Components of a Perfect Wedding Speech - If you’ve been asked to give a speech at a forthcoming wedding, congratulations! It’s a wonderful opportunity to express your feelings for someone close to you, and it’s important to make sure you get it right. But as the wedding draws near, it’s entirely natural to be a bit apprehensive about giving your speech. If the fear of public speaking wasn’t enough, you’re under added pressure because everyone expects the day to be perfect.
If you’ve been asked to give a speech at a forthcoming wedding, congratulations! It’s a wonderful opportunity to express your feelings for someone close to you, and it’s important to make sure you get it right. But as the wedding draws near, it’s entirely natural to be a bit apprehensive about giving your speech. If the fear of public speaking wasn’t enough, you’re under added pressure because everyone expects the day to be perfect. Naturally, you want your speech to be as good as it can be. So whether you’re the father of the bride; the best man at a forthcoming wedding; or perhaps it’s your own wedding; the important thing is not to panic!
Wedding speeches are different from other speeches. Firstly, everyone in the room is likely to be rooting for you and wanting to give you a great reception. Secondly, there are very few occasions in life in which you are actively encouraged to declare your emotions in public. A wedding speech is such an occasion – so don’t waste it!
There are two main aspects to giving a good speech, what you say and how you say it. We’ll show you how to say the right thing and deliver it the right way. Traditionally the father of the bride gives the first speech, followed by the groom, and then the best man. Although the best man’s speech is perhaps the most well-known - and most anticipated – of the speeches, nowadays more and more brides and maids of honour are giving speeches, as well as mothers of either the bride or groom, other relatives and godparents. With such a broad range of guests, from the very young to the very elderly, you should make sure that everyone can hear and understand you. Most importantly your speech should be entertaining without offending anybody.
Not many of us are confident public speakers. In fact, a wedding speech may only be one of a handful of occasions in your life when you speak in public. As with everything practice makes perfect so, regardless of whether you’ve got six months or six days to write your speech, start writing it now. Believe it or not, it’s most effective to write it down quickly without the help of books, quotations or other aids. This is because the words and phrases you use are more likely to sound like they have come from you. A wedding is personal, emotional and a celebration and, if you are lucky enough to be asked to give a speech, your audience wants to hear you in your own words rather than a selection of vocabulary you found in a dictionary.
Break the Ice
Humour can be a good way to start. You will get your audience’s attention and as they relax, you will too. You don’t have to find something that gets your audience howling with laughter. In fact that’s to be avoided if at all possible, as it will make recovery difficult and you won’t know when to continue. Something that’s funny enough to make them smile and think ‘this is going to be good,’ is ideal. Humour in this context at the very beginning of your speech will ensure that the people in the room who don’t know you will instantly warm to you. So what is the best way to begin a speech? Here are some suggestions using our fictitious bride Sarah, and bridegroom John:
Father of the Bride
“Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I have an insatiable urge to prove it.”
“John is truly blessed to have Sarah in his life. I have watched her grow into a wonderful, remarkable woman. She has always been the perfect daughter in every way, always thinking of others before herself, gentle, kind and so helpful – in fact, she even wrote this speech for me.”
“John and I were talking last week. I asked him what he expected from his marriage to me and he said love, companionship and home cooked meals. I was a bit shocked, actually, because asked the same question I would have said four toasters and a hangover.”
Maid of Honour/Chief Bridesmaid
“I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised when Sarah met John. I couldn’t believe she’d found herself such a good looking, gentle and caring man. I thought most of them already had boyfriends.”
No matter how you decide to start your speech, one of the things you must say, preferably at the beginning is “On behalf of my wife and I” – or “My Wife and I would like to thank you all for coming today” or something similar. This will undoubtedly result in applause and cheers from the audience so you should be prepared for this and allow it to quieten down before you continue speaking.
The Best Man
“Before I start I should warn those of you with sensitive dispositions that there will be some bad language: split infinitives, inappropriate word choices, that kind of thing.”
“There isn’t much I could say about John that hasn’t already been declared in open court.”
(It’s useful to use an online encyclopaedia for this one.)
“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a very special day in history. On this day 1st August 1834, slavery was abolished in the British Empire under the Slavery Abolition Act. On this day in 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. And of course, the truly unprecedented event that sent shockwaves throughout the modern world - John actually found someone willing to marry him.”
The Middle of the Speech
No matter what relation you are to the bride and groom, it’s useful to have a couple of humorous stories to hand that you can share with the rest of the wedding guests. If you are a parent or close relative of either the bride or groom, you may have countless funny stories to tell about them. Pick a couple of safe but amusing stories – it’s better to get a reassuring chuckle from everyone rather than a howl of laughter from a few. If you’re not sure of the reception you’ll get, or if you can’t decide which stories to use, talk it over with a confidant beforehand. If you only came into the bride or groom’s life later on in their lives, try to recall how you met and whether there is something amusing about that meeting. In the alternative – find someone discreet who knew the bride or groom when they were a child.
A story often works best if it links with the person the bride or groom has become now. You could perhaps highlight a personality trait that became evident at a young age, or a clue as to why they chose a particular career or lifestyle.
Deliver the perfect ending
The end of your speech is as important, if not more important than the beginning. If you are at a traditional wedding, your formal role will nearly always be to raise a toast. It can be particularly effective to end by addressing the bride and bridegroom directly and offering a few poignant or humorous words to the newlyweds. Here are some examples:
Father of the Bride
“In the words of Epicurus: You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”
“If you’re wrong, admit it. If you’re right, shut up.”
Maid of Honour/ Chief Bridesmaid
The Ten Rules of Marriage:
Sarah is never wrong.
Sarah makes the rules.
Sarah can change the rules without notice.
John will never know all the rules.
If it looks as though Sarah is wrong, it is John’s fault
In which case he must apologise immediately.
Sarah can change her mind at any time.
John must never change his mind without consulting Sarah.
John should always know what Sarah is thinking
Because what she means is more important than what she says.”
“A woman once said to me ‘I made my husband a millionaire.’ I said, ‘Really? That’s amazing, what was he before you married him?’ She said ‘A multi-millionaire.’”
“John, it won’t matter how many jobs you have – from now on you’ll only ever have one boss.”
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