With the expertise of Kate Cook, owner KBCook Weddings, and Neillie Butler, owner of Mariee Ami Wedding Planning Studio, The Daily South has compiled a wedding-speech-writing-guide for every Maid of Honor and Best Man.
Summer is wedding season in the South, and one of the most beloved Southern wedding traditions is the rehearsal dinner toast. During these toasts, Maids of Honor and Best Men have the chance to celebrate the love between two of their closest friends. But the pressure of such a circumstance – coupled with a glass or two of wine – can sometimes lead to chaos. Follow this guide, and you’ll give a speech that elicits the perfect amount of tears, laughter, and love for the bride and groom to be.
Pick one theme – a thesis, if you will.
Neillie: Do you want to hit on the fact that your friend knew she was going to marry this man from the minute she met him? Do you want to talk about how lucky the groom is? Do you want to focus on a personality trait of the person, or why you are confident their marriage is a good thing? Pick one purpose to stand up.
Don’t force laughs (or tears).
Kate: Don’t try to be someone you’re not. If you’re not funny, the jokes aren’t going to land. If you’re not emotional, don’t feel like you have to get up and cry in front of everyone.
Don’t include inside jokes.
Neillie: Inside jokes are always an epic failure.
Kate: If you alienate 80 percent of the room, you’re not saying something that is worth saying.
Utilize your strengths.
Kate: I had a groomsman who brought his guitar and sang a song. It was amazing.
Neillie: If you have a way to get a good laugh, take a humorous tone. But make sure that it’s not at anyone’s expense.
Include the entire room.
Kate: Even if its just a toast, or a prayer, make the room feel included. Once, I had a groomsman who started a chant. Everyone loved it.
Neillie: Thank someone. Thank the Grooms’ family for hosting the dinner, the bride’s family for hosting the next day, and the guests.
Don’t dwell on dark times.
Kate: It's not a eulogy, its a toast. You want it to be happy.
Neillie: There will certainly be a tear or two shed, but this does not need to be a sad or somber event.
Don’t reveal too much.
Neillie: Avoid stories about exes. I hear about exes in toasts, and I’m like, what am I doing here? These two people are getting married. Let’s not talk about the exes! We hear it a lot.
Kate: Remember that older and younger people are present. Don’t be inappropriate, and don’t cause family drama.
Keep your stories concise and poignant.
Neillie: If you want to say something sweet about the bride, you don’t need to list 15 examples of her being sweet.
Kate: Figure out the point of your story, and only tell what you need to get there.
After you’ve written your speech, practice. Make sure that your speech only lasts between two to three minutes, five at the longest (according to Kate, “you should always leave the crowd wanting more”). Practice until you can smile while speaking, and always run any questionable jokes by other wedding party members.
On the night of the rehearsal dinner, you’ll only have two more responsibilities.
First, do not drink too much. Both Kate and Nellie have witnessed countless speeches gone awry due to alcohol. After three glasses of wine, the words that you’ve spent hours practicing will come out wrong. Second, smile. Even if you’re nervous, a smile sets everyone, including yourself, at ease.
After the Maid of Honor and Best Man give their speeches, some couples will allow other guests to give impromptu toasts. If you’re concerned about others’ remarks, or don’t want to sit through hours of speeches, Neillie suggests having someone serve as an MC to bridge awkwardness and control flow.
Neillie also suggests giving a copy of your speech to the couple. Because, if you follow Kate and Neillie’s advice, they will certainly want to remember your words forever.