At the end of summer, a friend of mine got married. We met for a drink a couple of weeks beforehand. The conversation didn’t make it much past her worry-list for the day itself:
Would the guests turn up? Would the dress be ready? Would they like the cake? Would the band be too loud? What could go wrong in the service?
But not once did she mention the speeches.
I wondered whether this was her being polite and avoiding my having to talk about work, so I took the initiative and asked whether they were all in hand. Her answer was telling:
“The boys can sort those – that’s their problem”
But why? We live in enlightened times. It doesn’t take a revolutionary to suggest that one should expect to hear speeches in the workplace or in parliament made by both sexes. So what is it about weddings?
I pressed my friend on this. She explained simply, “that’s how it’s meant to be.” She was quite clear about it; this would be a “traditional” wedding, and in a “traditional wedding ceremony the women don’t talk“. That, she continued, is the job of the best man, the groom and the father of the bride.
I didn’t push this further. She clearly had enough on her mind. But why is it that only 5% of the wedding speech enquiries we receive are from the bride, her Mum or a bridesmaid or maid of honour? And sadly, a fair proportion of those are for a Mum stepping-in for an absent father.
Yes, there’s a degree of tradition involved. Yet wedding traditions aren’t sacrosanct in any other area. The father of the bride speech, for example, is a relatively recent development. 20-30 years ago, the ‘third’ speech was usually given by a close family friend or ‘godfather’. Over that period, we’ve seen the advent of gay weddings, weekend-long stag dos and, heaven help us, some couples even live together before they tie the knot.
But despite all that, it appears that women at weddings are expected (and still expect) to be seen and not heard.
Which is such a shame. Because when we do receive those calls from women to help write their wedding speech, the outcome is usually something that is original, amusing, emotional and, most importantly, completely different to the material provided by the men.
The mother of the bride has often spent vastly more time at home with her daughter and (in our experience) has an infinitely more engaging set of memories. The bridesmaids tend to have been friends with the bride for many years (if not decades) before she met the groom, and their tales will regularly be more fun, innocent and original. And in these days of modern families and modern friendships, why can’t the ‘Best Man’ actually be female? It does happen, and her speech tends to be an absolute riot.
We live in enlightened times. We have a queen, a female home secretary, female newsreaders, female soldiers and female referees. Our local golf club has, perish the thought, even started to let ladies play in the monthly medal. We may only be two years away from a female President in Washington. Is it really too much to ask that a female should stand up at a wedding, crack a joke or two and express her love for someone else in the room?
A wedding is a celebration of two people’s love. The guests tend to be drawn equally from both families. The costs are increasingly shared too. Surely its only fair that both sides should get a chance to express themselves?
And if content is the issue, you know where to turn for ideas!