I read an article recently from offbeatbride.com which suggested that wedding speeches, which are known as ‘toasts’ in the States, could effectively disappear from weddings and no one would care. I have to say I completely disagree.
On this blog I constantly harp on about the poor quality of speeches at weddings I attend, but that doesn’t mean I want them to disappear. Researched, written and delivered well, a good speech can make a wedding. People write and say things they might never get the chance to say again and they say things they might never have previously had the opportunity to say. They are often some of the most emotional parts of the wedding films I make. Have a look at some of my wedding videos and scroll through to the speeches. You’ll see what I mean. Here is Josie and Henry’s wedding by the lake and Sarah and Dan’s Eastbourne wedding. Ben delivers one of my favourite Groom speeches at Bannatynes in Hastings and Laura’s mother gives a fantastic Mother-of-the-Bride speech at Lindfield Golf Club.
There is no reason why guests should not deliver excellent speeches. The idea that we should get rid of them worries me on a far greater level because it seems to reinforce the idea that we are no longer able to communicate effectively unless it’s via email or text. Is our ability to speak in public and our attention span as listeners deteriorating? Are we saying people get bored and restless if they have to sit still and listen for anything longer than 20 minutes? Are we saying people are so nervous about public speaking that they can’t stand up in front of their closest friends and family without feeling sick to the stomach?
I worry that this is true to some extent. I feel like my father and I am as guilty of this as anyone, but if people spent less time looking at their phones, playing computer games, watching TV or videos on YouTube and more time reading and talking to the other real human beings sitting next to them on the sofa or at the dinner table, then we might fare better when it comes to situations like how to write and wedding speech, and how to deliver one for that matter.
How to Write a Wedding Speech
To begin with, there is a wealth of information on the internet on how to write a wedding speech and there are hundreds of jokes one can utilise. Think of it as your gift to the bride and groom; something special that you are doing for them. It’s pretty much a once in a lifetime opportunity to say the stuff you always meant to say to the people you love, to say the stuff you know you should say more often. Deep down, you know all the things you should say in your speech. It’s just having the ability to find the words and the courage to put them on paper.
Write it Down
My top tip for a wedding speech? It’s very simple. Write it down and read it. Unless you are a seasoned public speaker, don’t try to wing it. I see too many wedding speeches die a horrible death because the person delivering it thinks they can get away with either minimal notes or no notes at all. What tends to happen is you stray off the point. Nerves kick in and you start saying things you had never planned to say and because it’s not been planned it sounds rambling, disorganised and even though you think it might sound funny, it really isn’t. It’s just embarrassing for everyone. Don’t rely on being inspired on the day. Preparation and planning well in advance is key.
As mentioned previously there is a wealth of information on how to write a wedding speech on the internet. The internet is a fabulous resource. Use it. It will give you ideas and inspiration. Don’t worry about using things that everyone else has used. As long as you mix that with things from your own brain, which are personal and specific to the wedding you’re at and the people you love, the things you have taken from the internet will sit nicely in between.
Humour is King
Your wedding speech doesn’t have to be funny. Some of the best wedding speeches are the emotional ones, but generally and certainly if you are the Best Man, then it’s expected you might throw in a few jokes. Again don’t be afraid to utilise the internet or books from the library as a source for these. But try to think of specific things as well. Do you recall any funny stories about you and the groom or the bride? Don’t use anything too embarrassing unless you really think you can get away with it.
Don’t Get Drunk
You might have written your speech down. It may have been meticulously researched and you might even have memorised it. Don’t ruin it by delivering it in a drunken state. You will stumble, stutter, lose your place, pause for ages or race through it without stopping for breath, say things you hadn’t planned, forget things you needed to say, laugh at your own jokes, embarrass others and make a fool of yourself. It’s harsh but true. Do NOT get drunk before giving your speech.
Tug at the Heart Strings
You’ve warmed the guests up with you wit and humour. Now it’s time to tug at those heart strings. This is the point at which you say all those things you know you should say more often, or you have never said before: “I love you guys”, “You two are so special to me”, “I really appreciate this or that about you”, “Thank you for being my friend through thick and thin, “I will always remember when we did this or that together”, ” thank you for all the special moments we have experienced together”….and so on. Appropriately positioned quotations or poems can work here too and if you can write your own poem, all the better.
Get A Trusted Friend’s Opinion
Don’t rely on your own judgement. Write an opening draft of the speech and get someone you trust to read it. Value their opinion, listen to it and act upon it. Rewrite the speech and get them to read it again. The perhaps run it past one or two others to make sure! You may think you know how to write a wedding speech but there is no substitute for constructive criticism. Take it on board and you will end up with a speech which is less likely to offend and more likely to make your guests cry, either with laughter or emotion.
That’s it, simple. research it, write it down, be funny and serious in equal measure, don’t get drunk, read slowly, breathe, be specific and personal, rely on preparation not inspiration and get someone to listen to it beforehand!
If you have enjoyed this article then you might like to read others in the series such as Questions to ask your wedding supplier or How to choose a wedding photographer. You might also find our wedding checklist is useful in the planning stages.