7 Tips For a Solid Wedding Speech

Public speaking is hard; it’s hard because we’re rarely called upon to do it, and it's not easy to stand up in front of people and, well, start talking.  

Most of us certainly wouldn't volunteer to do it but then, oh-holy-crap, someone decides to get married and they want you to give a speech

I say this from experience: if the thought of public speaking terrifies you, you're not alone. 

Two years ago, my best friend asked if I'd give a speech at her wedding reception. This was halfway through her hen do: two weeks before the big day. I said yes, but, if i'm completely honest, it probably had more to do with the champagne cocktail in my hand (and in my liver) than anything else. 

Still, the reality of giving the speech was far less terrifying than I’d imagined it would be. It wasn’t the brown trouser moment I’d envisaged, and I actually ended up enjoying it.

The key to a good wedding speech is in the preparation you’ll do beforehand. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and nobody is going to be comparing your oratory to Malcolm X or John F. Kennedy or David Letterman, but doing some legwork in advance will make you a more competent, confident and polished speaker – trust me.


Don't panic

Ask the couple if there’s anything in particular they’d like you to address in your speech. Ask them for the running order, too, because you’ll want to know exactly when you’re up. If there’ll be other speakers, ask them what they’re covering and make sure you won’t be repeating the same things. Touching upon common themes is fine, but the audience won’t want to hear the “how they met” story more than once.  



Generally, people don’t do well when they ‘wing’ a wedding speech so don’t be tempted to do it off the cuff. Preparing a speech in advance will work two-fold: it’ll make you more at ease with what you’re trying to say and, because of that, your delivery will be both confident and professional.

Start by noting down the key elements of your speech. This should be in basic sentences and keywords. It’s allowed to be God awful because it’s a first draft and nobody is going to see it other than you. Once you have everything down then walk away from it for a few days. This doesn’t mean you stop thinking about the speech but don’t sit there and force ideas out. They’ll come to you: in the shower, in the car, waiting for an appointment etc. 

When a new idea comes up add it to the list. Don’t be tempted to start writing properly in the first few days, because ideas are better when they peculate. This will make your speech more organic.


Get writing

Once you’ve got your notes and you’ve had some time away then start writing. Only you will know what’s appropriate for your speech (for the sake of the couple, I hope that’s true) but keep these in mind:

Keep it under 4 minutes

Don’t force jokes in

Don’t be insulting or controversial

Don’t be overly gushing. The most important part to all of this is to be sincere

Don’t copy anyone else’s style or be too adventurous – be yourself

Print the speech do it in a clear, large font and make sure to double (or even triple) space it

Be prepared to keep re-writing it until you’re happy

Make sure you're reading it back to yourself aloud

Once you have your speech then ask a friend to read through it. Ask them to highlight anything they feel is inappropriate or anything that sounds unnatural. Once you've done this then walk away from it for a few days. When you come back to it you'll see any mistakes with fresh eyes. 


Saying it aloud

Start practicing the speech aloud without the paper in front of you. It isn't about memorising the speech (we wouldn't recommend that), but it's about knowing the subject matter well enough so you're more natural in your delivery on the day. Nobody wants to hear you read a speech word-for-word. If you can speak freely, you'll sound more interesting. This will also give you the opportunity to look up at the audience. 



This might sound like new-age hooey, but you can give yourself an advantage simply by imagining the speech going well. Our brain can't always distinguish between memory and daydream, so when we imagine a worst case scenario we're adding to our anxiety and anxious speakers don't make good orators. 

Athletes will often talk about visualising their victory beforehand to help their training. 

Imagine what it'll feel like to give a good speech. Picture the venue around you and imagine the audience enjoying your speech. See yourself being calm, confident and competent in your delivery. 

I tried this before I gave my speech and it does work.


Outside help

Find someone who doesn't know the couple and ask that person to read the final draft of the speech. He or she will be able to look at it from an entirely objective standpoint and won't have the context that everyone else will have on the day. If they can understand and enjoy it, then you're speech is probably good to go. 


 On the day

You're allowed an alcoholic drink to steady the nerves, but don't overdo it. The bar will still be there once you've finished speaking. The worst thing that can happen - worse even than muddling up the entire speech - would be to inflict a drunken mess on the happy couple and the audience. 

Don’t overthink it and start panicking.  You're not standing in front of a board of directors; it isn't a firing squad. Everyone is there for the same reason you are: to celebrate a marriage. The audience want you to do well.

The hardest part will be right before you start. Use the nerves to give you that vital shot of adrenaline. It'll help keep you going.

Remember to keep looking up at the audience and don't forget to smile.

The speech doesn't have to be perfect so don't worry if you stumble over a few words or if you have to take a breath. The most important thing you can do is to be sincere. 

The hardest part about giving a wedding speech is saying yes in the first place. Once you're up there, it'll all be under control. 

And remember, enjoy it!

Have you ever given a wedding speech? How did it go? And what tips would you give to someone nervous about performing theirs. 

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