.
Sample Maid of Honor Speech
“It goes without saying that [Bride] is my number one, although growing up it didn’t always seem that way (Sorry Mom and Dad). Despite fighting over clothes, rooms, and even boys (not you, [groom]. Don’t worry), we’ve managed to not only not kill each other, but become the absolute best of friends. Like Tibby said in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: ‘Maybe, sometimes, it’s easier to be mad at the people you trust because you know they’ll always love you, no matter what.
[Bride], I will always love you. No matter what.”
Best Man Speech
The best man should craft his toast by following tips similar to the maid of honor toast. He should, of course, congratulate the couple and recognize the groom’s partner in some way. The toasts should be similar in length as the Maid of Honor’s. Of course, he should pull from his relationship with the groom, share stories, and mention any lessons learned, all while keeping the audience in mind.
If you want to make sure your toast is in tune with the MOH’s, work with each other to write and practice. After all, the both of you know the couple the best.
Sample Best Man Speech
“Hello everyone, and good evening! I first want to thank the couple, and especially [Groom], for granting me the honor of being by your side on the most important day of your life.
I’ve known [Groom] for a long time, so you can imagine the number of conversations we’ve had over the years. It was when our (many) conversations turned from fishing trips and food to solely about [Partner] that I realized he was the one [Groom] would marry. I sincerely could not be happier for you both.”
The Newlywed Speech
Although typically reserved for after the speeches and toasts, the newlywed toast can occur whenever you decide is right. Some great places are after the maid of honor and best man speeches, or after the cake-cutting.
More than anything, the newlywed toast should be a big thank you to your friends and family. Thank them for their love and support on your big day, and make sure to give personal thank yous to anyone who had a big part in your life and in the wedding planning. The wedding party, and especially parents/parental figures, should get a sentimental shout-out from the couple.
Our tips work well for crafting a newlywed toast, but keep in mind that the couple has every liberty to make their speech together. Sit down with your partner and work your way through our toast-writing tips together.
Newlywed toasts can be shorter than the other wedding toasts, so try to keep around 60-90 seconds or less. Once the toasts are done, the real party can begin!
Sample Newlywed Speech
“Today, and this entire journey, has been a whirlwind of craziness, emotions, stress, but ultimately of love. We are so grateful for everyone who has been present and supportive in our lives—each and every one of you are here because we love you and couldn’t imagine our big day without you. With your support, [partner] and I are more than ready to venture into married life together. Thank you all for being here with us today.”
You may have an idealistic vision for your reception, including exactly who you want to give a speech. Before finalizing all the details, however, you should make sure you’ve properly asked your loved ones to give wedding toast.
First thing is to ask well in advance of the big day. They should have ample time write and practice in order to avoid unnecessary pressure and prevent last-minute surprises. We suggest asking them at least a couple months before the wedding. Chances are you’ll have a general schedule for the day by then, which should be shared with the toast-givers along with a rough time limit for the toast itself. Let them know when they’ll be giving their toast so they know what to expect.
If the toast-giver is new at giving toasts, point them in the right direction for some tips and inspiration (hint, hint). Give them a few guidelines if there are topics you feel very strongly about leaving out (remember Spring Break 2007?). Most importantly, however, don’t be heavy handed in rules and supervision of the toast-writing. Give your loved ones the freedom and flexibility to craft something genuine from the heart. You’ll be thankful for it in the end.
Lastly, remember and be considerate of those who aren’t comfortable getting in front of a crowd and delivering a toast. If someone you ask is hesitant, be understanding and don’t lay on a guilt trip. Public speaking anxiety is real, and you shouldn’t be offended if someone isn’t up to the task. It does not mean they don’t love or care about you. They just prefer other ways to show you how much they do.
There’s no guarantee that wedding toasts will go exactly as planned, but that’s part of what makes them so special. More than anything, wedding toasts should capture and reflect on all the love that exists in the room. With a little inspiration, a little practice, and a lot of love, you’re sure to knock your wedding toasts out of the park.