Firstly, Why You Should Give A Speech…
(or scroll to skip to the tips further below)
Speaking in public isn’t everybody’s strong suit. In fact, it’s been found to be the most commonly shared fear among people – around 40% of people are afraid of giving a speech! But you’d think standing up in front of your friends and family would at least be a little easier right?
In our experience, speakers at weddings have said they actually find it more difficult giving a long, important speech to loved ones because they’re the people you have to continue to see forever (and could laugh AT you rather than WITH you for years after!) – UGH!
“Your speech is one of the greatest gifts you could give to the happy couple.”
We’ve coached a lot of people on how to give a good speech now, and our key piece of advice is that your speech is one of the greatest gifts you could give to the happy couple (and it’s free - win!). They have chosen you for a reason – because they love and trust you, and value what you have to say. They’ve bestowed you the great honour of talking about them over everybody else.
While this might not be ideal for you – “damn, why are you such a good friend?!” – we beg you to try to see it for what it is, and to selflessly fight your fears for the love of your best friends!
“making the choice to stand up in front of others and profess your feelings for your new spouse is undeniably one of the most heartfelt things you’ll ever do.”
For Brides and Grooms giving a speech, despite your qualms over your speech, making the choice to stand up in front of others and profess your feelings for your new spouse (“WooOoo!”) is undeniably one of the most heartfelt things you’ll ever do. You have the chance to really put your favourite person above your fears – making yourself perhaps the most vulnerable you’ll ever be to them – in order to make them feel loved, wanted and special. It’s a really special, selfless act, and who deserves it more than them, after all?!
Despite all of this, you’re still going to want to give a good performance. So, we’ve popped together 12 Top Tips to help alleviate the stress surrounding your speech and ensure you say all the right words.
Wedding Speech Tip 1 – PLAN (Early!)
We all know that infamous saying ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’ and Wedding speeches are no different. Just because you’re talking about one of the things you know best, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan.
Planning will ensure everything flows nicely and that you have plenty of time to rehearse (see Tip No.3).
You can’t ever start too early when it comes to writing your speech.
The more time you give yourself to plan, the more likely you are to remember all of the best memories to add. Whenever you have a fun idea – write it down. You might be in the car and hear a song that brings back memories, or you might just see something that brings it all back – make sure to make some notes on your phone, etc. when these thoughts crop up!
With planning comes the actual writing of the full speech – so we move on to our next tip…
Wedding Speech Tip 2 – Write it Down
You might not believe it, but we’ve witnessed Wedding Speeches where the speaker ‘wings-it’. While some people might get lucky with this, it’s very unlikely and it’s definitely always better to plan. Even the best ‘on-the-spot’ speaker will give a better speech with some planning. We’ve also seen speeches where people stutter or forget their words in the moment – no matter how well your practising has gone, it’s never the same as the actual moment. Nerves can get the better of you on the day, and you might just get carried away in the moment and run the risk of rambling on for too long.
To write a good speech, you should mind map some core ideas before expanding on them. One branch in your mind map might be your friend’s sporting ability (good or bad!).
From there, you can branch off with all the different thoughts and stories connected to this. Make sure to explore each key area fully before narrowing-in on what you do and don’t want to cover.
Once you’ve chosen your topics of discussion, you should decide their order so that your thought flow well. For example, if you have memories from younger years then you might start with them and end with more recent stories.
From here, it might be better to try voice-recording yourself talking about each topic in more detail before writing the final thing. Basing your writing on your speech will ensure the speech sound more natural and easy-going rather than wooden and scripted.
On the day, while we do agree that you should have the full speech handy (clearly divided into section of course) just in case, we always recommend focusing on being able to deliver the while speech from cue cards. Cue cards should be brief and just contain the key words and themes of each section of the speech rather than being whole paragraphs.
Cue cards are much smaller than paper, making them easier to hold and less likely to rustle. This is important so that you’re not fumbling as this can be distracting and the noise can sometimes be picked up in the audio of a wedding film! Be sure to write big, bold words on each cue card so that you can easily read them even in ‘atmospheric’ lighting. If you find it easier to read against a blue background, then make sure you use blue cue cards.
They key to cue cards actually working in to practise (see next tip!)
Wedding Speech Tip 3 – Practise, practise, practise!
Practising anything is the best way to ensure better execution – it’s a tried and tested method for many performances in life. Did you ever take part in a school play? I remember my Mother making me practise my FOUR lines every evening for weeks leading up to our annual plays when I was little! In her defence – it worked perfectly! I remembered my lines and the advice she gave me on HOW to say the words ensured I wasn’t just saying my lines – I was performing them the way they were meant to be!
Practice ensures that you’re able to infuse the feelings and passion behind your words. If something was really funny, having practised your speech means that you’ll be able to really remember the feelings you felt at the time as you’re speaking, and the humour is likely to carry across to your audience in your voice.
Make sure to practise in front of somebody else to get their advice on your delivery and whether you’re saying too much/not enough. It’s easy to miss the details that make the context of what you’re saying understandable to others if you were there but they were not, for instance.
If you’re using equipment (i.e. projector, props, photos, activity…) then make sure to practise with these too. If there’s equipment to set up at the venue, make sure to get in early to set up and practise there too if you can ahead of the event. This will ensure everything works (e.g. if you need electricity, internet, different cables…)
Wedding Speech Tip 4 – Keep It Short & Sweet
Writing your speech in advance will ensure that you have plenty of time to edit. You don’t want a speech that’s too long as your audience might lose interest and you really want to ‘quit while you’re ahead’ when it comes to your speech – you want to end on a high!
Even the best speeches out there could have run the risk of not being so good if they’d gone on any longer – so make sure to keep it concise. Our usual recommendation for duration is about two sides of A4 or 5-10 minutes. This really isn’t long at all and you’ve got a lot to get in there – so ensuring each topic is edited-down to the essentials is important – a bit like film editing! It really is an art though – and enlisting help with the edit is probably the best bet here. You don’t want to cut too much contextual/essential information – it still needs to make sense!
Sometimes you’ll have to be brutal. Really rank your sections from best to worst and cut those that aren’t as good if you have to – even if you like them. It can be difficult, but again, asking for help with this will ensure an impartial view on what’s cut – what you might not want to cut might be what’s best to cut! If there’s something that’s removed that you’d still like to say to the person you’re speaking about, then consider telling them in person or writing it in a nice car to open before the big day.
Overall, you’ll be surprised how quickly time can go trying to get all those fun memories into a speech, and you need to edit wisely – if you’ve ever written a decent university essay then you should know all about this!
Wedding Speech Tip 5 – Are You Funny?
Please, please don’t try too hard to be funny – if it doesn’t come naturally to you then just don’t do it. If you’re googling jokes or trying to please others too much then you’ll completely lose any humour. You might get some nice pity-laughs but do yourself a favour and stick to what you’re good at…
For example, my partner was the Best Man for his Brother. He’s also a photographer/ videographer, so he put together a presentation/film of photos and videos from throughout their lives to go alongside his speech. This focused on the Groom’s core personality traits and hobbies – being accident-prone, an athlete, and his ‘interesting’ dance-moves and fashion sense. It was incredible and people still talk about how great it was years on!
But back to you...
If you want to inject some humour into your speech. Think about a time you’ve really made people laugh and what you said/did – can you appropriately weave something similar in to your speech?
There’re different vibes when it comes to speeches, and if you can work with all of them then that’s incredible, but mastering just one will ensure your speech is fantastic. You can of course divulge all those funny incidents with the couple, but if you’re not naturally funny when giving a speech (like I’m definitely not!), then you might focus on reminiscing in happy memories and sweet stories about the couple, or opt to give a speech that offers marriage advice and guidance for their future together, instead.
Wedding Speech Tip 6 – Be Authentic, Be Original
Leading on from the previous point, you should simply be yourself when giving a speech. Play to your strengths. If you’re not sure how to tie in what you’re good at with your speech then ask your peers for their advice.
Earlier on, I gave the example of my partner being a photographer/videographer and tying that in to his speech, but there’s so many other options out there.
Being original, wherever possible, is key to delivering a speech that will be memorable. If you have some talents you could use, then why not.
Some of our favourite speeches of all time include the Maid of Honour Rap, the ‘Obviously’ Speech from Tom of McFly, and this fun Ukelele Ode. Consider props, music, imagery, costume, and other interactive activities – there’s lots of great ideas online.
Of course, if you’re really struggling with ‘originality’ then perhaps that isn’t your strong suit – just do what’s right in your mind. If you find it easier to write about your past experiences with the couple then these are sure – just be mindful that they’re interesting for everybody.
Failing this, consider enlisting the help of a Professional Speech Writer – but this really should be the last resort. Some speech writers are really incredible and are able to make speeches very loving and personal, but it’s always better coming from the heart of the person the couple have chosen to speak for them – that’s what’s really authentic.
Wedding Speech Tip 7 – Make it Fun
One way to engage your audience is to actively encourage their participation. You might ask/encourage them to make noises at certain times (for example the old…. you: “My Wife”, audience “Wooooo!”). It can be a good idea to ask a few friends to make the right noises at each cue to lead by example and encourage others to do the same.
Another way to keep the crowd interested might be to create something more visual/interactive such as a presentation, a quiz/game/other activity, or even distributing funny photos to each table. Again, you might reach for the props/an instrument/costume. Just ensure what you do is relevant and appropriate though!
Wedding Speech Tip 8 – Pace Yourself
Your content could be the best there’s ever been, but if nobody can understand you then none of your hard work will be worth it!
Make sure you speak slowly and clearly, enunciating each word and making sure to pause between each joke/paragraph so that the audience can really take every word in.
If you have a strong accent, enunciation is really important – but you can also use this to your comedic advantage if you’d like to – just keep it tasteful!
When you’re nervous, it is really easily to speak faster. It’s our mind’s way of getting through a difficult situation more quickly – it’s actually a survival technique at its core! If you struggle with this, definitely work with a friend to help practise your pacing. We always recommend practising in front of another person anyway – you might not even realise you’re speaking too quickly without somebody else’s opinion on this.
It is really easy when you are nervous to start speaking at 100mph. If this is the case your words can become really unclear. Try to consciously low yourself down and speak clearly so that all your guests can take in the words you have taken the time to prepare.
Another great perk of short pauses, is that they allow you time to gather your thoughts and ensure you’re in the right place on your cue cards.
Wedding Speech Tip 9 – Eyeing Up Your Enemy
Making eye contact with people during your wedding speech helps to further engage the audience and make things more natural (you naturally look someone in the eye when you’re talking to them otherwise!)
Making eye contact also helps you ensure good pauses throughout your speech, as you can look at your audience towards the end of each sentence, smile/laugh, and then go back to the next section.
Looking up at the audience is important, as looking down is not a great look for photos/videos, and it also alienates the crowd. It also makes you look smaller and less confident. So put those shoulders back and get that chin up, because this kind of stance will also help your pitch/volume and ensure your voice carries further (those at the back of the room want to hear too!)
It can be daunting to look at a sea of faces – a bit like looking down from a greta height, but remember, all of these people are here for you and the couple. They’re also in high spirits and enjoying a day of kicking-back and relaxing with friends, so their better mood is going to make them more receptive to your speech than usual.
Moreover, looking people in the eye often actually eases your nerves as your body will respond to the natural feeling of talking directly to a person. Perhaps try directing you gaze at a few selected people around the room. Have a look around while you’re seated and see if you can spot a good friend at each table – they’re your eye-contact targets! Don’t forget to address the couple and look at them too – they might be beside you but it’s important to include them and is Best Practise!
Wedding Speech Tip 10 - Deliver
With speeches, delivery is often more important than the actual content. While that is true to some degree, at weddings, the content is of course important – but you’ve planned all of that already (see Tips 1-4!)
Again, practise is the key to great delivery, and practising in front of a few other people will not only help prepare you for more of a crowd, but they will also be able to offer opinions for how and when to use certain types of emphasis/pitch/pace, etc.
You might not have the loudest voice, and this can be a challenge of its own when addressing a large room. But just like the pros, you should consider using a microphone. Even if you don’t like the idea of a microphone, you should at least practise your speech at the venue with a friend at the back of the room to ensure your voice carries clearly. If your audience can’t hear you then they can’t possibly be expected to laugh/interact with what you’re saying. It’s difficult to remain confident if you notice people turning away/looking miserable because they can’t hear you.
Why not TRY a microphone if they’re available? You might find it much easier than you think, and it can actually be quite comforting to grip the mic and it stops you from fidgeting. I personally hate speaking – especially with a microphone, but I have had to use them many times to address crowds.
My voice is relatively small and, in my experience, people appreciate how daunting the task is, and they’re really supportive.
Definitely consider this size of the room and the volume of all of the speakers’ voices. Speak to the couple about getting microphones arranged for you all. You might even enjoy practising together at the venue ahead of the event. Make sure to remind each other that you’re going to support them no matter what!
Wedding Speech Tip 11 – Expect the Unexpected
Distractions – there’s going to be some, there always is. Whether it’s children crying/playing, people laughing/crying at your speech at unexpected moments, coughing/sneezing, somebody dropping something loudly – I’ve even seen somebody fall off their chair during a speech!
No matter what it is, if you didn’t practise with these things during your speech, then they’re likely to put you off. You might lose your place a little – but cue cards should help avoid this, and you might stutter a little. Why not make a little joke about the occurrence? Something like “Orp, John’s making a mess over there” (at something dropped), or “Hey kids, if you listen to me quietly I’ll bribe you with sweets after my speech!” – might work? Have a think!
Another big distraction can be the photographers/videographers. They will often be close and/or walking around making sure they capture all of the special moments for the couple to cherish after their big day – including your big speech! It’s surprising how much pressure being recorded can put on to you if you’re not used to it. However, most good suppliers will be as discrete as possible and just blend into the background. Suppliers love what they do (they love weddings!) and the speeches tend to be a real highlight for them – so they’re your friends too! Just remember that.
If you don’t want to address a distraction head on, just ignore it – you’re only human, and the whole room is probably going to react a similar way to you (being momentarily distracted and then carrying on listening), so do the same. Allowing a short pause for a distraction will also ensure you give people a chance to refocus back on you. Don’t sweat it – these things happen at the best of times, it’s all part of the experience/atmosphere. Keep calm and carry on from where you left off!
Wedding Speech Tip 12 – B-R-E-A-T-H-E
Remember to breathe. As simple and overstated as it is, it is often overlooked, and can really be a great drawback to even a good speech.
When you practise your speech, practise where you’ll take a breath – whether that’s just a quick breath or it turns into more of a pause – see what’s natural. Breaths allow you to pace yourself properly, while pauses can add drama/suspense/comedic effect/etc.
Although it might feel silly, you could practise ‘Diaphragmatic Breathing’. This is a professional technique used by performers to help calm nerves. Definitely give it a Google and make use of the techniques ahead of your practises to get used to it – it will begin to feel natural and something you can really benefit from on the big day.
On A Final Note…
Just remember, these people you’re speaking to will support you more than anybody else in almost any other speech. What you say will be appreciated by everyone there, especially the most important ones who made the day possible in the first place!
If you do fluff something on the day, nobody is going to judge you – it might even allow for a little comedic effect that you can use to your advantage. Just pick up where you left off and HAVE FUN WITH IT – relax, it’s just an informal chat with friends, not an interview!
Just think positively and even practise feigning confidence (the whole looking-in-the-mirror-and-telling-yourself-you’re-great thing!) The more you fake it, the more likely you really will make it! Before your speech – pop to the loo to fix your hair and tie, check your teeth, smarten up and remind yourself you’ve got this
And in the end, just DO YOUR SPEECH – get on with it, you don’t really have a choice 🤪
If you’re still a little unsure on the structure of a great speech – have a look at these fab examples on Wedding Ideas Mag
Check back for our upcoming blogs on What to Include and What NOT to Include in your Speech, and Who Covers What and When for Wedding Speeches!
All the best for now, Stay Safe.
The Copperhouse Celebration Design Team Xoxo