As increasing numbers of brides are now writing and delivering their own words to guests, Martha Alexander reveals how you can own the mic with the perfect bride wedding speech on your big day…
The fact that Meghan Markle addressed her guests in a witty but romantic speech at her wedding reception won’t have come as a surprise to anyone.
The Duchess of Sussex has made no secret of her position as a feminist, so her decision to spurn tradition was kind of inevitable.
But although eyebrows might have been raised in royal circles, Prince Harry’s wife is hardly a maverick.
Plenty of brides are are grabbing the mic – or asking their bridesmaids or mother to do the honours.
In a recent survey*, it was revealed that more than a fifth of women were planning on giving a speech on their big day.
“I’m seeing more and more women get in touch than ever before,” says speechwriter Adrian Simpson, whose company All Speeches Great And Small aims to help amateur orators sound like themselves ‘on a really good day’.
“We’ve definitely adopted the American-inspired maid-of-honour speeches, and I find a lot of sisters or mothers now making what would traditionally be a father-of-bride speech.”
Whatever the running order, speeches need to be well planned. The good news is that women do tend, in Simpson’s experience, to be more organised.
“This might seem like a cliché, but the women who contact me do so with four or five weeks to spare,” he says.
“But the men get in touch pretty much any time from the fortnight before right up to the day of the wedding.”
The day of the wedding?! “Yes. Every spring and summer, I get men contacting me on the day of the wedding.”
How long should a wedding speech be?
The UK often follows the Americans’ slick lead when it comes to weddings, and Simpson concedes that they’re on the right track when it comes to speeches, especially in terms of timekeeping.
“In the US, they agree on length beforehand,” he says. “Speechmakers are given three or four minutes. We don’t do that. But now that there are more speeches, everyone needs to be quicker.”
Simpson recommends seven minutes or “10 max” for any speech to avoid guest boredom and resentment.
Bride speech subjects
If a bride chooses to make a speech, the first thing she should do is discuss what subjects with her husband-to be, so they don’t go over the same ground in terms of their thank-yous.
This, says Simpson, should happen among all the speechmakers before a wedding anyway.
So, after thank-yous, what should you be talking about? Your beloved, of course! Their quirks are a welcome topic, especially if it come with a healthy dollop of humour.
Things that should never be said? “Never use it as an opportunity to air laundry. It might only last a few minutes, but people can remember speeches forever.”
Although tradition dictates that the groom toasts the bridesmaids, it’s likely that a bride will want to talk about her friends too.
A poem can work really nicely – but it’s got to pretty blooming good. Poetry can be cringeworthy at the best of times, so unless you’re supremely confident in your writing skills, it’s probably not the best time to channel your inner Pam Ayres.
The most important thing to remember is to speak slowly, with poise and purpose. Dispel any anxiety by focusing on your new spouse; they’re the reason you’re making a speech in the first place.
And remember, you’re not an actor or comic – you’re you, on the best the day of your life. Speak from the heart and you won’t go far wrong!
The dos and don’ts of speech making
- Do confer with other speechmakers well in advance to ensure you aren’t all covering the same ground
- Don’t make ‘in jokes’ that are alienating to the majority of your guests
- Do speak slowly and take your time
- Don’t feel you have to make ‘gags’ with a punchline
- Do keep your speech sub-10 minutes. No matter how good it is, you don’t want to run the risk of boring the wedding party and guests
- Don’t just list people you’d like to thank – add texture to your speech with anecdotes