If you read my recent article on how to deliver a great speech, you’ll know that it was the first in a series warming us up for the upcoming wedding season. Later on I’ll be going into each of the main traditional speeches, but for now, here are some general tips specific to wedding speeches, to get you in the mood.
1. The hardest part of giving a wedding speech is the anticipation of it.
As long as you have mapped out in your mind what you want to say, and if necessary have a crib sheet or some cue cards to refer to, once you get started the jitters disappear. Some people say that it’s good to get slightly nervous before you start giving your wedding speech because the rise in your adrenaline levels puts you in peak form to perform.
2. Remember this wedding is a friendly, relaxed social occasion – not a TED talk.
If you try to speak in a “speech-making” tone it will make you sound stilted, artificial, and boring. People often try to give themselves a personality transplant before they give a wedding speech and talk as they think a best man, father of the bride, etc., “should” talk. This doesn’t work. ALWAYS be yourself.
3. The best wedding speeches sound like they’re a conversation with the bride, groom and other guests.
This means you need to try to connect with as many people as possible in your wedding speech. Involve key family members and friends by talking to and looking at them. Get them to comment, if appropriate. By all means tell stories, but make sure they are relevant and if there is any question about that relevance, be sure to link it to the bride and groom and everyone else present as soon as you can.
4. So how do you get the right information together for a wedding speech?
Start by writing yourself a list of points – a structure that includes a beginning, a middle and an end. Strengthen that structure with a few short, relevant and above all true stories about the bride, groom and their families. If you don’t know enough about them, ask. Do your homework.
5. Then talk through the structure into an audio recorder.
Don’t worry about style or grammar at this stage of your wedding speech; just chat it through as if you were talking to a friend over the cup of coffee. Finally, transcribe the recording, or get someone else to do it for you. (If you’re in the UK, this lady does transcription via email and her rates are very reasonable.)
6. Now, get to work editing that transcript.
Assuming it has been transcribed directly into your desktop, laptop, tablet or whatever, the process should be easy. Then tidy it up as required, but don’t over-tidy. Once again, remember this is a fun, informal occasion: what matters is affection, not perfection. Be sure, however, to clean up any sections that sound lumpy and awkward.
7. If you like humour, add some into your wedding speech – as long as it’s appropriate.
But be careful with humor, because if it’s even a little bit inappropriate for a wedding it can spoil your whole speech. Bad or tasteless jokes take a lot of recovering from. Also avoid humor if it isn’t something you use or sympathize with normally. There’s nothing worse than a joke told by someone who doesn’t think it’s funny.
8. Writing your speech, as opposed to working only from bullet points, is well worth the effort.
By all means develop bullet points to work from on a piece of paper, a tablet screen or cue cards, but write up in full what you’re going to say before you get out there. That helps to lodge the content firmly in your mind and also tells you how long your wedding speech will be (see point #9 below.)
9. To calculate how many words fit into a given time slot, here’s the formula:
People speak at 120 – 150 words per minute. Multiply your speed (make a judgment on whether you speak slowly or quickly) by the number of minutes, and that’s how many words you’re looking at. If you want to be particularly scientific about gauging your own speed, time a section of your taped material, mark that section on your written transcript, run a word count on it via your word processing software and then do the calculation.
10. Most important of all is to rehearse your wedding speech as much as you can.
Not too early, or you’ll be fed up with your speech, but not the night before the wedding, either. Never be ashamed of rehearsing. I know it’s hard, especially if you are involved and busy with all the pre-wedding planning and activities, but if you possibly can shut yourself away somewhere private and rehearse until you feel comfortable with your speech, you will go out there on the day and knock ’em dead.
All the answers you need about wedding speeches and other presentations:
“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well
“Wedding Speeches For Women” … available on all the Amazons in print or Kindle.
Image thanks to http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lee’s_wedding_speech.jpg