Last weekend some friends attending a wedding locally came to stay. They left early on Saturday afternoon and returned, noisily, around half past one on Sunday morning.
Over breakfast we heard about the sermon, the bride’s dress, the flowers, the first dance, and the meal. And almost every comment to that point was positive.
That was when they started on the speeches.
As you can imagine, my ears pricked-up at this point.
Sadly, on this occasion there wasn’t much for me to feel envious about. The ensuing conversation went something like this:
“It started with the bride’s dad. That one was OK. Although he didn’t sound like he’d actually met her for a while. He spoke in the third person, and didn’t come close to saying anything affectionate.”
“That’s just what I thought. The nicest thing he said was that she’d surprised him at her school sports day!”
“Yes, but at least he didn’t gush too much. And he did keep it short.”
“True. Unlike the best man. We had a sweepstake on our table about how long he’d talk for. No one got close. It went on and on. For about thirty minutes, although it felt like two hours.”
“And he pitched the whole thing at one group on a table that went to school together. There were so many in-jokes and strange references. To be fair, that group were in hysterics for most of the time, but the rest of us might as well have been listening to a speech in a foreign language.”
“The groom was much more sensitive. And he thanked us all and seemed to be really grateful.”
“True. Although I’m not sure he had to thank pretty much everyone he’d ever met. Or explain exactly how the guests from Singapore made it to the airport. Or how the wedding planner had made his life so much easier.”
“Yes, it was a bit of a trial.”
“I hope you didn’t write any of them Lawrence?”
Fortunately, I was able to deny it. Although, as David Brailsford keeps saying, it’s very difficult to prove a negative!
I should stress at this point that this conversation DID actually take place. This isn’t some imaginative hook to demonstrate how important wedding speeches are, or to prove how our principles are so important.
The fact is that many thousands of pounds are ploughed into weddings. Relationships can face their first big test over the thickness of the invitations, the colour of the flowers, and the choice of music.
And yet the speeches, which take place at a crucial part of the evening, are usually left to chance.
A few notes scribbled the night before. A template downloaded from the internet. A series of cut and paste jokes.
There are articles all over this website advising how to construct a great speech. We’ve even written a short book about it. In summary, whatever your role at the wedding, you should:
– Write it for your entire audience, not for your closest friends
– Structure it before you start writing
– Work out what you want the audience’s key memory to be, and use that as a target
– Try to link the separate sections so the speech becomes more than the sum of its parts
– Avoid writing a list; this a wedding, not a school register
– Ensure an appropriate balance between humour and sincerity
– Keep the writing punchy – don’t waste a word
– Write-in your pauses to remind you to slow down
– Keep it brief – 1,500 words at the absolute max – 1,000 would be better
– Practise it, edit it and practise it again
Follow those guidelines and you are unlikely to be the laughing stock of breakfast the morning after. And if you want some help, that’s what we do. Please give us a call and we can help write it for you.