Wedding toasts without sexist marriage cliches

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How to keep sexist marriage cliches from invading your wedding toasts
Don't let your wedding toasts hark back to this 1958 How to Survive Matrimony manual
I'm a feminist bride with a feminist fiance looking for some advice. I was at a good friend's wedding recently and the groom's older brother gave a toast with a whole section on how the groom should just accept that he'll never be right again now that he's married — even when the facts are on his side, he should defer to the wife to keep the peace. To me, this smacks of “Bitches be crazy!” nonsense.


My fiance and I respect each other and I want anyone who speaks at our wedding to honor that, rather than imposing their sexist ideas about marriage. I'd trust our friends to speak to our values, but there are some family members I worry may not be on the same page. How can we give people the opportunity to wish us well without inviting their sexist garbage, however subtle it may be?

Whoo boy, you are tapping into a LOT of couples' fears with this one. Bravo for you for not wanting to put up with the inherent misogyny, commitment “comedy,” and sexist marriage cliches that can accompany so many wedding events. Now, the actual prevention of them is the rub.

There are two tactics I'd suggest implementing: direct or indirect. Here's how both could go down…

Tell 'em straight up

For those family members or friends who are in danger of not being on the same page, you could give them a heads up directly. Give them a call or an email starting with some small talk. Then lead into a quick heads up that you just want to make sure that any toasts avoid any of “those silly tropes that you know are popular.” Feel free to keep the conversation light, but direct.

Try something along these lines:

“We love that you're going to want to say a few kind words, thank you so much! We're just talking to everyone who might plan to speak to make sure that there's a general avoidance of any humor that revolves around stereotypes about women and men. It's just not who we are and we don't want to rub anyone the wrong way.”

With this messaging, you're avoiding calling them out individually and making sure they get that it's just not your style.

How to keep sexist marriage cliches from invading your wedding toasts
More barf-worthy 1958 advice from a 1958 How to Survive Matrimony manual

Have someone close to them clue them in

Alternately, you could pull in an ally to hint on your behalf. Uncle Bob's sister, a mutual friend, wedding party member, etc.

This could go down as follows:

“Hey, Uncle Bob, I know [couple names] just attended a wedding where there was some uncool content in the speeches that stereotyped men and women in marriages negatively. She seemed like they may not want that kind of humor, in case you were planning it. I'm just letting everyone know so we can all avoid any awkwardness and make the day really awesome for them.”

In this way, you're teaming up other speakers to feel like they're all in on making all the speeches really great for you guys.

Who else has some tips to keep sexist wedding stereotypes out of their otherwise well-meaning speeches?

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Comments on Wedding toasts without sexist marriage cliches

  1. And know your unexpected potential worst offender: the person who has no idea what to say. I find that the most sexist, cliche speeches I hear are ones I’ve heard verbatim a hundred times because everybody went to Google for help.
    This follows with advice #2. Have someone who know the deal to offer all the obligatory speech-givers some help.

  2. My advice is to have the DJ/MC for the evening call people up for their toasts. That way you know that the speeches are going to come from a limited number of people that you have selected and not from random Uncle Bob who decided he wanted in on the speech giving action.

  3. To add to HeatherB comment, keep the members giving toasts to a limited number of whom you asked. We only had three speeches/toasts at our wedding, and though my SIL slipped in some inappropriate comments (more face-palm comments than sexist luckily), it went very smoothly. This was helped my the fact that most of our family and close friends are pretty introverted and shy, so we didn’t have to ask anyone NOT to give a speech. Depending on your families, you might be a bit stuck between a rock and a hard place. The above advice is great, but if someone is stuck in their views (like my in-laws, good thing they didn’t want to give a speech), a direct or indirect comment may not do anything, and you may need to resort to either putting up with the speech or risking hurt feelings/drama of not letting them give a speech. Good luck!

  4. In the UK the toasts are traditionally given between the dinner and the cake cutting, and by the groom (occasionally replaced by the father of the groom), the best man and the father of the bride. Groom’s speech is short (thank you for coming, I’m so lucky), FOB’s is sincere (thank you for coming, I’m so proud), and the best man’s is fifteen minutes of sarcasm and embarrassing stories, usually with a slideshow (thank you for the booze, I’m so funny and has anyone here not seen the groom naked yet, because you’re about to).

    I really dislike that it’s an all male line up, and that it’s so focused on giving away and receiving the bride. However, there’s a definite advantage to the fact it’s limited to so few people, and you’ve really only got one wildcard on the sexism front (who’ll probably be bugging people for embarrassing pics of the groom, so you can get them to pass the no-ball-and-chain rule on fairly easily). It’s hard to get more women in there because you end up adding to the number of speeches, and after about 30 minutes of dutifully clinking champagne glasses guests start to get bored.

    If you can do so without giving offence, try and sub people in for the trad line up, rather than adding to it, or get them to give speeches in pairs. Keep the number and length of the speeches short. If people want to go funny, remind them to keep it personal, not jokes they found on the internet. Or ask them for something other than speeches entirely; my stepdad is a folk singer, so I’m thinking of asking for a song rather than a speech from him!

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