Today I am thrilled to welcome Lawrence Bernstein of Great Speech Writing to the Blog to give some great advice on getting your Wedding Speech right, and being nice throughout the process.
Typically, wedding receptions will include speeches from the three “Big Beasts”: the Father of the Bride, the Groom and the Best Man.
Remember that a wedding reception is not an audition for Britain’s got Talent nor is it “open mic” night at a local comedy club.
There is no “clapometer”, no prizes for getting the biggest laugh and Simon Cowell will not be asking you to perform at the Royal Variety Show.
Lawrence suggests three simple guidelines which should be followed.
1. Liaise beforehand
2. Keep “ego” out of the equation
3. Stay on task (and stick to the script)
Each speech has a set of specific functions.
If properly planned, there should be no overlap in terms of content and no competition in terms of delivery.
It is well worth the Groom, the Father of the Bride and the Best Man meeting to discuss their speeches well in advance of the wedding. The Groom should take the lead in organising this.
Discuss in broad terms the purpose and content of each speech. Make sure everyone knows what’s expected from them. Clearly, the Best Man won’t want to give too much away to the Groom but a general conversation should be enough to prevent any overlap and identify any possible problems.
For example, all three speakers will be expected to say something about the bride: she is after all, the most important person in the room and the centre of attention.
It is worth comparing notes to avoid duplication and also to censor any ideas or stories that might be embarrassing for her: an ill-judged comment or joke could spoil her big day. That would be unforgiveable.
I once heard a Father of the Bride tell a terrible (long winded) story about how his daughter had once wet herself in John Lewis when she was ten. It wasn’t funny, nobody laughed and the bride was absolutely mortified.
Similarly, it is also sensible for the Groom to provide the Best Man with some “no-go” areas: stories or issues that should not be referred to.
This is not an unreasonable request. The event is too important to risk over a “funny” story about the Groom’s rumoured STDs, ex-girlfriends or previous marriages!
Restrain your ego
Have you seen the famous video to Run DMC/Aerosmith’s “Walk this Way”? It is presented as a clash of styles and egos between the rappers and Aerosmith front man Steve Tyler: with each trying to outdo the other and grab the audience’s attention.
On occasion, wedding speeches can go the same way: with a loquacious Father of the Bride churning out unconnected anecdotes about his business career, or a self-consciously “funny” groom doing a Best Man’s speech on himself. It is also quite conceivable that all three speakers might end up telling
the same story about how the couple first met or providing variants on the same tortured wedding jokes: especially if they’ve been browsing the same websites for ideas!
Most people are extremely nervous about public speaking. However, over confidence can also sometimes be even more problematic.
A Father of the Bride or a Groom, who is an experienced public speaker, might well indulge themselves by shamelessly playing for laughs, thereby hijacking proceedings and making life harder for the Best Man. Restrain your ego!
Remember the critical thing is the success of the entire event rather than the impact of an individual speech.
So don’t do anything in your speech that could jeopardise the positive atmosphere at the reception.
Stay on task
Each speech has a specific set of functions. Stick to those functions!
The Father of the Bride should welcome guests, thank important people, say lovely things about the bride and toast the happy couple.
The Groom should toast the bridesmaids, thank family and friends for their support, make any brief presentations and express their love and commitment to their new wife.
The Best Man obviously has more latitude but should always respond on behalf of the bridesmaids, tell funny stories about the groom and entertain without offending!
Never…ever ad lib.
Stick to the script.
Professional speakers often give the impression of speaking off the cuff. In truth, this is a pretty rare occurrence. Even if unscripted, experienced speakers will have thought very carefully about their content and delivery beforehand.
This is because ad-libbing is tremendously difficult… and risky.
Go off script and the likelihood of being offensive, boring, irrelevant (or all three simultaneously!) increases dramatically.
Nothing is less funny than someone who thinks they’re funny. Ever seen David Brent giving one of his “motivational” presentations in The Office? Don’t be that person!
Instead, the Father of the Bride and the Groom in particular need to focus on their respective duties. They also need to speak economically: 7-8 minutes each is enough.
The Best Man has more flexibility in terms of time but should aim for a speech of around 12-15 minutes.
It is difficult to be entertaining for much longer. And too much humour at the Groom’s expense can begin to sound like character assassination.
It won’t just be your friends who are listening: the Groom’s family and his new in-laws will be there too. Chances are that their idea of “funny” is very different to yours!
In short, don’t over stay your welcome gentlemen!
And one last point…
Agree not to heckle each other’s speeches. Heckling is surprisingly common, is often alcohol fuelled and is almost always distracting and unhelpful!
At worst, it is boorish and rude. Respect the other speakers and your audience.
So, as with any major undertaking, a little pre-planning and co-ordination of the wedding speeches is extremely useful.
Above all, the speeches should proceed smoothly, with each fulfilling its principal functions in an effective and unique way.
The words “Wedding Speech” can strike fear, cause cold sweats and all manner of palpitations, and can make grown men cry
These performance nerves can cause us to veer from the track with a speech, sometimes at the expense of others but thanks so much to Lawrence for imparting his Wedding Speech wisdom on how to get it right.
If you need professional help with editing, drafting or writing a wedding speech from scratch, please contact Lawrence Bernstein or Anna Quayle at www.greatspeechwriting.co.uk.
Image Credit: Lush Wedding photography