Here’s the Difference Between Rehearsal Dinner Speeches and Reception Speeches

Who’s supposed to give a toast—and when? Check out our guide.
by Maggie Seaver

You may have attended a dozen rehearsal dinners and weddings in your day, but that doesn't mean you were paying close attention to who exactly gave a toast and when. And now that it's time to make your own game plan for prewedding and wedding speeches, you're lost. But don't be. It might seem a little confusing or hard to track down a few set-in-stone rules, but that's only because the rules aren't really rules. Yes, there are some typical toasting traditions, but everyone's wedding is different and you shouldn't be afraid to shake things up for yours. Here's a quick breakdown of who gives a speech at the rehearsal dinner and who gives one at the reception.  

Rehearsal Dinner Toasts

The Host(s)

Since the rehearsal dinner is traditionally hosted by the groom's parents (whereas the wedding is hosted by the bride's), it's typical for the father and/or mother of the groom to say a few words. These days, we know the bill isn't always split so clearly between sets of parents, and that not every couple is a bride and a groom. So to make it simple, we'll say whoever is hosting the gathering should rise and give a toast to the to-be-weds. After the hosts say what they'd like, the floor is pretty much open (rehearsal dinner toasts are definitely less formal than the reception).

Wedding Party Members (Except for the Maid of Honor and Best Man)

While the maid of honor and best man usually shine at the wedding reception (see below), the rest of your wedding party is welcome to toast to the couple at the rehearsal dinner. Sometimes spontaneous speeches sneak in there—no biggie. But for those you know are going to happen, give the speakers some guidelines, a time limit and an approximate plan for when they're on—typically around dessert time.

The Couple

Either one or both of you are welcome to pipe up at the rehearsal in response to others' toasts or to thank everyone for coming, the hosts for their generosity and your family for their love and support.

Grandparents (or Other MVPs)

If your officiant you grew up with is there or your beloved grandparents have something they want to say, the rehearsal dinner's less structured format allows for loved ones to chime in and express happiness for the to-be-weds.

Reception Toasts

The Best Man and the Maid of Honor

According to the traditional toasting timeline, the best man will make his speech first, followed by the maid of honor. That said, if one of your honor attendants is too spooked to give a toast in front of the entire reception guest list, or you're hoping to keep reception speeches short with parents only, consider having your leading attendants speak at the rehearsal dinner.

The Host(s)

Again, in the past, when the wedding itself was expected to be hosted by the parents of the bride, the reception would be their time to take the mic—this is often the father of the bride's obligation. So just like the rehearsal dinner, whoever is hosting the wedding should say something. If the couple is paying for the wedding themselves, one or both of their parents are obviously welcome to make a toast anyway.

The Couple

While you can't really toast yourselves, one or both of you can prep a little something to say. Give a warm welcome to your loved ones, thank your parents again, say cheers to your new in-laws and, of course, raise a glass to your spouse. Bonus points if you finish with a sweet kiss behind clinking champagne glasses. (Nervous? Read these toasting tips for the couple.)

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