Nailing the wedding speech

Last updated 08:36 29/03/2012

One of the funniest wedding speeches I've heard was at the wedding of some friends where the best man opened the night's festivities. Toast

"When writing this, I was told the speech should last as long as the groom's love-making... so thank you and good night!"

He then motioned to sit down while the guests, even the oldies, giggled at what I thought was a pretty good ice-breaker.

It set the tone for the rest of the speeches, and that one thing - tone - is probably the most important thing when it comes to speeches, I reckon.

Too humorous, it becomes a bit of a joke and you can see guests squirm in their seats. Too mushy, the non-romantics switch off. Too rude, people will talk about it for years to come (and not in a good way). Too clever or too personal, the message can get lost and people may mutter "Guess you had to be there..."

The plethora of wedding magazines I've found myself surrounded by have provided some good advice for this area, though. Who is supposed to say what? And in what order do people talk? 

I know that this is a moving beast, there aren't "rules" and you can do whatever you want, but I thought it was interesting to know the "traditions".

So here they are:

MC:

- Hushes the guests for speeches, introduces him/herself and his/her relationship to the couple. Explains how the night will work (who will speak, where the exits are in emergency, when the food will arrive etc). At the wedding I was at the other week, I liked how the MC went around all the tables and introduced who the groups of people were. "These are the bride's family here, these are friends from the groom's cricket club... and here we have the 'naughty' table'." Yeah, I was at that last table. Good times!

Father of the bride:

- Introduced by the MC or best man, proposes toast to the couple, usually welcomes all family and other guests, welcomes groom to family, and says a couple of things about his daughter.

Best man:

- Toasts the bridesmaids, makes light-hearted jokes about how the groom has "changed" since he's been with the bride. Funny story I was told recently - the best man referred to the groom as a "GC" in his speech. Elderly family member at front table asked out loud what a "GC" was. Bridesmaid returned fire quicker than her brain engaged and yelled "Good c***". Umm.

Groom:

- Thanks parents, thanks guests for gifts, mentions about those who couldn't be there because of illness, distance or because they have passed. Toasts the bridesmaids and makes a wee speech to his wifey.

Bride:  Drunk

- Optional for them to speak, but increasingly more are. I think I'll put my fourth form speech winning certificate into action and say a few words.   

DOs and DON'Ts:

- Tread carefully when mentioning ex-partners. It might be a funny story at the pub, but maybe not on this one day. 

- Introduce yourself. Unless you're the bride or the groom, chances are not everyone in the room will know who you are and what relationship you are to the couple. 

- Be wary of your speech dragging on. There are *so* many toasts throughout the night, be mindful that people (especially ones with a few drinks in their belly) can only tolerate so much in terms of their attention span.

- Speaking of booze, if you know you have to speak, go easy on yourself. Nothing worse than a slurry, sweary speech-maker whose message gets lost in the beer burps and booze sweats.

- Do ask around if you think there are other people who would like to speak and try to get a head's up that they will talk. This will (maybe, potentially, hopefully) prevent a random pass-around-the-mic-for-hours-on-end situation.  

- Preparation! Even if you don't want to write out a full speech (and let's be honest, it'd be great if everyone could just talk off the cuff, but not everyone can), having a few notes or at least bullet points will mean you're less likely to be overcome on the day. 

Who spoke at your wedding or who do you have plan to speak? Do you have any speech tips? Any horror stories or ones that'll make our hearts melt?

Follow Greer on Twitter or Weddings on Facebook. You can email Greer here.

48 comments
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eszter   #1   08:47 am Mar 29 2012

I dont think rules need to be followed on the old traditions of who speaks..it really depends on the couple and the family situation and on who actually WANTS to talk. I didnt want to force anyone into it just because it was 'tradition'.

We had the following: Mother of Groom Sister of Bride Mother of Bride 2 x Bridesmaids Best Man Bride Groom

The biggest tip would be to put a time limit on the speeches. We said no more than around 3 mins.. and thats what we roughly averaged at. The above people's speeches were all done and dusted within 30mins. So it was really nice to have all the sentimental stuff and the mushy stuff, a few jokes etc etc but it was quick and painless. Everyone afterwards said how great it all was , just the right amount!

We also didnt set rules on who needs to say what, who toasts who.. I think for the toast we just had the Best Man toast the Bridesmaids, Maid of Honour toasted the boys, and Hubby toasted all the guests and family for coming.

I think at the end of the day, speak from the heart, keep it brief and just dont feel the need to follow set rules or traditions. Its your day , make it yours :)

Rita   #2   08:48 am Mar 29 2012

I'd suggest those giving a speech go to a Toastmasters club. They'll learn how to structure a speech (including humour) and get a chance to practise as well as receiving feedback on how it could be improved.

BT   #3   09:00 am Mar 29 2012

My mate was the best man at his brother's wedding recently. He used the exact same ice-breaker! He also got a lot of ideas for his speech from the internet and mentioned the following in his speech:

"Stumped for ideas I turned to the internet for some tips. After searching for an hour and finding hundreds of great links I remembered why I actually turned the computer on. So I quickly cleared my search history and started looking for speech ideas..."

Gold!

Sam   #4   09:01 am Mar 29 2012

I had a look on a couple of websites for ideas for Best Man speeches a few years ago (and ignored all of them). What is funny now is that I hear significant portions of the example speeches on the sites repeated over and over again by best men at weddings - including the ice breaker mentioned above and the god awful key joke. But then sometimes these jokes bring the house down.

I reckon speeches should totally depend on the people, there is nothing worse than some poor bloke (or girl) who is not a speaker trying to fumble through a 5min speech. One I went to the, admittedley a bit rough, BM got up and said something like "You know that if someone you love leaves and comes back that they are worth holding on to forever. That is what I see with you two and I wish you all the happiness you deserve". Gold.

Bruce Hearfield   #5   09:04 am Mar 29 2012

@Rita - It should be a fun thing to do, not a chore

The Hen   #6   09:18 am Mar 29 2012

I went to a friend's wedding last year and the MC was the best man's father. He. was. appalling! He opened the entire reception with the line "*Husband's name* - I can sum marriage up in a sentence for you. It's a life sentence." And this was by no means the worst of it. What followed was inappropriate, sexist tosh that had tables looking at each other in appalled confusion - "did he really say that?!", and the poor bride sat in shock and was nearly in tears throughout.

The husband's father then got up and talked about how great the BEST MAN was for over half his speech!

As you say Greer - that is what is talked about the most now. The rest of the wedding was lovely but the speeches are now the standard "what not to do" in our group!!

CB   #7   09:20 am Mar 29 2012

Our Best Man started his speech with a very loud 'Fornication'. That provided a few second of stunned silence, while he cleared his throat and continued with 'For an Occasion' like this... Very funny!!!

jellybean   #8   09:33 am Mar 29 2012

The speeches at our wedding were amazing. The MC was hilarious and put everyone in a good mood. Then it was 'MOTHER of the bride' (my father wasn't very involved in my life), Groom, Best Man, Maid of Honor'. I decided not to say anything. The best speech was my husbands. It was off the cuff, very funny and romantic. All my friends were incredibly impressed as he's always been rather quiet around them.

My tips - limit the length of speeches. I went to a wedding once where the best man droned on about 'lord knows what' for about 10 minutes. It was awful. Also, make sure the best man doesn't talk about ex's or the grooms 'wandering eye'. Yet another wedding I went to was ruined by the drunken best man saying many inappropriate things.

k   #9   09:37 am Mar 29 2012

At our Wedding my Dad, best man, my sister (also a BM), and the Groom all did a speech. We told them just a minute or so is fine (my Dad needed a time limit or he would speak forever). To end the speeches the Best Man and a guest surprised everyone, including the Groom, by singing a hilarious version of "Rocket Man" (my DHs nickname is Rocket), which related to the stories he had brought up in his speech.

samm   #10   10:07 am Mar 29 2012

Adding to the Groom's thank you list: THANK THE PHOTOGRAPHER/S. I know a couple of wedding photographers, and they seldom get acknowledged, usually because they are doing their jobs so well they don't get in the way, so don't stand out.


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