All you need to know about wedding speeches
12 Jun 2022
Whatever your role in the wedding party, here is the etiquette that you need to know before planning your wedding speech
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.
What should you say?
The father of the bride speech:
- Welcome guests and thank them for coming
- Welcome your new son-in-law into the family
- Talk about your daughter and how you feel on this special day
- Toast the bride and groom
The groom's speech:
- Thank the father of the bride for his speech and thank all the relevant people including your in-laws, parents, guests for attending and people who have helped with the wedding preparations
- Talk honestly about your feelings on the day and your new wife, your relationship and future
- Toast the bridesmaids and introduce the best man
The best man speech:
- Thank the groom for his speech and introduce yourself
- Talk about the groom (and bride) humorously, but not too intimately
- Give guests an outsider's perspective on their relationship
- Toast the happy couple and read any cards or emails from guests who were unable to attend the day
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 guest's 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.
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. Ask family members and friends to provide stories that will help to structure your speech.
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. If you are expecting a laugh, wait for it, and if it doesn't come tell guests they were supposed to find that bit funny to kickstart their laughter. Wait for the laughter to die down before you start again.
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: