So you've been asked to make a speech at a wedding and you're both flattered and terrified. You have a dozen ideas running through your head, ranging from a flash mob to a poetry reading and at the same time your mind is blank and the page is too. To combat the intense fear that being assigned a wedding speech can evoke, Bustle talked about tips for writing a wedding speech with wedding expert Lauren Beamon, at Elle Audrey New York, and let me tell you, these tips will squash your writer's block.
The best speeches make you laugh or cry. They're talked about for years. They make you see the wedding speech writer in a different, more profound light. They make the whole room fall in love with the couple and convince you that fairytales are based on real life. But that's a lot of pressure on your shoulders when you only have a few days or few hours to write a speech. The reality is though, that if you've been asked to make a speech, you know the couple well enough to do so. So all of the laughs and tears are already within you, it's just a matter of getting them down on the page. Here's how to comb your mind for the wedding speech you already have inside of you:
Table of Contents
- 1 How To Start
- 2 Other Things To Include
- 3 Things NOT To Include
- 4 Wedding Speech Outline
- 5 7 Tips For Writing Of A Wedding Speech
- 6 Practice Your Speech Before The Big Day!
- 7 A Few Things Not To Include In Your Speech
How To Start
For a lot of us, getting started is the biggest challenge. You're probably sitting by yourself, staring at a blank document on your computer with zero idea of where to begin. Bucknall recommends that, before you draft your speech, first think about who you're acknowledging in your toast ― the bride and/or the groom ― and then make a list of qualities that person possesses. Maybe they're compassionate, hilarious and extremely organized. Then start thinking about some personal stories about him or her that support those qualities.
At this stage, Bucknall suggests calling another one of this person's close friends, family members or maybe even their intended for a quick chat. One or two of these conversations will help you gain some additional insights about the person of honour and should help get those creative juices flowing, too.
"At my own wedding, my best man interviewed my mother," Bucknall, who came in second at the 2017 Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking, said. "I feel very confident that one or two stories featured in his speech could have only come from one of my parents. And it does take the loneliness out of the process a bit."
Now that you've chosen your two to three qualities and stories use those key pieces to give your speech some structure, so you're not just aimlessly rambling on (you want the speech to
Clock in at no more than five minutes). And it really doesn't need to be complicated: quality one, story one, quality two, story two.
Other Things To Include
Open by briefly mentioning how you know or are related to the bride or groom for any guests who may not be aware.
Thank guests, other members of the wedding party and the hosts of the occasion. You may also want to acknowledge people who wanted to be at the wedding but couldn't for some reason, whether it's someone who couldn't attend because of a travel issue or friends or family members who have died.
Give some genuine, heartfelt praise, not just for the friend or family member who asked you to make a speech but also for his or her new husband or wife. After all, this speech isn't just about your BFF or your brother ― it's also about the couple as a whole.
Weddings are personal occasions and so full of emotion. Your speech should include personal touches or details that match that. "Audiences are very sensitive to whether the speech is really for them or whether it's something that's just been pulled off the internet or just been dashed off," Bucknall said. "The care with which the speaker points out hints at or references things ― whether it's in-jokes or at particular individuals ― those little nuances matter enormously."
Don't forget to end by asking guests to raise their glasses to toast to the newlyweds.
Things NOT To Include
Tempting as it may seem, copying another speech you found on the internet is a big no-no. "It completely torpedoes the point about them being personal occasions," Bucknall said. "So cutting and pasting or using template scripts, I just think that's nonsense."
Steer clear of the crude language. That means skip the swearing and any explicit stories, no matter how entertaining you think they are. "Crudity is still too common, particularly from male speakers," Bucknall said. "It's just not needed. The reason it happens, of course, is because the speaker is panicking about being funny. It's disastrous."
It might seem obvious but please don't include any mentions of the bride's or groom's past boyfriends or girlfriends.
Don't make fun of the new husband or wife. Some gentle ribbing might be appropriate if it's directed at your friend or family member, but painting their new husband or wife in an unflattering light is not a good look. "It's a day [for them] to be golden," Bucknall said.
Wedding Speech Outline
Only a few guests in the room are likely to know you unless you are a celebrity, so before you get to the business of making a speech, introduce yourself to everyone.
The "Thank you."
Say a note of thanks for the wedding organizers.
Use a funny story
Don't try to bore the guests to death. Make the speech lively with some jokes about the groom, and it is traditional, after all. You can add funny stories from the past or childhood to make the speech all the more interesting.
Give funny advice
In a coat of humour (can also be serious), offer some marriage tips for the newlyweds and try to deliver funny wedding toasts.
Compliment the bride
Don't forget the bride. Add some salutary remarks and compliment her in your speech.
Finish with your toast
At the end of the speech; leading the guests in raising a toast to the new couple is conventional.
7 Tips For Writing Of A Wedding Speech
Be You, Pick A Theme
Remember that you were asked to make a wedding speech because the bride and groom want to hear from you, specifically. If you're a total cheeseball, they'll be expecting a speech that moves them to tears. If you're a goofball, they'll be expecting a speech that cracks the room up. If you try to write a speech in a tone that's not natural, it won't translate well. So harness your voice, pick a theme, and tie all of your stories and anecdotes to that voice and theme. The most moving speeches come from a place of honesty and authenticity. So tell the stories only you can tell and tell them in the way the couple expects you to tell them, and then surprise them, too.
Do Your Homework
The goal of a wedding speech should not only be to honour the couple but to provide guests with a behind the scenes look at the couple. If you're close to the couple, you already know how they met, and why they're great together, so you might just need to take some time to go through old pictures to remind yourself of additional stories that are worth sharing. But if you haven't spent much time with the bride or groom, you'll have to take the time to interview someone close to them.
Reach out to friends or family members who have not been asked to give speeches and mine for funny or sweet stories. What you find might be not only great fodder for your speech but also a surprising treat for the couple. The best speeches are infused with memories, stories and anecdotes. According to Beamon, once you have a draft, practising your speech is crucial.
"Even if you have stood in front of large crowds before, it never hurts to say the words out loud, or even record yourself and play it back to see how it sounds out loud," Beamon tells Bustle. "This will give you the opportunity to know your words inside and out, ease some nervousness, and make changes if needed," she continues, as sometimes things sound better on paper than they do when spoken.
Don't Forget To Introduce Yourself.
The introduction of your wedding speech should be a thesis statement, too.
Even if you know everyone in the room, start your speech off by explaining who you are, how you know the couple, your impressions of the couple, and what you're there to do. Think of this introduction as a thesis, and use it to set the tone and framework of the rest of your speech. If you have something funny to say off the bat, don't be shy about going for it, the quicker you evoke something in the audience, the quicker you win their attention and engagement.
Balance The Mood
"A walk down memory lane can be a great starting place for a wedding speech but be careful to not step too far down the wrong memory lane. It is also important to remember that no matter how funny you are or how much the couple can handle being roasted, you should never embarrass the couple," Beamon says. "One resource that the speech reader forgets about is using their environment to enhance their speech," especially if you're looking for some extra tie-ins to really make your speech unique. "This means that if the mood of your speech is more sentimental in nature like you're a parent toasting to your child — maybe ask the DJ to softly play a special song from their childhood in the background as you present your speech. The layout of the space can drastically assist with balancing out the mood whilst giving a speech." This all takes planning so make sure you start your speech early, so you have time to coordinate if needed.
Keep The Objective In Focus
A wedding speech is toast. It's a long-winded and entertaining way to say "congratulations and cheers to you," so make sure that no matter where you go with your stories that you always keep praise and congratulations as your compass. The subtext of whatever you decide to share should be: "these two people are great individually, and together." From a planner's perspective, Beamon reminds us that "weddings run on a very specific time schedule; so holding the audience captive with a 30-minute speech will not land well, no matter how endearing it is. Be mindful of your time and your audience."
Use Good Quotes
If you're going to use a quote, it better be a good one, the more surprising, the better. Avoid overly romantic, or cliche quotes that could easily be found on a Google and dig deeper for quotes that wouldn't be tagged for weddings typically. Good places to search for great wedding quotes: in the pages of the books or the lyrics of the songs the couple loves, the work of prolific philosophers, psychologists, or more comically, celebrities or characters who have said deeply evocative things that might pertain to love, indirectly. For example, "If you're a bird, I'm a bird." from The Notebook is a far less impressive quote to pull than, "Real love amounts to withholding the truth, even when you're offered the perfect opportunity to hurt someone's feelings," by David Sedaris because it's surprising, funny and moving all at the same time. And most importantly, not overly used in wedding speeches.
End On A High Note
The subtext of your concluding thoughts should be: "and that's why they're a great match." Make it clear that no matter where you went in your speech, it was all to provide proof that this is a great couple worth celebrating. If you talked too much about one person, balance it out here. Your final words should be a toast to the couple and their future that leaves guests either cackling or clutching their hearts.
No matter what kind of speech your write, make sure to practice reading it aloud, over and over again. By the time you read it at the wedding, you want to be so comfortable with the word and flow of it, that you barely need to look at your notes. The more honest the speech is, the more natural it is, and the more time you spend with it, the easier it will be to perform it in that cinematic way you hope.
Practice Your Speech Before The Big Day!
Practice and preparation make perfect. Make eye contact and speak to all the guests. You can't do that while looking down at a piece of paper or just going off the cuff. That means you need to prepare and have something written down and rehearsed practice. Stand in front of the mirror and rehearse till you are comfortable and confident. Practice until you look good, until you can watch yourself in the mirror – and ultimately look at the audience – while speaking.
A Few Things Not To Include In Your Speech
The rules here are quite simple. First things first, it's never funny to make racist jokes or comments about any of the families' cultures or traditions. Leave out all profanities or jokes that are on the obscene or offensive lines.
Poke fun at the groom but don't cross the line and hurt anyone's feelings. Leave out stories of drunken nights or exes. Steer away from any sexual innuendos as well. Use your common sense.
You want to walk away with the bride and groom feeling good, not humiliated.