No matter how many etiquette books and speech guides (even mine!) you might read, once you’re up close and personal to a wedding date and you’re due to give a speech, you need some basic, down-to-earth advice on what’s required. So, here it is.
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Who says what, and when?
To a certain extent this depends on a) if your wedding is a religious one and if so what the traditions are for your religion and culture, and also b) what your personal preferences are. However let’s assume you want more or less to follow current Western culture and schedule the speeches accordingly. Here’s how it goes in the old-fashioned way, and in this order…
First: the father of the bride (or other close male relative of hers, or sometimes an old family friend)
He talks about the bride – usually makes her squirm with embarrassment at the anecdotes of her aged 5 with her teddy bears and dolls! He welcomes the guests to the wedding and the groom and his family into his own. He will also thank people for their efforts in the wedding preparations (especially the bride’s mother, if appropriate) and mention special guests who can’t be present. Finally he proposes a toast to the bride and groom.
Second: the bridegroom
He normally speaks on behalf of both himself and the bride, thanking the bride’s father for his speech, and to all the family members concerned in setting up and paying for the wedding. He also thanks everyone else for their roles on the day and the entire audience for their gifts, etc. He ends by proposing a toast to the bridal attendants (bridesmaids, maid/matron of honour, pages, etc.)
Third: the best man
He thanks the bridegroom for his speech and – on behalf of the bridal attendants – for his toast. He talks about the groom, and his relationship with him. He then reads out any congratulatory emails and cards that have accumulated, and ends by proposing a toast to the bride and groom.
And that’s all. If you want to do something more elaborate, by all means go ahead. But remember, less can be more: say what you feel comfortable with saying. Be sincere and be brief if you’re not a natural speaker. What matters is what you mean, and care about; not what you think you should say.
Can women make wedding speeches too, and if so in what respect?
Of course, the answer is yes. So before go any further, let’s look at the purpose of wedding speeches in the first place…
1. For the key participants to show appreciation to and thank publicly:
- everyone who has worked hard to make the day a success
- everyone who has contributed financially
- everyone who has come to the wedding, especially from far away
- everyone who has sent or brought gifts to the bridal couple
- everyone who has participated in the ceremony – bridal attendants, minister/priest/rabbi, etc
Women’s speeches can be positioned in one of two ways – either replacing one of the key traditional male roles, or as an addition/alternative to the traditional male roles. And despite potential grumblings from great uncles, as long as the basic courtesies are covered by the speeches at a wedding, it doesn’t really matter who says what.
Work out a plan with the other speakers
One of the few advantages of the traditional, male-led speech structure is that each speaker knows what his remit is and with luck no-one gets left off the thank-you list. When that structure is deviated from, though, there is an increased risk that a) someone or something will get forgotten and b) speakers may duplicate each other’s content.
There is a simple solution to this problem; make a plan. In years gone by sometimes this was geographically difficult, with families and friends not being able to get together to discuss the speech content until perhaps the night before the wedding. However these days with cheaper telephone charges and the luxury of email, any of those old excuses for not communicating with your fellow speakers in plenty of time, have been eradicated.
The act of creating a plan will ensure that all essential elements of the speeches are catered for and, hopefully, allocated fairly among the speakers. It will also avoid duplication which can be a killer. There’s nothing so irritating as listening to the speaker before you “steal your lines,” necessitating a hasty rewrite of your speech on a table napkin ten minutes before your big moment.
So … whoever makes the wedding speeches, use your common sense and work out a skeleton plan before the Big Day. (And then, relax and enjoy it!)
Make sure you always say the right thing:
“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well
“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write
“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English