We’ve all been there: you’ve made it to the exclusive list of close friends and family to celebrate a wedding. The happy couple look radiant and in love, the food is exquisite and good wine is flowing as stealthy waiters ghost past and fill your glass another time. It’s almost time for dessert, but first – speeches.
A good wedding speech can make-or-break the night. A few well-timed, and well-practiced jokes relax the room and the best man or maid of honour regale tales of misadventure on the path to this happy day.
Except for when they don’t… When a speech is unprepared, or someone is reading from notes and avoiding eye contact with the room, it’s just not fun. Worse still, when an over-zealous friend uses the opportunity to embarrass, and takes the joke a little too far… Disaster!
I’ve written a lot of speeches in my time, so here are my top seven tips for a killer speech.
1. Plan ahead and write it down
Take some time and think about what you want to say. Write out the points your want to cover, put them in an order that makes sense (ie. start with how you met the bride/groom) and use that as the template for your speech.
Put more ideas than you actually want to use and be prepared to edit, edit, edit!
2. One joke! (maximum two)
Jokes are great as an ice-breaker, they get everyone relaxed and help. They shouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, and they should definitely keep the audience in mind. Don’t be afraid to get one from a website, or if there’s something funny that people in the room would get, use that.
Sidebar: when my brother Patrick got married, I told the story about how my mother only named him Patrick on the proviso that he was never – never ever – called Pat. The room thought it was hilarious – and yes, you had to be there.
Unless you are a professional comedian, two is enough.
3. Record yourself so you know how you talk
You want to avoid your speech sounding like the letter you wrote to the council to get out of that parking fine. You also don’t want it to be in some insane conversational tone that sounds nothing like you.
The solution? Record yourself – seriously. Every phone has a recorder, go catch up with a friend, quietly put on the recorder, have a few drinks until you forget its rolling and then have a listen the next day. That will tell you how you speak. There will be turns-of-phrase you use without thinking.
4. Ask for help
You don’t have to go through this alone! Ask your friends for help. Not too many people as you don’t want to ruin the surprise, but buying someone else in the wedding party a coffee or beer and talk through your ideas and getting their feedback will do wonders!
You could even collaborate with the best person on the other side of that relationship and you can join forces to put together an epic pair of speeches!
5. Compliment the other half
It’s so bloody simple. It could be a story about how you first met them when your friend invited them to Tuesday Trivia to finally meet the crew. You were all interested to see who this person was, and were blown away by just how cool and collected they were in the face of this rowdy bunch.
It could be ‘You look so beautiful/handsome tonight.”
6. Practice your speech (I’m serious)
Read it out loud to yourself, to a friend/partner, and test the timing. If something is tripping you up, change it.
Read the speech in a mirror, and see how many times your look at yourself. If you’re not sick of your face, you aren’t looking up enough. Just practice. On the night, that writing should just be a guide.
7. Finish on an awww moment
Whether it’s telling the happy couple how perfect they are together, or saying welcome to the family (I’m looking at you siblings) this is a wedding a clichés totally acceptable – just don’t overdo it.
- Don’t insult anyone.
- Nothing gross.
- Name check the important people.
- Don’t air dirty laundry.
- Don’t get drunk before your speech.
Don’t sing unless you can sing.Scratch that, don’t sing.