Words by Adrian Simpson
(Image by Sandy Miller)
For many grown men the idea of standing up in a crowded room and making a speech, is not something to be relished. In an increasingly digital world, where most communication is text based, the very thought of verbal communication to an expectant crowd, is the basis of many sleepless nights, and wholesale anxiety. Even if your day job does involve presentations, chances are that it doesn’t also require you to entertain and make people laugh; usually quite the opposite. The unavoidable reality is, that at some point, courtesy of weddings, you will have to do precisely that, however, all is not lost. The best way to tackle this impending nightmare is to be as fully prepared as possible, start early, put the writing hours in, and practice until perfection. Nobody landed a great speech off the cuff; if you think they did, then it almost certainly came as a result of years of experience, or endless preparation…probably both.
So, how do you write a great wedding speech? Well, the basic premise of all wedding speeches is fundamentally the same: to celebrate the bride and groom in meaningful, engaging, entertaining and memorable way, however, there are specific things to think about depending on which speech you’re making. As a general rule, if there are three speakers, then you should be looking at about 1300 words. Reduce that word count slightly if there are additional speeches.
(Image by Javier Rees)
The Groom Speech
The groom speech is far too often referred to as ‘just a groom speech’ – in other words all you have to do is stand up, thank a few people, and say something lovely about your new wife. Job done. Far too many grooms go down this route, and the result is an ultra dry speech, which consist of endless thanks, lacks any humour or entertainment, and bores everyone senseless. Here are my tips on to make it something much more than that:
1. Handover – you’re following the father of the bride, so don’t just thank him for his speech, use it as an opportunity to have some fun with his character, the football team he supports, or what you’re taking on by marrying his daughter. Saying something funny early on is key.
2. Thanks – yes, it’s a great opportunity to thank people, but you need to be creative about it, or you may as well be reading out the menu. Where have people travelled from, and how can you compare that to the location of the wedding? How have they contributed and how can you make that funny? What would it have been like if the table decorations had been left up to you? Think of how you can exploit their characters and your relationships to have some fun.
3. Parents – this is your chance to say thank you, and that needs to be done in really powerful way, but there’s always an opportunity to balance it out with some lighter thoughts, such as thanking your dad for not passing on his hair genetics. Make sure you give each set of parentsequal measure in the speech.
4. In laws – acknowledge how welcoming they’ve been, and what a great job they’ve done of raising such an amazing daughter. If you can draw parallels between your wife’s character and theirs, then that is always ripe ground for a laugh or two. Maybe your bride has an insatiable appetite for shoes and prosecco – where did that come from?…and also funnier if it’s the dad.
5. Best man/ushers – grooms can tend to get a little carried away on this part, and you need to be efficient in how you include them in the speech, you can’t have individual stories for each usher, as there simply isn’t time. I like to have some fun with the best man’s integrity, and do this in the middle of the speech. Handing over to the best man at the end of the speech gives the last word to him, and I think the last word should always be about the bride.
6. Bridesmaids – succinctly underline what they mean to your bride in a really powerful way. There’s always scope for humour here too, and think about what their friendships are based on. If the bridesmaids are the bride’s sisters, then you can have a dig about being the brother in law they’d always dreamed of, based on your unrivalled knowledge of the Premier league…you get the idea. A toast to the bridesmaids in the groom’s job, not the best man.
7. Your bride – this should make up the last third of the speech, and the whole thing should build towards her inclusion. Again, you can’t make it one big wave of emotion as that would be pretty tough to get through, so l like to have some fun with the person she is, where you met, first dates, and then that will bring you to the more meaningful conclusion. Avoid the temptation to say the same sentiment in three different ways – a classic groom mistake.
(Image by Sam Balye)
The Best Man Speech
The best man speech is the one that many men fear the most, as they think they’ve got to transform themselves into a confident raconteur, capable of reducing the crowd to tears of laughter, however, the reality is slightly different. The wedding guests are all on your side, and as long as you haven’t completely misjudged the humour, and don’t think you’ve turned into Jimmy Carr for the day, then you’re already half way there. Things to bear in mind:
1. Introduce yourself. It’s a simple but effective way to slide into the speech, and unless you’ve already made an idiot of yourself in the church, nobody will know who you are.
2. The humour has to be genuinely funny but not edgy. What you’re looking to do is make everyone laugh and not upset anyone, which is quite possible to do, you just how to be more creative in how you’re getting those laughs.
3. The groom should also find the speech funny, it should never be an exercise in public humiliation – you don’t want the guests squirming and cringing, you just want them laughing their heads off.
4. Forget former girlfriends. The wedding day is all about the bride and anything that hints at former loves should be avoided at all costs.
5. Ideally you try and make the whole thing into a story. Traditionally best man speeches are an intro and then a list of stories, which is a pretty hard way to get laughs. Most stories aren’t that funny, and require a killer punchline, which many of them don’t have. Use everything from his job, hobbies and even hairstyle to find the funny.
6. Don’t welcome anyone, and don’t thank anyone – it’s not your wedding. Also forget toasting the bridesmaids, as that’s not your job, and the groom should have just done that before you.
7. Avoid props, as they just make a busy day much more of a headache than it needs it be. They take everyone’s attention away from you, and not all guests will be able to see what you’re talking about, which can create issues. Nothing beats a simple, well delivered speech.
8. Don’t forget to talk about the bride, and say what an amazing force for good she has been in the groom’s life. Some best men want to make the speech just as much about the bride as the groom, but as the father of the bride speech is all about her, and the groom will of course talk about the bride at length, the balance of your speech should be all about the groom.
9. The conclusion to the speech should be an original and moving description of just what the groom means to you and to many others. I like to keep this fairly heartfelt, and only introduce humour if it feels appropriate. You can use quotes but only if they’re well researched and not the clichéd usual suspects.
10. A toast to the happy couple, and you’re done.