Giving wedding speeches

posted in: examples of work, Weddings | 0

Pasties & Petticoats blog 6

Ladies and Gentlemen, and other riff raff…

When they’re asked to be someone’s Best Man, for many people the first thought is, ‘However will I manage the speech?’ or a more colourful version of the same…

And when their daughter announces she’s getting married, many fathers at some point probably share the sentiment.  Although it’s likely to be further back down the list behind, ‘Will they expect me to pay for it?’ and possibly, concerns about the suitability of the Bridegroom in question.

And for the Groom himself, delivering the speech at the reception is probably further down the list of things still, and may even be a ‘Help, I have to make a speech tomorrow!’ occasion.

Giving speeches can be a worry, if you’re not confident in front of large groups of people, if you have a speech impediment, or if you’re not used to sharing your thoughts full stop.  However, it needn’t be the cause of full-scale panic. There are any number of places you can look for inspiration, online or in books, speech openers, structure guides, harmless anecdotes you can recycle, etc.  You’re not alone. 

So here are a few points to remember when giving speeches.

Keep it short

Snoring in your audience is never complimentary! Yes, the people who are there want to hear the funny stories about the Bride and Groom, but you probably don’t have time to give all the funny stories.  Maybe pick a theme and follow it through – the Bride’s love of baking, or the Groom’s perpetual clumsiness, or all the places they’ve been to on holiday, together and separately.

Keep it simple

Don’t get carried away with your role (if you’re not the Groom, obviously), and try to become the highlight of the day.  That’s not your place.  The Bride and Groom are the stars of the show, and the marriage ceremony itself is the highlight. Anything else is subsidiary. Best men, aim for Best Supporting Actor Oscar by all means, but not Best Male Lead!

Keep to the script

There will be people you have to thank for their help or support, mothers-in-law to be appreciative of, Bridesmaids to admire, and so on, so make notes of these people, and their contribution.  Thanking Aunty Mabel for the flowers when it was Aunty Kate could cause a family rift that goes on for years, so get it right.

Keep to the point

Rambling and waffling will lose your audience.  Make notes, and stick to them.  Wandering off piste will probably find you staring at your notes card going, ‘um, what was I saying?’ at some point, which is embarrassing, and will throw you off balance for the rest of your speech.

Keep it flexible

Don’t write the full script of the speech and read it verbatim.    If you lose your place, you’ll have a different kind of embarrassing pause.  Notes – single-sided, large-print, bullet-point notes – are best.  Also, what sounded funny in your living room can come out as stilted and dry once you read it to an audience.  Plus, if you find that your audience is drifting off, you can cut points 7 to 10 and go straight to the toast if necessary!

Keep it broad

Try and use stories about both of the couple, from all aspects of their lives, not just football anecdotes about the Groom.  If you want to know more, get hold of friends, family members, work colleagues, gym buddies, etc and ask them for stories.

Keep off the vino

You are more likely to give a speech that will be remembered for the right reasons if you’re at least mostly sober.  Dutch Courage may work for some situations, but this isn’t one of them.

Keep it clean

Remember, your audience will probably include grandparents and children, not just college mates.  So you may need to censor some of the stories, or leave some out altogether, if they’re on the wrong side of the line.  Remember, tales involving exes of either party could be dodgy ground as well. 

Also, if there’s a chance that the Groom will ever be in a position to be your Best Man, then you’d better tread very carefully indeed!!

Don’t keep it to yourself

Two parts to this one:

  1. Don’t speak so quietly that only those on your table can hear you.  It might be worth arranging to have a microphone provided if you know you’re softly spoken. 
  2. Practice on someone else.  Get a second opinion on content, length, joke-suitability, etc.  If you can find a volunteer who wasn’t there for some of the funny stories, to check that they come over right, that’s a good plan.

And in conclusion, my friends

Aim for some humour, some history, some sentiment, and some kind words. You’re probably not the next Winston Churchill or Barack Obama, delivering speeches to stir the nation, but making a crowd laugh can be a real buzz.  Enjoy it if you can.

Weddings blog – complete series:

  1. invitations
  2. invitations again – making vs printing
  3. vows
  4. the rest of your ceremony, music, readings, etc
  5. speeches – content, running order, and who should give them.
  6. how to give a great wedding speech

Condensed version: ‘top 10 tips for words to get right at your wedding‘, for the Pasties and Petticoats newsletter.

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