The ceremony is over, the wine is flowing, elderly relatives are busy trying to get their teeth around the main course and one of your distant uncles is wearing his wife’s hat and drinking from the vase. So, all that stands between you and two weeks in the sun is that speech. It may seem a daunting task to those uninitiated in public speaking, but there really is very little to worry about if you get a few key things right. Here are the top five tips to landing the speech of a lifetime by All Speeches Great and Small.
It may sound obvious, but the only way you’re going to be comfortable with what you’re going to say is to actually know it inside out. Don’t leave it until the night before to jot things down on a napkin, it’s never going to work. When that happens, the speech is incredible for all the wrong reasons. A speech of around 1200 words should last about 7-10 minutes and that’s all you need. You might be the centre of attention on the day but nobody loves you so much that they want to hear every step of your life to date in real time.
Wait until you have something you’re happy with then print it out and – this bit is essential – read it aloud a few times. This way, the words and phrases that don’t quite work fall out, such as repetition and awkward wording. This simply doesn’t happen when you’re reading from a screen.
Unless you’re a freak of nature and can convincingly recite all 1200 words (with meaning and without losing yourself in a cul de sac of thanks and emotion) you should probably avoid attempting to memorize the speech. If you can do that you should probably leave your IT support job and join the circus – which isn’t nearly as glamorous as it used to be. Instead, after reading it through quite a few times, you can split the speech into blocks that deal with each subject and then, with a few simple prompt cards, you should easily be able to recall each paragraph.
If a bit of booze is your thing, don’t abstain in the run up to the speeches but don’t go overboard either. The best policy is: a little is better than none and a lot is going to be the worst idea you’ve ever had. Many people who speak at weddings decide to leave the drinking until the speech is over; this simply creates an inner determination to get the whole thing over and done with, so that they can start celebrating. But that could possibly manifest itself in a rushed performance and does little to calm the nerves. Have a couple of gentle drinks and relax!
It’s not just the very nervous that this afflicts; it’s also the uber confident as well. With so much adrenaline pumping through your body, holding a sheath of papers to speak from can look like you’re juggling frogs. If there’s nothing to rest your notes on, clip them to a nice stiff board and hold on. Nobody will be any the wiser.
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Adrian is a writer and broadcaster for some of the UK’s largest factual entertainment shows. Writing speeches has always been a large part of his professional life and ‘all speeches great and small’ is the culmination of many years experience.