How to Nail Your Bridesmaid or Maid of Honor Speech
As a member of the bridal party you might be asked to give a toast in honor of the newlyweds. You may be a gifted orator and spotlight lover, in which case, we tip our hats to you! But if the thought of speaking in front of a crowd makes you want to flee the country and change your name, don't panic. We have some foolproof advice for you to follow so your speech goes off without a hitch. Here's a complete guide to giving a toast as a bridesmaid or maid of honor—what to say, when to say it and how to get rid of those nervous butterflies.
Take It Seriously
In agreeing to toast the couple at their wedding, you take on a big honor and a responsibility. Don't take the situation so seriously that you agonize over it, of course, but it's important to embrace the task with the grace and maturity it deserves. This doesn't mean your speech has to be sappy and serious—just don't be careless or inappropriate. You can be as funny and charming as you want, just make sure to put some honest thought into the process.
We recommend writing your toast about three weeks before the day, and be thoughtful as you brainstorm and write. Go that extra mile and have someone you trust edit your work—even do a couple of drafts if it helps you. We know, it might sound like a school assignment, but all this advance prep work will help you get comfortable with your speech and prevent last-minute panic attacks. You'll thank us later.
Cover All Your Bases
While you should feel free to innovate and personalize the standard as much as you want, an expert bridesmaid or maid of honor toastmaster will usually:
- Express how thrilled she is to be at the wedding and thank the couple (and their parents, if appropriate) for inviting everyone to be a part of their special day.
- Include a personal touch (a favorite memory, joke or sentiment) that will be emotionally significant to everyone.
- Offer encouraging (and often moving) words of advice for their future together. (A quote often works its way in here.)
- Conclude with the standard raising of the glass, saying "To [the couple's names]!" (Don't forget to take a sip!)
Pick an Appropriate Quote
If you include a quotation, make sure you choose one that really resonates with you and that's relevant to your message. Settle on words of wisdom or poignant wit you can deliver with confidence, sincerity and understanding. And remember, quoting is not required. If it feels at all pretentious or disingenuous, skip it and substitute with something that feels more "you."
Find Your Style
The best man speech is often expected to be a wry retelling of zany shenanigans, funny commentary on the subject of marriage and self-deprecating remarks. But you don't need to make your maid of honor speech sentimental and poetic for the sake of contrast. If you're hilarious, work with it! Don't worry about stealing anyone's thunder or not filling the role of earnestness. On the other hand, if quipping isn't your thing, don't feel pressured to be a comedian—be yourself and speak from the heart.
Keep It Short and Sweet
As you prepare your toast, keep it simple. Don't use words you normally wouldn't use. Try not to ramble—toasts can be as short as two lines or as long as two minutes. Steer clear of X-rated anecdotes, goofy giggling and sing-songy, gimmicky group efforts if you really don't think you can nail it (although we've seen some seriously awesome maid of honor and bridesmaid performances before). Remember, this is your moment. You'll feel better if you make it a class act rather than force something over the top.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you've written your toast, practice reading it out loud (a lot) to up your comfort level when the time comes. If you want to, grab another wedding party member on the day of the wedding to ask for final feedback on delivery, jokes and hand gestures. You'll be grateful for the pre-performance audience. Write out the complete speech or transfer it to note cards and bring the cheat sheet with you to the microphone (no, you don't have to memorize it). You'll be glad to have the backup in case your nerves get the better of you.
Set a Schedule
Toasting time usually happens once everyone has been seated and served champagne (or another toasting sip), but the couple may want speakers to do their thing between courses. Ask them what they'd prefer, and if they're indifferent the timing is up to you and the best man. When you're ready, simply approach the microphone stand as a toasting team, or one after the other—work that out among yourselves beforehand. The crowd will be called to attention the old-fashioned way (clinking a glass with a utensil) or the bandleader or DJ may announce to guests that toasting is about to begin.
Traditionally, the best man is considered the toastmaster. For this reason, he may toast first, warming up the crowd for your turn in the spotlight. Of course, wedding parties come in all different genders and sizes, so you can feel free to shake things up as it suits you, the couple and the crowd. The maid of honor can take over as toastmaster altogether, serve as comaster (a two-person show) or toast the couple right after the best man. You and the best man may want to determine who goes first and who follows based on the content and feel of your speeches.
Stay Calm, Cool and Collected
Or at least fake it as best you can. No matter what, if you're prone to nerves, you're going to be nervous (which isn't a bad thing—it's natural!). Take deep breaths. Think pleasant thoughts. Have a cocktail, but don't overdo it—you definitely want to avoid the drunken honor attendant cliché. Speak slowly, don't forget to breathe and try not to worry about your shaking hands—no one's going to notice. Remember, when it's all over, you get to party without a care in the world.
If saying a toast seems too been-there-done-that for your capacity for performative genius, knock their socks off with a choreographed dance, a song or a reading of an original poem. Salute them in whatever fashion feels most comfortable. That said, if you're planning something outlandish, check with the couple first.
A toasting guide for the bride and groom, here.
Find best man speech tips, here.