We've all been to one of those weddings where at some point, you find yourself shuffling uncomfortably in your chair, either out of awkwardness - on behalf of a speech falling flat, running far too long, or, the worse culprit of all - a speech filled with poor taste, private jokes and downright inappropriate stories for a wedding. There is honestly nothing more cringeworthy, for everyone, but particularly for the poor recipients, the bride and groom, who have no choice but to gracefully, attentively endure it, laughing along at appropriate (or inappropriate) moments.
A brilliant speech needn't be as daunting to deliver as you think…for those not naturally born on the stage of public speaking and effortless crowd entertainment, it comes back to an honest authenticity, of words spoken directly from the heart and directly to the couple, kept perfectly succinct in length.
Read on for our top tips on how to tackle the perfect wedding speech…
The Basics. Introduce yourself and explain in a couple of sentences your relationship to the couple, or to the individual. Cover off any formalities (most of which fall to the MC, however there are one or two things) such as of course congratulating the couple, plus any words that traditionally fall to your role in the family/bridal party. A quick google search goes chapter and verse into these various 'official bits' - depending on who you are (best man, maid of honour, father of the bride etc…). Do include these, but don't get bogged down on them, just weave them in, in a way that feels natural.
Speak the Truth. If you've been asked to give a speech, chances are you play a fairly leading role in the life and relationship of the bride and groom. Perhaps the sibling or best friend of one, or a long time mutual friend of both, there from the very beginning. Either way, they trust that you have something worthy to say, something real, something true, so begin there. This will make for a speech of authenticity, rather than just a checklist of formalities needing to be covered off, and strung together with a couple of bad jokes.
Keep it Real. Are you a little nervous about the idea of delivering something scripted, laboured over, typed out across multiple pages? We would be too! You can't possibly rote learn something of length, which means you'll end up reading it…which in turn will feel quite formal, and not very relaxing, for you, or for those listening to you. Instead, approach the speech more as a conversation, between you and the couple (with everyone else just as a witness).
Keep it informal. Speak to them the way you would across a coffee table, rather than across a room. Use their names, tell them what they mean to you, why you feel honoured to be a part of their day, the ways in which they or their relationship inspire you, the way you cannot wait to watch their love continue to grow and evolve over the years to come. Spoken from the heart, directly to them, guests will feel privy to the most heartfelt, intimate exchange (with no need to actually share any intimate secrets or stories!).
Keep it Brief. The average attention span for adults to commit to truly listening is approximately seven minutes. Make sure your speech goes for no longer! Practise at home, with a timer - you may be surprised at the actual length. Edit down if necessary.
Do…have notes to prompt you, but resist the temptation to scribe every single line - it's not a theatre production with a script, and you don't want it to appear as a performance! You'll be more likely to ad-lib, rather that read straight from a page, if you keep it to key prompts and dot points.
Also…feel free to incorporate jokes that are truly funny for everyone in the room (not only for people who were there at the time), and only jokes that are told affectionally towards your friend/the couple. Better still, tell a self deprecating joke about yourself, one in which she or he is the 'good guy' in the story, illustrating a little for guests, the dynamic of your friendship.
Don't…go in for cheap laughs. Leave any sentiments of derision or embarrassing stories for 18th and 21st birthday parties. No one will appreciate them here, least of all the bride and groom.
Most of all…speak from the heart. Each persons relationship with another is completely unique. The relationship you share with the person/couple you're talking about is no exception - it's a relationship with another individual that no one else shares, so draw upon that. Speak from a place of authenticity, of anecdotes, of honest feelings and fond recollections, tales of adventure and mishap, positive observations of changes you've seen unfurl in each of them, since they got together, ways their life has altered for the better, affirmations of your excitement for their future and what you love most, about their love. Look directly at them (forget about everyone else), tell it honestly, candidly, emotively and you can't go wrong!