How to write speeches for a same-sex wedding

Having written quite a lot about speeches for almost everyone in “conventional” weddings, I have been asked many times for some tips on writing speeches for same-sex weddings.

wedding speeches at same-sex weddings

If you are making a speech at a same-sex wedding the most important homework you can do is to research your audience very carefully

At first glance that may seem a reasonable question. But having attended a number of same-sex weddings as well as bi-sex weddings, I find that one fact springs up at me time and time again, like the handle of a rake I just stepped on.

That is, what the hell difference is there? Weddings are about two people who love each other who want to formalise their relationship and share that with their families and friends. End of. Did I miss something here?

Anyway still, in some social circles, we’re expected to regard same-sex weddings as, er, different … until such time as everyone gets on with the fact that they’re not. It’s true to say that such things are changed for the better via evolution, not revolution.

Conventional or non-conventional: does it matter?

Many same-sex couples say nuts to conventional weddings and create their own, equally beautiful ceremonies. Increasingly, too, churches are welcoming same-sex marriages. But we’re not here to discuss the politics of weddings of any type. We’re here to talk about who gives what speeches and they usually take place after the ceremonial stuff, in social circumstances.

As with the wedding ceremonies themselves, the speeches can be given by anyone the couple want. But there seems to be an influence from older days: many couples want not to create their own wedding culture, but to parallel and maybe adapt the traditional wedding roles to their own circumstances. And why not?

Some speeches may still follow the traditional wedding roles

There are still members of the older generations who expect traditional roles to be at least acknowledged, if not strictly observed. Also, the couple concerned may want to stick as closely to traditional wedding roles as possible, for reasons of their own.

And that’s OK, with some careful adjustments and handling, although those older relatives and friends by now should be learning that Queen Victoria / Abraham Lincoln / Sir John A MacDonald and other influential old leaders are dead and the world has moved on. Bless ’em though, we still want them to share our nuptial joy.

Examples of how traditional roles can be adapted to suit a same-sex wedding

(Father of the bride) – to be done by one or more parents of the spouses, speaking about them and their coming together

  • Welcome the guests they are hosting and thank them for coming
  • Welcome the other spouse into the family and lead the toasts to absent friends and family
  • Compliment his/her daughter/son, tell some heartfelt stories about him/her and say how proud you are
  • Praise the other spouse and explain why you think they’re such a great couple
  • Toast the newlyweds

(The groom) – shared between the spouses

  • Respond to the toast to the newlyweds by the parent of the other spouse
  • Thank the guests for attending and their gifts
  • Thank both sets of parents
  • Compliment their new partners
  • Give out thank you gifts and say a few words about key members of the wedding party. Toast and compliment the wedding attendants
  • Toast each other’s parents if they are hosting

(The best man) – the best mate

The best man’s speech finishes off the wedding speeches – no pressure! The best man’s speech is traditionally expected to deliver the laughs so be sure to add in a few classic best man jokes. Whether in a straight or same-sex wedding, this is still the “best man’s” role – but for now (see below) here is what the “best mate” needs to think about…

  • Echo the spouses’ toast in thanking the wedding attendants
  • Compliment the couple, maybe with some humour depending on their views!
  • Tell anecdotes about the spouse you know better (but remember to take the audience into consideration when you decide which stories to tell)
  • Read out messages from absent friends and family
  • Lead a final toast to the happy couple

Taking things further, what if traditional titles are not appropriate?

Many same-sex couples are relatively relaxed about wedding titles because they believe that such naming needs to be an evolution, not a revolution.

However for those of you who are fed up with the stereotypical titles and want to consider some new alternatives, here are a few ideas. Bear in mind I haven’t made any of it up: these all were ideas suggested to me by gay individuals and couples.

Bridal party – wedding party

Bride / groom – spouse/s, wedding spouse/s, lifemate/s, lifepartner/s, or as someone else suggested recently a combination of the two into one word: gride. Sorry, but to me that last one sounds like the name for a mountain-climbing tour guide: about as romantic as a pair of crampons. How do you feel about that?

Father/mother of the bride/groom – spouse parent/wedding spouse parent/lifemate parent/lifepartner parent/parent of one of the “grides?” Yikes to the last option, but that’s just me.

Best man – bestmate, groomsmate, spousemate – OK, but this does remind me of a new brand of eco-friendly toilet cleaner. What do you think?

Bridesmaid – bridesmate, spousemate, bestmate – see best man above.

Usher – attendant, weddingmate, wedding guide – frankly a better alternative to the original which makes me think of someone ushering you into a funeral parlour. And that applies to all weddings irrespective of gender.

Flower girl – flower  bearer – nice enough and a way of making a young child who is not in the rest of the wedding party, feel special.

Ring bearer – ring bearer – not a role common in Europe and normally in North America and some other countries taken by a little boy, but one which could be done by any mature child who wants to be part of the ceremony.

speeches for a gay wedding

Weddings are about two people who love each other who want to formalise their relationship – end of.

What about issues you shouldn’t touch on in a same-sex wedding speech?

Everything depends on your audience. If everyone there is cool with the whole thing, some of you making speeches can get away with making jokes about gay issues and you’ll bring the house down with gales of laughter.

If your audience consists of some people who aren’t really up to speed about same-sex relationships, at best jokes about lesbian and gay issues will be lost on them, and at worst such jokes will offend them. OK, such jokes shouldn’t offend them but your wedding / your friend/relative’s wedding is not the place to debate such things.

If you are making a speech at a same-sex wedding the most important homework you can do is to research your audience very carefully

And needless to say that’s something that anyone making a speech at any wedding needs to do.

A lovely, human story about speeches at a lesbian wedding

This comment from my much-loved friend H. whom I’ve know since she was a delightful little girl just three years old, and whose beautiful civil partnership wedding I was lucky enough to attend…

“On our wedding day at the dinner as we all fell silent for speeches, I had that moment of realisation we didn’t have a best man, so after gesturing to my dad to make a speech, nothing prepped, likewise for her dad, (maybe we should have thought about this pre ceremony), but being a non straight couple and not having the full marriage entourage was something I had completely overlooked.

As it didn’t feel any different, we were treated the same as any straight couple throughout. So a moment of “holy sh*t” I am going to have to wing this one came to mind! As the day was chilled and fairly informal I didn’t want to bore everyone with waffle, so appreciation to everyone for coming and the amazing people who helped us prep, and that was about it. How many of my exes were at my wedding, at least 3 or 4, both straight and not, they attended because they are my friends whatever, even the father of my children was there to celebrate with us.”

Punchline: as with any wedding these days, you only need to stick to the conventional format, or a derivation of that, if you want to. Much as it’s right to respect the views of parents, grandparents and other worthies, never forget that this is your day, and that’s the only thing that matters whatever your gender/sex status. The above suggestions will help you if you’re going the traditional route but please don’t feel it’s necessarily to be recommended!

What experience do you have with making a speech at a same-sex wedding?

And if you have had a same-sex wedding, what did you feel about the speeches, and how did they affect you? What could have worked better, and why?

Please share in the comments!