Of all the obligatory moments that make up the wedding day order of play, none is more fraught with pressure than the wedding speeches. Regardless of what title has been bestowed upon you, when that distinctive sound of silver cutlery taping against a champagne flute rings out, the pressure is on for two reasons:
You get so nervous about public speaking, you felt a puddle collect in your palms the last time you had to address the Drive-Thru intercom and McDonald’s.
Pulling together the perfect wedding speech is a work of art; it’s a moment of oratory genius that demands respect.
It can’t be too short or you’ll be met by bemused faces and a marquee so silent you can hear a bee suck the pollen out of your centrepiece bouquets, and you can’t drone on too long or you’ll be met with raised eyebrows and collective yawns. It also has to be the perfect balance of funny and sentimental, and you need to pull out the sort of stories that will make people laugh without overexposing the things better left as private jokes. It’s tough.
So if you’ve been given the “honour” of making a speech or toasting the happy couple, give yourself a large dollop of preparation time, run through it with someone you trust before blurting it out on the big stage, know practise makes perfect and, most crucially of all, pleeeeeaaase follow these amazing tips so that you don’t screw up your wedding speech:
1. Start Off With A Bit of Funny
We know this is horrendous advice to receive if you’re infamously not funny, but try not to panic. You’re giving a speech to a sympathetic audience that’s been encouraged to laugh out loud by the copious amounts of champagne they’ll regret in the morning. Funny doesn’t have to be the sort of layered joke you’d expect to hear from Michael McIntyre. All you need is a light-hearted introduction. Something as simple as, “Hi everyone, I’m James Bush and I’m here to tell you all about our groom, and how wonderful, handsome and…sorry, mate, but I can’t read your writing.”
2. Roast People, But Know When To Stop
The line between poking fun out of someone and being vulgar is incredibly easy to misjudge - something you don’t want to find out when you’re stood up at the top table with all eyes on you (granny and the in-laws included). What you deem appropriate is up to you, but try and steer clear of things like, umm, that time they got super-drunk at university and ended doing that thing that got them that nickname. This isn’t just because granny and the in-laws will be doing nothing to hide their horror but because it’s painfully unoriginal too.
3. Not The Time For Private Jokes
Just because a certain story or joke is going to make you and six of your other friends snort with laughter doesn’t mean it’s funny. You’re probably giving a speech to a hundred-plus people, so make sure everyone gets the jokes you’re telling or you’ll find they stop listening and start holding their own mini-conversations on their tables. You’ll know you’ve got your speech wrong if that starts happening.
4. Speak From The Heart
It doesn’t matter if you’re giving the slightly more serious speech or if you’ve been handed the responsibility of being funny, always-always be genuine with what you say. This is your chance to speak from the heart and tell your friends, family, and other guests exactly how you feel. This is your chance to wow everyone with your attention to detail.
5. Use Anecdotes, Not Adjectives
The thing about adjectives is, well, they’re generic. They’re overused. And, a lot of the time, they’re cliched too. It’s a much better idea to back up your descriptions with a few short stories and specific anecdotes. Speeches are meant to be personal and unique, which is why regaling tales has long been used by skilled orators.
6. Four Is The Magic Number (To Avoid)
There are four topics you’ll want to avoid at all costs when it comes to giving a speech: religion, politics, race, and exes (definitely don’t talk about exes). They’re all topics that make people feel uncomfortable and awkward; so uncomfortable and awkward, you’ll start to notice people studying their name cards a little too hard. It’s weird.
7. Explain Your Love
Nothing is more cliched than the maid of honour saying the bride is like her sister or the best man saying the groom is like a brother. We know that you’re close to them - it’s why they chose you for the role and asked you to make a speech. Instead, tell us about your friendship, why you get on so well, what you admire about them, why they are so incredible and inspirational, and why they make you laugh so much.
8. Keep Sentiment To 30% (Or Less)
When it comes to writing your speech, think back over the time you’ve spent with the recipient - the adventures, the mishaps, the juicy details and the hilarious moments. These are the tidbits that will make a great speech, which is because great speeches tend to be at least 70% humour and storytelling. By all means make room for tear-jerking sentiments and “I love yous”, but don’t make that your entire speech. Your guests want the juicy bits they may not have heard before.
9. Five-Minutes Is The Maximum
The absolute maximum. Why? Because it’s much better to leave your guests begging for more than wishing you had stopped twenty-minutes before you did. Trust us on that one. You can always talk about that other stuff at your rehearsal dinner or if you decide to renew your vows.
10. Too Much Booze is Bad
Most of us could do with a little gulp of liquid confidence before making a speech, whether that’s a quick shot of tequila, a glass of wine to steady the nerves or some bubbly to get you in the spirit. But don’t knock back any more than one drink until after you’ve made your speech, taken your bow, performed a curtsy and soaked up your applause. We’ve all experienced the embarrassing wrath of alcohol before, so you’ll agree when we say: it’s not worth the risk.
11. Cut Out All The “I’s”
This is not a speech about you. It doesn’t matter how many exploits you may have been on with them, or how many ill-advised adventures you might have shared, you are there to recount them because your presence makes you an expert on them. Your speech is not a chance for you to talk about you. So, once you’ve written your speech, go back through it and replace or remove all the “I’s” you stumble across.
12. Take Your Chance
The speeches are a rite of passage for every wedding couple. It doesn’t matter if you’re the groom or the best man, the maid of honour or a modern bride wanting to chip in with your own stories - you’re about to deliver the most important speech of your life and hand over one of the most heartfelt presents you’ve ever given anyone. Don’t let your nerves mess it up. Take a deep breath, enjoy your shot of tequila and then grab your chance with both hands. You only get to do this once, so enjoy every. single. microsecond of it.
13. Print Off Some Hard Copies
Speeches should be enjoyed in the moment and without distraction. They should be lapped up with all the emotion of the day and soaked up right there and then. It’s what makes a speech so, so special. But don’t resign them to the sands of time. Print them off and pop them in your wedding day scrapbook so that you can cherish them for years and decades to come.
Thanks for reading! For more wedding tips, please do follow us on Facebook and then tell all of your friends to do the same.