How to write a great wedding speech.
Maybe the idea of speaking in front of a massive crowd of people fills you with a special kind of dread (you're not alone! Statistically, people fear public speaking more than death!) and then add the pressure of the importance of the speech.... YIKES.
We've had the (dubious?) pleasure of seeing hundreds of speeches, so can tell you with some confidence what will hit the mark, and what will leave you feeling red-faced and awks.
1. Write it down.
Even the most gifted speaker will struggle to deliver a flawless speech unless they've prepared it first. Give yourself plenty of time to prep, and go back and edit it until you're confident it's right. We've heard very nervous speakers read directly from their speeches, and even if they can barely look up from the page they can take their audience on an emotional journey. We've also seen speeches where the speaker was clearly hoping that ignoring it would make it go away, and the speech was an embarrassing combination of pacing, occasional swearing, and bumbled thank yous.
2. Don't work yourself into a tiz because you think you're no good.
Some of the most beautiful, heartfelt speeches are delivered by normal people - people whose hands shake a little, whose voices waver at the emotional bits, people delivering speeches in a language that's not their native tongue. The honesty and vulnerability of standing up in front of a crowd to say "I know you, and I love you" is really beautiful. You're speaking to a crowd who is high on love, they're not going to judge you, and if you cry you can be sure everyone will be right there with you.
3. Use diversionary tactics (and don't be afraid to be a little weird)
Take the focus off of you, and back onto the most important people with a slideshow of photos of their childhood or their relationship. People love looking at a good slideshow, and you can caption the images with things you might have trouble saying out loud. Choose a great song, and you can have people doubled over with laughter, or wiping away sentimental tears.
If you're more of a performer, consider performing a song - we've even seen pantomimes and costumes. The unexpected can be hilarious!
4. Avoid the roast.
It's customary to say mean things in speeches, normally about the groom (which, frankly, is sexist nonsense). This can turn out really badly. At best these speakers embarrass themselves and look like jerks, at worst they lose friends (sadly we've seen this happen!). If the speaker is going to say mean things, make sure they make the subject look admirable - you can tease about someone being silly in love with their spouse, for being a nerdy high achiever - but leave all tales of previous relationships or youthful indiscretions for another time.
5. Ditch the cliche
For once, google is not your friend - this needs to be your speech, not something the internet has written for you. You don't need to thank everyone one by one. You don't need to say how beautiful the bridesmaids look. You don't need to list the far flung areas people have travelled from. (These people know you care about them, and you can thank them in person when you chat to them). You DO need to focus on the most important people in the room - your partner, and the special people in your life. Make a list of reasons that you love your partner, the first time you realised that they were the one, or a list of funny little habits they've got. Tell an anecdote about something that revealed part of their character that you love, or is like a parable for your relationship. If your parents, or their parents, have been supportive and loving - tell them that you're grateful (some people's families aren't that great, don't feel obligated to mention them if you don't want to). Dig deep, and keep it authentic - even if it feels embarrassing or twee - at a wedding raw honesty is so important. There aren't many times you're going to say to your partner (especially with witnesses) "I'm proud of you. I'm my best when I'm with you. I admire you and I love you. Your farts are the stinkiest I've had the displeasure of experiencing, but I'm still in this for the long haul".
6. Keep it short.
A good speech doesn't have to be long. If you can communicate everything you want to say in a few minutes, that's fine. If you've got lots of quality material, by all means dedicate all the time you need!
7. Aim for equality.
For some dumb reason, someone once decided that women don't need to speak at weddings (as above with roasting grooms, sexist nonsense). If they're both around, both parents should speak (together, if they want). And both people in the couple should speak. It can be scary, but it's really important, and you can only regret the speech you didn't give, not the one you did. Let your partner know why you're marrying them, it's a really lovely note to start your marriage on.