15 ways to make your wedding speeches shine

For top toasts, it’s all about timing, humour and just enough of those sentimental moments

1. If you’re going traditional, hire a toastmaster to add a sense of ceremony as each speaker is announced. He or she will also help keep the schedule on target without you having to stress about it. 

2. Encourage your speech-givers to learn their opening and closing lines. There’s nothing duller than watching someone read word for word from a creased sheet of A4. Memorising key sections allows for better eye contact and audience rapport.

3. If any of your speakers are in a panic over the writing bit, email them a link to a poem-writing company, like bespokeverse.co.uk, who’ll take their sentiments and memories and turn them into a heartfelt rhyme. 

4. Groom stuck for an opening? Save the gags for the best man and play to the goodwill in the room. He can’t go wrong with the classic-for-a-reason ‘My beautiful wife and I want to say thank you…’

5. On the other hand, it’s time to retire old best-man chestnuts like, ‘If I’m the best man, why is she marrying him?’ and ‘It’s been an emotional day; even the cake is in tiers’. Instead, stick to funny personal stories to get the audience in stitches. (Though no overlong rambles with no foreseeable punchline, please.)

6. Spice things up with props and multimedia. For a nervous speaker, a slide show or video clip can help minimise any performance anxiety. And let’s be honest, the audience can’t get enough of embarrassing photos. 

7. Keep guests' minds from wandering by alternating speeches in between courses, so they don't have a marathon of public speaking to sit through.

8. Surprise guests with speeches at an unconventional time – say, on the bus from the ceremony to the reception, or why not during the cocktail hour? It’ll help take pressure off the speakers too (especially if they’re nervous), so they can actually relax and enjoy the meal.

9. Impose a two-drink maximum for all speakers before their moment in the spotlight. The goal is for the speeches to be memorable in a good way.

10. Give everyone who’s making a speech a time limit. Seven minutes max each, or about 1000 words written out is a good guide. 

11. Remember, it’s not open mic night. Guests love a great set of speeches, but if every aunt, neighbour and childhood friend is given a turn, it dilutes the special nature of the honour. 

12. As a guideline, the standard running order goes as follows: father-of-the-bride first, to thank all the guests, reminisce about the bride and toast the couple; then the groom, to thank the FOB, praise the bridesmaids and slip in the words ‘my wife’ as frequently as possible; and finally, the best man. 

13. Ah, the best man… Make sure you lay down some ground rules for him (or your bridesmaid if she’s anything like the best girls in the Kirsten Dunst film Bachelorette): no exes, no break-up references, and no below-the-belt digs at the bride. 

14. Don’t be afraid to speak up yourself. In the era of Girls, it can feel a bit dated if the ladies are seen and not heard at the reception.

15. Do incorporate romantic quotes from poetry or beloved books, like this one from Jane Austen’s Persuasion: ‘There could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison’. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! 

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