Speech time. Does the sound of a piece of cutlery tapping a glass fill you with dread? If you are a groom or have been tasked with giving a speech, then this blog is for you.
First off the bat, it is good to remember that speeches are no longer always really formal. Wedding styles and settings are now so varied that couples adapt their speeches to suit the wedding type and so unless yours is in a palace or extremely formal setting, or is a luxury and perhaps traditional wedding, then get ready to mix things up and loosen those rules and regs!
I'm not talking about keeping everyone in line here (although you'll certainly need to engage the room and hold the space . ..gulp!) but traditionally there was an order in which people would speak.
This was the father of the bride/groom, then the groom then the best man. Nowadays couples are removing the traditional format and having them speak in the order that they are comfortable with.
Don't forget, your partner may also want to speak, and their parents also. It really is up to you, and so think outside of the box, and do away with any traditions that don't suit you and your day.
It could be that your speeches take place BEFORE the wedding breakfast, perhaps during canapes in a grand entrance hall, with the speaker on the staircase, or perhaps your guests are all enjoying drinks outdoors after the food, and the speeches happen informally around a firepit.
Do it your way, and if your speakers are nervous, then featuring this earlier on your order of the day could be a wise move. They can relax and enjoy the food and not be preoccupied with what they are about to say all through the meal.
I always think that a speech that is personal, naturally funny (because everyone gets the reference or can resonate with it) is the best way to go.
Traditionally speeches included thanking everyone (and this is still lovely) but be genuine and don't just say how nice the bridesmaids look, make it relevant and acknowledge special elements of the theme that they are all wearing for example.
Below are some things to consider but ultimately make sure it feels right for you:
- It is still the right thing to do, to acknowledge what you have just done. Getting married is a big step and so name-checking those that helped you get there is lovely
- Never start by being too formal. Make it engaging right from the start and put everyone at ease.
- Thank the person that has just made a speech or is about to make one.
- Add in relevant/family jokes. If everyone knows the story then it will be an easy 'win' and you'll have everyone on board.
- If you are telling a story, keep it light and short. Summarise and even jump to the 'punchline', leaving it for the person involved to elaborate later on
- From the middle point of your speech, focus on your partner. Make it all about how and why you work, add in personal references, and details of quirks, make it endearing, and yet still fun
- Avoid giving out gifts - if you have some that you would like to give, then do this earlier in the day (perhaps during the ceremony?) or privately later but with an acknowledgement in the speech that this will happen. It keeps things shorter and means everyone can stay relaxed.
I think if you are nervous about speaking then even 10 seconds feels like an hour, but aim to keep it in or around 10 mins for each speech and limit the number of speakers too. If each one is 10 mins and you have six speakers, then an hour is taken and your catering team may be wanting to turn the room around or clear the space ready for the evening reception. Speeches will often run over so let your speakers know what you are hoping for.
If there is a lot to say, or indeed lots of people that want to say something, perhaps involving them at other times (like the ceremony) could be a nice way to ensure they all have their moment, but without having them all piled into one.
TOP TIP: Writing cards to special people and leaving them on their place settings is a great way to thank people privately and in a more personal way (it make a great keepsake too!) and therefore means you save time when speaking.
Smile, pause for effect and breathe.
When I deliver ceremonies, I've learnt that there is no point rushing through an anecdote if you fully expect laughter or input from people. Wait for the laugh (or the heckle!) and then move forward. It keeps things engaging, and less like you are just reading and rushing through it all.
Smiling is infectious, and a great way to make people connect with you. Breathing sounds obvious, and everyone knows it's certainly handy to do this, but filling your lungs before you start means your voice won't be as 'breathy' or wobbly when you start. Taking time to breathe fully in between paragraphs keeps things at a steady pace too.
Bring your speech to an end with a sentimental or funny quote, and leave everyone on a high note. If you've written a whole page of things to say, whittle it down to key points, look at how you can deliver these in a funny way and merge it together. Perhaps a funny story could be referenced to enhance or reinforce a point that you have made.
Practising your speech is also key. Videoing yourself and rehearsing in front of a mirror can help tremendously. Observe how you look up and scan the space, and if you aren't doing this then you'll need to try your breathing techniques and pausing in between paragraphs to help provide an opportunity to do this. Learn the flow of your speech and then you'll find it easier to recall details without reading the whole thing with your head looking down. Ad-libbing and remembering sentences may come easier this way and it is much better to have eye contact than be staring south for your entire speech.
DID YOU KNOW: we offer speech writing guidance? Writing special words and delivering them in a way that is engaging and entertaining is our area of expertise so if you need help, just shout!
The overriding message here is to relax, have fun with it, and do what you are comfortable with. Ultimately if you would prefer to record your speech, and have images and funny clips edited within it, then go for it! Have it projected onto the wall or via a big screen, create something unique and memorable and save yourself the worry on the day! It's your day so enjoy it!