Giving a wedding speech can be one of the most nerve-wracking moments of the big day.
So we caught up with leading speech writer, commentator and coach, Lawrence Bernstein, who’s got some top tips to help you get started…
Father of the bride
Although your primary purpose is to talk about your daughter in your wedding speech, don’t make the mistake of forgetting to mention your new son-in-law. Love him or loathe him, half the guests are there for him and they’ll be wanting to know how happy you are for them both.
Welcome the guests
It’s a nice gesture for the father of the bride to mention those who’ve travelled far and anyone of a particularly significant age – the very old or the very young.
Keep it short
Yours is the first wedding speech so don’t let it drag on too long. Make sure it’s no more than 10 minutes (timed when speaking slowly) which on paper is about 1,000 words.
Managing the nerves
If the big moment has arrived and you’re feeling terrified, then before you start the speech, ask the people at the back of the room if they can hear you. It’s an old trick, but it allows you to get those first few words out, will get a response from the crowd, and should help you settle.
Don’t forget to take a glass with you to make a toast to the Bride and Groom.
Humour vs Sincerity:
Too many Best Men write their wedding speeches with a bunch of friends over a few beers. This can be fun at the time but often results in a speech high on rude stories and innuendo but low on sincerity. Strike a balance. The audience will enjoy some jokes at the Groom’s expense, but in a context that demonstrates he’s a good friend with some decent qualities.
Ask the Groom’s parents for stories from his childhood, his siblings for their version of events from the early years, his fiancée about her first impressions of him and the stags for any memorable stories, to get a good, mixed content.
It’s not all about you.
It may be tempting to focus your speech on your own relationship with the Groom, but if you labour the point too heavily it can sound like narcissism. This is not your chance to boast about how close you are, how funny you find each other or how many girls you’ve both slept with.
At the same time don’t gush!
If you’re the emotional type you might be tempted to use your speech to thank him publicly for everything he’s ever done for you. Be careful. Very few people will care and you risk appearing self-indulgent.
Don’t be put off by a heckle
The rest of your audience will want to hear what you have to say. And most of them will be as irritated as you are by the uninvited interruption. Smile, pause and carry on.
Some Brides want to use their speech to mark the end of the celebrations. This can be dangerous. Some guests will have left, many will be drunk and you may have missed the moment. I’d suggest speaking directly after your husband, providing a female perspective and leaving the Best Man to finish things off.
Enlist a friend
Most wedding dresses don’t leave much room for your notes. So make sure you’ve asked a bridesmaid or close friend in advance to hold onto your speech until you need it.
Consult the other speakers
Your biggest risk is covering ground that has already been mentioned in the other speeches. I would strongly recommend that however original you think your speech may be, you have a quick chat with your Groom, your Dad and the Best Man to ensure there is no frustrating overlap!
Be nice to your new family
This is not the time to offend your mother-in-law – you’ve got plenty of years ahead of you to do that! If you’re mentioning your own family, it would be courteous to include your husband’s too.
End with a Toast
I wouldn’t repeat one of the traditional toasts given by the other speakers. This is a great opportunity to include other people or say something a little bit different. You could toast your hosts (i.e. ‘Mum and Dad’) or propose a more general toast to ‘friends and family’.
Avoid a long list of thank yous
Nothing can be more dull or unoriginal than a speech that resembles a school register of thanks. Stick to those that really need a mention.
Having said that
Don’t forget to thank your new in-laws (particularly if they are hosting the wedding), or your own parents. This is an opportunity to thank them for all those years of help and support.
Don’t spend more time building up the Best Man than the Bride.
Although it’s nice to reference the Best Man and poke a bit of fun at him, remember that your wedding day is about your relationship with your Bride not your best mate.
Liaise with her Dad.
Assuming he is speaking before you, it’s worth checking that you are not going to be duplicating too many thanks or anecdotes about your Bride, how you met, or the proposal.
She’s your ‘wife’ so feel free to mention it!
Nothing gets more of heart-warming cheer than the line “my wife and I…”. Yes it’s predicable and a little bit cheesy, but the novelty of hearing it for the first time never fails to please your new bride or your guests. And that cheer will relax a nervous speaker no end.
Lawrence has written speeches and presentations for hundreds of clients in the UK and overseas, including businessmen, politicians and hundreds of nervous Fathers-of-the Bride, Best Men and Brides. If you’d like help writing or editing a speech contact Lawrence@greatspeechwriting.co.uk, call 0208 245 8999 or visit www.greatspeechwriting.co.uk