Speeches can be one of the absolute best parts of any wedding…or the worst.
They can also induce a hell-of-a-lot of stress if it’s you that has to write one.
If the last time you publicly spoke also included you wearing a school uniform, then have a read through some of the pointers I’ve listed below as a means of keeping you on track to writing a meaningful, efficient, and shit-hot speech.
WHO ARE YOU?
Simple one to start. If you’re speaking at a wedding lots of guests won’t know who you are. Make sure you give a brief but clear explanation of how you fit the picture. This will help connect your audience to what you’re saying.
SINCERITY IS KEY
If you don’t mean what you’re saying, don’t say it.
So many people are influenced by what they’ve heard in speeches previously. If you start scripting your speech and you realise you’re just writing things because you think it’s what you’re supposed to say, don’t. Keep everything real to you. Make it relatable, not just to your relationship with the couple, but also to the event and the occasion.
Also consider what other speakers might say that you don’t have to cover. Ever been to a wedding and had to ‘Cheers’ the couple at the end of every speech?
Feel comfortable approaching the couple and asking whether they need you to do the ‘Cheers’, whether they need you to do the ‘Thank you’s’ to the suppliers, whether they need you to mention the people that weren’t able to attend. Chances are this is all stuff that you don’t have to worry about and leaves space for you to focus on what really matters to you.
KEEP IT SHARP, CUT THE WAFFLE
Are you telling a story more than once in different ways? Are you repeating a quality about the person time and again? Many speeches will get caught up repeating the same information multiple times in different ways. Be pinpoint specific in your preparation with what you want to say. An easy way to keep your speech on track is to plan it with specific points you want to cover.
I want to introduce myself to everyone.
I want to cover how generous they are.
I want to cover the story of how we met and how I remember that time in our lives.
I want to tell a story that I think is funny and perfectly sums up how I feel about these people.
I want to thank the guests that are present and those that couldn’t make it.
I want to wish them all the best with a toast to finish.
If you lay out this structure, you can then add some detail to each point. This will ensure that you're not blurring the lines between elements of your speech. For example:
I want to introduce myself to everyone. (Self-explained)
I want to cover how generous they are. I’m going to tell the story of when they let me sleep on their couch for 6 months because I had nowhere to live.
I want to cover the story of how we met and how I remember that time in our lives. We didn’t actually like each other when we first met, but the story of how we connected is a great one to remember.
I want to tell a story that I think is funny and perfectly sums up how I feel about these people. When we went to a Theme Park and they both vomited after the roller-coaster, in that moment I knew that they were meant to be, and that they aren’t coming to my sky-diving party.
I want to thank the guests that are present and those that couldn’t make it. (Self-explained)
I want to wish them all the best with a toast to finish. (Self-explained)
To further sharpen your speech, know why you’re telling each story? What does it say/reflect about the person/couple?
This point is largely covered in the above text, but make sure, if you were asked, that you can summarise the intention of the point. Adding that element, even just for yourself, to a funny, sincere, sad, passionate, heartfelt story is a really nice way to drive home the meaning for you as the speaker.
CULL THOSE PAGES
Are you writing your script word for word?
Has it gone past 2 pages?
Do not pass Go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.
You should comfortably be able to say everything you need to within 2 pages. And that’s generous! Reading two pages will keep your speech around the 10 minute mark (unless you’re a Sloth). 10 minutes is plenty of time to cover everything you need to. If you feel you have so much more to say when you get to the end of 2 pages, refer back to the ‘Waffle’ point.
NOTES ARE YOUR FRIEND, BE NICE TO YOUR NOTES
Write notes and use them.
Be familiar enough with your speech that if you go off notes it won’t throw you completely.
If you can practise your speech enough that you don’t have to constantly read from the page, that’s great. Eye contact is a really important way for humans to connect, and if you can make eye contact with not only the Couple, but also the guests, it’s a fantastic way to engage everyone with what you’re saying.
If you can, try and get comfortable holding some cue cards that keep you on track but don’t dominate. They might just have the key dot points of what you want to say, or a little lead in to remind you of the exact dates/times/little jokes you want to include. Aside from that, the stories and how you feel are all in your head, you shouldn’t have to read them word for word.
HUMOUR HELPS, FORCED HUMOUR DOESN’T
Don’t force humour. Forced humour is the Devil sitting on the shoulder of the speech-maker whispering little nasties. But there will be naturally funny things for you to say. If you can land a rehearsed joke or two in the speech it’ll probably free you up to enjoy the moment. That being said, always run your jokes past someone you trust, a joke that bombs can completely freeze a speaker.
Also don’t forget your guests are hearing everything for the first time, so try and imagine what sort of response they might have to any gags you throw in.
On this note, in-jokes are fine so long as you remember that they are IN-jokes, not All-in-jokes.
FIND YOUR TONE
Is your speech looking for a humorous, sincere, deadpan or warm tone (just to name a few)?
The best speeches include a variety of tonal shifts throughout, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have one particular tone guiding the speech.
Don’t try and be someone you’re not once you get the microphone. A lot of people fall into the false understanding that they have to ‘perform’ once the mic is in hand. Be yourself. When we watch a speaker we want to see someone acting natural, it’s an incredibly endearing quality for anyone watching.Sure, if you’re someone that swears like a sailor and routinely spouts inflammatory views for the sake of it, you may need to refine the edges, but you were also chosen to speak for a reason.
IT’S NOT A 21st
Stories that are crass, offensive, or about that time you all got so drunk you slept in your own sick are great…just not when you tell them at a wedding.
The stories from the Bucks Party, or the Hen’s Party, stay at the party.
You might have a portion of guests laughing along, but you run a real risk of ostracising the rest.
I’m not saying your story has to be G-rated, but at least be aware of what’s appropriate. This will change between weddings too.
It’s like that guy that thinks he’s really funny, and his mates tell him he ‘should do stand up comedy’, so he does, but then no-one laughs.
Hopefully these pointers have helped guide you towards what’s important when writing and preparing your speech.
Remember to be yourself, have fun, and keep the focus where it belongs, on the happy couple.