Want to make a wedding speech everyone will remember (for all the right reasons)? Anthony Winyard of Anthony Winyard Wedding Entertainment shares his advice and top tips to nail the dreaded speech.
Did you hear about the best man that made the brides mother cry during his wedding speech? Unfortunately they weren’t tears of laughter... Or the groom that spoke for 75 minutes during his speech, yep, he spoke for one hour and 15 minutes, and he didn’t even notice that half the room were in the bar by the time he finished, ordering the free drinks the groom had laid on to escape the boredom.
1 . Get Ready
Thousands of £££’s are spent on weddings; the dress, the food, the venue, etc. which is planned well in advance often in meticulous detail, yet so many times the speeches are left to the last minute. Work on your speech early, review and refine them.
The worst speeches I have heard have been from people who clearly haven’t given any thought to what they are going to say. They think they will just wing it on the day. Nine times out of ten this formula will fail.
There are many good books available on delivering great wedding speeches, but do not just go to Google and copy and paste. You can guarantee that if you find a line on Google, that at least a few of the guests at your wedding will have heard the line before, and if they recognise one line they’ve heard before, it then puts doubt in peoples minds about whether any of your speech is authentic?
You want it to be your speech. Telling your story is always best. Write it yourself. Not a neighbour or a friend. It won’t have the same emotion to it, if someone else writes it. Most people that haven't delivered a good speech vastly underestimate the importance of having emotion in it.
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2. Let’s put it all together
Don't ramble on. Start by writing the end of the speech and then work backwards. Even if you have no other notes, have your last sentence written down so you can finish strongly, have a great line to finish on.
If you are looking at ideas for content write about the past, the present, and hopes for the future. Tell interesting stories that don’t include risqué behaviour. Also remember you don’t have to memorise it word for word. There is nothing wrong with reading from a script, as long as you say it from the heart, and if you need to use notes, small index cards are far preferable to A4 sized paper.
Always start the speech with something impactful. Don't start by thanking the bridesmaids; you can do that after your engaging opening to your speech.
Once you have your speech written out and are happy with it, practise it in front of a mirror and visualise yourself there at the wedding.
Record it on your phone and play it back when you're in the car or out walking the dog. How does it sound? Is it monotone?
Find places where you can speak softly for dramatic effect, or pause, or change the inflection in your voice. When you’re happy, perform it in front of one of your family members or friends and get feedback from them.
4. How long has this been going on
The speech does not have to be long but longer than ‘thank you all for coming’. The ideal time for a speech is five to seven minutes. It’s better to have guests saying, “I wish that speech was longer” rather than “OMG when will he stop talking!”
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5. Wide eyed and legless
Many people hold the mistaken belief that having a few drinks before the speech will calm nerves and improve the delivery. This is an absolute fallacy and is the opposite in the vast majority of cases. It usually just loosens inhibitions resulting in embarrassing stories.
Don’t talk about stag night shenanigans, bodily functions or anything that will offend Auntie Jean or Gran. What may be funny to your close friends may well turn off some of the guests, especially any older guests.
Keep it Disney-friendly and you will be on the right track. Humour is good but only if that is your style. Know your audience and what they would appreciate.
Other things to avoid are whispering or shouting into the microphone. A tip for the best man, by far the best tactic is complimenting the bride by insisting just how lucky your friend is to have found such a perfect bride.
Anthony Winyard in action
6. Smile like you mean it
Smile when you deliver your speech and look up at your audience. Find the many friendly faces in the crowd and make eye contact with them. This will give you the confidence you need. Again, have some pauses, many speakers go too fast.
Breathe. As you approach the microphone, take a slow deep breath with the aim of expanding your stomach not your chest. Deep breathing sends oxygen to the lungs and brain and promotes relaxation.
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7. Don’t you worry about a thing
Don’t worry if you forget your lines or mess up, Smile, and say something like; “What I meant to say was”…. The guests are all there for the same reason, the bride and groom, and they don’t want you to fail. They are on your side. If you show you'r human they will warm to you. Give up the belief that you have to be perfect, give yourself permission to be human! Remember, look down to read, and always look up to speak, but don’t read and speak at the same time, because that is one sure way to lose the connection with the audience. Also, don't speak too fast!
It does need to be heard all around the room so use a microphone if you need to and try and practise with it first so you know how to turn your head without losing sound. Hold the microphone directly in front of your mouth. NOT at your belly button. NOT at your chest and NOT at your chin, but directly in front of your mouth.
8. You’re so vain
If you’re giving a best mans speech remember this day is not about you. There is nothing worse than a speech that is self-serving and ends up being look at me and how cool do I look. Don’t use props unless it’s relevant to the bride and groom. Using a slideshow of pictures to go with your speech can be a great idea, but be careful not to turn it into a corporate presentation that inflicts death by PowerPoint on the unsuspecting guests.
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9. Raise your glass
Don’t forget to have a full toasting glass with you to perform the toast. The Master of ceremonies or Duty manager should have sorted this, but it’s worth making a note at the top of your speech notes, as a reminder to check before you start. Never say, "fill your glasses" during your speech and then immediately follow it with making a toast to someone, because you've given absolutely no time to fill their glasses, so therefore, it was a waste of time telling them to fill their glasses!
10. Too close
Do not walk in front of or place the microphone near or directly in front of the PA speakers. If you hear feedback, don’t get nervous, pause, and just hold the microphone directly in front of your mouth and the problem will subside.
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11. Be sincere
It is extremely unfortunate that the majority of grooms are so nervous that when they say phrases such as “Doesn’t the bride look beautiful”, “Thank you to the mothers” and “thank you to auntie Carol for making the wedding cake” that they are often read out as if reading a shopping list, with no sincerity in the voice and not looking at the person they are speaking of. This usually is because of nerves, not because they meant to be insincere, but if they’d of realised how they were sounding to everyone listening, they would have made more of an effort to deliver them with some emotion and sincerity.
12. Aim to speak from the heart and let it flow.
Do a mirror check and acknowledge that you look great...because you do! You have done all the hard work, and remember it’s not just what you say, but how you say it.
If you'd like any advice on writing or delivering speeches, do get in touch and I'd be more than happy to help you.
Anthony Winyard is a hugely experienced Wedding Host, Master of Ceremonies and wedding DJ, having performed in excess of 2,000 weddings, as well as being a public speaking coach.
Want more tips? Here are seven of the best movie-wedding toasts and speeches and the biggest best man mistakes.