“First off, your site is great, and has helped me get through the engagement and we’re now 3 weeks from my wedding. My family is giving the rehearsal dinner, and I was wondering who is supposed to give toasts and whether I need to give a toast at both the wedding and the rehearsal dinner, and if so, how do I do that without recycling the same anecdotes and stories?
“Please don’t give me the bullshit that a rehearsal dinner “is whatever you want it to be.” I don’t mind public speaking, but do I need to do it twice in two days, and how do I apply your rules for speeches to each event, without boring the people who were there the night before?”
– The Plunge Reader
The answer to your question is this: the rehearsal dinner is whatever you want it to be.
Kidding. First off, even though we won’t duck the question with “You can do whatever you want!” you should know, seriously, that the rehearsal dinner doesn’t have any hard-and-fast rules.
This is a good thing. We’ve been to weddings where all the toasts were at the rehearsal dinner–none at the wedding–and vice versa. No one complained. No one thought it was weird. The Wedding Gods did not smite down the ceremony. We tell you this not to wiggle out of specificity, but so you can relax. Whatever you choose will (probably) work just fine. Also, we want to wiggle out of specificity.
All right. Enough of that vague horseshit. Here’s what you should do. As the groom, you should give two speeches, one at the rehearsal dinner and one at the reception. These two speeches will have two different themes for two different audiences.
Speech 1: The Rehearsal Dinner
This is a smaller, more intimate crowd. These are the people you should be thanking. So thank them. And make the speech about them. Sprinkle in some anecdotes about your best friends, your aunt who flew all the way from St. Louis, whatever. Since it’s a smaller crowd, you can get away with catering to your good friends and your family. (Don’t forget to thank both sets of parents, obviously.) These more personalized comments will be lost on your larger crowd at the reception. And for your second speech…
Speech 2: The Reception
Here you have a different theme: the bride. Bring out the big guns. Here’s where you get all gooey and emotional. With this strategy–getting back to the heart of your question–you avoid double-dipping anecdotes and jokes. One speech targeted at the guests, one speech targeted at the bride.
Oh, real quick. You asked about who else gives toasts at the rehearsal dinner. Your parents (typically the father) is a near lock. After that, it gets hazy and it really does vary with each wedding, but sometimes the bride’s parents want to say something, and maybe your best man can give his toast here (or he can wait until the reception-really, it can go either way.) It’s up to you and your fiancée if you want to open the floor to other family friends. Usually, it’s an open floor; and, just as usually, no one else steps up to bat.
Hope this helps. Good luck.
For much more on speeches, check out our complete section on Wedding Toasts.