Wedding speeches are often one of the most poignant parts of the big day and yet they can also be the most nerve-wracking for those that have to give them. There’s no set formula for the perfect speech; some couples might welcome raucous anecdotes to bring on belly laughs, others will want something more subtle and heartfelt.
There are some basic guidelines, however, for when the speeches should be made. Traditionally they take place towards the end of the wedding breakfast but before the cutting of the cake, although there’s nothing to say the speeches can’t come before the meal if you prefer. There’s also an order to the proceedings, starting with the father-of-the-bride, followed by the groom, then the bride – if you’re making a speech – and finishing with the best man.
Key wedding speeches – and what they should include:
Father of the Bride
The bride’s father, or another close relative to the bride, is the first to make a speech. It usually includes anecdotes about the bride, compliments to his new son-in-law, his partner and the groom’s parents and finally a toast to the couple. The speech should last between three and eight minutes, which may not sound long, but anything over this time can start to drag. It’s also a long time to fill, even a couple of minutes can seem a long time when speaking in public. He should aim for the ‘ahh’ factor rather than lots of comic moments – normally the best man’s remit – then end by offering a toast to the happy couple and introducing the groom.
The groom thanks his father-in-law for his kind words and offers his thanks, on behalf of himself and his new wife, to both sets of parents for their support and all their guests for coming to the wedding. He must then say something about how amazing his bride looks (compulsory!). A toast to the beautiful bride is a nice touch at this point. This is usually followed by an amusing or soppy story about how the couple met, usually with heartfelt sentiment rather than comic. The groom’s last job is to thank the bridesmaids and, if required, to call each one up to accept a small gift. The groom then introduces his best man or the bride.
Veering away from the traditional roster of wedding speeches, modern weddings often include the bride making her own speech. There’s no set formula but most brides take the opportunity to say something lovely about their groom; if you can make him blush, you know you’ve got it just right!
Keep the speech short and simple, say a few words about how happy you are to have married your groom, thank parents and guests and include a couple of funny stories, such as when you first met or how he proposed. Give your groom a heads up on the topics you might cover so you don’t repeat the same stories. Alternatively, some brides like to read out a poem that has a special meaning or even compose their own.
Finally, it’s the best man’s turn. He’s traditionally expected to provide the most entertaining speech, and is therefore under the most pressure to perform. As speech experts, Speechy suggest, trying to get a laugh in the first 20 seconds of the speech is a good aim. Nobody is expecting a comic genius though, as long as the words sound sincere and you can raise a few laughs, it will be a job well done.
He should mention the bridesmaids and thank the bride and groom for their good wishes and their gifts. It’s then expected that he’ll share some stories about the groom’s colourful past. The best man ends his speech with a final toast to the bride and groom and usually goes on to announce the cutting of the cake.
All speech-givers should remember that the audience isn’t there to judge you – they will be on your side. Most will just be thankful it’s not them up there making the speech! If you’re feeling really worried you may want to enlist the help of a professional and there are lots of companies out there ready, willing and able to assist with wedding speeches.
Finally… How to ace that speech
Do look ‘em in the eye. Slowly scan the faces in the room before you begin. Let your guests’ smiles encourage you.
Don’t put yourself down. Guests don’t need to know you’re feeling a) nervous b) unprepared c) reluctant.
Do try to say ‘us’ and ‘we’ rather than ‘me’ and ‘I’ if you’re the bride or groom.You’re a team now, remember.
Don’t rush to get it over with. Guests will miss what you say and start muttering ‘what was that?’ to each other.
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