The rehearsal dinner is all about sharing food, drinks and celebrating the upcoming nuptials of the bridal couple. It’s also the perfect opportunity for the couple’s friends and family to pay tribute to them with speeches and toasts.
A rehearsal dinner speech is similar to the speeches you’ve heard at weddings. While it should be shorter than a wedding speech, the basic structure remains the same. The key is to share why the bride or groom is so special to you and to wish the couple the best on their big day and future life together.
Here are some of our tips on how to write a memorable rehearsal dinner speech that will not only capture the interest of the guests, but will warm the hearts of the couple you’re celebrating.
The Dos and Don’ts for a Great Rehearsal Dinner Speech
If you’ve been tasked with speaking at the rehearsal dinner of a friend or family member, there are a few things to keep in mind when writing your speech. Check out our dos and don’ts for writing a heartfelt speech the couple will love.
Do be prepared
Unless you’re a very gifted public speaker who’s used to speaking off the cuff, you should never try to wing a speech at the rehearsal dinner.
We recommend writing your speech at least two weeks before the event. You certainly don’t have to read your speech word-for-word if you’re the type of person who is comfortable talking in front of a large group; but you should have it with you to refer to and keep you on track.
Do introduce yourself
While a rehearsal dinner tends to be small compared to the actual wedding reception, it’s still important to introduce yourself. Even if a lot of people already know you, there will likely be a few who don’t know you or your relationship with the couple.
Do talk about the bride and groom
Whether you’re a friend or family member of the bride or the groom it’s important to mention both halves of the couple in your speech.
If you’re a long-time friend of the groom, you can certainly tell a story about one of your exploits as long as you keep it PG-rated. Afterall, the couple’s grandparents and clergy could be in attendance.
While your speech might be mostly about the groom, it’s important that you find a way to transition into talking about them as a couple too. You could say how the groom has changed for the better since meeting his future spouse or it could be as simple as saying how happy he or she has made the groom.
Whatever route you choose, find a way to integrate the groom’s future spouse into the speech.
Don’t talk about yourself
If you’re relating a tale about an exploit with the bride or groom, it can be really easy to fall into the trap of talking about yourself. That is a major no-no. Your speech should be all about the bride or groom and the love of his/her life.
After introducing yourself, keep yourself out of the story as much as possible. The goal is to talk about why the bride or groom is great and to offer them your congratulations.
Don’t be a comedian
One of the biggest mistakes people make when giving a speech is trying to be funny. If you have a knack for humor, great, use it. If you have a funny story, by all means, tell it. But don’t force yourself to be funny if it doesn’t come naturally.
Your speech isn’t a time to tell jokes. After all, you’re not doing a stand up routine. The goal is to talk about the bridal couple, not tell jokes at their expense. So while it’s OK to tell a funny story, it’s not appropriate to use the speech as a roast.
Do be appropriate
Like we mentioned in the point above, your speech is not a chance to roast the bride or groom, so while relaying a funny story is fine, make sure it’s appropriate. Keep in mind, there could be children and grandparents in attendance. If your friends are being married by a minister or priest, he or she will likely be at the dinner too.
No matter who is in the audience, do not curse or be vulgar and avoid talking about exes. Talking about exes in front of the families of the bride or groom is always in bad taste, even if it does involve a funny anecdote.
You should also avoid using inside jokes unless everyone there is privy to them. While they may not be offensive, they can still be inappropriate if they will leave the majority of your audience in the dark.
Pro tip: Don’t drink much before the toasts begin. Being sober ensures good delivery and proper behavior.
Do show some emotion
The main point of your speech should be to reveal who the bride or groom is through your eyes. Whether you’re a family member or a good friend, if you’ve been invited to the rehearsal dinner, you likely know the bride or groom quite well, so don’t be afraid to tell a story that proves his or her best characteristics.
Showing is always better than simply stating something as a fact. If you want to talk about how thoughtful the groom is, don’t just say he’s considerate, share a story about how he stayed up all night to help you cram for your biology exam because you needed the moral support. Or talk about how he always does something special for his friends on their birthdays.
Don’t talk too fast
If making speeches doesn’t come naturally to you, it can be tempting to talk as quickly as possible to get it over with. Talking too fast, however, will make the speech hard to follow and you’ll no doubt feel embarrassed for not delivering it as well as you could have.
Remember to take a few deep breaths before taking your place at the mic. Breathing deeply and evenly will help to settle your nerves and enable you to speak more naturally. Once you begin, do your best to speak conversationally. Pausing in the right spots is also important because it allows the guests time to react. If you share a funny story and don’t pause after saying something amusing, people won’t have a chance to laugh and will lose interest in the remainder of your speech.
Do practice beforehand
Even if you’re not nervous, practice is important for a well delivered speech. You don’t have to memorize your speech, but you do want to make sure your delivery is smooth and natural. It can also help you to find a good pace and determine where pauses would be the most effective.
So, how many times do you need to practice to accomplish all of that? That number will differ for everyone. Rather than focusing on how many times you should practice, experts suggest rehearsing until the speech flows easily and sounds polished.
Rehearsal Dinner Speech Examples
If you need a little extra help, these two examples could be just the inspiration you need. You can use the structure to craft your own unique rehearsal dinner speech.
Speech 1 (Father of the groom)
Good evening everyone, I’m Bill, father of Jason, the very lucky groom. Thank you to everyone who has joined us tonight to celebrate Jason and his lovely bride Natalie on the eve of their big day.
In the 26 years I’ve known Jason, he has always been determined. From taking his first steps, to learning to ride his bike without training wheels to conquering calculus in high school, once Jason set his mind to something, his mom Claire and I knew that he’d accomplish it. He always set his mind firmly on a goal and then did everything in his power to achieve it.
So, when Jason came home from college for Christmas in his final year and told us he’d met the woman he was going to marry, his mom and I had no doubts at all that he would, in fact, marry her. By spring he and Natalie were dating and we met her for the first time that summer.
Even then, Claire and I could see how much Jason loved Natalie. We could also see how good they were together and I can remember saying to Claire, “Jason is definitely going to marry that girl.”
It has been our privilege over the intervening years to get to know Natalie. She is everything we could have hoped for in a daughter-in-law: smart, kind-hearted, level-headed — and she fit right into our clan like she had always belonged to it.
Jason and Natalie, we love you both so much and can hardly wait to see you become husband and wife tomorrow. We wish you all of the love and happiness in the world.
Speech 2 (Bridesmaid)
Hi everyone. I’m Maria, close friend and bridesmaid to the beautiful bride-to-be. I’ve known Natalie since elementary school and we’ve been besties ever since.
We spent many hours in our younger years playing Barbies and, in our teen years, we spent just as much time discussing boys, doing each other’s makeup and studying together. One of my fondest memories is of our time working as tutors together over the summer. Natalie was always so amazing with the younger kids and I knew she would become a teacher one day herself.
As one of Natalie’s oldest friends, we’ve seen each other through heartaches, have been witness to all of each other’s best moments and have celebrated each other’s victories. I can safely say that being able to see my BFF fall in love with a man who loved her just as much as she loved him has been my privilege. I also feel remarkably lucky to have gotten to know Jason over the past four years and to count him as a friend too.
Natalie, you and Jason truly are made for each other and I am so happy for you both. All the best on your special day and each and every day after.
Rehearsal Dinner Speech FAQs
Still have some questions about rehearsal dinner speeches? We’ve answered all of the most frequently asked concerns and queries to help you master rehearsal dinner speech etiquette.
Who speaks at a rehearsal dinner?
Traditionally the parents of the groom pay for and host the rehearsal dinner, making the father of the groom the main speaker of the night.
Today, however, couples are making their own rules and are choosing who will speak at the dinner. After all, not all weddings have a groom and some grooms may not have a relationship with their fathers. In some cases the dad of the groom could be deceased.
When a father of the groom speech isn’t an option, the bridal couple can choose to have whoever is playing the role of host speak or they can ask members of the wedding party who won’t be speaking at the wedding to say a few words.
How many speeches do you have at a rehearsal dinner?
The host of the rehearsal dinner typically kicks off the speeches by welcoming everyone and congratulating the bridal couple. Once the host is finished speaking, other friends or family members can say a few words if the bride or groom wishes.
If the host of the dinner is the parent of the bride or groom, they can speak again at the wedding if the couple wishes. Anyone else who speaks at the dinner, however, shouldn’t also get the mic at the reception.
How long should a speech be at a rehearsal dinner?
A rehearsal dinner speech should never exceed five minutes if you want to keep the vibe fun and relaxed. Longer speeches can cause your guests to zone out, which is why we recommend keeping speeches to two to three minutes in length.
This gives you ample time to reminisce and offer congratulations while still keeping dinner attendees engaged.
Does the groom have to give a speech?
No, neither the groom or bride have to speak at the rehearsal dinner unless they wish to. If you do want to say a few words, remember to keep your speech fun but brief. If you’re speaking at the wedding reception, however, you may want to rethink speaking at the dinner too.