By LANE writer, gender studies graduate and equality advocate Brydie Shephard
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”– Maya Angelou
A weekend spent sifting through family memories revealed something of a surprise. A dusty VCR found at the bottom of a cupboard, a grainy video of a sleepy beachside wedding in 1989. My mother, clutching an undone bouquet of yellow roses, married my father, their vows exchanged to a soundtrack of U2’s “All I Want is You”. These are scenes I’ve seen before, moments relayed in stories and preserved in photographs. And yet, the film contained a surprise; a speech delivered by my mother, a bride addressing her guests…
As seasoned wedding guests, we have heard our fair share of speeches. Of humorous anecdotes and moving tributes, stories shared and tales retold. We have written pieces on delivering speeches, on composing thoughts and sharing feelings. And yet, in 2017, a bride’s speech remains an anomaly, a novelty inclusion amongst the practiced traditions of best man speeches and groomsman addresses.
The history of wedding speeches is one dominated by male voices. Traditionally delivered by the father of the bride, the best man and the groom, wedding speeches are almost exclusively delivered by men and have historically been given on behalf of women. This ritualised silence of brides (and the mother of the bride and bridesmaids alike) was born from times when women were homemakers and men were the heads of the household. Wives and daughters were spoken for by fathers and husbands, their voices appropriated by the men who represented them in public spaces.
Since then, women have continually fought for the right to speak for themselves, to make their own decisions and express their own thoughts. The power to be heard is inextricable from wider and growing movements of equality, a continual struggle for an equal platform and share of voice. Most recently, we’ve seen the Women’s March spread around the world, and in her opening collection as Dior’s first female designer in the house’s 70-year history, Maria Grazia Chiuri caused a global stir by sending models down the runway wearing t-shirts adorned with the phrase “We Should All be Feminists”. We hear the voices of women around the world, and we love what they’re saying.
However, when it comes to weddings, little has changed. In the 28 years since my mother spoke at her wedding, bride’s speeches remain something of a rarity, with many opting to stick to tradition and stay silent.
At The LANE, we march to a beat of individual choice and the power to choose. We love weddings that are personal and curated, that reflect the couple and celebrate their story – whatever shape that takes. We love brides that make speeches and brides that don’t. We understand many brides (and many grooms) would prefer not to speak, but within every woman is a story to be told, words to be shared and thoughts to be heard. We’re inspired by those who find public speaking daunting, and do it anyway. Those who take a chance on themselves and escape their comfort zone, finding courage in their fears and a boldness in their voice. Whether a bride decides to speak at her wedding or not, we want this to be a decision made on choice, not tradition.
When we get nervous, we often forget to breathe, but breathing is the first thing that will help you feel calm and in control. Focus on centering your breath – see if you can feel breath low in your body. Breathing low and slow will help you feel centered and grounded, it will boost your presence, allow for good voice production and help you appear confident.
2. Alignment, gestures and eye contact will help you
Stand with two feet flat on the floor and lengthen your spine. Look up at your audience and acknowledge their presence. This alignment helps you maintain a centered breath, you will speak clearly and come across confidently. You will immediately appear accessible and engaging. The audience will maintain interest if you look at them – they are there to see and hear you, not watch the crown of your head looking down at a piece of paper.
3. The audience are on your side
They are your guests at your special day, and they want it to be the best day for you! No audience ever wants to watch a speaker fail or look crippled with nerves. That’s stressful for everyone! Every audience wants a speaker to succeed – it’s more relaxing and enjoyable that way. Acknowledging the audience is on your side can help you feel more comfortable and visualize your success!
4. Follow an easy structure
Think of this as the skeleton of your speech – the structure holds the speech together and gives your speech some shape. The rule of three is always effective, either as beginning, middle and end, or as three focus points for the speech. Some options for structuring your speech that follow the rule of three are: guests, parents and partner; past, present, future; your lives alone, together and with guests, and so on. Having a structure makes it easy for the guests to follow along and will help you stick to any time limit.
The most common mistake speakers make is that they write a speech, read it, edit it, but never practice it out loud. This is setting yourself up for failure. You must take the time to practice the speech out loud – it will help you work out the flow of the speech and when to pause. Also consider that we speak differently to how we write, so you should write your speech to be spoken, not to be read. By practicing out loud, you will feel secure with your speech and can trust your preparation.
Image credit: Giuseppe Marano