The etiquette surrounding weddings speeches order, and whether you even care about those traditions, will vary depending upon your family’s social standing and geography. Generally, the higher one’s social standing, the more rigid are the rules proscribed for social occasions such as weddings. Nuptials for family members of royalty, heads of state, nobility, and even members of certain family clans and religious sects are likely to involve a set of protocols that define an acceptable wedding speeches order from which there is little room for variation or expansion. In these instances, the bride and groom will want to work with their family protocol officer to ensure that the customary rule of order is observed and that there are no breaches in code of behavior that could be an embarrassment to the couple, the family, or the state.
For the vast majority of families beneath the elite ruling or governing class, the couple has much greater leverage in establishing the wedding speeches order that they wish to follow. Still, the influence of traditions plays heavily upon that order, particularly when viewed from a geographic perspective. Among the English speaking countries, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa remain more tightly bound to a traditional ordering of speeches for weddings than does the United States. However, more modern approaches to the wedding speeches order have begun to make their way into wedding receptions throughout each of these countries. So, what, exactly, defines the “Traditional” wedding speeches order, and what are the key features of a “Modern” approach to ordering speeches for weddings? In today’s post we’ll explore the traditional ordering method.
Traditional Wedding Speeches Order
Historically, most of the English-speaking world adhered to the following pattern for both the content and order of three (3) wedding speeches with embedded toasts:
(1) Father of the Bride
According to tradition, the bride’s father, upon introduction by the Toastmaster or Master of Ceremonies, is the first to speak. In his remarks, the bride’s father welcomes the guests to the wedding of his daughter and, on behalf of himself and his wife, thanks the guests for joining them in the celebration. The bride’s father will then remark upon his daughter and her virtues and will express his pleasure in welcoming his son-in-law to the family. At the end of his speech, the father’s bride will ask the guests to join him in toasting to the happiness of the bride and groom.
In the traditional wedding speeches order, the groom offers the second speech. It is customary for the groom to begin the speech with his very first reference to the bride as his “wife.” By convention, the groom acknowledges the toast given by his father-in-law and thanks him for the banquet and for his daughter’s hand in marriage, the ultimate gift. Next, the groom acknowledges the guests, thanking them for sharing in the celebration and for their gifts and good wishes. Turning his attention to the bride, the groom comments upon her endearing qualities and upon their relationship, and then thanks her for becoming his wife. Finally, the groom thanks his best man and the ushers for their help throughout the wedding, as well as the bridesmaids and maid/matron of honor or chief bridesmaid for their support of the bride, concluding with a toast to their well being.
(3) Best Man
The third (and final) person to speak in the traditional wedding speeches order is the best man. He opens his remarks with a “thank you” on behalf of the bridesmaids, to whom the groom just toasted. It is expected that the best man will express his pleasure in being asked to assume this role in the wedding and, among any other words he may wish to share, that he will compliment the groom on his good fortune in having married the bride. The best man will conclude by reiterating the groom’s gratitude to the bride’s parents, ending with a toast to their health.
Aside from these three speakers, the Toastmaster or MC and the Clergyman or Wedding Officiant (who may be called upon to offer an invocation before the meal is served) are the only other speakers at the reception. It is common, therefore, that a bit more time is afforded to each speech than would be the case if the speaker count was higher. After all, the three speakers are expected to convey not only their own thoughts, but thoughts on behalf of others key persons who remain in the background. Given the length of time allocated to each speaker, the guests generally remain seated throughout the duration of the speech, rising only at the speech’s conclusion where the toast is formally proffered.
The traditional wedding speeches order has endured for generations. Part of its appeal lies in its simplicity; it is a straightforward convention with easy-to-follow rules. Nearly everyone, regardless of station, is likely to be highly familiar with the rules, making them easy to follow. And, as with all traditions, observing the order also honors the forebearers who helped to fashion and propagate the norms.
However, nothing in life is truly static and the same is true of our social norms. Customs and traditions evolve, sometimes slowly, to reflect the changes in our human relationships and societal institutions. In our next post, we’ll take a look at more modern approaches to the ordering of toasts and speeches at weddings in the United States and, increasingly, in the other major English-speaking countries around the world. Until then, please leave a comment with your thoughts on wedding speeches order as traditionally observed.
Photo by nImAdestiny, on Flickr