1 – Mic up
There’s no use spending weeks slaving over your speech if no one can hear it. The acoustics in wedding venues are notoriously bad so test them out a couple of weeks in advance or get someone else to. Invest in a mic if the acoustics are questionable.
Make sure you position the ball of the mic below your mouth and point it towards your nose to avoid ‘popping’. And remember if you’re using a mic there’s NO NEED TO SHOUT.
2 – Memorise your speech (but use cue cards)
Practise your speech at every opportunity. If your memory’s poor the practice will help you get familiar with the flow of the speech. If your memory’s great, well then, you’re blooming lucky and probably under 35.
Whatever the case, we advise using cue cards. Why? Weddings are weird things. Wonderful, beautiful, amazing but weird. They’ve got the power to suck all logical thought from your brain and replace it with loved-up nonsense (in the case of brides and grooms) or an abject fear (in the case of best men and MsOH).
Cue cards give you a comfort blanket and, if you use them right, they don’t need to distract from the speech. Give copies to at least one trusted mate to carry on the day and take comfort in the fact you have something written down. This is not one of those moments where people gather round you chanting ‘speech, speech, speech’ and you have absolutely nothing to say.
Print your speech on to the cards with the ‘page turns’ appropriately positioned for when you plan to take a pause or you expect laughter.
These days, a lot of people use a tablet or i-pad to read from. This reduces paper-shake and faffing – but please don’t use your phone. It looks overly casual.
3 – Crop the props
Okay so you’ve found some embarrassing photos of the groom looking like a reject from awkwardfamilyphotos.com but that doesn’t necessarily mean a PowerPoint presentation.
Don’t underestimate how hard it is to press a button on your laptop whilst speaking…and people are watching…and you’ve got cue cards…and you’re using a microphone. Multi-tasking on this scale is a bit like ordering a salad when a jam donut is being served to the next table. Your brain just can’t handle it.
A few years ago everyone felt they should use some kind of prop when giving a speech but that novelty has worn off. Instead, work out what’s genuinely funny and what relates to the people you’re talking about. Definitely don’t bring out a slice of toast when mentioning the toast.
If you do decide to use props or tech, then consider calling in the help of a glamourous assistant to operate it for you as you deliver your speech. Give yourself time to set it up before the guests arrive on the day, and have a back-up plan in case the tech fails on the day.
4 – Pretend to be confident
Adele, Stephen Fry, Megan Fox and Michael McIntyre all suffer stage fright. If those bad boys do, it’s natural us amateurs will too. Rest assured everyone’s nervous giving a wedding speech. If they’re not, they’re either an idiot or Kanye West.
The key is pretending to be confident. When it’s your turn to speak, stand up and smile. Look around the room. Make eye contact with people. Then smile again. It’s amazing how contagious a smile can be.
5 – Be yourself
Don’t feel you have to use big words, be overly formal and use your ‘phone voice’. Laugh, ad lib, say ‘blooming’, cry (but don’t sob). Be yourself and it will be lovely (unless you’re a broken hearted cynic with a drink problem then don’t be yourself).
6 – Slow it down
The most common mistake people make is talking too fast. Pace yourself, go about half the speed you would when talking with friends. It feels unnatural but it sounds better.
A great site to test your delivery speed is Readtime.
It’s also worth filming yourself on your phone. Yes, you may need to acknowledge a growing paunch but you’ll also see where you need to slow it down and how your delivery can be improved.
On the day, remember to leave a pause after any mentions of the dearly departed and don’t rush to speak after you’ve just told a joke. Once you’ve got the guests laughing, don’t, under any circumstances, talk over it. Wait till the room is quiet again before you even raise your cue cards. Rest assured, tumbleweed doesn’t grow in the UK.
7 – Avoid alcohol
Lots of wedding speakers reckon a glass of alcohol calms the nerves, but it’s just wishful thinking. In fact some research studies have shown that booze can actually increase the stress response.
Deep breaths are much more effective at reducing the stress hormones, though admittedly, not quite so fun.
8 – Look right
Yes, we know you’re bloody gorgeous but what we mean is look at the right people.
Make eye contact with the guests throughout your speech and look at the relevant person when you’re addressing them personally (for example, when you’re thanking them or telling them how chuffed you are that they married you).
9 – Remember your audience
There’s friends, strangers, grannies, work colleagues and even, possibly, children out there. There’s the traditionalists, the edgy ones and the ones who have been on the Bucks Fizz since 10 am. It’s difficult to tailor your speech to everyone’s sensitivities but there’s one key rule and that’s getting the comedy right.
Everyone expects a bit of naughtiness but nothing overtly rude, crude and certainly nothing humiliating. Avoid in-jokes or ‘you had to be there’s’. Save that for the bar later.
Read our Guide to Writing A Funny Wedding Speech.
10 – Direct your toast
When it comes to delivering your toast, people need a bit of direction.
Make clear if this is a personal toast (for example, the groom personally toasts his mum in the middle of his speech) by simply looking at the person it’s directed to. If you want the guests to join in a toast, you should look at the guests and tell them what to do, for example;
‘Please join me in drinking to the happy couple’ And then turn towards the person or people being toasted as you name them again: ‘To the happy couple…’
11 – Have a showstopper
Whether you’re the father of the bride, the groom or the bride, it’s nice to talk about love (kind of essential in fact). What’s really cool though is giving an illustration of it.
For example, if the groom’s a rubbish cook he could reveal his first attempt at baking a Victoria Sponge for his wife (comedy or otherwise). Maybe the bride could present her husband the mythical Nando’s Black Card and a promise to keep things spicy. Or the father of the bride could give a portion of his beloved vinyl collection to the newlyweds with the condition that they dance to one new 12 inch every week.
It’s those sorts of things that turn a speech into a great one, and crucially, one that you’ll enjoy giving.