So what makes the perfect wedding speech? The last time we googled ‘wedding speech’, it returned 5,150,000 results. How many? Five million one hundred and fifty thousand. You read that right. That’s easily enough speech advice to serve brides for at least a decade.
But… who has time to go through all that? If we may be honest, many guys – that’s fathers of the bride, the grooms and the best men – leave the speech writing until they simply can’t ignore the date that’s nearly upon them. So, ladies and gents, this is the one and only speech advice article you’ll ever need – and do pass it on to the people who will be speaking on your special day. And if you’re the bride, click here to read all about how your speech can be a real delight at your wedding.
Lost before you’ve even put a single word down? There are only two kinds of themes you need to consider – touching or funny. Yes, that’s it. Technically, there’s a third kind, and that’s touching and funny combined. But, for now, just pick one. By the time you’re done, you may end up having both anyway.
You must know this about your audience – you’ll probably never again have such appreciative and positive listeners (unless you’re a motivational speaker and you do this all the time). When you give your speech, there will be no hostility, no judging, no negativity in the room. The guests will simply expect to hear some extraordinarily lovely words. You don’t have to impress anyone, compete with anyone, or be funnier or smarter than you really are. They’ll love you anyway. Isn’t that great?
Image from Lisa & Gareth’s real wedding by Ebony & Pearl Photography
Now comes the usual objection… ‘I can’t write’. Sure you can. You write notes, text messages, shopping lists, and Christmas cards. This isn’t a political speech, a novel, or a Hollywood screenplay. You’re simply going to tell everyone how you feel. We say ‘tell’ because, remember – you’re giving a speech. You’re not writing an article. You’re just telling a story about someone everyone in the room knows. So forget this ‘I can’t write’ business – you can talk, and tell a story from the heart, and that’s plenty.
How long should you talk for, you ask? No longer than five minutes, and in fact most etiquette gurus will give you no more than three minutes (then they cue that Oscars music when they want the winner to get off the stage). That’s all – just three minutes! Here’s what you need to do – grab a time-keeping device (stopwatch, your mobile phone, or the egg timer), start it, and tell a story about the bride or the groom – any story. Check the time when you’re done. What is the result? Did you have plenty of time left, or did you get interrupted by the ping? Three minutes of words may look long on paper – but they last no time at all when you’re speaking. So don’t worry – brevity is your friend here. Ergo, the task at hand isn’t as taxing as you think.
And now to the task itself – every story has a start, beginning, and end. Think of any story you told today – you may have said ‘you won’t believe what happened on my way to work today!’ The safest start to a speech is to introduce yourself – most guests may know you, but some won’t. Then, say the main bit. Then draw a conclusion. Here’s a little cheat – at the end, refer back to the first thing you said about the couple or the wedding. It’s what pros do – and you’ll sound like a pro too.
Here’s a tip many professional writers use – don’t start writing at the beginning. First, write down the key thing that’s going to be the main feature of your speech. Is it a touching story about how you know the bride or groom? Is it about how the groom confided in you when he decided to propose? Is it about how the bride gave up on finding Mr Right, and then met him? Or maybe when she was a little girl and dressed up in white tablecloths – or maybe even yards and yards of toilet paper – playing the bride? Write that down first. Get the details in. Tell the audience how you felt at the time. They’ll feel like you’re sharing something personal… and guess what… that’s exactly what you’re doing!
Then when you have the middle part down in words, add a beginning and an end. The end could be as simple as saying, ‘so Jane, when you told me you’ve given up on finding your Mr Right, I never believed you! Isn’t it great to be wrong sometimes? Ladies and gentlemen, let’s raise our glasses to the new Mr and Mrs Watson!’ Easy peasy! And the beginning, as we’ve already said, could be you introducing yourself to the audience.
Image from Anne-Sophie & Connor’s real wedding by www.weddingsbykara.com
Now that you’ve got that down, here’s another tip from the professionals – you’ll discover all the mistakes in your writing as soon as you read your speech out loud. First, read it to yourself, in your normal conversational voice, and time it. You’ll know right away whether you need to add or take away a little something (but keep to the three minute rule!) Now read it again, out loud, and really listen to what you’re saying. Do any phrases sound awkward, or not quite correct? Did you add a comma in every place you took a natural pause? You can do this as many times as you like, until it all sounds fine to you.
Then, grab someone you trust, and read the speech to them. Make sure to tell them you want their absolutely honest feedback on everything – from how the speech made them feel, to the mistakes you may have made. Do it multiple times until you feel you got it just right. There. You’re done. Congrats!
Now put the speech away and come back to it in two, three days. Read it again to yourself out loud. You’ll find things you didn’t notice before. Correct them. You can even read it to someone else again. Right about now it’s getting close to perfection.
We must add a word here about reading or cue cards. Some wedding experts will tell you reading isn’t allowed. We say – do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable. Truly, there are very few people in this world who are naturals in front of an audience – and most of them already work in television. Don’t worry about memorising what you’ve written – it’ll just make you more nervous. It’s perfectly fine to read, as long as you also look at the audience regularly. Especially at the toast bit at the end.
And finally, a few common sense tips:
• don’t drink too much before you’re due to give your speech – the evidence may live on video forever…
• don’t say things that are saucy, offensive, or too private – Grandma’s listening…
• don’t download the speech from the internet – cause everyone has probably seen it already…
• don’t improvise – even the greatest stand-up comedians prepare their material in advance…
• don’t feel bad about hiring a wedding writer – it may seem like cheating, but they’ll simply use their craft to write down beautifully what you tell them… if you’re really stuck, an expert may just be what you need (Poetry Just For You is one such service).
Ready? Go for it! And enjoy a drink to quell your nerves afterwards – you deserve it!
Main image from Nicola & Niall’s real wedding by DKPHOTO
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If you think the bride should always have the last word, then Rachel is on your side! A devoted fan of everything quirky, unusual, colourful or crafty, she loves scouting WOL's real weddings for unique and fun touches. When not gazing at pictures, she's dispensing no-nonsense advice on everything from reception entrance songs to bridesmaid problems.