COVID-19 PROMPT – This year was supposed to be special for a couple of my friends as they were getting married. Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus, they had to reschedule. Fortunately, both of these friends are also comedians so anyone speaking at their wedding would probably be a comic. That isn’t the case for everyone else. So I wrote this guide to help anyone that has been asked to give a speech at a wedding.
ARTICLE BREAKDOWN – This article is separated into sections to get what you need, however you need it.
It would be easy to tell you my comedy accomplishments and let that be the reason you take my advice, but I would rather let others I have helped with their wedding speeches qualify my work:
…not only did I have the confidence but instead of being nervous, I was excited about sharing the story and leaving the stage with a “drop the mic” type ending.Lou D.
I made sure to work the crowd and hold the mic a certain way just like he said. Everyone at the reception loved my speech, I must have received at least 50 compliments.Varun D.
IMPORTANCE OF THE WEDDING SPEECH
If someone asks you to give a wedding speech, you should take a minute to recognize how important you are to the wedding. These people trust you to say something kind/funny/important about them. This is not the time to wing it or make it up as you go. You should recognize this is a big expectation. Sound scary? It won’t be.
People forget that a wedding is not just a day to get dressed up, drink and dance. It is but there is more to it. A wedding is a show. It consists of two acts: The ceremony and the reception. The wedding begins with the ceremony, where an official unifies two people. You can expect the officiant to say a lot here and the soon-to-be-married couple to exchange a few words about the situation.
The second act is the reception. The reception is where the guests and master of ceremonies receive the newly married couple. The show continues with food, dancing and speeches celebrating the couple. This is where your part comes in. You have to perform your speech to make this show good, not only for the guests but also for the people who got married. This is something that the bride and groom will never say but will feel. Now, are you nervous? It’s fine. We’ll get through it together.
Strengths & Weaknesses – To give a fantastic wedding speech, play to your strengths. If you are the funny one in your friend group, make the speech funny but sprinkle in something sweet. If you are a serious person, make the speech heartfelt but add in something humorous. There is no wrong way when it comes from the heart. If you do not know what kind of person you are, ask a considerate friend. They will tell you. This is not the time to force who you want to be on people.
Anecdotes – A good speech should tell a short story, whether heartfelt, funny or both. Let that be your guide. The end of it should leave the couple in a very positive light. This is NOT the time to air personal grievances. You should also be sure to mention the person you have a lesser relationship with in some capacity. If you cannot leave the bride and groom looking good, then you should reconsider their request.
General Guidelines – In a wedding speech, certain things should not be left to chance. Here are some of the rules that you should follow:
- Politics & Religion – Leave this out. Even if the married couple work in those areas. No need to divide the room on a day of unity.
- Vulgarity – Someone’s grandmother is going to be there. Don’t be a fool. (see how I didn’t have to curse there?)
- Length – Keep the speech in the 2-4 minute* range. It’s best to leave with your shoulders high as opposed to having to skulk off stage.
*A note about speech lengths. If the couple asks you to give anything longer than a five-minute speech, I suggest making a case for a shorter speech. The bride and groom should consider how long it will take to get through ALL the speeches. If they need the time for people to eat dinner or some other arrangement, then they should look elsewhere to entertain guests.
It’s important not to overlook the performance aspect. Words matter, but how you say them matter just as much. These tips will ensure your performance is well received.
Prepare – Rehearse the speech. Not in your head but out loud. Time yourself. See if it’s too long. See what can you can remove. Memorize the speech well. It doesn’t have to be verbatim, but the first time these words are spoken should not be the day of the wedding. They are your words. Do them justice.
Notes – Memorizing a speech in its entirety is too lofty of a goal, so keeping a couple of note cards or one sheet of paper should be enough. You should not be shuffling papers. The notes should be a guide to keep you on the right track. Also: DO NOT USE YOUR PHONE. It looks tacky. Scrolling to find notes reeks of poor preparation. Human connection should not be marred by technology.
Scan the Room – Using the married couple as an anchor, pick another point in the room that is furthest from them that still has guests. Do not be staring at the bar. Add one more point between those two points and you are good to go. Alternate between those three points and that is your line of sight.
Microphone Skills – If the microphone wanders away from your mouth, nobody will hear you. Let’s prevent that. The safe rule here is to hold the microphone close to your mouth with the top of your wrist/bottom of your hand firmly planted against your chest. This way, whatever direction you move, the microphone will go with you. Never let it fall from your chest, and you should be good to go.
Also, make sure the microphone works or ask the MC to test it before you go. This goes without saying, but technical difficulties happen.
ALCOHOL & DRUGS
Friends have asked me about drinking and doing drugs before giving a wedding speech. It makes sense. This can be a nerve-wracking situation. However, I strongly suggest you do not get high or drunk before giving your speech. If you need to have a drink, have one. Even if you’re a 6’6” 300 lb. man, one glass of wine and or beer should be enough to calm your nerves. ONE MEANS ONE. You have the whole night to get sloshed.
After using the tips here and delivering a successful speech, you will have something else to celebrate in addition to the wedding.
If there is something I’ve overlooked, please feel free to comment below. If you are giving a speech and have issues that I may not have addressed, feel free to hit me up. I’ll do what I can to help you out. I’m available on Instagram and Twitter at @alldaykca – You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other than the cover photo, courtesy of these wonderful photos were provided by Emily Winter & Chris Calogero. Photos were taken by Jeff Tisman