It doesn’t matter whether you are the Groom, Best Man, Father of the Bride, Bride, Bridesmaid or anyone else at the wedding that has decided (or been asked) to give a speech. Writing the speech is often a daunting task because of the importance of the occasion, the pressure to be both poignant and funny and, of course, general fears about getting up to speak in front of a large, attentive group.
This article is all about practical steps to take to make sure your speech is awesome! And if you aren’t making a speech at the wedding – be sure to share with those that are.
Top Tips for Writing a Meaningful Speech
Follow this approach and I guarantee you won’t be sitting at your kitchen table at 2 am with balls of crumpled up paper all around you.
Introduce yourself to the crowd
Start by letting everyone in the bridal party and crowd know who you are. Tell them your name, role in the wedding and relation to the people getting married. Not everyone will have met you, and they’ll want to know how you’re connected with the couple and why you’ve been asked to give a speech.
- Saying your name and briefly summarising your history with the bride or groom will be enough. Don’t talk about yourself too much. Remember, the focus of your speech is the married couple.
Open with a joke
Start by telling a joke or recalling a humorous anecdote to loosen up the crowd (and yourself). Humour is very disarming, so getting everyone laughing right off the bat can help dispel some of the nerves of giving a speech. It will also get everyone to like you and make your speech more memorable if everyone is having fun.
- Use jokes judiciously to break the initial tension and keep the crowd relaxed. Try not to let your speech turn into a stand-up comedy routine.
- Keep your humorous stories and remarks appropriate. There will be people of all ages in your audience, including children.
- Funny stories might include a funny story about the bride and groom’s meeting, or an anecdote about one of them as a child.
Share memories of the couple
Recall some of your fondest experiences with the couple of the hour. If you’ve been chosen as the best man or maid of honour, chances are you have a long history with the bride or groom. Relating a special memory or inside joke will spark an emotional resonance that touches everyone listening.
- Sharing unique memories or stories is much more effective than simply complimenting the bride or groom because it is a more personal touch.
Offer advice or well wishes for the future
Shift the focus of the speech to the newlyweds and their future together. Address the bride and groom directly. Wish them health, happiness, and prosperity. If you want, you can include a short parable or quote to help illustrate the piece of wisdom you’re giving.
- If you decide to use a quote for this segment of the speech, make sure it is short, relevant and not a cliche.
Thank everyone in attendance
Bring the speech to a close by thanking the bride and groom, their parents, friends and family, everyone in attendance and even the staff setting up and catering the reception. Be gracious and make everyone feel like they’re part of a wonderfully special occasion. Ask that everyone enjoy themselves and share in the bliss of the new bride and groom.
- Acknowledging the people who helped make the wedding festivities possible will make you appear humble, as well as making them feel appreciated.
- Express your gratitude in a couple of sentences. There’s no need to go on and on thanking every person individually by name.
Making sure you’re prepared
Write your speech well in advance
Make sure your speech is written out and ready to be memorised two to three weeks ahead of the time you’re expected to deliver it. Being asked to give a wedding speech is being entrusted with a big responsibility, so you should take it seriously. The sooner you get the speech written, the more time you’ll have to study it so that when the times comes reciting it will feel like second nature.[
- Treat your speech like you would a school assignment. Compose several drafts, check it for errors and have a friend proofread it to make sure it sounds good.
Know when you’re expected to deliver the speech
Check with the wedding planner or couple to find out when you’ll be giving your speech. Typically, speeches and toasts are reserved for the reception once everyone is seated and has begun eating and drinking, but weddings can follow very different formats. Be clear about your entrance cues and proper use of the sound and projection equipment on hand. Not knowing for certain when you’re going on can make your nerves much worse.
- Familiarise yourself with the order of presentation if multiple speeches are to be given.
- Don’t spend the entire ceremony fretting over your speech. If you’re sufficiently prepared, you won’t need to give it a second thought until it’s time for you to deliver it.
Practice, Practice, Practice
After your speech is written, recite it off the page. Then, try to recite it without looking. Then, recite it from memory while you’re showering, driving or doing your laundry. Practice your speech until you couldn’t forget it if you tried. That way, if you find yourself overwhelmed by anxiety once you’re in front of an audience, you’ll have your reflective memory to fall back on.
- Know your speech word for word, but try not to sound like you’re simply reciting it from memory. Pace yourself and give every passage emphasis, emotion and clarity.
Bring your notes with you
Even though you should aim to commit your speech to memory entirely, it’s still a good idea to bring your notes with you to the wedding. If you have a lapse and get stuck, your notes can help you get back on track smoothly. If you don’t end up using them, you’ll at least have all your bases covered. Better safe than sorry.
- Put your entire speech on a couple of note cards rather than several large sheets of paper. Not only will this look better, but it will also help you keep your speech at the appropriate length.
- Only look at your notes if you draw a blank or forget the next part. This will allow you to keep your eyes up and engage your audience. Even the most riveting speech will be a bore if the person giving it is reading off a note card the whole time.
Giving the Speech
Maintain your composure
Do your best to keep your cool once it’s your turn to give your speech. Public speaking is a little awkward for everybody, but if you’re well prepared and stick to what you’ve rehearsed, you’ll be just fine. Remember, you’re surrounded by friends and family, and they all want to have a good time and see you succeed.
- Take a few slow, deep breaths. Think about what you’re saying and shut out all other distractions. Imagine that you’re giving your speech to one person instead of a room full of people.
- Have a drink or two if it helps your nerves. Just don’t have too many—you want to be focused and clear-headed when it’s time for you to take the floor. Not on the floor!
Keep it short and sweet
Try to limit your speech to somewhere between 2-5 minutes. While there is no mandatory length for a wedding speech, it’s best not to ramble on and on. Your speech should be long enough to draw your listeners in and get them emotionally invested, but not so long that they start to get bored. Hit the high points and let the crowd get back to socialising.
- It’s perfectly okay to give a short speech. Simply say a few kind words, raise a toast and hand back the microphone.
- Speak slowly and deliberately. It’s easy to start chattering too fast when you’re nervous. By talking slower than you feel like you need to, you’ll probably be going at just the right speed.
- People who are underprepared or extremely anxious tend to talk aimlessly. Avoid this by sticking to what you’ve written and look to the crowd for cues about when their attention is evaporating.
Speak from the heart. Let everyone around you know that you mean what you say, and emphasise how much your relationship with the bride or groom means to you. This is your chance to pay tribute to your friendship and show your gratitude for being asked to take part in the ceremonies. Allow your emotion to guide your words, not your desire to get the speech over with as quickly as possible.
- Take a moment to speak to the bride and/or groom directly.
- It’s normal to get a little choked up! As long as you can finish your speech, there’s no need to worry. It may even be flattering, as it will show the people you’re talking about how much you truly care.
Finish with a Toast
When you’ve concluded your speech, ask everyone to raise a glass to honour the newlyweds. Say a few quick words wishing them the best in the future. Have everyone drink, then invite them to stick around and have fun celebrating together. Most importantly, have fun yourself!