Researching your speech

Written by    Last updated: June 6, 2006

If you want to make the right impression with your wedding speech, you’ll need to prepare your material thoroughly. Here’s how…

Anyone who’s landed the job of delivering a speech will want to give it their best shot. You’ll want it to be warm, witty and original. Even if you don’t know the couple very well (perhaps you’re standing in for someone) or aren’t a born joker, there are still plenty of ways you can make your words really different and memorable. The key is to pay attention to your material ‐‐ and that means research. This handy guide offers tips and techniques to help you beef up your speech.

Ask friends and family

It sounds obvious, but it’s often overlooked ‐‐ the best way to find out more about the subjects of your speech is to talk to their friends and relatives. Siblings, cousins, old school friends…each will have a different perspective on the stars of the day, and spending time chatting to them is sure to draw out half‐forgotten anecdotal gems.

The best way to use this valuable resource is to get a group of friends and family together for a drink and a few reminiscences. While they sit there swapping stories, you may find the bulk of your speech will have been written for you by the end of the night. Bring along a tape recorder, too, so you can join in without worrying about taking notes.

Other sources

Once you’ve dredged the inner circle, you could extend your research to other areas of the past. Look through old photo albums, letters and cuttings ‐‐ any of these might provide something funny to read out or hold up.

Track down people your subjects went to school with or worked with, such as former teachers and bosses. One best man ‐‐ the groom’s brother ‐‐ went through his brother’s old school books and found an essay, written at the age of 11, entitled ‘The girl I will marry‘. Naturally, his reading of this valuable document went down a treat on the big day.

Look to the stars

Another possible source of good material is horoscopes. Find out the star signs of your subjects, look into the associated characteristics and traits, and compare them with the person/people you’re talking about. Much fun can be had, especially where the typical qualities don’t match…or where the star sign’s vices do!

Foe example, Aries has the following characteristics: courage, drive, heartiness, affability, talent and enterprise. Aries’ ‘sins’ include: naivety, ostentation, wilfulness, excess, sanctimony and domination. If your subject is a notorious coward who’s famously careful with their money, you have the beginning of a great gag.

Instead of star signs, you could use Chinese animal signs, which work very much in the same way.

Other was to use horoscopes include finding books that discuss star‐sign compatibility and/or quoting the horoscope of the day from a paper. Of course, it doesn’t really have to be the actual day’s column, and if you can create an ironic contrast between the theory and reality ‐‐ for instance, if your horoscope for the wedding reads ‘not much happening today’ ‐‐ you’re bound to get a laugh.

Consult the archives

Track down a newspaper(s) for the day when your subject was born and try to find an article that will fit whatever you are writing about, or adapt a story to suit. You might be able to find an old photograph that goes well with the article. Try to make it look authentic and then get it blown up as a big as possible so it can be displayed while you’re speaking. With a little imagination, this could be visually very amusing.

Another way to get historical would be to refer to key events that happened the day your subject was born/got engaged/got married and so on. Again, this can be a good source of humour. For example, ‘John was born in the same year that man first walked on the moon, which may not seem particularly relevant until you’ve seen him trying to dance when he’s drunk.’

Totally topical

Look at the current new stories you could put a twist on. Play around with the headlines and attach visuals to the article. Anyone with a PC scanner can produce impressive‐looking newspaper mock‐ups to accompany their speech. The famous Sun headline ‘Gotcha’ for instance, could be used to accompany a picture of the happy couple on their engagement ‐‐ even more apt (and comical) if the proposer had to ask several times!

What’s in a name?

More material can be found in looking at the couple’s names, and finding out what they really mean. If you are trying to make a sincere point about someone’s qualities, the fact that their name comes from the Latin for ‘strength’ or ‘love’ and so on, can be a striking way of underlining the message. There is potential for comedy here, too, if there’s an interesting contrast between the personality and the meaning, for example, if the groom’s name is Daniel, which means ‘God has chosen’, and he is renowned for his atheist views!

Comparing the meaning of the names of both partners may provide some interesting material, too. ‘Well, they say opposites attract…!’ A dictionary of names and their meanings will help you with that one.

See Couples’ names and what they mean for more names and their meanings.

Celebrity help

Think of famous people with the same name as your bride or groom and compare them to that celebrity in terms of job, image, clothes, status, etc. Or does the bride or groom admire a particular celebrity or person? Do they mirror themselves on a famous person? What pop star did they want to be as a child? Any comparison or anecdotes on the similarities (and differences!) between your subject and their idol can be a good source of fun, too.

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