Worried about your wedding speech and could do with a tip or two?
Don’t worry – you’re not alone!
Speeches are often a really fun point in the day for your guests. But you are probably nervous of the best man’s one… will it run on too long or contain rude parts which will offend Aunt Maggie or the new Mother-in-law?! So, follow these tips and rules. Pass them on to anyone else planning a speech at your wedding such as the best man, father of the bride, maid of honour etc.
I base these ideas on my experience of watching countless speeches as a wedding magician! I will also give advice pulled from my performing background. I have broken the advice down into five sections:
- Planning the speech
- Quick tips for speech writing
- Rehearsing the speech
- Presenting the speech
- Bonus section – top tips!
Planning the speeches
General points to get across to people delivering a speech at your wedding:
Speeches can tend to ‘run on’ in my experience! You should set exact timelines – once the first laugh comes along, people can get a little carried away. Ten minutes is more than enough and anything over this can be tiresome for onlookers – and to you for that matter!
The problem nowadays is technology! When I first started entertaining at weddings, the best man perhaps placed an envelope of photos onto each table and asked guests to open them at a point in his speech. It resulted in laughter and then everyone moved on. But now, with presentations and projectors, the best man can go on for an hour of photos and ‘hilarious’ interludes.
Provide a clear guideline on material – what you deem acceptable and what is not. It IS a matter of taste. I fell foul of this rule myself! I didn’t tell my best man what was deemed tasteful or not and the result was ‘interesting’. Ask me about it if you want (the video is even on YouTube)!!!
So, two simple take aways here:
1. Set strict timings.
2. Ensure the speech maker understands what is NOT accepetable.
Tips for speech writing
Add humour to the speech – some light teasing of the person who you’re making a toast for always works. Make sure that you phrase the ‘abuse’ in a fun, light-hearted manner so as not to offend – no ‘evil’ comments are going to be well received by anyone and you can look silly in front of everyone. Think of silly things – amusing stories where they were idiotic but lovable.
Get the grandma points! Why not add an additional emotion to your speech and get a tear to fall? It’s not that hard to get a tear during a wedding speech. The mention of a loved one who would have been present but has passed is an honourable thing to mention. Bringing up a very proud moment of the bride or groom’s life will also bring a tear to some.
Include the standard material too – thanking everyone who has helped make the day perfect, raising a toast at the end, ensuring the correct mentions are made, depending on the speech being made – find a list of these here.
Rehearsing the speech
Chances are, there will be fear and a huge sense of nervousness about actually conducting a speech in front of everyone. Even I find talking to large groups nerve wracking, and I am a wedding magician who is used to talking in front of people!
You see, when people sit there staring at you thinking, ‘go on then!’ the nerves kick in! Even simple things such as tying your shoelace can be difficult in these situations, let alone conducting an amazing, funny and memorable speech.
When I practice a new piece of magic, I always rehearse until I know it inside out. The same is true with your speech. Once I have practised the sleight of hand so that it is indistinguishable, I rehearse.
So, my advice is that you should rehearse your speech once you feel you know your script well enough. Try the speech on close family members and other people willing to listen and criticise. This rehearsal will quickly identify any weak points of potential improvements needed.
Work on the weaker points and rehearse again. Repeat the process until you are happy. There will always be room for improvement so don’t stress too much over it being perfect – just make it slick! Doing this will help with your confidence and (as you will see in the next section) help massively with the overall presentation of your speech. This stage is vital for success so don’t ignore it!
If you can’t rehearse in front of someone, turn to technology. Just video yourself on your phone and send it to a trusted friend, or video call someone. They can then tell you where the weak points are.
Tips on clear presentation
Make sure people can hear you!
Practice speaking aloud before hand so that you know you can clearly project your voice. If this is looking like a problem, plan for a microphone to be present. Many venues supply this upon request. Failing that, a good DJ will be able to help you if you hire them during the daytime too.
Don’t be afraid to ask if people can hear you – it is really important to do this at the start of the speech. Don’t be afraid to ask mid-speech too as sometimes your volume level can decrease when you become more confident and ‘in the flow’.
At the start, you will be nervous. Although this sounds odd, standing up confidently will give the guests a sense of confidence in you. To portray this confidence, upon standing, puff out your chest, smile and look around the room and try to make eye contact with those smiling back at you. When you start you speech, keep looking at different parts of the room, again, making eye contact with new people. This will connect you to the audience and give an impression (maybe false) that you are confident and people will naturally relax. Too often, I have seen someone stand up and look a nervous wreck. Although the audience are ‘with them’ they find it uncomfortable and just wish for the whole thing to be over. So, regardless of the quality of the gags and material, the speech maker will have lost the crowd and all of the hard work was for nothing!
Using a microphone correctly
Firstly, volume – imagine an elderly relative at the back of the room. If she can hear you, you’re pitching it right! To make this easier, you could actually put an elderly relative at the back of the room. (It doesn’t even need to be a relative – anyone will do! Get a good friend to stand at the back and give you a ‘thumbs up’ from time to time and a ‘thumbs down’ if he is struggling to hear you).
Don’t shout into the microphone – it will do the work for you!
Don’t hold the microphone to your lips. This can create a muffled sound. Just hold it near your mouth and it will pick up your voice fine. The distance should be about the length of your clenched fist.
It’s easy to convince yourself that you know the speech inside out after all the rehearsing. However, don’t be fooled! When the moment actually comes, and the nerves kick in, it’s easy to forget things.
Ensure that you have either notes or the full script printed out to read (to refer to when you are unsure). Notes works well on little flash cards (this is how I conducted both a best man speech and my own, wedding day speech). This tip will put your mind at rest by having something to fall back to if you forget where you are/what to say next. It also ensures that you don’t forget that hilarious joke you included!
Want some example wedding speeches? Head tofor lots of best man, Bride, Father of the Bride, Groom and even Maid of honour speeches.
Bonus section – top tips!
1. Who are you? Make sure the audience knows who you are and your relationship to the wedding couple. If you’re the first up, you need to do this yourself. If you follow someone else, chances are, they will already have introduced you so simply acknowledge the person who spoke before you.
2. Pace is important. You’ve rehearsed the speech at the right pace so try to stick with it. It’s really easy to speed up when you’re nervous; similarly, you can actually slow down when nervous – so be aware of your pace!
3. Following on from point two; you have rehearsed, right?! Practise your speech for the perfect timing. It shouldn’t be too quick, but, for the sake of your guests, it’s best not to ramble on for hours on end.
4. Ensure you have plenty of anecdotes and stories The hard part is flowing them all together smoothly!
5. Leave a gap in the speech! When you are experiencing your wedding day, emotions take over. Speak truly and from your heart during this unplanned section to allow your guests to appreciate how you are feeling. You never really know how you will react until the day itself. I was surprised to see that I really let myself go during my groom speech at this point – and it was quite uncharacteristic of me!
6. Don’t be too serious! Speeches at weddings are meant to be fun and relaxed, not the sort you may be used to delivering in a workplace! On the other hand, be sensitive as to the material you use, particularly if you are best man or maid of honour – you don’t want to mess THEIR day up.
7. Always finish with a toast!
8. Planning a powerpoint presentation? Keep if BRIEF and ensure the venue can cope with such equipment. Will it be dark enough to see the screen? Do you have to hire this equipment in? Rememeber, there is a thing called, ‘Death by powerpoint’! Don’t fall foul of this one.
9. Finally, remember that the audience are on your side. They want you to do well and they will laugh at even a pathetic joke at first to show you this. Gain confidence from their feedback and go for it!
Written by Nick Twist, specialist wedding magician in Norfolk and Suffolk. Find out how he can enhance you wedding day here.
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