Equal marriage is a hard won right, and since the Equal Marriage Bill was passed in 2013 we’ve had nervous speakers with a new type of anxiety. Namely, how to approach gay wedding speeches.
Fortunately, the answer could not be simpler. A wedding speech is a wedding speech. Whether there are two dresses on the big day, or none at all, doesn’t change things. Yes, some of the traditions (who speaks, for example) might be scrapped in favour of something more gender neutral (remember, it’s not uncommon for only men to speak), but when it comes to crafting a gay wedding speech the approach remains the same. After all, weddings are about two people celebrating their love. Whether they are gay or not is merely incidental. As such, the only difference when writing gay wedding speeches is the pronouns used.
We’ve established that there is no great difference in how to approach gay wedding speeches, but that doesn’t mean the rest is easy. Crafting a wedding speech takes time, patience, and skill. While no two speeches are the same, and each begins with a blank page, every single one will follow these fundamental principles.
The Importance of Planning
It’s amazing how many people sit down, grab a notepad, and try to compose a speech from start to finish. They’re then surprised when the result isn’t quite up to scratch. Taking time to prepare is the first, indispensable step. It will make all the difference between a speech to forget and a speech to remember.
A good starting point is to ask yourself how you’d like the audience to describe your speech once you’ve done it. In other words, think about what kind of speech you want to give. A moving one, a funny one, or something out-the-box? It’s up to you, and you’ll be in a far better position to realise your vision once you have one.
The Rule of Three
Every speech should share three key tenets: they should be original, clear, and relevant. Avoid jokes sourced on the internet like the plague. Once the guests hear a gag they’ve already heard before, there goes all claims to originality. The next line might be your own, but they won’t know that, and they probably won’t believe it.
By clarity, I mean don’t overcomplicate things. Use short, punchy sentences of 5 to 10 words. Short sentences are not only easier to deliver well, they generally sound better too.
Other Tips and Techniques
The most accomplished public speakers speak surprisingly slowly; around 120 words per minute, give or take. Indeed, it’s impossible to hang on every word if they’re coming out at great speed. Aim for a speech somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500words. Any shorter, you risk being brief. Any longer, you risk being boring.
Finally, when it comes to delivery, the best thing you can do is practise as much as you can. A common question is whether to commit it to memory. In my experience it’s not worth the fuss. First and foremost, you set yourself up for a whole host of problems, the most obvious being that you fluff your lines, get lost, or repeat a section without realising. Secondly, you’re at risk of sounding flat. A bit wooden. Unless you’re Meryl Streep. In which case, go for it.
Read your speech, but know it well enough that you don’t have to depend on the page. Ideally you’ll be familiar enough with the content that you can glance down and know what you’re saying next.
Occasionally we receive drafts that place the sexuality of their subjects right at the heart of it. Generally I would advise against this. Talk about what makes the couple special. Why they work so well together. Why you value them. That goes for any wedding speech, not just gay wedding speeches.
Best of luck and, more importantly, enjoy. It’s your opportunity to say some lovely things about your nearest and dearest (and some good-natured teasing!). You may never have a more open or receptive audience either. A truly unforgettable speech is there for the taking.
Guest post by Lawrence Bernstein of Great Speech Writing
Image from Charlotte Leys Photography