A lot needs to be borne in mind when organising a wedding reception, and the list of customs and traditions is a long one.

We are happy to advise on every aspect, from opening the presents and the order of the speeches to what can happen once dinner is over. Many books and much information online are available on the correct etiquette. The following brief summary may help your planning.

Seating plan

How are guests to be seated at a large wedding? Where should the best man, the maid of honour, grandparents and friends be placed? This job becomes much easier when you are familiar with the traditions.

  • The bridal couple are seated next to each other on the long side of the top table, with the bride to the right of the groom.
  • On the bride’s other side is her father, or alternatively the oldest family member. The groom’s mother comes next.
  • The bride’s mother is seated on the other side of the groom, with the groom’s father next to her.
  • This seating plan can also be followed where the parents are divorced but have remained good friends.
    Their new partners will be seated with the other guests.
  • The best man and maid of honour should be seated next to each other.
  • Otherwise, generations and families should be mixed together as much as possible.
  • Close relatives of the bridal couple should be seated as close as possible to them.

Order of speeches

Who is normally expected to make a speech at a wedding, and in which order? This overview could be useful, both for the bridal couple and for the toastmaster.

  1. Speech of welcome. With traditional family constellations, the bride’s mother or father makes a brief welcome speech.
    It concludes with a toast for the newly-weds and the introduction of the toastmaster.
  2. Toastmaster’s introduction. This provides practical information and helps to elevate the mood.
    The starter and main course are then served. When the plates have been cleared, the toastmaster calls on the next speaker.
  3. The main speech is given by the bride’s father, alternatively her mother.
  4. Speech by the groom – alternatively the bride. The groom’s traditional task is to express his thanks for the bride.
  5. Speech by the bride’s maid of honour.
  6. Speech by the groom’s best man.
  7. Speech by the groom’s father, which may also incorporate the thanks otherwise expressed in speech.
  8. In Norway and elsewhere, it is also conventional to give a speech thanking the hosts for the meal
    and for devoting so much thought, work and time to making it a success.

Dress code

The bridal couple’s attire is normally decided, but what should the guests wear? A wedding invitation will generally specify a dress code, usually for men. So what is then appropriate for women to wear?

Formal attire
Men: dark suit with white shirt and tie
Women: smart dress or outfit

Black tie
Men: dinner jacket/tuxedo
Women: formal gown of any length

White tie
Men: tails
Women: long gown, possibly with gloves

Toastmaster guide

The toastmaster plays a key role during the wedding dinner, and should therefore be chosen with care. They should preferably be somebody who combines a warm personality with verbal skills and quick wits, and who does not try to dominate the proceedings. Serving as a kind of master of ceremonies, the toastmaster not only calls on the speakers but ensures that the timetable is observed.

After being introduced by the host at the start of the dinner, they provide practical information and announce that unscheduled speakers can make themselves known via the waiting staff. Each speaker is introduced briefly. The toastmaster also reads out possible greetings/messages and can relate small anecdotes, but does not give their own speech.

Toastmaster’s pre-dinner checklist

  • Check lighting and sound
  • Review the programme with the hosts
  • Consult with the maître d’
  • Talk with the speakers and agree the length of their speeches
  • Draw up a timetable

Toastmaster’s checklist during the meal

  • Check the schedule at the table
  • Provide information on practical details
  • Introduce the speakers
  • Read out greetings/messages

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