Wedding Etiquette: Who Gives Speeches at a Rehearsal Dinner?

The wedding rehearsal is arguably almost as fun as the big day itself, and the rehearsal dinner, in particular, is always such a good way to kick off wedding festivities.

It’s the semi-casual party before the party and a time for both family and friends to catch up and shoot the breeze before any real formalities begin. However, there is one formality that always features: the toasts!

These welcoming speeches are vital in making everyone feel a part of the wedding event and allowing guests to give thanks on a more intimate level. But who gives speeches at the rehearsal dinner? And can anyone take control of the mic?

Well, pretty much everyone gives a speech at the rehearsal dinner. So you’ll be forgiven for not being able to identify the key players. 

While there are no set rules on who gives speeches, there are certain individuals who should offer a toast.

Today we’ll share exactly who, and also give you some expert advice on how to deliver a successful rehearsal or wedding reception speech

What Is the Purpose of a Rehearsal Dinner Speech?

Before we look at who, let’s look at why rehearsal dinner speeches are given in the first place. 

A rehearsal dinner is traditionally hosted by the parents of the marrying couple and serves as a way of showing appreciation to all those playing a part in the wedding celebration.

It allows people to say a few loving words about the group and the lovely couple, all within a more intimate setting, among close family and friends.

In general, the speeches are more casual than on the wedding day, but still well-thought-out, and no less meaningful. 

For those who tremble at just the thought of public speaking, this may well be your first thought when it comes to making a rehearsal dinner speech.

However, if you’re able to speak, you’ll certainly feel the benefit of welcoming and saying thanks to those beautiful people around you. 

Who Should Give a Speech at a Rehearsal Dinner?

Groom’s Parents

As we mentioned, traditionally, the parents of the marrying couple host the rehearsal dinner, and typically that’s the groom’s parents. Therefore, it’s customary for them to make a toast.

This would begin with a few welcoming words at the start of dinner, then possibly inviting guests to be seated at the table, depending on your setup. 

Speeches from the groom’s parents are not mandatory, and there’s no reason why tradition should dictate your celebrations. But if they are involved, and would like to speak, it’s often quite a sweet moment; especially if they’ve come armed with some embarrassing stories about their baby boy, and possibly a slide show! 

If you’re attempting to put together a funny mother or father of the groom speech, and you need some tips on how to make your toast hilarious. You have to check out our latest podcast featuring Geoff Woliner from winningwit.com. 

Geoff shares all his expert tips and tricks on public speaking, as well as specific examples you can use in your speech. 

Bride’s Parents

Traditionally, the wedding is hosted by the bride’s parents, so there is less obligation for them to speak at the rehearsal dinner. 

However, you may not have a set person or person’s hosting/paying for certain events. This means Mom and Dad should certainly feel welcome to say a few words if they wish!

Family Members

One of the great things about weddings is that they bring together people from your family you probably haven’t seen in a long time.

Those cousins, uncles, and nieces you used to be so close to will be there and the rehearsal dinner is the ideal time to get reacquainted. Let them share a few words about what you meant to them growing up!

You may also have family members who feel like second parents or best friends. Allow them a moment in the spotlight to shower a little love on you. Especially if they don’t necessarily fulfill any traditional wedding party roles, and won’t get another chance to speak publicly during the weekend.

Plus, it’s another excuse for someone to tell a few more embarrassing stories about the engaged couple!

The Maid of Honor Speech & Best Man Toast

Both the best man and maid of honor will get their big moments on the wedding day. However, during the rehearsal dinner, it’s nice to offer them the opportunity to speak again, and maybe address the group on a more intimate, personal level.

They could also share a few anecdotes that didn’t make the wedding reception speech cut.

Be sure to keep these speeches short and sweet, allowing more time for others to speak.

The Happy Couple

Who Gives Speeches At Rehearsal Dinner

On your wedding day, you’ll be pulled this way and that by various well-wishers, all of whom will want just a few minutes with you. There simply won’t be enough hours in the day to have quality time with everyone, nor properly say thank you to all.

Keep this in mind when you think about the rehearsal dinner and its speeches.

Don’t pass up the opportunity to get the gossip from loved ones while in this more informal setting. Don’t miss your chance to let certain people know just how appreciative you are of their emotional and financial support during the wedding planning process. 

Your rehearsal dinner toast can also be a little more improvised and funnier than the speech on your wedding day.

Why not take inspiration from the other toasts, and riff off what has already been said? Respond humorously with some on-the-spot quips. This is not easy to pull off, but if you’re a secret Seinfeld, you’ll have those wedding guests eating out of the palm of your hand. 

Friends or Out-of-Town Wedding Guests

A portion of your rehearsal dinner guests will be made up of people who had to arrive a day early, as they live out of town.

These weary travelers may well have crossed more than state lines to attend your big day, so they deserve the opportunity to say a little something if they wish. Especially if they’re relatives you don’t get to see often. 

On the big day, the speeches will be dominated by the best man, maid of honor, etc, so the rehearsal dinner offers you the perfect time to shine the spotlight on those you’re just as close to, but who maybe aren’t an “official” part of your wedding party. 

Wedding Officiant

Whether your wedding officiant is a loved one or present in an official capacity, it’s nice to gift them the chance to share some words, and potentially some wisdom with your guests.

If they are a friend or family member, perhaps let them use their rehearsal dinner speech to share some fun stories about the happy couple.

They might tell tales of your engagement story from their perspective, while also looking forward to the upcoming wedding day.

A close friend or not, the wedding rehearsal toast from your officiant could also include a few wedding quotes and wise words about the importance of marriage.

It’s often easy to get swept up in the drama of the day and forget exactly why you’re all there, so it’s good to have someone official present to remind everyone of how significant a wedding ceremony is. 

Who Shouldn’t Give a Rehearsal Dinner Toast?

Anybody can give a speech at your rehearsal, within reason.

All the members of your rehearsal dinner guest list should feel free to share some feelings about the soon-to-be-married couple. However, it’s a good idea to organize who exactly will speak ahead of time.

The last thing you want is a free-for-all of wedding rehearsal speeches and not enough time to eat or catch up with people.

Narrow down the selected few beforehand, and only let extra people talk if you feel there is time, and you’re in control.

Be sure to hand this organizational task over to a member of your wedding party and allow yourselves the chance to relax and enjoy the evening. 

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Toast Tips

We recently spoke to Katelyn Peterson from weddingwords.us, and she shared some expert tips on how to give the best wedding toasts. It inspired us, and we thought we’d share her key structural advice with you as it applies so well to rehearsal dinner speeches too. 

Not every speech is the same, and yours will differ depending on your role in the wedding activities.

However, it’s useful to use this breakdown below to organize your thoughts and keep things in an easy-to-understand order. 

  • Introduce yourself
  • Memorable stories/qualities about your friend/family member
  • Personal stories/qualities about their new spouse
  • Who they are as a couple
  • Your wishes for their marriage
  • Strong closing

Now you’ve got the structure of your wedding rehearsal dinner speech down, you can start to think about the finer details of your toast. 

Humor: Yay or Nay?

In general, it’s best to keep things tight. Short stories, quick anecdotes, and thoughts on the wonderful people tying the knot are best. Don’t delve into a long monologue from your shared past, or tell a funny story that requires a lot of time to explain. 

Humor is great if it’s something you feel you can pull off. But, whether it’s off the cuff or planned out, even the funniest of guys in the office have died a death trying to make a rehearsal dinner crowd laugh. It’s not as easy as it looks, so if it doesn’t come naturally, don’t force it!

Geoff Woliner recently shared some expert advice on how to write a funny wedding speech on our podcast. He talked about how it’s important to embrace your stage fright, and use your anxiety to fuel your toast.

Geoff explained that the average wedding rehearsal dinner guest will often see the speeches as something obligatory, and not what they actually are: an opportunity. A speech is an opportunity to speak from the heart, and wow those closest to you.

The sooner you think more positively about your speech, the sooner you’ll be landing those one-liners! 

Practice Makes Perfect

The last thing piece of advice we’re going to give is practice. Unless you’re super confident and improvising on the day, it’s essential to go over your speech as many times as possible before wedding festivities commence.

The key to a memorable rehearsal dinner speech is confidence. If you’ve practiced your toast multiple times out loud in the mirror, and sought trusted friends to listen to it too, you’ll know just how long it is, where it can be improved, and at what points you usually stumble.

By the time you deliver it for real, it should feel like just another read-through.

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