You’ve been asked to give a speech at a friend or relative’s wedding. On the one hand, it’s an honour. A privilege. An opportunity to tell everyone how much they mean to you. On the other, and if you’re like most people, it fills you with dread. What if I’m too nervous? What if I mess it up? What if I have a panic attack?
Don’t worry. At Great Speech Writing we get enquiries every single day from nervous speakers much like yourself. And since the Equal Marriage Bill was passed in 2013, we often have people getting in touch with a different worry altogether: they’ve been asked to do a same-sex wedding speech, and the question most often asked is this: does the speech need to be approached differently?
The answer, of course, is a resounding no. What was good for a civil partnership prior to 2013 remains equally appropriate now. Many people have never been to a same-sex wedding, and they don’t know what to expect. Well, there might be two wedding dresses, or none at all. And all weddings, irrespective of gender, are about two people celebrating their love, and making a lifelong commitment to one another. There may be two wedding dresses, or none at all. And there could well be some people in the room who aren’t entirely comfortable with the situation. But when it comes to writing the speeches, the approach is identical. We’ve written countless speeches for same-sex weddings, and if there’s any difference in how we write them, it’s this: which pronouns are used. Really. That is the only distinction worth making.
So relax. You’ve nothing to worry about. Or at the very least, there’s no need to worry any more than you would for another wedding speech.
Follow these simple steps, and you’re well on your way to crafting a speech that will go down well. For all the right reasons.
1. Make a Plan
You might be tempted to sit down, pour yourself a glass or two, and try to hash it out in one fell swoop. But taking the time to do your homework to gather the information you might need, will make a huge difference to the end product.
Before you start writing, you should establish the following: what kind of crowd will you be talking to? Is the atmosphere likely to be loud or sedate?
It might sound obvious, but too many people don’t even consider these essential factors. Taking the time to prepare will mean you to get the bulk of the work done before you even put pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard, most likely.
At this early stage, it’s also important to think about the kind of topics that will appeal to your audience. So before you start writing, try and have an idea of what you want your speech to be. How you would want people to describe it afterwards. This will help you to establish a clear goal, rather than venturing off into the unknown, unsure of where you want to end up.
Once you’ve got an idea of the kind of speech you’d like to give (a funny speech, a tearjerker, or a combination of the two?), you can start doing your research. Maybe you’re speaking at your own wedding. Maybe it’s a friend, a colleague, or a relative. Whatever the connection, it’s quite possible there are dimensions to the person that you’re unaware of. If you’re struggling for content, don’t be afraid to do some digging. Speak to friends, family, siblings, colleagues, the chiropodist: whoever might have some choice anecdotes worth including.
2. Key Ingredients
No two wedding speeches should sound identical, but here at Great Speech Writing, we approach everything we write with the same three golden rules in mind: relevance, clarity, originality.
Relevance: This means knowing your audience. Yes, you’re writing for the subject, but you should also be thinking about the audience. What sort of speech will appeal to them most?
Clarity: Keep things simple – don’t go into microscopic detail. This isn’t investigative journalism. And don’t use 10 words where 5 will do.
Originality: Recycled one-liners are the bane of wedding guests the world over. It can be all too tempting to pull a few gags off the internet, and while they might have been funny once, chances are people will have already heard them. Avoid them at all costs.
3. The First Draft
You’ve done your research, you have a vision, you’ve made a plan. It’s time to get started on a first draft.
- Strive for short, punchy sentences. As I always tell my team, 6 to 8 words is the gold standard.
- Remember, speeches are meant to be spoken. So read your words out loud as you go. Unless you’re working in a library. In which case, don’t. Just don’t.
- Aim for 1,000-1,500 words, which should come to about 7 to 12 minutes. There’s nothing worse than a speech that drags on ad nauseam. And yet, most people make the mistake of speaking too fast when delivering a speech. Much too fast. At Great Speech Writing, we encourage clients to aim for 120 words per minute.
4. The Three P’s: Practice, Practice and Practice
But how will I memorise all this? People ask this all the time, and my answer is always the same: don’t! This isn’t a production of As You Like It, and you’re not expected to deliver your lines by heart.
Trying to do so puts you at an unnecessary risk. Not only can you forget your lines, it might also come off as wooden. Not everyone is Daniel Day Lewis. Nor should they try to be.
We always advise our clients to read their speech. Having said that, you don’t want to be glued to the page either. Instead, we recommend that you know your speech back to front, almost to the point of knowing it by heart, but have the text in front of you on the big day itself. Like a swimmer coming up for air, the words are there to make sure you don’t forget your lines, flounder, and end up embarrassing yourself. And if there is any embarrassment to be had, we guarantee it won’t have anything to do with the gender of the happy couple!
Great Speech Writing can help you write your same sex wedding speech. Please contact us at Great Speech Writing so we can talk you through the next steps.