Everybody remembers the speeches from a wedding, but very often for different reasons.
Funny and appropriate speeches will get the guests talking about them for the rest of the night and beyond, but very often bad speeches get the same treatment, but possibly not the reaction you want! Typical pitfalls to avoid are: speeches that go on for too long (especially if you choose to have them before dinner), too crude, or too full of “in” jokes that only a few people get. But with a careful amount of preparation, speeches can turn into the highlight of the entertainment. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Preparation is key.
We cannot put enough emphasis on the importance of preparation when it comes to speeches. Write out exactly what you want to say, and practise reading it out (if you can, find a willing friend or a member of your family to hear the speech - but NOT the bride and groom, as you want to surprise them on the day with your speech). When you know your speech well, break it down into bullet points and write these on a card to act as reminders on the day. Just even having the card can make you feel confident that if you do get stuck, you have a “crutch” to help you along.
Lay off the alcohol.
It might seem like a good idea to get a bit of Dutch courage down the neck, but limit your intake to a glass or two with the meal. Slurring is never a good thing in speeches, and you’re more likely to go wrong if you’ve over-indulged.
Remember that a wedding is a happy occasion, so smiling will immediately win over your audience. Remember as well that everyone is there to wish the bride and groom well, so if you add to this feeling, you won’t go wrong!
Speak slowly and clearly.
At a typical wedding, guests will range in age from eight to 80, and some will have better hearing than others. Ensure that you speak clearly and slowly to allow everyone to hear what you have to say. Most venues have a microphone but some do not, so be sure that you are speaking loud enough for the people in the back to hear you. If you are fortunate to have a microphone, again it’s important to speak slowly and clearly, as the microphone will not do all the work for you. If you’re unsure, a simple test, such as asking if everyone can hear you, is fine.
Make eye contact.
It might be tempting to read your speech into your napkin if you’re feeling nervous, but actually taking the time to scan the room and resting your eyes on some friendly faces will actually calm you down and help you gauge how well your speech is going. Remember, though, to change the person you are looking at every couple of seconds to void the “panicked stare look"!
It might sounds daft, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to breathe during a speech. Not breathing properly will raise your blood pressure and make your heart race, which will make you even more nervous and shaky. Try and pause between sentences to get your breathing as regular as possible. Similarly, make sure you’re standing tall and straight with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Swaying from side to side or shuffling again will make you even more physically nervous and will make the audience nervous for you too.
Audiences react better to speeches that are from the heart and natural. If you stumble over a word, or stutter, just take a deep breath, say the word again and move on. And smile! Audiences don’t mind mistakes unless you let them ruin your entire speech. A wedding speech is also not a good time to change your accent or put on an affected voice - this won’t reflect well on you.
Speak appropriately for the occasion.
Remember again that weddings will have all ages from eight to eighty in attendance, so make sure that the contents of your speech will appeal to everyone. Avoid smutty jokes or embarrassing stories. Focus on the happy couple and you won’t go wrong.
Don’t speak for too long.
Generally wedding speeches IN TOTAL should last about three quarters of an hour, so about 10 minutes per person is fine. If you decide to have your speeches before the meal, try to keep them short, as a wedding is a long day, and your guests will usually be ravenous by the time they are called in for dinner.