Six Tips to Give a Great Wedding Speech
I went to a wedding over the weekend and had the opportunity to listen to at least seven different speeches given by the family and friends of the happy couple. The content of all the speeches was very heartfelt and warm and written from deep caring for the couple. However, in terms of how what delivered the lectures well, that’s where there may have been some ‘cracks in the pavement’ for a few of them.
Of course, it’s not easy to get up in front of a room of 300 people – many of them strangers – and deliver a speech. So I applaud each speaker for deciding to put themselves in this situation and having the courage to give an address.
Some speeches had an ‘edge’ – they were delivered loudly, clearly, and humorously. The others had some ‘issues’ that could have been quickly resolved, making them even more well-received. So based on my sample size of 7 wedding speeches, here are six tips on how to give a great wedding speech, divided into two categories: Sound issues and delivery issues.
By far, the most significant problems came from problems hearing the speakers – there was a lot of “what did she say?” going on. But there was nothing wrong with the sound system. So speakers, take note:
1. Speak into the microphone.
Bring it right up to your mouth if necessary. Each sound system is different, but chances are, if it’s more than 4-5 inches away from your mouth, you won’t be heard very well by your audience.
2. Speak clearly and slowly, and don’t mumble.
Many of us speak ‘under our breath,’ meaning that our voice lowers, and we don’t say things as clearly in person-to-person discussions. Just as difficult to understand are the fast talkers. When we’re happy and excited, some of us tend to speak a little more quickly. While this may work with one-on-one conversations, it doesn’t matter when you’ve got a microphone in hand and 300 people who are straining to hear you. So slow it down and speak clearly.
3. Make eye contact with all sides of the room when speaking.
Yes, the speech is about – and FOR – the bride and groom. But never forget that there’s a total audience listening to your speech, and they deserve to be addressed as well.
4. Smile, be animated and energetic and pretend you’re happy to be there (even if you’re so nervous you want to throw up).
And don’t worry if you’re trembling and your paper is shaking. No one expects you to be perfect, and most (if not all) of the audience will give you credit for getting up there in the first place. And rest assured that many people in the audience would not be willing to give a speech like you are. Ever.
FINALLY, A QUICK WORD ABOUT CONTENT:
5. Add stories. Everyone loves to hear stories about the bride and groom.
But choose your stories carefully, and make sure that they have a relevant point. Example: “Karen was able to learn a fully choreographed dance routine in a matter of hours, which shows what a passionate and driven person she is.” Make sure that the story backs up the point you’re trying to make about the person.
6. Switch between 2nd person (“you”) and 3rd person (“John”).
When you want to speak directly to the groom, feel free to do so, as in “John, I can’t believe how you lucked out with this girl.” Vary it up by speaking to the audience ABOUT Jon, as in “Who would ever believe that Jon would luck out with such an amazing girl?” This way, you’re having a conversation with the audience AND with the bride/groom, and everyone feels included.
Giving a wedding speech is no different from giving an address in any other venue. Remember that you’re speaking to a packed room of people, not simply the bride and groom. Create a speech that is heartfelt, funny, and full of stories that have a point. Rehearse extensively. And when you’re up on stage, make sure to speak loudly and clearly into the microphone. Then enjoy the kudos of delivering a memorable speech that you’ll get complimented on for a long time to come.