Have you been invited (or are you expected!) to speak at a wedding? Secretly dreading it? If so, you’re not alone in finding it a daunting prospect.
One major cause of wedding speech stress is writing the content. No matter how many weddings you’ve attended, when called upon to write a speech of your own your mind suddenly descends into turmoil; what to say, whom to thank and in what order are just some of the many questions that are probably running through your brain ad infinitum.
Possibly you’ve endured a wedding reception where a speaker has been boring, long-winded, cringeworthy, or all three? So how do you avoid making the same mistakes?
Just read on!
We can’t write your speech for you, so instead we’ve compiled this blog post, packed with useful tips for writing a wedding speech, to help you out.
Get planning – ASAP!
It’s essential that you don’t leave your speech writing until the last minute. Once you know you’ll be giving a speech, it’s a good idea to start jotting down any interesting anecdotes you may think of. Additionally, you should, of course, conduct some research into the bride or groom’s life by interviewing their nearest and dearest who will no doubt be only too happy to share some funny memories!
To get you started:
- Buy a dedicated notebook.
- Create a mind map or spider diagram for each person.
- Use bullet points to note down short stories.
- Find out who, if anyone, is speaking before or after you and check whether you are expected to thank or introduce them.
- Liaise with other speakers to avoid duplication.
Consider the audience
Be careful what you write and go easy on the alcohol prior to speaking! Your role is to articulate something positive and entertaining about the happy couple, not to humiliate them. A little light-hearted fun is fine, but don’t take it too far. If in doubt, leave it out!
Six things to avoid:
- Embarrassing anecdotes
- Smutty innuendo.
- Raunchy jokes
- Inside jokes – at least half your audience won’t get it.
- Talking about yourself – your focus should be on the newlyweds.
Remember, nothing you say should make guests, particularly older relatives, feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. Nor should you mention anything the bride or groom told you in confidence.
Putting pen to paper
If at this stage you still have no idea what to write, it can be useful to structure the main part of your speech around an aspect or two of the newlyweds that you admire. Once you know what these qualities are, illustrate your point by linking it to some of anecdotes you wrote in your notebook. Don’t use any more than three stories in total, and ensure they paint the bride and/or groom in a favourable light.
It may sound obvious, but nerves can make the best of us forgetful! A potted life history is not required, just your name and how you know the newlyweds. Not everyone in the room will know who you are or what your relationship to the happy couple is, so this is essential.
Take a few moments to thank the hosts and other members of the wedding party for their hard work. On that note, it’s diplomatic to thank both sides of the family. Express gratitude to the guests for supporting the bride and groom too but avoid making an overly long thank you list – you’re not attending the Oscars! And finally, don’t forget to congratulate the happy couple.
Absent loved ones
If someone close to the bride or groom has passed away recently, now is an appropriate time to pay tribute to them and mention how proud they would have been to see the happy couple wed. However, before going ahead, consider your relationship to the couple and ask yourself whether you are the most appropriate person to do this. If you are in any doubt, check first.
Involve the guests
Get your audience on side by asking a question such as “has anybody here ever…’. Now go on to tell a story involving whatever it was.
Inject some humour
Make your speech entertaining by injecting some humour. Having a little (appropriate) fun at the groom’s expense is all part of the wedding tradition. If you’ve grown up alongside the groom, a funny story from your shared childhood can work well. Self-deprecating humour goes down well too, so consider poking fun at yourself in the interest of showing the groom in a good light. Keep any humour natural though, this is not the time to read out a hackneyed joke you found on the internet just because it’s wedding related.
Compliment the bride/groom
If, as often happens, you know one half of the couple much better than the other, ensure you address some of your remarks towards the other person too. And of course, you could and should refer to them as a couple.
Everyone loves giving advice and this is the perfect opportunity! The tips you offer can be humorous or serious. If you are happily married yourself, you can wind up by expressing the hope that the couple will be as happy as you are.
Round your speech off by inviting guests to join you in raising a toast to the new couple.
Short and sweet
Remember, yours is not the only speech, so keep it short. Five to six minutes is sufficient, any longer and people will begin to switch off. By the same token, don’t make your speech too brief or the bride and groom may be left feeling short-changed.
This is more about giving the speech than writing it, but it does involve writing! No matter how well written your speech is, you should avoid reading directly from the paper. Instead, write a cue card for each of your main points and number them in the correct order. That way if you do get a little flustered you can glance at your cards to prompt you.
If you’re looking to mix things up a bit, consider some of these alternatives/add-ins to the traditional speech:
Pick items to illustrate a story. Something from the bride or groom’s childhood or teenage years, or a series of hats (childhood, college, work and wedding hats) and bring these out at appropriate points to raise a laugh. Alternatively create some printed signs such as ‘cheer’ or ‘aaah’ that you raise to get the guests involved.
Read or recite a poem. If you’re very talented, you may even want to write one of your own.
Mr and Mrs quiz
Ensure it’s in good taste!
Prepare questions related to the happy couple and provide a prize for the winning table.
Over time, weddings have changed greatly, so unless you’re attending an extremely formal event there are no hard and fast rules as to how you should proceed. So, don’t let tradition restrict you, there’s nothing to stop you doing something a little different if you so desire.
That’s a wrap
We hope these tips for writing a wedding speech have been useful and that they’ve inspired you to start writing your own speech. We’re sure it will be a resounding success.
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