It never ceases to surprise me how often my clients ask me what to do if heckled during their wedding speech. There are of course many tricks to deal with a mouthy member of the wedding party. But if this is keeping you awake at night, the key thing to remember is aggressive heckling is very unusual and, as a general rule, is usually reserved for stand up comedians.
If this reassurance isn’t enough, then here’s another rule of thumb… The more abusive and aggressive you are during your speech, the more likely it is one of the guests will respond to it.
So if you keep your content relatively mild and inoffensive then you can rule out intervention from all but the very drunk! If this is still not enough to control the nerves then there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for the unwanted (and unlikely) heckle.
What to Do If You’re Heckled
Firstly, please remember that this is their problem not yours! You have been asked to speak. The rest of the guests will want to hear what you have to say, and most of them will find the uninvited interruption as irritating as you do.
Bearing this in mind, your best bet is to smile politely at your heckler, pause and then continue. This approach has many advantages. It enables you to retain the moral high ground, it avoids you having to think quickly on your feet under pressure, and it will avert all chances of a slanging match developing. Adding a ‘thank you’ while smiling sweetly should get you some laughter from the other guests as well as sympathy.
Heckler Put Downs
My advice to nervous and inexperienced speakers is to leave it there, but some are desperate for a response they can prepare that is sure to work. This is difficult, because the genius of the best stand-up comedians is that they can adapt their lines on the spot. You therefore need something that is not inflammatory and is aimed at the audience rather than the heckler. Something along the lines of “I must remember to stop asking my dad to come and listen to me speak”, or, “I really wish my mum could hold her drink” should work.
However, as with all things related to giving a wedding speech, if you prepare well, your worst fears are unlikely to be realised.
Guest post by Lawrence Bernstein of Great Speech Writing
Image from Sean Casey Photography