Today on the journal, I’m absolutely delighted to have Ceri Gascoyne join us. As a professional poet, Ceri has the honour of crafting beautiful written word for life’s special moments. In this post, Ceri shares her top tips on the do’s and don’ts of speech writing for the modern couple. Writing a meaningful speech and then delivering to your guests is something that everyone will remember. Thank you so much!
The wedding speech normally takes place before or after the meal and traditionally the order has been father of the bride, groom, best man, then maybe other toasts. Things have moved on from this traditional order and these days it is true that really anything goes, ensuring inclusivity for all. It is becoming more popular for the bridesmaids or maid of honour to do a wedding speech and, bucking tradition, also the bride. This is the perfect opportunity to thank family and the bridal party and to give a female perspective on the day.
Before I give you my top tips to make the perfect speech, here are some common pitfalls to avoid. You may think ‘ha, not me, no way!’ but I can guarantee even the most trusted best man or bridesmaid has made these mistakes. Below are my top 5 wedding speech fails.
How did it go so wrong?
This is a bad idea and will most likely make you either forget your lines or slur your speech. It just spells disaster. My advice would be to have just one glass of champagne or a beer, but don’t keep going. Reach instead for some rescue remedy to quell the nerves.
Rehearse so much you are bored of your own voice! You can do this on your voice-memo, or record a video on your phone, and change any bits you keep stumbling on. If you have a trusted friend or family member that can be your audience, this too is a good idea.
Which leads to going over on time and inevitably a boring speech. This is an awfully painful thing to watch. I remember seeing a best man struggle with this and it’s an avoidable car crash. It is often also the confident people who you think (and they definitely thought!) would do a great job. They haven’t practised, they are winging it but it’s just not going to plan. Jokes fall flat and the audience is nervously laughing but willing them to finish. All the while the groom is wondering why he asked this friend at all. The worst!
I don’t think there can be many people out there that would make a speech totally note-free. I personally think it looks good and gives the person delivering the speech something to wave around. A prop if you like. If you are nervous it definitely helps, and even if you have practised a great deal you just don’t know what might happen on the day and even the most well-rehearsed speeches have gone wrong when you lose the flow or miss a section. If you are thanking people especially, then notes and a list of people to thank is really, really important. You only get one shot!
Again, I’ve been to a wedding where the groom thought he was at a football match. Not much to say here other than expletives and inappropriate jokes really are not welcomed by some people at a wedding, so proceed with caution. Sometimes a speech can be a tad sweary and to be fair by the time the speeches roll in the kids are either asleep under a table or if you’re lucky enough to have a crêche at the wedding, then off with a nanny. Also, some weddings are child free so if that’s the case and a bit of swearing adds to the comedic touch of your story that’s your call – just don’t overdo it. Not many people want Frankie Boyle making a wedding speech.
My best advice is do your research. Start by knowing who is speaking before you and who comes after. Make sure you are thanking the right people.
If you are the best man, get in touch with the groom’s mum, dad or siblings for some gentle light-hearted jokes. What did the groom excel at in school? Was he ever reprimanded and what for? School days are often a great source of fun, appealing to our youthful side. It goes without saying that you only choose a story that you know the recipient will also find amusing. Gone are the days when the speech is a pitiful roasting session. Remember, this day is all about them not you, so keep this at the forefront of your mind. If you and the groom go back a long way maybe you remember things about your childhood together that will bring touching humour to the speech. The same applies to the maid of honour or bridesmaids who might be writing about the bride.
I always start my speech off painting a picture of the recipient. I describe the things I love about them, what qualities they possess to make them a best friend. Sometimes I mention their successes at school, college or work. Sometimes I say what others love about them.
The speech, ideally, should be peppered with laughter, so try and get in up to three funny stories or anecdotes. If you are struggling with these, reach out to other friends, family or colleagues.
Finally, I always end my speeches with sentimental words. This is the moment where the audience will be reaching for the tissues because in life when else do we get to tell that person how much we love them? That in life they will always be your Ride or Die? That through thick and thin they have had your back no matter what. This is where you get to speak from the heart – it’s a really poignant and profound moment that can elevate your speech to one that goes down as the best speech ever.
For those who are not natural speech writers or confident in public speaking you can always seek professional help and guidance.
Companies like The Rhyming Stag and Autumn and Bloom specialise in helping people with their wedding speech. This totally takes the stress out of getting it right on the day. Using your words only, these speeches are 100% bespoke and delivered in rhyme.
A unique poem that will have the audience laughing and crying. Your speech will be remembered for all the right reasons.
“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.” R J Palacio
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