For most people, their wedding day will be among the most important days of their lives. As such, it is customary for a close friend or loved one to deliver a speech congratulating the newlyweds on their union. This can be a nerve-wracking prospect if you’re the one called upon to give a statement in front of a big, expectant crowd. As the speechwriter, it will pay off to make sure that you’re organized, keep it concise and practice extensively beforehand.
- Know Your Strengths
Before you’ve even put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, think about your strengths. Are you the class clown? Add jokes! The truth-teller? Keep it earnest. The sap? Get out the Kleenex.
Sure, you can check different boxes throughout the speech, but determine when and how you really shine and head in that direction. The speech should be a reflection of the speaker. If you stay true to you, the speech will ring true too.
- Introduce yourself to the crowd.
Start by letting everyone in the bridal party and crowd know who you are. Tell them your name, role in the wedding and relation to the people getting married. Not everyone will have met you, and they’ll want to know how you’re connected with the bride or groom and why you’ve been asked to give a speech.
The best man and maid of honor are usually each asked to make a short speech on behalf of the wedding party. After that, the microphone is sometimes turned over to whoever would like to say a few words.
Saying your name and briefly summarizing your history with the bride or groom will be enough. Don’t talk about yourself too much. Remember, the focus of your speech is the married couple.
- Your Speech Is a Story
Think of your speech as a story. Of course, to be a story, you’ll need a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning should put forth an idea, the center should expound on it, and the term should tie it all together. The best speech endings are bookends. If you can call back to your opening line in a smart, unexpected, way . . . Well, that makes for speech magic.
- Open with a joke.
Start by telling a joke or recalling a humorous anecdote to loosen up the crowd (and yourself. Humor is very disarming, so getting everyone laughing right off the bat can help dispel some of the nerves of giving a speech. It will also get everyone to like you and make your speech more memorable if everyone is having fun.
Use jokes judiciously to break the initial tension and keep the crowd relaxed. Try not to let your speech turn into a stand-up comedy routine.
Keep your humorous stories and remarks appropriate. There will be people of all ages in your audience, including children.
Funny stories might include a funny story about the bride and groom's meeting, or an anecdote about one of them as a child.
- Stick to a Theme
Throwing everything but the kitchen sink into your speech is tempting. Resist the urge! Identify your theme and stick to it. You must remember that some of the people in the room are not aural learners and all of the people in the room have small attention spans. A theme helps guide the listener and prepare him or her for what’s to come, which keeps the audience engaged.
And, if you really, honestly, just can’t resist telling that embarrassing story or enumerating some irrelevant quality, write it in a card!
- Share memories of the bride and groom.
Recall some of your fondest experiences with a couple of the hour. If you’ve been chosen as the best man or maid of honor, chances are you have a long history with the bride or groom. Relating a special memory or inside joke will spark an emotional resonance that touches everyone listening.
Sharing unique memories or stories is much more effective than merely complimenting the bride or groom because it is a more personal touch.
- Know Your Audience
Think about who’s in the room. Barring yearly reviews or final scenes of rom-coms, you’re never delivering a speech to just one person. Often, it’s a room with hundreds of faces, many of whom you’ve never seen before—and those people are only as famous as the bride or groom. Imagine all of those strangers when you’re brainstorming your speech. It’s likely never appropriate to begin a sentence with, “you probably don’t remember that night where . . .” or end that sentence with, “and then you vomited on a cop’s shoes.” It’s cool to go just over the “play-it-safe” line, but don’t veer into cringe-y terrain. Remember, grandma will be there, and her eyes burn hotter than the spotlight.
- Don’t Forget Why You’re There
We’ve done away with a lot of the formality when it comes to weddings. There’s no longer a separate bride and groom’s side at the chapel, and sometimes there aren’t even chapels. So also if the groom was the one who asked you to give the speech, remember that it’s not just about him. You’re there for the both of them! You may have many more memories of the groom, but don’t forget about the bride. You're not there as the BFF or the groom's frat bro, you're there as an ambassador—an ambassador of love.
- Keep It Short
- Offer advice or well-wishes for the future.
Shift the focus of the speech to the newlyweds and their future together. Address the bride and groom directly. Wish them health, happiness, and prosperity. If you want, you can include a short parable or quote to help illustrate the piece of wisdom you’re giving.
If you decide to use a quote for this segment of the speech, make sure it is short, relevant and not a cliche.
- Thank everyone in attendance.
Bring the speech to a close by thanking the bride and groom, their parents, friends and family, everyone in attendance and even the staff setting up and catering the reception. Be gracious and make everyone feel like they’re part of a wonderfully special occasion. Ask that everyone enjoy themselves and share in the bliss of the new bride and groom.
Acknowledging the people who helped make the wedding festivities possible will make you appear humble, as well as making them feel appreciated.
Express your gratitude in a couple sentences. There’s no need to go on and on thanking every person individually by name.
- You’ve Got This
The best tip? Be confident. We’ve heard “I’m just not good at this” over and over again and look, this particular skill comes naturally to very few people in everyday life. Even Beyoncé has to go all Sasha Fierce when she’s onstage. That said, everybody’s got a Sasha; it’s just a matter of channeling yours. Whoever has asked you to give this speech knows you’ve got it in you and it’s time for you to know, too. We genuinely believe that everyone is capable of nailing their speech and delivering something that is personal, poignant, and one-of-a-kind. It’s your moment to shine—don’t miss it.