A Chicago Wedding Planner’s Ultimate Guide to Speeches

Groom Giving Toast at Ritz Carlton Chicago Wedding
Photo Credit: Studio Finch

The tradition of toasts and speeches can be traced back to most ancient societies. Today, wedding toasts have developed into a tradition of its own but a typical order of speeches is the hosts (often the parents), honor attendants and then the newlyweds. But do all weddings need to follow this common trend? Surprisingly, more and more couples are breaking this tradition and that is okay! There are many factors that come with giving speeches and you want to do what is best for your wedding.

In this post, we are going to walk you through some common speech scenarios and tips on the best way to work them into your wedding weekend.

The Talker

The ideal timeframe for a toast is three to five minutes. It is the perfect amount of time to share a story and congratulate the married couple. But any longer you tend to see guests lose interest. That is where “The Talker” comes in. We all know a person in either your family or friend group that likes to tell a story…in detail. We’d suggest organizing their speech for the rehearsal dinner when you are not as strapped for time to hear their sentiments.

If “The Talker” happens to be a parent or another very important speaker, discuss WHY it’s important to stick to the agreed upon length of the speech: 1) The food may be cold if the speech is scheduled prior to dinner service. The catering staff is working on a serving schedule and are counting on things running on time. As wedding planners, we know all too well that the one thing guests will complain about is cold food! 2) If the reception is “East Coast” style with dancing in between courses, the time spent talking is time you’re band is not playing although you’re still paying for that “downtime.” As wedding planners, we always ask each speaker to forward a copy of their speech so we can leave a copy of it at their dining seat. This gives us the added advantage of looking over the length of the speech to make sure it falls within the time limits given.


It might not happen at every wedding, but many times a parent plans to have a slideshow for the lovely couple. Make sure this takes place at the rehearsal dinner! Slideshows take up more time than expected and are usually in addition to a speech. This will also save you a lot of money when needing to set up AV since a rehearsal dinner has a much smaller group.

Mother of the Bride Giving Speech at The Ivy Room Chicago
Photo Credit: Artistrie Co.

Shy Friends

If you have a friend who does not feel comfortable speaking in front of a large crowd, there are steps to take to make them more at ease. Offer up the help of a bridal party or family member to help write and practice their speech. The earlier they start working on this, the less pressure they will feel so close to the wedding. Also, allow them to bring notes! No harm in having a little cheat sheet for those who really need it. If they are still feeling overly nervous, ask them if they would prefer to give their speech at the rehearsal dinner. If that is still too overwhelming, find a time for them to read you their speech in private or ask them to write you a letter to read on the wedding weekend.

Father of the Bride Giving Speech at InterContinental Mag Mile Wedding
Photo Credit: Kyle John

Open Mic

The old adage “the more the better” is not necessarily a rule to follow when it comes to wedding speeches. If you plan on letting anyone give a speech, definitely make time for this outside the reception such as the rehearsal dinner. You wouldn’t want to fill the evening with speeches and cut into the quality of the food service or delay guests hitting the dance floor.

If hosting a large number of speeches at the rehearsal dinner, we suggest getting a list of guests who want to give a speech prior to the wedding weekend so you can cap it at a set number and give them time to prepare.

Some couples are fore-going almost all of their reception speeches and moving them to the rehearsal dinner. If you choose to do this, it’s important to let your videographer know as they may be counting on that footage for your final wedding video. We suggest, adding a few hours to videographer’s contact so they can capture these all-important moments. If a couple chooses to surprise their rehearsal dinner guests by passing around the mic to let anyone speak, guests will be caught off-guard and may feel uncomfortable having to come up with something on the spot.

A Few Speech No No’s

Although it is difficult to tell your speech giver things you do and do not want said at your wedding; it is important to do so if you think they might say things that are inappropriate. Ex’s should NEVER be brought up. Although we get a good laugh from it in the movies, it makes everyone uneasy and takes away from the celebration of the married couple.

Offensive language is also something you want to make sure is avoided. Even if kids aren’t invited to the wedding, swearing comes off as a bit distasteful. One of the big factors in leading to these “Big No No’s” is having too much to drink prior to the speech. There is plenty of time after the speeches for the speech giver to enjoy their night fully but going overboard can lead to unplanned and unwanted words. Try to avoid this from happening by scheduling the speeches earlier in the evening or at a different time other than the reception. The bachelorette and bachelor parties are also a perfect time to let your friends tell the stories which may not be suitable for the reception.

Although there are hundreds of situations when it comes to speeches and toasts, it is important to think about how each fits into your wedding weekend. We work with our clients to work out the perfect flow and timeline for speeches so it’s enjoyable for all.

Chelsea Kiely Chicago Wedding Planner

Chelsea Kiely is Certified Wedding Planner and Senior Planner at The Gilded Aisle Weddings, an award-winning luxury wedding planning firm with offices in Chicago, New York, California and Italy. She can be reached at chelsea@thegildedaisleweddings.com

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