Working in a living, breathing wedding speech hub is great fun. Not least because people from all round the world send us their first drafts to review.
This means we have purred in approval at some outstandingly relevant, original and humorous drafts. And, as you would expect, we have also seen some real horrors!
We’re a nice bunch, and we don’t tell tales. Quite the contrary. We pride ourselves on our discretion. But we thought that anyone preparing for their own wedding speech could benefit from a brief list of the most common mistakes that ruin speeches for grooms, best men, fathers of the bride, bridesmaids, brides and their mums. Avoid these ten wedding speech mistakes and you are well on the way to speech success (although we are, of course, always happy to take the entire job off your hands and write it for you!):
Weddings tend to be family affairs. Jokes that work in front of ten guys in the pub, may not appeal to great Aunty Doris. Or even Uncle Quentin. Our ‘riskometer’ suggests that if it MIGHT be offensive, you should avoid it. So the less reference to the details of THAT night in Magaluf the better.
A ‘heard it all before’ wedding speech won’t offend anyone, but it will create the sort of stale atmosphere often witnessed at a double glazing sales convention. First and foremost it means avoiding cut and paste gags from the internet. Once your audience recognises a one liner, they will assume everything else is ‘borrowed’ too.
It’s a wedding. Which may sound obvious, but it is amazing how often speakers forget that crucial bit. Weddings are really about the bride, the groom and their families. And so the best man who uses his speech as an opportunity to reminisce about his adventures with the groom as a single man may find that he loses the audience’s attention rather quickly.
It’s a horrible word. And whispering to your fellow guests that the Father of the Bride is guilty of it may seem a little harsh. But it can be all too true. The signs are clear. He starts by wiping away a tear and remembering the day he heard his wife was pregnant. He continues by explaining what he was doing at work when he received the big call to say the waters had broken. He moves on to his emotions when he held his little girl in his hands for the first time. At this point you look at your watch and he’s been speaking for six minutes already.
Yes, there are lots of people to thank at a wedding. And yes, you want them all to feel loved. But no, you don’t need to embark on an all-inclusive list of thanks that will make your guests feel like you are re-creating the school register. Try to work your thanks around a theme. Blend them into an anecdote. Group people and thank them as one. And, most importantly, don’t thank the wedding planner, the chefs or the flower arranger unless they are doing it as a favour. Professionals can be thanked privately and by settling your account on time.
OK, weddings are about romance and love. But the service covers that side of things in detail. The speeches should, of course, have some touching moments, and a tear-jerking line or two can be incredibly moving. But not too much. 70% light to 30% sincere and slushy is the most we’d recommend. If a speech lasts ten minutes, and you spend eight of them explaining in graphic detail how your stomach churns every time you hear her name, and how her voice reminds you of larks singing on a sultry, summer evening, something’s not quite right. You may even find your guests finding it hard to keep down their main course.
Ever been to a wedding with a speech sweep stake? Someone always goes high and predicts that the speeches will last in excess of an hour. And they will be the ONLY ones who are not checking their emails and glancing knowingly at their partners long before the end. A great wedding speech shouldn’t be much longer than ten minutes. That’s not a cast iron rule, but anything longer than fifteen should be chopped back. And for those who haven’t rehearsed it, that’s a maximum of 1500 words.
You may be able to blend Russell Brand’s energy with the insouciance of David Cameron, but however stylish your wedding speech, you need to cover the basics in roughly the right proportions. These are set out here. On the basis that this article is all about getting it wrong, you’ll want to avoid being he groom who spends 80% of his speech talking about his best man, the father of the bride spending half his speech reminiscing about his own wedding, or the bride who comes on after the three ‘traditional’ speeches to repeat all the same thank yous that your guests have heard already.
Need I say more? A glass of wine to steady the nerves is no bad thing. A bottle is probably overdoing it. A speech defined by the speaker’s inability to focus or pronounce long words is likely to end up in the chamber of speech giving horrors. Otherwise known as ‘You Tube’.
This is a danger for anyone who writes their speech without reading it out loud first. The risk is that you sound like you are delivering a newspaper article, or a paragraph from Moby Dick, ie long-winded, monotone and entirely disconnected from your script. Even the best speeches on paper need to brought to life by the speaker and it’s very hard to do that without practising out loud.
If you can avoid that lot, you are already on the road to wedding speech glory. And there is, of course, an unofficial eleventh suggestion: That you avoid giving a speech without speaking to us first! We write speeches from scratch and edit those you have already written. Do let us know if you’d like some help with yours.