Whether you've known the bride/groom since college or the first day of kindergarten, writing a wedding speech can be a doozy. Since the majority of us skimmed through our public speaking classes, it's safe to say choking in front of a room filled with friends and family is a definite possibility. Here are a few tips to get you through it.
This is a no brainer. If you'd like to sample a cocktail or throw back a shot before getting up in front of the guests, by all means go for it; it will calm your nerves. But whatever you do, avoid being the drunken fool that almost ruined the reception. You don't want that black cloud hanging over you for years to come. Know your limits and use caution before giving your speech.
Skip the Note Cards
That's not to say you can't prep with note cards, but don't bring them to the reception. Trying to hold cards and a microphone while delivering your speech will never work. You'll end up focusing on the cards rather than making eye contact with those seated in the room. No one wants to stare at the top of your head. It's better to stay in the moment and relish the positive energy from those around you.
The other downfall to note cards is that you'll end up trying to memorize your speech verbatim. When memorizing, you get caught up in the repetition and if you mix up the order of the speech, you'll find yourself grasping for what comes next. You'd be better off loosely planning out the flow, keeping those main talking points in mind and prepping the day before or morning of. Don't be afraid of stumbling here and there, you're only human. People expect awkward pauses; reading off a card makes even the best speaker sound like a robot.
How You Know the Bride and Groom
Remember that not everyone in attendance knows who you are, so introduce yourself. Give them a little background on your relationship with the bride and groom. (If it's a particularly obscene story, and I'll leave that up to your discretion, keep some of the details to yourself. There's a time and place, so make the story as "PG" as possible). Your goal is to make everyone in the room feel welcome. The bride and groom bestowed the honor upon you to give a speech, so make the most of it.
|Leslie and Aaron's Wedding|
Photo courtesy of mkPhoto
Since this is the first time you may be meeting some of the wedding guests, make sure to glance around the room. Guests will appreciate feeling a part of the moment and will warm up to you a lot faster. This is also the perfect opportunity to detail the bride and groom as you know them, their individual traits, what makes them a great pair and how much they mean to you.
Anecdote about Marriage, Love, or Commitment
Cliches are always acceptable here, but find a way to personalize them. A prime example, "Don't marry the one you can see the rest of your life with, but wait to marry the one you can't see the rest of your life without". Sappy, yes, but when you tie it back to the couple you're toasting and paint a bigger picture of their life together and the adventures that lie ahead, there won't be a dry eye in the room.
You can also recap how the bride and groom met. Not all of the guests may be familiar with their history. Again, keep this "PG" as possible since the start of their love story probably wasn't fitting of a Disney movie romance.
Opt for Self-Deprecation
No one likes to be the butt of the joke. Granted, at most weddings there are always a fair share of one liners at the bride/groom's expense, but take the high road on this one. Like any good comedian, use your humor to mock yourself instead. Guests will feel more comfortable laughing at your expense, and you won't put the happy couple under the microscope with an embarrassing story that they'd rather their grandmother not hear. Believe me, everyone in attendance will pat you on the back and possibly pick up your tab for the rest of the night. (I've seen it firsthand.)
|Marcy and Dermot's Wedding|
Photo courtesy of mkPhoto
And Best Speech Goes To...
To wrap up your speech, end with a toast in honor of the newlyweds. Congratulate them and wish them all the happiness starting their new life together. You can be as sentimental as you'd like, but if you're the type to shed a tear, keep a few tissues handy. Try your best to not turn into a blubbering mess. If all else fails and the waterworks win out in the end, raise your glass to the bride and groom, thank them for allowing you to be a part of their beautiful celebration and drink!