Who gives the speeches?
It’s traditional for speeches to be given at the wedding reception. The father of the bride should give his speech first, followed by the groom’s speech, and finally the best man’s speech.
The father of the bride, by tradition, is the one who pays for the wedding. Therefore he speaks first, welcomes his guests, says a few loving words about his daughter and makes appropriately positive comments about his new son-
The groom’s speech is given on behalf of the groom and his new wife. The groom thanks the various people who have helped with the wedding, and adds some personal and loving comments about his new wife.
The purpose of a best man’s speech is, strictly, to introduce the groom to the bride’s family and friends and to highlight his many excellent qualities. However, in modern times, guests will expect a bit of light-
Sometimes additional speeches will be given. The three most common are: chief bridesmaid, the bride herself and the father of the groom.
A traditionalist would say that none of these are necessary if the customary speeches are given: it’s the job of the father of the bride to speak about the bride, not a bridesmaid; the groom’s speech is given on behalf of both the groom and his wife, so the bride need not speak as well; and the best man speaks about the groom, so there is no need for a speech from the father of the groom.
In reality, the situation is often more delicate –
Writing your speech
The groom’s speech is in many ways the easiest of the three main speeches. Many grooms get away with a list of thank yous and a few comments about how beautiful their wife looks and how happy they are. That’s not too bad, but aim higher if you can. Consider building your speech around the following structure:
- Thank your new father-
in- law for his speech.
- Tell the story of how you first met your wife. What attracted you to her? How did the first date go? It’s normally pretty easy to get a laugh in here somewhere. If that’s not going to work, then how about the story of how you proposed?
- Thank your in-
laws for welcoming you into their family. Think of a couple of positive things to say about them. It only needs to be a sentence or two. Remember too that you are speaking on behalf of your wife. Thank them for bringing her up to be the fantastic woman you are marrying today.
- If your wife has brothers or sisters, mention them too, and thank them.
- Thank your own parents for bringing you up. If they were good parents, then think about why they were good parents, and try to explain it in a couple of sentences. You are not aiming to nauseate the audience with sentimental rubbish, but you are aiming to make your mother cry (in a nice way). Give it some thought.
- Add in any other special thank-
yous needed (for example, the ushers). It’s impossible to thank each and every person who helps with a wedding in the groom’s speech, so don’t try. Your audience will get bored. But do pick out the important ones.
- Talk about your wife. You really need to think about this. Why are you marrying her? What do you love about her? Try to sum it up in three or four sentences. Avoid sentimental drivel that sounds like the inside of a Valentine’s Day card –
anyone can write that. But talk from the heart. The aim here is to make your wife cry (in a nice way).
- Thank the bridesmaids, comment on how great they’re looking, and then propose a toast to them. Toasting the bridesmaids is an expected part of the groom’s speech, so don’t forget.
- Thank your best man, say what a great guy he is, and hand over to the best man. This is another place where you can get an easy laugh. For example: “X is a great guy, but the only slight drawback is that he does live in a bit of a parallel universe which causes him to invent fanciful stories. He really does believe these stories to be true and I thank you for humouring him during his speech”. Then sit down to rapturous applause and keep your fingers crossed that your best man goes easy on you!
If you stick to this format then by the end of your speech you’ll have made them laugh, you’ll have made them cry, and you’ll be finished inside about eight minutes, which is about right for a groom’s speech.
If you are struggling to find jokes to sprinkle through your speech, then it’s well worth checking out Mike Haskins’ famous book of one-liners. He has written for some of the best comedians out there, so you’re in safe hands. Remember, if your audience laughs, then it will help you to relax.
Delivering your speech
Here’s some top tips for delivering your speech:
- Avoid using a microphone if you possibly can. Speaking into a mike can be distracting if you are not used to it, and it’s more difficult than it looks. Many couples rely on their DJ to supply a mike for the speeches which makes matters even worse –
DJ mikes are specially designed not to cause feedback and have to be held very close to the mouth. The best bet is to forget mikes and concentrate on your delivery. Speak loudly and clearly and address the back of the room. If need be, visit the venue in advance and check out the acoustics for yourself. Get your fiancee to stand on one side of the room while you stand on the other side. Have a conversation. Take note of how loudly you need to speak in order to be heard.
- Make sure you have a table in front of you when you deliver your speech. In most cases this is easy to arrange because you will be giving speeches either immediately before or immediately after the meal. However, don’t be tempted to deliver your speech from a location where you are “naked” before the audience. Even experienced politicians dislike doing this, which is why they use lecterns. Stand behind something –
you will feel a lot calmer.
- Put your notes on small cards, not a big sheet of paper. Even if you don’t get nervous when delivering your speech, the adrenaline will probably be flowing and this can make your hands shake. If you are holding a big sheet of paper, this shaking will be very noticeable and distracting for your audience. Write your notes on index cards, and punch a hole in the top left corner. Then tie them all together with a treasury tag. This means there is no chance of them being out of order when you come to deliver your speech. It also means that if you drop the cards (and grooms have done this before) they won’t spill across the floor.
- Before you stand up to deliver your speech, make sure you have a glass of water to hand in case you need to clear your throat. You also need to have a glass of champagne to hand, because most groom’s speeches involve a toast to the bridesmaids. A lot of wedding speakers get to the toast and then find they’ve got nothing to toast with. Check before you start.
- To propose a toast, just say “Ladies and Gentleman, will you please be upstanding and raise your glasses…” then pause, wait for everyone to stand up, raise your glass and say “…to the bridesmaids”. Make the last bit as loud as you can because there will still be the odd scraping chair from people who are slow to rise. The audience repeats “the bridesmaids”, takes a sip, and then sits down. You can then carry on.
Remember, everyone’s willing you to do well. Enjoy it.