Remember the deliciously cringe-worthy maid of honour speech ‘duel’ between characters Annie Walker and Helen Harris in the blockbuster movie Bridesmaids? While extremely entertaining to watch, it was almost the perfect example of what not to do.
While this observation may be pretty obvious, many maids of honour do find themselves scratching their heads wondering what they should say. As a relatively new addition to the wedding speech line up, the maid of honour speech is somewhat of a blank canvas, and the challenge is to not replicate what’s already being covered in other people’s speeches.
Anita Stevens, Founder of Write It For Me, who specialises in writing customised wedding speeches for members of the bridal party, says the beauty of a maid of honour speech is that without any traditional roots or official ‘duties’ to deliver, the format and approach is pretty flexible.
“You can pretty much make it your own, but ultimately you should focus your speech on two things: celebrating your friendship with the bride and celebrating her marriage”, she says.
"It doesn’t need to be a tear-jerking, gushing account of how great your friend is. The maid of honour speech can be just as entertaining, heart-warming and funny as the best man‘s – in fact. I encourage women to really try to give the best man a run for his money in the comedy department and knock it out of the park.”
Table of Contents
- 1 Rules and Etiquette
- 2 How to Write a Maid of Honor Speech – Five Steps
- 3 Tips For Maid of Honour Speech
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions About Wedding Speech
- 5 What do you say in a wedding speech?
- 6 What to say at the beginning of a wedding?
- 7 How do you start a wedding toast?
- 8 Can the bride make a speech?
Rules and Etiquette
Before you get started on your cue cards, there are a few things to get out of the way in terms of etiquette.
Keep it clean
We put this one first because sometimes it’s soooo hard to keep it PG when we’ve got so much hilarious dirt on our best girl (especially after a few drinks at the open bar).
Try to refrain, though. Obviously, her parents are there, his parents are there, and who knows how many other family members with ears on you.
It could make it super awkward if everyone heard about what happened at the bachelorette party. Let the best man commit that faux pas; it’s entirely possible that he will.
Do your homework
You probably already know who is on the guest list, but you may not know some of the guests’ plus ones. If you can, find out about who’s coming that you don’t know. You don’t want to run the risk of offending someone or making them uncomfortable if the subject matter steers toward one of the big four topics to avoid. Keep reading for more on those.
Watch out for touchy topics.
Best to steer clear of money issues unless they flatter the bride and groom. Definitely best to steer clear of politics. And definitely, definitely leave family dirt in the ground.
There’s nothing more awkward than accidentally (or purposefully) calling someone on the carpet for family strife. Everyone there probably already knows that her dad’s new wife threw a tantrum and made a scene at Thanksgiving. But leave it unsaid. No matter how funny it was.
Suppose the wedding had a religious ceremony, and the bride/groom’s families are religious. In that case, that maybe something to mention if it is relevant to you, too. Just be sensitive and keep it as inclusive as possible.
How to Write a Maid of Honor Speech – Five Steps
Writing wedding speeches isn’t something you’re likely to learn how to do in school, and the maid of honour title doesn’t exactly come with a handbook. It might seem like you’re just expected to wing it.
It’s tempting but resist the urge. Improvised wedding speeches are hardly ever the ones that get tons of likes on social media, at least not for the right reasons. You’ll do better, and be much calmer if you take the time to plan it out in advance. Here’s an easy five-step plan you can follow, with a couple of maid of honour speech examples to get you started.
Even if it’s a small wedding, there’s a good chance that at least one person there won’t know you. Besides which, opening with who you are and how you know the bride is a great way to segue into a juicy story.
Try something like “Hi, everyone, I’m Julie, and I’m Susan’s favourite cousin. We met when Susan was three days old, but what I remember most is …”
Remember, as interesting as your own life has been, always bring it back to the bride. She’s the one they all came to see.
Choose the stories you want to tell.
If you know the bride well enough to be the maid of honour, you probably have lots of stories about her, but not all of them will be appropriate for this particular setting. Weddings tend to have elderly relatives, children, co-workers, and religious leaders. This might not be the place to talk about that drunken New Year’s Eve when you and the bride made out in her brother’s car. Stick with family-friendly and safe-for-work kinds of stories.
- Consider the Tone
You’ll also want to think about what you want the feeling of the speech to be. There is a funny maid of honour speeches, there are those that are full of warm fuzzies, and there are still others that are deep and spiritual. It all depends on who you are, what the bride and her partner are like, and yes, who will be in attendance. If the bride’s and her partner’s families are jokesters, then, by all means, pull out the funny stories. But if it’s a more serious atmosphere, go with the flow.
- Make the Connections
You probably still have lots of stories to choose from, so pick out the ones that connect best to the wedding and to the bride’s relationship with her partner. If you knew her when you were kids, did she ever talk about who she wanted to marry? Extra points if it was someone like the person she’s marrying today.
You probably still have lots of stories to choose from, so pick out the ones that connect best to the wedding.
It’s also hard to go wrong with a story about how the bride met her significant other. Was she talking about them for a full week afterwards? Did she call you after their first date to tell you the juicy details? Or was it one of those relationships where she just wasn’t sure at first, but then she fell for them?
- Give Her Partner Some Love
“How they met” kinds of stories segue beautifully into an anecdote about how you got to know the bride’s partner. Maybe there were some memorable double dates, or maybe they’re the kind of people that make you feel like the most valued third wheel in the world. Or has their relationship has brought about a fun and rewarding friendships between you and your bestie’s new spouse? Whatever it is, use it to bring the speech back to the two of them as a couple.
Wish them well in the years to come.
Now that you’ve told all of these stories about the past, it’s time to start talking about the future. After all, weddings really are about the first day of the couple’s new life together. Take some time in your speech to tell them all the wonderful things that you wish for them.
- If You’ve Been There
If you’re technically a “matron” of honour (the traditional term for an attendant of honour who is married), you may have some advice about wedded life to share with the happy couple. If you feel like the couple would welcome it, and if you can present it in a fun and playful way, feel free to add it in.
Organize your thoughts.
Once you’ve decided what you want to say, then it’s time to put it into a logical order. An outline is a great place to start, even if it does remind you of English class. Jot down what you want to say in your introduction, what story you want to lead into, and how that story will lead into the next.
- Don’t Forget the Conclusion.
Most maids of honour speeches happen in the form of a toast, so asking everyone to raise their glasses is always a good fallback. It’s even more satisfying if you can incorporate references from earlier in the speech: “Let’s all raise our glasses and wish Julie and Sam a future rich in love, full of hope, and sprinkled with eventful bowling trips.”
Another option is to end with a quote, either one that reminds you of the couple or one that you know they like. Your quote can even segue into the toast itself. As long as it says “the end” with a personal touch, you’re golden.
Practice, practice, practice
Now that your speech sounds perfect on paper, make sure it sounds perfect read aloud. After all, that’s how your audience is going to be taking it in.
- Get some feedback.
Read your speech in front of other people if you can, or video it and watch it afterwards. Chances are, you’ll find at least one thing that you want to change or add. Also, check-in about your delivery. Are you speaking clearly? Are you animated, but not over the top?
- Time yourself
Every time you practice your speech, start a timer. If it goes on for more than five minutes, cut something. There are a lot of things that have to happen at a wedding, and you don’t want to be the one holding up the boat. Shoot for between three and four minutes, so that you have a few seconds here and there to hold for applause, get a laugh, or wait for the bride’s mother to find a tissue.
Tips For Maid of Honour Speech
Move over Best Man, the Maid of Honour is here! No longer does the Best Man have to dominate the speech-making scene with his gags and stories; more and more Maids of Honour are stepping up their game and stealing the thunder, without any expectations or pressure from the audience. So if your Maid of Honour is keen to make a speech on your wedding day, hand her these pointers, so she nails it:
Say Your Thank-You
Looking for an easy place to start? Thank the families of the bride and groom for inviting everyone and especially thank the bride for selecting you as the Maid of Honour. The beginning of your speech is also the perfect time to introduce yourself, as it is guaranteed that even at a smaller wedding, not everyone will know exactly who you are, or what your connection to the bride is – and that’s just wrong!
Now it’s time for you to dive into the main body of the speech. This will require the most preparation and should include a few stories and anecdotes. We find that the best one to start with is how you know the bride; this can be a funny or sentimental story, depending on who you are as a person. Make sure to keep this classy and relevant, you don’t want to list off in-jokes that no one but you and the bride will understand. So pull out your best stories and enjoy your moment!
Back it up
We strongly advise you don’t just list off positive qualities (obviously there are many!) that the bride has like “the bride is caring, kind, funny, sweet…” Try choosing a select few and backing them up with examples, this will make your speech much more genuine and will let you bring in some funny stories.
Make It About The Both of Them
Now that you’ve told the audience what the bride was like before she met the groom, you should talk about their relationship. We find that the best stories to focus on are how they met each other and how you, as the Maid of Honour, knew that he was the one for the bride. Similarly, you can talk about what the bride and groom have learnt from each other and how happy they have become in the process. Again, you can make this funny or sentimental; all depends on your personal preference and sense of humour. A tip from us: if you are going for the funny angle, make sure your speech doesn’t turn into a roasting, keep it appropriate at all times. There could be grandparents present people!
And give the groom some love.
Definitely don’t forget to give a special mention to the groom! It is great if you have become close friends and you know his good qualities and can complement them or tease him! However, if you aren’t too close then just talk about how happy he has made the bride and how well suited to each other they are. Finish your speech with some funny or useful advice to the newlyweds and toast them. Cheers!
Frequently Asked Questions About Wedding Speech
- Open with a startling statement or question. Don't lead with a joke or a reference to how nervous you are.
- Address your audience.
- Zero in one to three points.
- Record yourself practising.
- Lay off the booze.
- Let nerves work to your advantage.
- Be yourself.
Generic. Dear friends and family of the Bride and Groom, we welcome and thank you for being part of this important occasion. We are gathered together on this day to witness and celebrate the marriage of Name Of Bride and Name Of Groom. Every one of us has a deep desire to love and to be loved.
- Congratulate the couple. Express how happy you are that the two of them are getting married and what it means to you to witness it.
- Introduce yourself.
- Tell a (curated) story.
- Address both partners.
- Go for the crowed-pleasers.
- Raise your glass for a toast.