All you need to know about wedding speeches

30 Jul 2018

Whatever your role in the wedding party, here is the etiquette that you need to know before planning your wedding speech 

Image: Alasdair Elmes via Unsplash

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Wedding speeches are one tradition that will never fade away. It is a chance to deliver the heartfelt thankyous that guests expect while speaking about and celebrating the ones you hold dear. If you're due to give a wedding speech or just need a gentle reminder about how they play out during the day, here's all you need to know...

When do they take place?

The speeches tend to take place after the wedding breakfast or between courses. However, if any of the speech-givers are particularly nervous, it is also acceptable to give the speeches before food is served so they can relax and enjoy their meal. Equally, the speeches can be peppered throughout the day; it is your wedding, so do it your way. 

Who speaks and when?

Tradition dictates that it is the responsibility of the men to give the wedding speeches. Interspersed with short anecdotes and stories to entertain the crowd, the father of the bride typically begins the address with a welcome toast to all guests, before the groom takes the floor to thank everyone for attending, the bridesmaids and ushers/best man for fulfilling their duties and finally his bride for all her redeeming qualities. Then it is the turn of the best man to step into the spotlight and focus on the groom, incorporating a few stories which highlight your special bond. 

However, wedding traditions aren't to everyone's taste and we are seeing other males - such as the father of the groom - and even the female family members (hurrah!) take the limelight and give a speech all of their very own. For those covering the formalities of thankyous and present giving, it is worthwhile to exchange notes before the big day to ensure there are no crossed wires or duplicate messages. 

How to make the speeches fun

If you plan to hold the wedding speeches at the same time, task the best men or ushers with going round all the guests prior to the speeches and asking them to place a bet on their predicted total time of all the speeches. Keep a record of each guests' name and prediction and the closest to the final time takes home the winnings. This will keep guests further engaged throughout each speech and will make one of your guests a very happy attendee indeed.

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Image: Ellliot Sloman via Unsplash

Top 10 tips for the perfect wedding speech:

1. Practice makes perfect

Rehearse your speech in the weeks and days preceding the wedding by reciting it out loud. You may even wish to practise infront of your significant other to get a gauge on your audience's reactions.

2. Use cue cards

Don't just rely on memory or a heightened level of self-confidence to get you through. By adding buzzwords and bullet points to small, discreet cue cards you will have sufficient reminders to glance at. Cue cards also keep twitchy hands otherwise occupied. Try not to write the entire speech out as this will prevent you from making the all-important eye contact with your audience... and the awkward moment when you lose your place will only leave you feeling flustered.

3. Keep it short and sweet

Aim for 10 minutes in length. You want to keep people engaged and amused throughout and prevent anyone from drifting off halfway through. Time your speech while reciting it before the big day to ensure you don't overrun. 

4. Get creative

There are no rules when it comes to the format of your wedding speech, so be as creative as you like. From raps and songs to using props and screening a video, the opportunities are endless in the art of storytelling. 

5. Read your audience

Think about who will be at the wedding and what they would want to hear. Distasteful stories, jokes with a waning punchline, and the names of ex-partners will only go down like a lead balloon, so choose your anecdotes carefully. 

6. Take a breath

Rather than rushing through your words, eager for the moment to be over, stop, pause and take a breath - particularly at the beginning of your speech when you'll feel most nervous. This will ensure you remain cool, calm and collected. 

7. Don't forget the toasts

Remember to raise your glass when you mention the toasts and your audience will follow suit. This will also take the pressure off you for a few seconds as guests take a sip of their drinks. 

8. Elicit emotion

Your ultimate wedding speech aims are to make your audience both laugh and cry (happy tears, of course), so think of obviously humorous stories and sentimental tales that will evoke a reaction. Although no doubt personal to you and the subject of your speech, stay away from in-jokes that require a lengthy explanation and overly gushy outpourings of love at all costs. 

9. Remember why

Keep reminding yourself why you're giving your speech; it shouldn't be about you... even if you are the bride or groom. It's a chance for you to speak from the heart about someone else, so ensure your speech doesn't lose this focus at any given point. 

10. Don't rely on Dutch courage

Last but by no means least, keep a clear head before the speech by drinking water in the run up to your big moment. Slurred words and drunken stumblings will only be laughed at for a limited amount of time. 

Here are some more helpful articles for giving an Oscar-worthy wedding speech: