For many grooms, brides, best men and fathers – or mothers – of the bride, the prospect of making a speech at the wedding can be a daunting one.
Here is my 5-step action plan for how to prepare and deliver a speech that the audience will enjoy and remember:
1. Take a piece of paper and make a list of the points you want to cover. A wedding speech has a traditional format, which you’re not obliged to follow exactly if you don’t want to but it does provide a handy structural template. Writing down your points focuses the mind and allows you to see where you’re going, but please keep your notes very brief. What you’re doing here is planning the shape and flow of your speech, what you’re going to say in the broad sense. What you’re NOT doing is writing out a script.
2. As you’re deciding what to include, what to leave out and what sort of anecdotes and so on to tell, do bear in mind that wedding guests are the very definition of a mixed, family audience, so keep your material suitable. Also, unless you are the bride or groom, remember that this celebration is not about you and this is not the moment to tell stories in which you’re the hero or that cast the bride or groom in a bad light.
A great wedding speech is original and sincere. Copying a load of naff jokes from the internet is cheap and the result is tedious and irritating.
3. Say it out loud! This is crucial and it’s how you refine what you want to say. The first time you articulate a point or tell a story (and probably for several further attempts), it will be a bit rough, with some hesitation and floundering, but that’s fine, it’s what this stage is all about. Feel free to cut stuff out, introduce other stuff, move stuff around if it’s not flowing smoothly. Hone your content till you’re satisfied with it.
4. Make yourself a set of notes. Although a script is a bad idea, I always recommend a speaker has notes to refer to. Index cards are usually a good bet but, if you’re going to have one hand full of a microphone, you might prefer a side or two of A4 that you leave on the table in front of you.
5. Rehearse your speech. With your notes as a guide to keep you on track and make sure you don’t miss anything out, visualise a large audience and practise talking to them. As you go through your speech more and more times, the words will lodge themselves at the front of your mind, so you can speak naturally but also fluently. Speak slowly and pause between your points, so the audience has a chance to appreciate what they’re hearing and you have space to think.
Follow these five steps and not only will you do a good job, you’ll find the whole process only minimally stressful. Yes, it takes a lot of work to create a great wedding speech but that’s quite different from it being scary and, come the day, the effort you put in will be amply rewarded.
If you’d like personalised wedding speech coaching, please get in touch and I’ll be happy to help.