Weddings Tips

At what stage in the planning process should you book a Toastmaster; a good question.

Planning a wedding will (on average) start 18 months before the big day, starting with the type of ceremony that you want: religious ceremony in a place of worship, civil ceremony at a registry office or a bespoke ceremony with a celebrant at the reception venue. Once the date and venues have been confirmed, it is a good idea to then consult a Toastmaster who can advise on wedding etiquette, tradition and timings. They will have the management skills, tact, experience, and expertise to ensure the success of any function. Your Toastmaster will determine an outline plan as you want it to be, and from this point on, you will receive full support addressing any questions you may have and dealing with any changes to the plan.

Who Goes Where at the Wedding Ceremony

The convention at traditional weddings is for the bridegroom to stand, be seated and photographed on his bride’s right; after all, he is her right-hand man! The suggested seating arrangement at a civil wedding ceremony follows a similar convention. Looking towards the Registrar’s table, the bridegroom’s family sits on the right. Although the bridegroom will not be sitting for long, he takes the first seat on the front row. Next to him sits his best man, then his parents, then witnesses and anyone giving a reading. The bride’s family is seated on the left and the first seat is reserved for her father, then her mother and bridesmaids. Again, further seats are taken by witnesses and anyone giving a reading. Siblings take priority over grandparents for front row seats. As for the guests ‘Choose a seat not a side / We are all one family when the knot is tied’.

The Role of the Ushers

The prime role of the ushers is to take responsibility for directing and seating guests at a wedding ceremony, whether it is in a registry office, a church or a synagogue. While most weddings do not need an usher, it is a role ideally suited to a younger family member, who is well-mannered and of a cheerful disposition. However, the role of ushers could be taken by the bridegroom’s groomsmen. As a rule of thumb, I would suggest at least two ushers at a small wedding, more for a larger or formal wedding.
The ushers should ensure that name cards are placed on  seats reserved for the ‘nearlyweds’ parents, as well as for witnesses, any person giving a reading, and other members of the immediate family. If there are printed programmes for the ceremony, the ushers will ensure that each guest has a copy. They will direct guests to their seats, perhaps lending an arm to elderly guests and those who require assistance.

Who Goes Where at the Top Table

For anything larger than a small, informal reception, a wedding seating plan is likely to make a significant difference to the success of your reception. In the UK, the bride and bridegroom would traditionally sit in the middle of the wedding top table flanked by the bride’s parents, then the bridegroom’s parents and finally by the best man and chief bridesmaid. So, from the guests’ view, sitting left to right: Bridesmaid, Bridegroom’s Father, Bride’s Mother, Bridegroom, Bride, Bride’s Father, Bridegroom’s Mother, and Best Man.  A useful source for table planning can be found at

Cutting the Wedding Cake

Here’s a tip for the ‘newlyweds’ (and their photographer) when cutting the wedding cake. Remember, the traditional convention is for the bridegroom always to be on his bride’s right; after all, he is her right-hand man! The bridegroom takes the knife in his right hand and places his left arm around his wife’s waist. The bride places her right arm across her husband’s shoulders and places her left hand on his right hand. She is now proudly displaying her wedding ring for a close-up photograph before they cut the cake together.

Traditional Wedding Speeches

Traditionally, there are three speeches at a standard English wedding: father of the bride, the bridegroom, and finally the best man, in that order. Other speeches can be slotted in as required, for example, the father of the bridegroom would follow the father of the bride, and the bride herself would follow the bridegroom (so that she has the last word!).
When delivering your speech, talk more slowly than you would normally. Also, take longer pauses between sentences, giving the guests time to laugh or wipe away a tear before you start in on the next sentence. Avoid pauses mid-sentence, and if you cannot tell jokes, do not tell jokes! The five S’s of starting a speech: Stand, Smile, Scan the room, wait for Silence, take a deep breath and then – and only then – Speak. The Fifteen Peas of Public Speaking (by Graham Le-Gall, Wedding Speech Coach) will help you create and deliver the perfect wedding speech; visit

 Celebrant-Led Wedding

A wedding celebrant offers an alternative to the constraints and standard wording of a civil ceremony, which is bound by legal requirements, such as no religious elements and specific wording that must be adhered to. A wedding celebrant will invest time in the months leading up to your wedding, in order to get to know you personally, and will write a bespoke and very personal ceremony, just for you. To legally register your marriage, you would be required to do so with a short statutory wedding ceremony at your local Registry Office with two witnesses. If you would like information about the legalities required in order to have a celebrant-led wedding ceremony, visit
From every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to heaven. When two souls who are destined for each other find one another, their streams of light flow together and a single brighter light goes forth from their united being.” Ba’al Shem Tov
Creating your own wedding ceremony, when one of you is Jewish, gives you the freedom to choose what you want to do and say. With a bit of careful planning, you can have a gorgeous interfaith ceremony which incorporates elements from both your traditions in a way that everyone present feels fully included. For information about mixed-faith weddings,  visit

Breaking the Glass

It is a tradition at Jewish weddings that the bridegroom breaks a wine glass under his foot towards the end of the wedding ceremony to shouts of ‘Mazal Tov’ from the guests. We are told that this commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago, and that we should remember the sad times when celebrating joyful occasions. My Rabbi told me that it was the last time I get to put my foot down!
Eva Edery creates bespoke Judaica and wall art pieces with the shards of the chuppah glass, fusing them into customised pieces including mezuzot. Art created with broken chuppah glass shards is a celebration of a memorable event during the Jewish wedding ceremony, and Eva’s Mediterranean heritage influences the vibrancy of colours, hues and shapes found in her designs. The chuppah glass pack can be collected from her studio in Edgware HA8.  Visit for further information.

Changing Names

One of the questions I ask my Brides is “Will you be adopting your husband’s name?”, and in most cases the answer is “Yes”. However, there are several alternatives open to both brides and bridegrooms, including double-barreling the two surnames (with or without a hyphen) and meshing the two surnames to create a new name (e.g. Dawn Porter married Chris O’Dowd to become Mrs Dawn O’Porter). It is not unusual, also, for same-sex couples to adopt their partner’s name or even create a brand-new name.  Visit if you are thinking about changing names and would like more information and advice.

John Ashmele FGPT
Fellow of the Guild of Professional Toastmasters
Graduate of the Professional Toastmasters’ Academy
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