All wedding speeches should be funny. They can be sentimental and heartfelt but they’ve got to be funny too.
Of course, writing a funny speech isn’t about Googling gags (bet you’ve already seen some stinkers). It’s actually about looking at the characters sitting at the Top Table and having a laugh with their unique ‘qualities’.
If that sounds a bit like hard work, here’s our Cheat’s Guide to Crafting Comedy.
First Things First - Recognising a joke
The definition of a joke is ‘a thing that someone says to cause amusement or laughter.’ This means your jokes shouldn’t make your guests groan.
Guests don’t want to hear internet gags, and the newly hitched deserve more than wedding clichés.
Avoid anything like this…
- ‘Wales is an unusual honeymoon destination but (groom) insisted he was going to Bangor for a fortnight’
- ‘It’s been an emotional day. Even the wedding cake is in tiers.’
- ‘I must admit I’m nervous about giving this speech today. In fact this must be the third time I’ve stood up from a warm seat with pieces of paper in my hands.’
Cringe. 1994 wants its jokes back.
Check out Hitched’s ‘Tried & Test Jokes for Best Men’ for more lines to stay clear of. Generic wedding fodder that shows you’re desperate.
A rule we stick to is, if you can cut and paste a joke into a speech about someone else, then you’ve got it wrong. Humour should be unique, honest and insightful, not just some wedding related pun pinched from the internet.
The Golden Rule of Comedy
‘It’s funny because it’s true‘, so said Homer Simpson and probably some clever people we’re less familiar with.
There is, of course, loads of different types of comedy (puns being the usual fodder in wedding speeches) but creating a memorable speech means thinking about the ready made characters at the Top Table.
People will laugh if you identify something that they’ve noticed (even subliminally) but never thought to articulate …The groom’s oddly disproportionate T-rex arms, the bride’s continuing devotion to UGGS, the newlywed’s mutual mannerisms (they both say OMG without any shame or irony).
Pinpointing what makes the newlyweds unique (i.e. slightly odd / verging on crazy) is key to making your wedding speech a proper tribute to them. It shows you actually care if you focus your humour on their true personalities (and not just caricatures of a bride or groom).
Do NOT make the mistake of talking about how much the bride loves shopping (unless she genuinely out-spends the Kardashians) or how terrible the groom is at opening his wallet (unless he actually comes out without one). This is clichéd-comedy at its worst. It’s not funny and it’s not fit for a modern wedding speech.
STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO WRITING A FUNNY SPEECH
STEP 1 - SELECT YOUR TARGET
Whatever role you have – groom, father of the bride, best man, whatever – you have to find a comedy target.
The groom’s focus could be himself, his bride or he could set up the notion of a traditional double act (straight bride vs daft husband). A father of the bride might choose his ‘drama queen daughter’, the ‘hard-done father’ or the ‘dubious groom’ as the focus of his humour. You get the idea.
Some people reckon the bride should never be the comedy target. They seem to think that as soon as a woman puts on a white dress she can only be told she’s beautiful & wonderful; a Beyonce / Mother Teresa hybrid.
We don’t agree. Just because a woman’s wearing her best knickers and has a ring on her finger doesn’t mean she loses her sense of humour.
The key is to keep the humour affectionate and loving. Of course, you should have a proper heartfelt tribute towards the end of your speech but feel free to have a laugh along the way.
STEP 2 - ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS
The first thing we do when working with clients is ask them lots of questions. We ask the obvious ones (who’s marrying who and why) but we also ask some random ones too.
With grooms we might ask ‘what annoys you most about your bride-to-be’. It doesn’t sound like appropriate material to put in a wedding speech but actually it’s those sort of questions that often lead to great nuggets of content for us.
So, grab a bottle of (insert alcoholic beveridge of choice) and have a brainstorm. Write down everything that comes to mind when you think about the person you’re going to be talking about. The food the eat. The tunes they like. Their claims to fame. Their questionable dress sense… etc etc. Think about their standout qualities; the characteristics that define them. Is it their obsession with the gym, their bossiness, their lack of hair?
Get help if you need. Ask mates round. Ask relatives. Ask the bride if you’re the best man and she’s not giving a speech herself.
You need to load up your arsenal of humour before you can hope to fire out any cracking comedy.
STEP 3 - FIND YOUR FUNNY
There’s loads of ways of finding a laugh, here’s some techniques to test out…
- Turn your target into a comedy character – Think about the classic sitcom characters – Basil Fawlty (the hotel owner who didn’t like tourists), Doc Martin (the doctor who was scared of blood), Del Boy (the hapless businessman). Exaggerate your target’s qualities and push their weaknesses to the extreme.
- Play with contrasts – is the bride obsessively tidy while the groom can’t change the hoover bag? Does the bride balk at Primark prices and the groom spends like a Kardashian? Couple contrasts always generates good materia
- Tell us something we don’t know – Do you know a secret about the bride or the groom? Nothing downright embarrassing but if the bride used to fancy Ed Milliband or the groom won a Butlins Talent Contest as a teenager (his twerking was genuinely amazing!) then now might be the time to mention it.
- Exaggerate – if the bride or groom have a reputation for something, then have a laugh with it. Is the groom pretty rubbish at golf? Fair to say then that ‘the only hole in one he’ll get is in his Primark boxers’. If the bride loves her spinning class you could say ‘her legs have done more rotations than the best man’s head when the bridesmaids walked in’. You get the idea.
- Be the butt of the joke – Yes even if you have another comedy target, make sure you laugh at yourself too. People like you more if you do.
STEP 4 - GRAB YOUR QUOTE LOVE, YOU'VE PULLED
Plagiarism isn’t allowed but quoting witty people is. Not only are you legitimately allowed to steal their laughs, but you also end up looking rather well read.
We’ve curated the best wedding quotes to use (i.e. the ones that aren’t too obviously ‘wedding-y’) so tuck in for inspiration…
Don’t say we’re not blooming good to you.
STEP 5 - PACE YOUR LAUGHS
People relax once you’ve made them laugh so try to script a funny line within the first 20 seconds.
A good opener is something like ‘Can you believe it? (The Bride) has finally given up holding out for Ryan Gosling and decided a kebab-munching, golf-obsessed Project Manager from Basingstoke is a better option instead.’ It’s simple but it’s original.
Of course, the opening is just the first hurdle. Your speech needs to be peppered with humour throughout. Even the ‘thank yous’ should raise a smile so make sure you script more than just the usual platitudes about your in-laws ‘passing down such wonderful traits to their daughter’. Yawn.
Keep your content pacey and your jokes short. If it’s impossible to sub down a lengthy anecdote then leave it for the bar later.
Funny Wedding Speech - Do's & Don'ts
- Ask friends and family for stories – It’s not cheating, it’s research
- Start writing early – ideas will keep popping in your head once you get going
- Cut your first draft in half – having three average jokes does not add up to one big laugh
- Read it out loud – you’ll work out your pacing and hear what works and what doesn’t
- Get advice – Read it to a trusted mate. If you have to explain a joke it ain’t working
- Feel you need to include every random funny anecdote in the speech – some just won’t add to the overall story you’re telling
- Resort to Googling jokes – if you found that quip then others will have seen it too
- Be rude, overly embarrassing or go further than innuendo – never appropriate even if you know the ‘rugby boys’ would love it
- Include ‘in jokes’ – your humour needs to be inclusive
- Forget to leave room for the laughs on the day – don’t spend months worrying about the speech and then swallow up the laughter by delivering your speech too quickly
- Drink too much before you deliver your speech– sadly ‘Dutch courage’ is a myth. Alcohol increases nerves so don’t go overboard too early.