Don’t fool yourself, if someone asks you to make a speech at their wedding, it’s important … that you don’t bomb. I know this from experience as I had to make a speech at my brother’s rehearsal dinner this past year. Luckily, it went off without a hitch. But we’ve all been to those weddings where someone bungled the speech. You do not want to be that person. I was at one wedding where the maid of honor, drunk off bubbly, ran through a list of the most embarrassing guys the bride had dated. At another, groomsmen had nothing planned and rambled on and on for at least 30 minutes. Or at least it seemed that way. Not okay! Successful wedding speeches, while different, all have certain elements in common. And even though we all have varying degrees of comfort with public speaking, there are some tricks that will make your speech awesome no matter what. After the jump, some tips for making yours a hit.
1. Rely on preparation, not inspiration. If a speech falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? NO. How many times have we delivered a brilliant version of a song into our shower head or the best speech of our lives into our bedroom mirrors? Many. But that doesn’t count because no one was there to bare witness. While we may be truly inspired when we are alone in our bedrooms, don’t count on it while standing in front of 150 guests at your brother’s wedding. There’s no shame in using notecards. If you don’t, you may be delusional. Write that sucker down. I was glad to have those notes with me at my brother’s rehearsal dinner. There was wine. There was family. There was emotion. All things that could make even the most seasoned speech giver forget the brilliant speech she had prepped.
2. Humor is king. Funny is good. Laughter makes me people happy, and it makes them like you. Start the speech off with some appropriate humor to get people tuned in and laughing with you. This will ensure that they listen to you throughout the speech. Try to share a joke or anecdote that doesn’t involve the two “P’s”: penis or poop. Remember, the bride’s grandmother is there, so ask yourself WGFTF (would granny find this funny)? Naturally, I told everyone about how I used to dress my brother up in my clothes and put makeup on him. It was a hit!
3. Tug at the ol’ heart strings. Once you’ve softened all the guests up with your wit, hit them with your wisdom. Your job is to make everyone experience the full gamut of emotions from laughter to tears. Follow up your funny moment with a more serious one where you ponder the deeper meaning of this joyous occasion. Answer such existential questions as: What does it mean to find love in your life? Or more tangible ones: What does it mean that the bride has found love in her life? Quotes from songs or poems can be helpful for said “deep” effect.
4. If you don’t have something nice to say … If you don’t have anything nice to say, you probably shouldn’t be giving a speech at a wedding. But you have been chosen to do so, so I’m sure you have something nice to say about both the bride and the groom and their relationship. Don’t forget to include it at some point. It’s like forgetting to thank your husband/wife at the Oscars. Unforgivable. In my case, I was gaining a SIL, so I wanted to start things off on the right foot by welcoming her to my family. Awwww.
5. Two drink, five-minute maximum. Don’t let minor details like being wasted or rambling on ruin your big speech. The two-drink, five-minute maximum rule will keep you in check. Make sure you’ve only had two drinks before giving your speech. That’s enough to feel a warm buzz, but not too much to have you slurring your words and making untoward jokes. Also, keep things short and sweet. Five minutes is the perfect amount of time for a wedding speech. Long enough to feel satisfying, short enough to keep guests from dozing off. Enlist someone at your table to be your timekeeper and give you a discreet signal when you are approaching your five-minute mark.
Got any other tips? Share them in the comments!