Weddings are a beautiful event that brings people together in glorious celebration. But you already knew that. You're here because you have been asked by the bride/groom (or perhaps someone else) to give a speech. The one thing that a whopping 73% fear! Yikes!
So where to begin? Any good speech starts with calm research and reflection - do you think Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, or Rocky Balboa wrote their speeches in a flurry of panic? (Ok, so maybe not the last one, still inspiring, though, have to admit!)
Start by spending some time reflecting on your relationship with the bride and groom. They wouldn't have asked you to make a speech on their special day if you weren't important to them or had NO notable experiences with them. Also, use this time to think about their special qualities and how they have impacted your life - it's not all about them ;)
A quick note: It is quite common for people to assume you must give humorous wedding speeches for it to make an impact and be considered "good." This is a common trap I witness all too often and it is as cringy as it feels just thinking back to the time you saw the "funny" uncle at that wedding 5 years ago make a speech you all still talk about - for all the wrong reasons.
If funny is your forté, go for it! Don't force the comedy, simply let your pen and mind write as you would speaking to a friend.
The same goes if "funny" is the last thing people would describe you as. It's really as simple as that! (No, I'm not being deliberately reductive. Think of any time you tried WAY too hard at anything - how many times did you ACTUALLY succeed the way you wanted to?)
With that in mind, let's now break down this scary task of writing a "Bring Down the House" worthy wedding speech (may it be a tear-jerker, heart-warmer, or a side-splitter) in 5 simple steps.
1. Introduce yourself to the crowd
You will not believe how easy it is to forget this but it is the cornerstone of ANY speech made in public, let alone at a wedding. Why? Because not everyone knows who you are, that's why! Even if the MC has made a formal introduction, making one yourself is a great way to start and the first thing you should write on your dauntingly blank piece of paper or Microsoft Word screen.
What this also does is set up the overall feel of your speech. In other words, it prepares your audience for what they're about to experience and hear from you.
Here's a couple of examples to get your creative juices flowing:
(Reverant/Heartfelt) - On behalf of both [Groom/Bride] and myself, I'd like to thank you all for coming here today to celebrate this momentous occasion. It's a great pleasure to be with you all tonight. Tonight we celebrate [Bride/Groom]'s big day. I feel really privileged to be part of it.
(Funny) - "Hi everyone! I'd like to thank (Groom) for making me his best man. Sit back, relax, I'm now going to share some embarrassing details about them. Is that ok? (Pause) Ok then, let's get started!"
(Light-Hearted/Casual) - "Thank you all for coming out to help celebrate the wedding of George and Stella, it's so great to see you all here dressed so well and in support of them on their special day."
(Formal) - "Ladies and Gentlemen, dearly beloved friends of the wedding couple and family, over the years many of you have been involved in their lives and this most special of occasions is one more chance for us to get together, for them to celebrate their love, and for us to do a bit of reminiscing about old times."
No matter which style you go with STICK WITH IT. That doesn't mean you can't incorporate humour into a speech you opted to begin formally, for example. But it's important not to mix speech styles too much throughout, otherwise it will come across as sloppy, inconsistent, and hard to follow.
2. Start with a story
Everyone LOVES a good story, better yet if that story is funny or reveals something either shocking or heartfelt about someone. Plus, it's a fantastic time-filler for your speech and is where the "meat" of your speech is.
Take a moment to brainstorm on a piece of paper any and all story ideas that you can come up with. Doesn't matter what, the first thing that comes to mind, write it down. You never know which one will spark inspiration.
I recommend no more than 1-3 stories at most, and if you are going to opt for 3 make sure they are all relatively short and punchy. Remember: quality, not quantity, is essential.
And remember the most important parts of ANY good story worth telling - a clear beginning, middle, and end with some moment of intrigue, complication, and resolution at the end. Follow that method, any story you tell will be great!
3. Make a personal reflection of the couple's relationship
Before you begin to wrap up your epic speech, remember that this day is all about the man and woman of honour. You wouldn't be standing there having to make that speech if it weren't for them, after all! While you might be tempted to say something along the lines of "Well, thanks for making me do this fear-inducing speech today that took me hours to write and countless bouts of agony and anxiety!" I recommend something a lot more heartfelt and personal about how you feel about them.
This is actually the EASIEST part of the whole speech. Why? Because you obviously are important enough to them and have known them long and well enough to make a genuine comment or two on them as a couple!
Here are some examples, in case you're still stuck or need some inspiration:
"Mark and Sarah, you are a beautiful couple who have been through so much and I am so proud of what you have achieved so far. I wish you both the very best in life together and all the love and happiness this new life and the world has to offer."
"I am so proud of you two, in awe of the beauty and strength that you are both. This has been a long road, but your end result is worth it. A beautiful relationship is always built on hard work and perseverance and you both have demonstrated that time and time again."
"The words of wisdom I have for you today are simply this: live fully, love completely, and always remember she is right. Every time!"
4. Keep the speech short and sweet
When delivering a wedding speech, it is always best to keep the speech short and sweet. A long, drawn-out speech can cause boredom and will likely result in less applause for you at the end (which never feels good, obviously). The best wedding speeches are generally less than five minutes long. Seriously.
Anything longer (aside from inducing boredom and distraction in your audience) and you can have an adverse impact on the overall running of the evening. You must remember there are a LOT of other major parts of what is a chaotic (and expensive) public event and going significantly over time will place strain on the evening's timeline.
(Cue visible sweat from all the vendors, the MC, and perhaps the bride and groom who are keen to make sure everything runs on time for a wedding they spent MONTHS planning just to have your looooooong and pointless story about the time you and the groom went fishing spoil it.)
Anything shorter, alternatively, and you risk simply not making the most of the task you have been asked to make count. Whether or not YOU feel being asked to make a speech is a big deal, THEY certainly feel it is important enough.
5 minutes goes a LOT quicker than you might imagine when making a speech, so don't sweat the clock or make it seem you can't wait for the speech to be over so you can resume drinking or literally anything else.
Give the moment what it deserves and the bride and groom will be VERY grateful (and you will feel good, too, which is always nice!).
5. Finish with a CLEAR ending
Now for the big finish - the ending. I will note here that if you ABSOLUTELY CANNOT think of anything else except "Thank you" then that's acceptable. It's not mind-blowing but it definitely lets everyone know you are done.
If, however, you are still here reading this hoping for WAY better than simply "Thank you" then never fear, I'm here to help! ;)
Finishing a speech successfully can often be just as hard, perhaps even harder, than opening one. People typically only remember long-term two things out of any experience - the beginning and the end. (There is actually a technical term for this. It's known as the 'Serial Position Effect.')
You could go casual and humourous:
"Well, there you have it, folks! The hardest part of the speech is now behind me. I was tempted to end with a witty joke or something really funny to get everyone laughing, but then I realized that wasn't why I was up here in the first place. It's about Mark and Sarah's love. Congratulations and cheers!
Or perhaps slightly more formally:
"Ladies and gentleman, may you join me in a toast as we celebrate Mark and Sarah's union. Thank you for asking me to be your Maid of Honour, I can't wait to see what the rest of your life together has in store!"
Ultimately, as long as it feels like it's finished when you read it out loud then you're on the right track! Speaking of reading out loud...
Practice makes perfect!
Now your speech is finally complete, don't let all of that hard work go to waste by committing the cardinal sin of speech making: not practising! You'll be surprised how many mistakes you'll pick up simply by speaking it out loud in front of the mirror or in front of a friend/family member (if you're feeling braver!). Plus, if you're especially nervous about making the speech in front of SO many people I promise that practice ahead of time does absolute WONDERS for confidence. Trust me on this!
(And just so you know, that whole "imagine your audience naked" thing? Doesn't work and it's never nice ergh...)
Good luck! You'll do great!
Making a great wedding speech is never easy, but with a bit of time spent preparing and following the steps above you're well on your way to bringing the house down on the wedding day - might it be in a flurry of laughter or tears, you decide!
Have a tip that worked for you when writing your own speech? Know of a great example on the web or for your own wedding, perhaps? Feel free to comment below and let me know!
Or perhaps you need help with a speech your writing right now? Let me know below, happy to give some advice! Like/share and thanks for reading!
Nathan Cassar, Master of Ceremonies
Based in Sydney, Australia, Nathan is a live entertainer and Master of Ceremonies with 10+ years on the microphone and 1000s of lasting memories with audiences around the world. He is a keen traveler and splits his spare time between playing the piano, paintball, or the latest game on Xbox (sorry, PS fans!).