A well put together speech is often the highlight of a wedding; a chance for everyone to reflect on the just married couple and enjoy anecdotes, advice and heartfelt words from those closest to them. A good speech brings a tear to the eye, warmth to the heart and a smile to a face that is sore from laughing. On the other hand, a speech with inappropriate content or delivered poorly has the potential to ruin an evening, or at the very least make everyone feel uncomfortable and leave them reaching for a few too many glasses of wine to cope. A nervous speech giver who loses their place is one with whom we can sympathize, but a drunk, slurring guest telling humiliating stories and rambling is not someone easily forgiven.
Another occurrence that often leaves guests with a bad taste in their mouths is the appearance of a spontaneous speaker, who decides that, despite seeing the schedule of events and noting that everyone else had planned something in advance, they would like to tell an off the cuff story to wow the crowd. These speeches often drag on and force someone to awkwardly usher them back to their seat, and all of the joy brought on by the previous speakers disappears as people start to shift in their seats and check their watches. What a bleak picture!
Don’t despair, however, as although you may be unable to stop the train wreck that is the bad speech giver, you can be sure that it will never be you! We’ve put together a guide to how to prepare, write and deliver a killer speech, and included a few tips on how to stay calm on the big day.
How to prepare
There are so many online resources available to assist you with putting together a prize worthy speech, which enable you to make your speech about as personalized as can be. A quick Google search will bring up a bunch of online surveys that can be customized, which you can use to ask the couple, the bridal party and close family members questions about their favorite memories, embarrassing stories and what they love about each other. Some questions you might want to ask could be, ‘What is the most annoying habit of the bride?’, ‘How did the first meeting of the groom and his future parents-in-law go?’ or ‘What is the bride’s most cringe worthy photography?’. If you’re the MC, you could even use these answers as part of a quiz the bride and groom can do in front of their guests!
Request the couple’s input
If a couple has asked you to make a speech, toast or MC their wedding, they already think you’re an excellent public speaker and will do a wonderful job. Nevertheless, it is absolutely essential to talk to the bride and groom at least once, to determine what exactly your role will be. Some questions to consider:
- Will I be making one speech, or hosting the evening?
- How long should my speech be?
- Who else will be making a speech, and in what order should the speeches be made?
- What is the preferred tone of the speech (e.g. should the speech be lighthearted? Can the speech be more like a roast?)
- Are there any stories or topics that are off limits?
Once you’ve determined the scope of the speech, you’ll be able to start writing with those parameters in mind and avoid having to cut out anything at a later date.
Writing the speech
Keep it personal
Every speech will be different, depending on the couple, your relationship with them and your speaking style and personality, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep a few things in mind as you sit down to write. We suggest:
- Writing a speech that is funny, touching and personal. The most dynamic speeches have a range of tones and messages, often starting off with some jokes and light teasing, moving on to some personal histories and stories, and ending with some kind words and well wishes.
- Leaving room for improvisation, or writing a rebuttal to comments you’re expecting from other speech givers.
- Asking any people about whom you will be talking if they are comfortable being mentioned.
- Keeping the speech within the determined parameters, but also trying to keep it succinct. You may need to cut some parts out of your speech if the reception is running behind schedule, so mark these sections in advance.
- Avoiding writing about personal jokes that nobody bar you and the person in question will understand. These are boring to listen to and will encourage the crowd to lose interest in what you’re saying.
Practice the speech out loud
Of course you’ll read your speech hundreds of times before the big day, but practicing it out loud is so much more valuable. Not only does doing so give you a chance to hear how the words sound when spoken, it will also stop you from getting tongue tied on anything difficult to pronounce like long names. Better still, ask some friends who know the couple to let you practice with them as your audience, and ask for their feedback on how you spoke, the content of your speech, and your overall performance. Find out if they think you should take anything out, if sections seem inappropriate or if there are any must-tell anecdotes you may have missed. Sometimes feedback is difficult to hear, and of course you should have the final say, but it’s better to receive the honest critique of your friends than the deafening silence of a crowd of disappointed wedding guests.
Write it down
There are different opinions when it comes to how you should record your speech, from mobile phone notes to palm cards, to having it entirely memorized. The best thing to do is prepare palm cards, have a back-up on your phone, and have read your speech so many times that it is close to being committed to memory. Although reading from a phone is fairly common, having prepared cards does present a more prepared clean picture.
On the day
Preparing for your speech is completely necessary, but once the day of the wedding comes, try to relax and enjoy it. You aren’t going to be able to successfully make any major changes to your material, and reading over it 1,000 times will only make you more nervous. As much as you don’t want to make a mistake, also remember that a bad speech does not lead to the end of the world. On the big day, we suggest:
- Pretend it’s just another wedding and that you are just a wedding guest (minus the excessive drinking).
- Don’t drink too much before the speech, but feel free to hit it hard right after.
- Have a sense of humor, and try to laugh at any mistakes or teasing that comes your way.
- Speak slowly. Even if you think you’re speaking too slowly, if you’re nervous you’ll naturally start to speed up and will hopefully reach a comfortable pace.
- Address the couple by looking at them as well as the audience, to add a personal touch to your words.
And if in doubt, close with a simple, ‘Eat, drink and be merry!’
Note, this blog with photographs originally published by Roses Only – provider of the world’s finest long stemmed roses.