Ready to nail that speech? Here are the tips you need on writing and delivering the perfect speech with the help of two of QHotels' expert wedding coordinators, Leanne Bulpitt and Libby Volpe.
The thing is, there are enough wedding worries in the run-up to the big day - you don't want your speeches to be one of them!
Having worked closely with couples to create their perfect day and ensure everything runs smoothly, Leanne and Libby know a thing or two about speeches. So, if you don’t know where to start or you just can’t seem to put pen to paper, here’s some top tips and steps on writing, preparing and delivering an award-winning speech. You never know, you may enjoy it so much that you'll get a taste for public speaking and need our top tips for writing your own wedding vows, too!
1. Do your research
Before you pick up a pen, do some initial research to understand what’s expected, who your audience is and how the speech section of the day will work. Make sure you can answer these questions:
- How do you want your speech to be remembered? Do you want your speech to result in laughter, tears of joy, a blushing bride or groom, or perhaps all three?
- Who is your audience? Is it a small family wedding or mostly friends? Do you know them well or will it be the first time you meet most of your audience?
- Where will you be presenting? Will you have to project your voice across a large room? It’s no good using a video or slides with a projector if you’re giving a speech outside.
- How long are you expected to present for? Most wedding guests would agree that 10-15 minutes is a good length of time to keep your audience engaged.
Top tip: Have the speeches before the wedding breakfast to make for a calmer meal all round. This is becoming an increasingly popular option.
2. Put pen to paper
The best speeches are those which are deeply personal. Telling forgotten stories always goes down well and reflects the strong relationship between the speech giver and the wedding party.
Writing your speech is a process of getting everything you could possibly include down on paper, then ruthlessly cutting out content so you’re left with the best bits. Start with the following steps:
- Write down the sentiment or message you want the audience to remember.
- Have a think about all the other potential jokes, stories and points you could include.
- Choose just three of these that support and flow nicely into the main point of your speech.
- As you start to put pen to paper, remember to write as you would naturally speak.
- Incorporate memorable phrases and even images to illustrate what you’re saying.
- If anything doesn’t flow with your speech, remove it!
Top tip: Keep a notebook with you at all times so you can write ideas down as they pop into your head. Writing everything down will help keep your mind clear.
3. Don’t be afraid to try something different
More and more people are looking for unique and alternative ways of doing things during their wedding and that doesn’t stop at speeches. We have seen a huge increase in the use of props and slideshow presentations during speeches, particularly by the best man, whose job it is to add some humour and embarrass the bride and groom just a little.
Once you’ve written your speech and you’re happy with the flow and structure, think about how you want to present to your audience and the different props you could incorporate to help bring your words to life.
- Some people may prefer to keep their speech simple and to the point. However there are lots of different props you can use, from slideshows to musical instruments, to help make your speech more engaging.
- If you’re a nervous speaker, using props may help you feel less like you’re in the spotlight and could take some of the pressure off. Or, you could think about involving other people in your speech.
- However you choose to present, make sure the style you use suit you. If you’re not a confident singer, don’t feel pressured to turn your speech into a song!
Top tip: Slideshows can seem daunting but they can be as simple as using photographs to add a personal touch and to engage more with the audience.
4. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
Start rehearsing your speech as early as possible – the sooner you can start practising out loud, the less daunting it will become.
The rehearsal phase should be the most time-consuming element of your preparation. No time spent rehearsing your speech will be wasted. Here are some tips for the rehearsal stage:
- Writing your speech out in full is often the most useful but if you prefer to list topic headings on cards, do whatever works best for you.
- It’s best to rehearse your speech in the same way you’ll deliver it – standing, aloud, and with the passion and movement you’ll use on the big day.
- If you want to take things even further, you could try recording yourself delivering your full speech then watch it back to work out which bits you want to practice more.
- Consider performing in front of a trusted friend, particularly if any of your jokes could be risqué!
5. Deliver with confidence
Whilst almost every speaker is excited about their role in the wedding, most are also extremely nervous. Our top tip for overcoming nerves is to simply take a deep breath in the knowledge that everyone is there to enjoy the day and they really do want you to do well. It’s not often in life you get to present to such a friendly crowd!
If you’ve put the time into your rehearsals, you should now be on track for a confident delivery, so remember:
- You can’t give a great speech by reading every word from a script or relying too much on notes. Providing you’ve rehearsed you’ll be able to give your full attention to the audience.
- Take some deep breaths – this will calm you and help avoid you speaking too quickly.
- Look at your audience to remind you that you’re communicating with a room full of friendly individuals.
- Smile - this will help you relax and engage with your audience.
- Move around the room, if this feels natural to you.
- Above all, remember to enjoy yourself!
The who's who of wedding speeches...
The father of the bride
The traditional order for your wedding speeches starts with the father of the bride who thanks all the guests for coming. He then normally says a few words about his daughter, with an anecdote from her childhood, before proposing a toast to the happy couple. After he has sat down it's the groom's turn.
The groom normally starts by thanking the father of the bride for his speech and his toast, then says something about how happy he is today and compliments his new wife. He might give out thank you gifts to the best man and ushers, as well as the bridesmaids, the mothers of the bride and groom and anyone else who may have helped out.
It's not unusual for the bride to want to say a few words, after all, it's her wedding too. There's no set format for when and how she does this. Most commonly the bride and groom will stand up together and give a joint speech so she can share in thanking all the attendants etc. Alternatively, she may want to follow her father's speech so she can thank him for all his kind words.
The chief bridesmaid
Occasionally the chief bridesmaid will also stand up to say a few words. This can be fitted into the order wherever it seems the most appropriate. The best man's is always the most anticipated speech so it's generally saved until last, with perhaps the chief bridesmaid speaking just before him.
The best man
The job of giving the final - and hopefully most memorable - speech goes to the best man. His role is to thank the groom for his toast to the bridesmaids, on their behalf, and also offer thanks from any other attendants. After that he's expected to launch into a humorous speech about the groom but finding a tone that will appeal to both your lewdest mates and your grandma, plus he has to manage not to offend anyone whilst still being entertaining. Finally, he has to say something nice about the groom before proposing a toast to the happy couple.