Wedding speeches – rules and warnings!
Published date: 1st August 2019 | Author: Hollie Bond
Some people are more nervous about making a speech at the wedding breakfast than anything else to do with the big day – be that Dad spending a fortune on it, Best Man having to remember the ring, or Groom coping with a huge change to his (and your) life. A few hints won’t go amiss then.
First it’s good to look at the general running order, though this can vary – this is tradition not the law. More and more weddings are seeing Maids of Honour making a speech; and the Bride – it really is up to you, though we’d recommend that four speeches is about as many as your guests will take before turning ugly!
The accepted norm is that after the meal is over, but before the cake is cut, we have the speeches. First comes the Bride’s Father, or someone filling his role (i.e. the person who has given the Bride away). The bare minimum that his or her speech should cover is thanking those attending, thanking all who have helped financially and otherwise with the day, complimenting the Bride and offering a welcome to his family to the Groom. He then toasts the Bride and Groom.
Next we have the Groom, who is replying to his new Father-in-Law’s toast, thanking him, then all who have given gifts, and both sets of parents for what they have done for this day and previously. Vitally he must compliment his new wife (the mere mention of the word ‘wife’ here always gets a round of applause anyway) before thanking the Best Man. Lastly he toasts the Bridesmaids.
Third is the Best Man. Much may be expected of the Best Man’s speech, but again it need not cover more than the basics if he is nervous, though a good Best Man’s oration can be a highlight of the celebration. He must first reply on behalf of the Bridesmaids, thanking the Groom for his toast to them, compliment the Bride, and make a few (or more) comments on the Groom. It is usual too for him to read a few messages from those who couldn’t make the day – but just a few, not all of the 117 cards he is given. He finishes by toasting the Bride and Groom.
If the Bride, as is her right, wishes to say a few words, she is generally after the Best Man. Her duties in this speech are less rigidly set, but it would be usual to thank the guests for coming, say something nice about her new husband (again, guaranteed applause), and finish with a general toast, perhaps to all present, or to absent friends.
By the time the wedding speeches occur the ceremony is of course over, you should have eaten and had a soothing glass or two of something, and if as we sincerely hope this is a happy event for all concerned then the audience for the speeches will be friendly. Heckling is going to be good-natured. So rule number one, if you are making a speech, relax. They are on your side.
Actually that is about rule number 12, as for this to be a success some preparation is needed. Few of us can give brilliantly witty off-the-cuff speeches, and unless you are one of that happy but tiny band you shouldn’t even think of trying that route.
So preparation helps: write your speech well before the day, and try it on a trusted friend. Accept criticism, and make changes. If you can do funny, a joke is good. If you can’t, they are embarrassing. Know yourself. There are some things that you shouldn’t need to be told, but we have all been to weddings where speeches bombed: so don’t get drunk, even if you are petrified of public speaking. Don’t do blue jokes – even if that one about the elephant is a gem – there are going to be kids and maiden aunts present.
If you write out the speech word-for-word and read it from that, you will sound stilted. It is best to write it up, go through it a few times, then write keyword prompts on cards and work from them. And to avoid disaster – the day is hectic and things get forgotten – as insurance we’d advise you to make a copy and give it to a trusted friend or relative also attending.
Some venues provide a head waiter or an MC to introduce the speeches, if not it is often the Best Man who introduces the Father of the Bride, with things running smoothly from then on as toast is followed by reply.
Simple tips for success: look at the audience, and not just one bit of it. It is good to pause now and again, especially if you have got a laugh or other reaction, take a deep breath, savour the moment and then go on. Don’t race for the finish. To mark the end of the speech, and make sure people are ready for the toast, ask them to charge their glasses and stand, give them a few seconds to do so, make the toast, and sit down with them. Easy.
That humour thing. Some feel they have to be a stand-up. They are wrong. If they then descend into what they think are funny insults, dragging up previous relationships, misdemeanours, past arguments or family history of the better-left-unsaid kind, they are super wrong. A little ribbing is good, but don’t touch any sore spots, and don’t surprise the Bride – what happens in Vegas, Blackpool or Newcastle stays there.
A few examples of why-did-they-do-its. The groom who, hoping to get laughs, insults his Bride. Wrong time, wrong move, just wrong. The Father of the Bride who is out of his head before standing up, and slurs his way through a maudlin history of his daughter’s life, including how they had hoped for a better catch than the Groom. The Best Man who tells a series of rude stories about the Groom that makes him look like a cross between Jack-the-Ripper, Peter Stringfellow and Elton John, along the way mentioning previous girlfriends some of whom are present – the classic Tom moment from Four Weddings and a Funeral: “All his other girlfriends were such complete dogs. Although may I say how delighted we are to have so many of them here today.”
So in a sentence you can help yourself if you prepare, relax, take your time, and be yourself. And really, even though it is very funny, forget the elephant joke.