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Who Speaks at a Wedding: Familiarize Yourself with Tradition

Who Speaks at a Wedding: Familiarize Yourself with Tradition

Wedding Speech

After every wedding, there is a specific part of the program or event which we remember the most. For some people, it can be the church ceremony, while for others, it can be the reception or after-party. Among the key parts of any wedding, oftentimes, it’s the speeches that touch us the most. Be it the exchange of vows, or the heartfelt messages from father to daughter, wedding reception speeches can make the occasion one to remember fondly.

Wedding Speeches Are Still Part of Tradition

While most people are familiar with wedding speeches, has anyone bothered to ask why are they necessary? Tradition is surely an answer, but it surely helps to understand why they exist, and why they are worth keeping. Here are a few reasons for the importance of wedding speeches:

  • “Actions speak louder than words,” they say, but people have different love languages, and speeches are a way to express one’s feelings. There is no other day more fitting to tell someone they are loved and appreciated, than on the day they are married.
  • Speeches allow the groom and bride’s families to truly welcome each other with the warmth and validation that verbal acknowledgement offers.
  • This is an opportunity for the newlyweds to thank their guests and sponsors for coming and attending their wedding.
  • As a part of the ceremony, wedding speeches follow or conform to certain cultural practices, which serve to certify a marital bond or partnership through shared faith and common belief systems.

In general, wedding speeches or toasts serve to acknowledge, congratulate, and celebrate the groom and the bride on their special day. It can be as simple as a raise of glass and a few words. It can also be a grand and elaborate display of joy – fireworks, champagne, a band playing in the background, and some videos and photos on a slideshow. For example, in the Philippines, there are program scripts for wedding receptions, so that couples looking to marry can have an idea on how these speeches usually go.

The wedding speech is among the number of rituals that many cultures have adopted from traditional Western customs, which also includes the bride’s white gown and veil, the wedding ring, and the banquet or reception that follows the ceremony, among others. The newlyweds’ first dance and cutting the first slice off the wedding cake are a couple more examples. That being the case, these traditions, which are handed down from generation to generation, have become wedding program staples. Modern weddings, such as those in the Philippines, will sometimes have a combination of these during the reception.

Champagne Glasses

Following the Tradition of Wedding Speeches

For those who have been wondering, the answer is yes, there are Filipino wedding traditions that demand wedding speeches are in order. Some people might be wondering about who can or cannot make a speech during the reception – traditions dictate that there are norms to follow. Formal weddings can have up to as many speeches during the reception, but since time can be a concern and the program has a schedule to follow, the order of who gives toasts in a wedding is often sequenced accordingly:

  1. The Congratulatory Speech or Welcome Toast

    1. Who should make a speech – Tradition dictates that the bride’s father (or both parents), as the host who has paid for the feast, starts off the program with an opening speech. With modern weddings nowadays financed by the marrying couple, it can either be the groom and/or the bride making the welcoming speech. If the groom’s parents intend to speak, the brides’ parents should still go first.
    2. Speech ideas – As guests find their tables during the reception, the speech can revolve around congratulating the newlyweds and engaging the audience.
  1. Thanksgiving and the Toast Before the Meal

    1. Who should make a speech – The priest or a speaker/designated prayer leader can be there to bless the food.
    2. Speech ideas – A prayer of gratitude for all the blessings during the celebration is best placed after the opening remarks and before the food is served.
  1. Toasts by the Maid of Honor and/or the Best Man

    1. Who should make a speech – The maid of honor and the best man should be prepared to deliver a message for the newlyweds. This usually happens during the latter part of the reception, as most of the guests are on to their entrée, but still dining.
    2. Speech ideas: A short story about the couple that everyone should know works as a good jumping point for this toast. It is important to consider the time, as the program has to keep flowing accordingly, so preparing a speech and rehearsing it beforehand always helps. Aiming around three- to five-minutes for the total speech works, as there can be other people who want to talk on the mic as well.
  1. Some Words from the Newlyweds and the Wedding Toast

    1. Who should make a speech – The last people to make a concluding speech and end the reception with a toast are usually the newlyweds (or the groom, on behalf of the couple). There are instances when the parents of either bride or groom will have a few more messages to add, but these moments are usually off the cuff.
    2. Speech ideas – This part of the reception usually happens before the first slice of the wedding cake is made, and right after the maid of honor and best man’s wedding spiels. It is a good idea to let the groom talk first, so that the bride can wrap it up. This can be the perfect time to thank all the guests, sponsors, and partners or vendors.

Provided that these are the four to five key speeches during the program, this is the usual order of speeches at a wedding reception. However, modern weddings can change these up, so long as there are no time constraints.

Wedding Speech

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Close up of restaurant table decorated for a wedding reception

Giving a Good Wedding Speech

As mentioned earlier, modern weddings will often include some of the reception’s elements and leave other parts out. Some weddings will skip on the parlor games, drinking contests, and AVP presentations, but prioritize others, such as the photographs, wedding music playlists, and SDE videos. Virtual wedding receptions, for instance, have become a thing in these times. These can be the marrying couple’s preferences, the parents’, or due to some other reason, but wedding speeches will always still be included.

If you are someone who speaks at a wedding, here are some tips on giving a good wedding speech:

  • As they say, “Keep it short and sweet.” Specifically, keep the speeches around a minute or two for the blessing of the food; three to five minutes for the maid of honor and best man, or any other guest speaker; and anywhere between five to ten-minutes for the host/s, parents of the newlyweds, and the groom or the newlyweds.
  • Plan ahead, write down, rehearse, and try to memorize your speech if you can. Since everything is on video these days, being on the bloopers is a possibility!
  • Know at which part of the reception is your speech, so you’ll be around for it.
  • Keep it about the couple (and not about you) by telling a story about both of them. This includes talking points on how you met, the things you love about them, and what your hopes and dreams for the couple’s future are.
  • Of course, end your speech with a toast congratulating the newlyweds.

These are just a few things that are good to know whenever the emcee passes on the microphone and you have to give a wedding speech. So, if ever the time comes and you find yourself at a wedding, and no one knows how long should wedding speeches be, and how many speeches at a wedding are, the answer is simple – three to five minutes, and no more than four to five speeches.

Pocholo Torres
Author: Pocholo Torres

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