Summer is here, and the wedding season is upon us. Brides are perfecting their hair, guests are agonising over outfits, caterers are preparing exciting menus; it’s all go, go, go. But there are a few members of the wedding party who are wishing it was all over. They are the ones giving the speeches. They know that long after the flowers, Champagne, food and DJ are forgotten, the speeches will still be remembered, and they want theirs remembered for all the right reasons.
Here are some top tips to help all those best men, grooms and fathers-of-the-brides out there get started:
Prepare…. and Not Just the Night Before
This may sound obvious, but too many people think they can create the speech of their life 24 hours before the big day. However, as with most things in life, preparation is everything. This means thinking about what you want to say, gathering information and writing a number of drafts in advance.
Don’t just rely on your own material. Contact friends and family who have known the person you are speaking about at different stages of their lives. This will help you gather unusual stories and anecdotes.
Your biggest risk is using material that has already been covered in the other wedding speeches (particularly if you are the best man and are speaking last). I would strongly recommend that, however original you think your speech may be, you have a quick chat with the other speakers to ensure there is no embarrassing overlap.
Use a Theme
Anecdotes and observations are key elements of many speeches, but they don’t always link together naturally. Choosing a theme that ties everything together can help it flow. An original and amusing theme is often the difference between a decent wedding speech and a great one.
Keep it Short…
I recommend a ceiling of ten minutes in length for any wedding speech. Too many go way beyond this, creating a bored and restless audience. The key is brevity; stay away from long paragraphs in favour of short, punchy, deliverable sentences.
There is nothing worse for the majority of the guests than a best man’s speech focusing exclusively on the groom’s drinking exploits in Amsterdam, dressed as Spiderman, or a father-of-the-bride gushing about his daughter without mentioning the groom or his side of the wedding party. Try to include something for everyone.
As the saying goes, practise makes perfect. Rehearse your wedding speech out loud over and over again, reading very slowly and emphasising key words. You want to know your speech so well that you only need to glance at your notes to remember what comes next.
Slowly Does It
When your big moment comes, speak slowly and pause between sentences. Your audience need time to digest the story before they get the punch line, so give them time to get it.
Check the Location
Find out where you’ll be standing, whether there will be a microphone, and if there will be somewhere to rest your notes. This will avoid nasty surprises that might keep you awake the night before.
This is not to say you can’t have a drink to take the edge off your nerves. But to give a good speech you need to be sharp and clear–headed, which means staying clear of the boozing until after you’ve sat down and are lapping up the applause.
Article by Lawrence Bernstein of Great Speech Writing
Image courtesy of Betti Confetti Photography