How to nail your groom speech
As soon as the table plans come out, most blokes panic and dive head first into Googling etiquette and wedding gags. This results in the usual fodder; a speech that’s clichéd, boring and just a bit blahhhh. The standard compliments to the bride, the usual thank yous to the parents and a few cursory anecdotes thrown in for good measure.
Actually a good wedding speech is about good storytelling. As ex-BBC scriptwriters we’ve got a head-start on most grooms. Follow our advice and you’ll create a speech that’s so good, your wife will want it framed.*
*Of course, if you want a bit of hand-holding check out our groom speech template or our bespoke speech writing service. They’re designed to make writing your speech downright enjoyable.
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Groom speech etiquette
The first rule of groom speech etiquette is – don’t get tied down with it. A lot of it’s outdated and well, blooming dull.
There’s no need to address your friends and family as ‘ladies and gentlemen’ (chances are they’re not) and you don’t need to toast the bridesmaids (though it is essential you say how gorgeous they look even if they’re already on their second bottle of Pinot).
The thank yous are, of course, important. Your marriage is frankly doomed if you forget to thank your mum in law.
The groom traditionally thanks
- everyone for coming
- his parents
- his in-laws
- his best man & ushers
- the maid of honour & bridesmaids
Of course there may be others you want to mention (children from previous relationships?) but resist the urge to read out half the guest list. Nothing kills off a groom speech quicker than a tedious thank you list. Keep each individual thanks to less than 50 words and to include a sense of fun throughout (e.g. thank your mum in law for passing own so many traits to her daughter – a sense of fun, a wicked laugh and an appalling taste in music).
If either set of parents have split up, simply thank parents separately. Even if there’s simmering tension there, try not to make this awkward. Depending on the politics, it’s also worth acknowledging their new partner if they’re attending the wedding.
If you’re planning on giving thank you gifts we recommend saying you’ll be ‘personally handing them out later’ so you don’t disrupt the flow of your speech and the guests aren’t tempted to start checking their whatsapp messages.
The 5 rules to writing a great groom speech
Rule 1 Be Different
A heart-warming tribute to your bride should be the focus of your speech but remember every groom thinks his bride is gorgeous, kind and generally amaaaazing. The only way for this to sound genuine is – prove, don’t tell. Recount the anecdotes that show your bride’s qualities in action.
Cut the cliches & concentrate on what makes your bride unique. Avoid words like ‘soulmate’ or ‘beautiful’, anything that’s overused. Is she a library-lover, a technology fiend, a devoted foodie? Nailing her individual and quirky characteristics shows you ‘get her’ and her friends & family will love you for it.
Rule 2 Be Funny
All speeches should be funny. No one’s expecting a stand-up routine but try to get everyone chuckling within the first 30 secs. It relaxes everyone, including you.
Of course, being funny isn’t about finding jokes on the internet – it’s about making witty observations about your bride, yourself and your relationship. You want to make your guests laugh, not groan. Remember the adage ‘it’s funny because it’s true’. Ask yourself lots of questions. When does your wife make you laugh, what do you regularly ‘debate’, what qualities has your bride inherited from her dad? See what you can have fun with.
Rule 3 Tell a story
Right this is the important bit. Your speech should tell a story. Yes it’s made up of lots of different elements but it needs to hook people in from the beginning, establish a theme and carry that through to an almighty climax.
One basic example might be a teacher who talks about the lessons his wife has taught him – the good, the bad and the ability to now name the Kardashians. Another theme might be the groom’s interpretation of his marriage vows (e.g. man flu does indeed count as ‘sickness’). Turning your speech into a story makes it easy to follow and entertaining. Find out #whatsyourstory
Rule 4 Less in More
You should aim for around eight minutes (10 mins allowing for laughter and ad libs). You might feel you have plenty to say but be strict with yourself.
Once you write your first draft, edit it down to half the length. We promise it will make it a hundred times stronger. No one ever watched a wedding speech and thought ‘if only it was longer’. It’s the same with jokes, they’re better if they’re punchy.
Keep the scent of your speech – don’t wander off. The edit-process might mean cutting some of your favourite bits, but you need to wipe out the waffle!
Rule 5 Prepare to Deliver
A confident delivery is half the battle. Check the acoustics of the venue & get a mic if necessary (so many speeches are ruined simply because the guests can’t hear them).
Try to memorise the speech but don’t be afraid to use notes on the day (your brain will be scrambled). Talk slower than feel natural (makes you sound more confident) & leave pauses for laughter (sometimes people need a moment to ‘get it’).
Keep your posture relaxed and remember everyone wants you to do well so make sure you smile. It’s scientifically proven to be infectious and those scientists know stuff.
Groom Speech - Do's and Don'ts
Check with the bride – If she isn’t giving her own speech then you’re speaking on behalf of her too. If nothing else make sure she’s happy with your thank you list.
Make the thanks yous meaningful – Don’t just talk about what people have contributed to the wedding, thank them for what they’ve contributed to your life (even if it is just an appreciation on malt whiskeys). Keep each thank you less than 50 words.
Make your toast unique – drink to ‘a lifetime of dancing on tables’ or consider a #Tequilatoast
Practise your speech and film it on your phone – Watch it back, promise yourself you’ll do something about your paunch and spot where your speech can be improved.
Talk slower than feels natural – It’s what those authoritative people do to make themselves seem more intelligent.
Feel free to use clever quotes – But make sure you credit the author or someone else will! Check out our Quote Inspiration guide.
Thank the caterers, the venue, people who have travelled far etc – It’s unnecessary.
Resort to clichés – Yes you can thank your in-laws for ‘raising such a wonderful daughter’ but try to make it personal too. Thank your mother in law for the extra inch added to your waistline since you first sampled her Yorkshire Puddings.
Ignore the feedback of friends – It’s always worth testing your speech on a mate but this means you have to listen to them. If someone doesn’t get a joke, don’t waste your time explaining it as you won’t be able to do that on the day.
Talk over laughter – You’ve worked hard for those laughs – don’t rush them. Always wait until your guests have settled down before continuing with your speech.
Get overly soppy – Get the balance right between sweet and just showing off. Leave the pet names at home and keep anything overly gushing for the bedroom.
A Bit About Speechy
The Speechy team includes James, Heidi, Roger and Claire. Between us, we’ve been included in the Edinburgh TV Festival’s ‘Ones to Watch’ and featured in the BBC Hotlist. During our telly careers, we’ve worked with people such as Richard Hammond, Sharon Osbourne, Dan Snow, David Mitchell and Mel Geidroyc. Get us!
These days we’re the go-to experts for wedding speech advice – featuring in wedding bibles such as Rock n Roll Bride or Wedding Ideas Mag, or more mainstream media such as Radio 1 and Radio 2. Even Eamonn Holmes wanted our advice on how to deliver a speech at his son’s wedding when we were on his show.
Of course, we love helping people write amazing speeches and we still get excited when they tell us we’ve added a special moment to their day.