Toast or Speech?

As wedding planning begins to tighten up, around 6 weeks prior to the wedding, I’m often asked “when are the speeches?” “You mean the toasts?”, I counter.  And the confusion begins between Toasts and Speeches. So let’s talk a bit about the difference between the two, and when each may be appropriate.

When to Toast?

At it’s most basic, a toast is a brief statement prior to a meal. When the meal is part of a celebration, that statement has a specific focus and purpose; to celebrate the guest(s) of honor. Since at a wedding there are technically 2 guests of honor, two toasts may be appropriate. They should be done after the first course, generally salad or soup, so that guests are not so hungry they can’t pay attention for 3 – 4 minutes. This allows time for the shift from whatever happened just prior, be it an entrance, first dance or other formal celebrating occasion. Waiting until after the first course for the toast will also allow time to ensure glasses are filled in the case of a champagne toast.

What is a Toast?

Speeches are another matter. If what you have to say is more than 4 minutes, let the poor suffering guests get something more substantial in their bellies. It’s easier to pay attention when their stomach is not competing with what you have to say. I’ve mentioned this time frame of 3 – 4 minutes a couple times because it is important. The time of the talk is key to it’s definition as a toast. The second key ingredient of a toast is that you speak about both guests of honor, sharing no more than one story to illustrate their best quality, and/or what makes them work together. The 3rd ingredient is the raising of the glass in celebration of the guest of honor.

I’ve got something to say

Once everyone has had a chance to get some of the delicious food prepared for them, they will have about 20 – 30 minutes after the last person has returned from the buffet. In the case of a buffet, for speeches. In the case of a served meal, there will be about 20 – 30 minutes from the time the last guest is served.

Let the speeches flow!

When speeches are scheduled, the first will be from the host(s). In most cases this would be the father of the Bride, but certainly not  all. In cases where the bride and groom are paying for everything themselves, The bride and groom may be the hosts. This is the thank you speech. It can be as long or short as you wish, just make sure to include a flattering word about your new spouse ;). If there are more than one speech, keep it short and sweet. Thank you so much for coming to celebrate this amazing day. It means so much to us, and we hope you all have a wonderful time!

Just a Thank You

If there is only one speech, you may choose a longer form, such as; Thank you all for coming to enjoy this beautiful day with us, it means so much to us that so many have come from near and far to celebrate with us, I hope you are enjoying the meal, we’ve spared no expense, and they are the finest caterers in the east, our guests of honor deserve no less, and when we are finished, we will dance until the power goes out in celebration of the Mr & Mrs Stevens!

…Either way, the thank you speech tends to be short. It is meant as an entree to the more involved speeches.


It is up to you as the planner, or if you have an event planner, it is up to them to decide who speaks, or for how long. Your master of ceremonies should be able to offer either guidance on this. In any case, a speech should be between 5 – 7 minutes. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s twice as long as a toast. This leaves time for 4 – 6 speeches.

So What?

If you have never organized a dinner party, you may find yourself saying “who cares?”. If you have been in charge of a dinner party, then you know why it matters. Nearly everyone in the event business uses the suffix -ish to describe the times, knowing that things happen to set things back, or speed things up. Dinner doesn’t like to wait. If you are holding your event in a location without a kitchen, meal delivery timing is absolutely crucial. Your caterers can then only keep things hot for so long. When serving fish, or if you are really concerned that your guests get their steak medium rare instead of well done, these things matter.

Granted, a 5 minute difference is not likely to be a big deal, but with such a wild card as how long will your toast or speech be, and the ability for things to snowball (one wants to speak, then they all want to speak). The easiest way to minimize this as a concern is to only allow one toast before the main course is served. Save the others til after your guests have their meal in front of them. As I mentioned above it is easier to pay attention when your stomach is not growling.

Questions? Fire away! I would love to hear your questions or even your take or your experiences. Was dinner ever cold at an event you have attended because toasts went way over time? I will be following up with a post about what does and does not belong in a toast. That is where you will see some real scary stuff, so stay tuned. In the mean time, I can’t wait to hear from you!