So if you want a speech that will leave your guests laughing, your partner touched and you feeling just a little bit smug, read this…
1 – How to start writing the perfect wedding speech
Never mind ‘how’, worry about ‘when’.
Start soon, at least two months before the wedding. Do not be tempted to put off writing until you’re hit by divine genius and do not get side-tracked by table plans or biscuits. Don’t underestimate how long it can take to be witty, meaningful and memorable. Yes you know your subject rather well (we’re hoping) but even professional comedians can take weeks to ‘knock out’ a short sketch.
Lock yourself in a room, shut off all social media and get writing. No FB updates until the first draft is finished.
2 – Remember what makes a perfect speech
A speech is not about handing out gifts and it’s not (just) about thanking people. It’s about reminding everyone why they should be celebrating the newlyweds getting hitched. It’s explaining why two sane people have just promised to tolerate each other’s crazy habits and personality quirks for the rest of their lives.
3 – Wedding speech material
Imagine you’re one of those sexy police detectives you see on TV (only without the Swedish accent or psychological problems). You have a theory, maybe that you’re marrying someone kind of special. It’s now up to you to prove it.
Retrace your romantic steps (metaphorically not literally) and work out the key bits of evidence. What moments have been meaningful, funny or illustrate a point? Ask family and friends for their stories. Do they have anecdotes that support your theory, or even better, photographic evidence?
Dig deep and dig dirty.
4 – Know your speech etiquette
There’re plenty of good etiquette guides online but sound the klaxon, they come with a major warning. Etiquette guides can seriously damage your speech. They can make you think a speech has to include a long list of thank yous and clichés. Resist the urge.
Think about those actors who win an Oscar and thank their parents, the director, the lighting guy, their dog… it’s boring isn’t it? Especially if you don’t get a mention.
That said, a marriage gets off to a good start if the groom remembers to thank his new mother in law and it’s important to know the speech traditions before you decide whether to ignore, follow or shake them up.
Here’s our advice…
- Be yourself – just because you’re wearing fancy clothes doesn’t mean you need to use formalities like ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’. Your friends and family want to hear the real you.
- Thank the important people – i.e. both sets of parents, anyone who’s contributed financially (though you don’t need to be explicit about that) and the people who have gone beyond the call of duty to help. Don’t feel you need to thank people like the caterers; your thanks was that big fat cheque. Write amazing thank you cards to everyone else.
- Spread the load – Divvy up the ‘to dos’. If three people are giving a speech only one of them needs to compliment the bridesmaids (even if the lovely ladies have spent three hours getting ready).
- Be clever – Make the thanks yous feel part of the story you’re telling. If you’re having a festival themed wedding then thank the backstage support and the incredible roadies who have helped.
5 – Find a theme
Right this is the important bit. The 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.
An example is a bride who used her teaching profession as a theme. She talked about what she and her husband had learnt from each other, ranging from the comedy to the soppy, from the perfect poached egg to rugby’s scoring system (she taught him). She toasted ‘a lifetime of learning new and wonderful things about each other’ and everyone rather liked it.
So write a list; five things that people would associate with you, your partner and your relationship and see if you can spot a theme. Perhaps you met online, could you tell the story of your romance through mocked up social media? Or maybe your partner’s a foodie in which case, talk about the traits they take from celebrity chefs (Ramsey’s temperament when they’re watching X-factor, Mary Berry’s soggy bottom when they’re trying to put up a tent etc).
6 – Be funny
Nobody is expecting you to be a stand-up comedian but try to find the comedy in your reality. Are you and your partner really alike or really different? Do you share a guilty pleasure? Do you have a distinctive style of arguing? These sorts of areas make great speech material.
Reveal surprising facts or even, in some cases, props. The fashionista’s teddy bear dressing gown. Or their partner’s secret crush on weather-woman Carol Kirkwood.
Read our funny guide.
7 – Be sweet (but not sickly)
Firstly be honest. There’s no point making declarations of love if people don’t recognise the person you’re talking about. Don’t pretend that your partner is perfect or that you don’t argue over the remote..
Secondly, don’t go OTT. You have to get the balance right between sweet and just showing off. Leave the pet names at home and keep anything overly gushing for the bedroom.
8 – Be different
One groom said he was attracted to his wife because she looked like ‘Bridget Bardot dressed up for a night at The Hog’s Head disco’. Another groom said his first date with his wife had left him with ‘the feeling you get after the three course special at The Raj; very happy, completely satisfied but slightly nervous about what’s to come’.
9 – Wedding speech length
Aim for somewhere between five and eight minutes. And that includes the pauses you leave for the laughter. Jokes are funnier shorter and emotion more powerful.
You may feel you have SOOOOOO much you want to say but the real test is saying it in the least amount of words. It’s kind of like a perverse game of Scrabble.
10 – Test it
Firstly on yourself. Read the speech out loud and if you find yourself stumbling on the same bit every time, change it.
Then get an audience. It needs to be someone whose advice you value, so don’t ask your mum if you’re going to ignore her advice.
Deliver it as you would on the wedding day. Leave pauses for the laughter (ironically speakers often talk over the laughter they’ve worked so hard to achieve). Remember to smile. Look at your audience.
And then…be receptive to constructive criticism. Don’t be hypersensitive or prickly. 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. The point of testing your speech is you still have time to change it.
11 – Call in the professionals
If you’re really struggling you might want to consider getting help.
Any of us oddballs will do. Call us for a chat.
12 – Handling wedding speech nerves
Even the best comedians have a moment just before they go on stage when they have that terror of thinking they’ve written a pile of drivel, that no one will laugh and someone might throw a tomato. This is natural. Accept it. Have a drink (but only a little one). Pretend your Kanye West and fake unnatural confidence. Read our guide on ‘how to deliver a wedding speech’.
Then, finally, enjoy it.