Wedding Speeches – What You Need to Do and What You Need Not
The big day is approaching and you have a role to play. You may be the best man; or the father of the bride; or perhaps you are the groom himself. Either way, you will be giving a wedding speech and you need to be prepared.
Like everything important in life, preparation is the key. For many people taking part in a wedding, making a wedding speech is the most daunting task. If you have done your homework, you are most of the way to doing a good job. So where do you begin?
The wedding speech you deliver depends on your role and also the culture in which the wedding is taking place. Tradition dictates that you include certain references: for example, in Great Britain the groom should raise a toast to the bridesmaids; this, in turn, requires that the best man reply on the bridesmaids’ behalf, thanking the groom for the toast. You need to be aware of what custom requires; you can be sure there will be someone shaking her head saying “You wouldn’t believe that he forgot to do such-and-such”. Check these out: use a book or the internet; if you haven’t been to many weddings, speak to someone who has. This is especially important if the wedding is in a culture with which you are unfamiliar.
Once you are aware of the compulsory elements, the rest is up to you. Start thinking about your wedding speech well in advance. This way, you not only have ample time to compose the wedding speech itself but your familiarity with it, gained over time, will help you deliver it well on the day. Think about appropriate anecdotes and little jokes that you can include. A wedding is a joyful occasion, so your wedding speech should be light and witty. However, do be careful: as someone once said, “It is better to have a boring wedding speech than to ruin the wedding”. There are certain to be people present who you do not know and it is hard to tell how a joke will go down. If you suspect that the joke might be too risqué or an anecdote borderline inappropriate, then err on the side of caution and leave it out. Remember, there are grandmas present at weddings, not just best mates.
While we are on the subject of mistakes, do not get a name wrong. About the worst faux pas you can make in a wedding speech is to refer to the bride with the name of the groom’s ex. Remember also that while it may be fun to rib the groom mercilessly, you should say something kind about him too. In fact, it is good form to say something positive and kindly about both the bride and the groom.
You are giving a wedding speech, so you doubtless know the bride or groom well, especially if you are the father of the bride. You are likely, then, to have more material for your wedding speech than you require. How long should the wedding speech be? Well, that is hard to say, but remember: there is little worse than sitting through a boring wedding speech. As long as you do not make it too long, you can’t go too wrong. So take the best of the material you have accumulated and discard the rest. Try to put the material together so that it flows well. Perhaps one anecdote leads naturally to a second (don’t have too many); or a joke illustrates a point you have just made. It is probably a good idea to put the “required elements” near the start. If you are toasting the bridesmaids, don’t leave it until the end, as if it were an afterthought. The exception is if you are toasting the bride and groom: this should probably be your finale.
If you are really having trouble with the structure and material for your wedding speech, you can find both on the internet or in guidebooks. There are wedding speeches that are virtually written for you, where you need only change names; and there are anecdotes and relevant quotations which you can sprinkle in where needed. But use these carefully if you can, as the wedding speech can become cliché. If you can use your own material, it will sound more natural and more “you”.
So you have the wedding speech composed and it only remains to deliver it. If you prepared well in advance, you should be familiar with the content and you may want to decide to deliver it from memory. Even so, it is a good idea to have a complete copy of the wedding speech tucked in a pocket. Even Churchill once had a mental blank when delivering a parliamentary speech and sat down in embarrassment with the speech incomplete. If anything goes awry, then you can take out the copy and read it.
Speak plainly and not too fast. If you are nervous about delivering speeches, remember that this is a wedding and not an exam. You are not being tested and everyone is on your side. You have the knowledge that you have prepared your wedding speech carefully and that should give you confidence.
Good luck. Here’s to you and your big day!