How to give the best Wedding Speech

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Public speaking is not everybody's cup of tea. In fact most people rather sink in the ground than stand in front of a crowd saying a few words. So how can you prepare yourself in the best possible way to make your wedding speech a memorable moment?

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Typically there are some key speeches that are expected during the Reception. The Groom will have some kind words for his beautiful Bride, the father of the bride accepts the son in law into the family and drops a tear when he has to finally accept the fact that his daughter is now given away and the Maid of Honour will give some words of support and friendship. Let's not forget the often dreaded speech of the best man who can sometimes be a bit too graphic in the description of the wild bachelor days.

The speeches are all about a little bit of fun and entertainment as well as acknowledgement and congratulations. However, there is a fine line between fun and embarrassment especially after a few drinks and laughs of the crowd it is advisable not to get too carried away in the different truths that you are revealing.

Wedding speeches are not much different to any public speaking engagements. The same rules apply. The main rule is to not show your nervousness as people cannot see you are nervous unless you show that fact. I learned that many years ago in a presentation training at work. For 2 days we held presentation after presentation that were all videotaped. It was quite amazing to see the presentation straight after I held it in front of the group. In the first couple of Speeches I felt quite nervous, but when shown the video it was only visible with some ahhs, fidgeting or nervous laughs.

There are a few tricks that you can practice that will make you look less nervous. Here are a few of them:

1)        Stand Still

Many people (me included) fidget in front of a crowd moving on the spot. This is a nervous reaction because our natural responds to stress is to run away.  To avoid fidgeting place your feet firmly on the ground and don’t move. You can practice this before or you could lean slightly into the table in front of you. Make sure that you don’t fall over together with the table and everything on it. You sure get some laughs then J.

2)       Let your arms hang

Gesture is part of a good speech, however many inexperienced speakers go in the prayer position meaning that they hold their hands. After very thought is complete have short 2-5 second break and lower your arms to the side. This is a good time to collect your thoughts and let the audience dwell over the last part of the speech.

3)       Do not make fill sounds

Fill sounds or words like “aaah”, “ok” and other fillers show nervousness or unpreparedness. It is quite difficult to avoid that habit as we are using these fill sounds or words unconsciously and are not aware we are doing it. Practice in front of a mirror or better videotape yourself in preparation to see what you are doing in breaks and what your favourite sound is that you should avoid.

When you do not know what to say next or you feel the urge to puff out an “aaah” just stop and do not say anything. Concentrate on the next part of the speech and continue when you are ready. Be aware that when standing in front of the crowd  with everybody looking at you a few seconds feel like eternity, but for the people in the crowd it is a welcome break when they can think about the words that were said last.   

4)       Maintain eye contact

Maintaining eye contact is sometimes quite hard, but it is the most powerful trick for experienced speakers to mesmerise the audience. When you hold the eye contact with a person in the crowd for a long period of time the person feels as if you are speaking to them personally and they are engaged in what you have to say much better then when you just sweep over.

The biggest mistake that speakers do is to look up to the ceiling or somewhere behind the audience gazing into the open space. When we trained this we had the listeners hold up their hands and the speaker had to maintain eye contact for 10 seconds before the hand went down. The moment eye contact was lost within the 10 seconds the clock started again. This experience was quite interesting because as the speaker I felt that 10 seconds were a long time. As audience I felt much more engaged and it gave the speech a personal touch.

A good trick is to keep looking into one person’s eyes for the length of a thought and when you change the subject you change to look at someone else. Pick someone who is looking friendly and smiles. It is easier.

How to give a good speech is not something that comes over night. You can join Toast Masters who on a weekly basis give you the opportunity to practice your public speaking skills. A couple of months will demystify your wedding speech and you will feel less nervous.

What should you talk about in your speech? How long should you speak for?

Wedding speeches can be a lot of fun, but should be kept short and sweet. A maximum of 5-10 minutes is probably a good guide. Be mindful that guests would like to mingle and party rather than listen to speeches. I had a groom once talk for a full 1.5 hours. He had 360 cards he was talking through. On the other hand just to say “Cheers” is probably a little underwhelming.

It is always a good idea to warm with the audience. You could start with a nice anecdote or a joke. There are many places where you can find tasteful jokes that relate to the couple. Keep it above the belt as it can be very embarrassing for some if you speak of past events that the Groom would not like to have disclosed in front of his Bride, his parents and the rest of the families. Always keep the good principle in mind: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!”. This applies not only to Las Vegas, but also for all kind of other venues and events.

When making jokes be mindful of the crowd. What is socially acceptable for you can be unacceptable or politically incorrect for others or older Generations. There are a few good books that give you the dos and don’ts of wedding speeches. Here are some suggestions:

Best Man Speeches

Wedding Speeches & Wedding Toasts

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