The last couple of years has taught us that nothing is certain so your speech may need several edits to ensure it still works with your updated wedding plans. Despite this uncertainty, it’s no excuse to leave your speech till the last minute, even if that’s your normal style.
Sadly, it’s rare for grooms to be hit by divine inspiration in the fortnight before their wedding, so take the time to put the work into your speech early.
Write the core of it and adapt the opening and toast depending on whether you’re addressing a smaller audience than you expected or one that is overjoyed to be back in a room together celebrating together.
Don’t get bogged down with etiquette guides and feel you have to be overly formal. Yes, thank the important people but it’s fine to start your speech with a ‘Well hello everyone’ rather than addressing your guests as ‘ladies and gentleman’ (chances are they’re not!).
Begin with a few insights about you as a couple: perhaps an anecdote from when you started dating or an account of how you survived planning a wedding during three lockdowns – surely proof if ever needed that you two are made for one another. If you’ve both managed to choose your wedding outfits (including your wedding suit) and accessories without a fuss, well done. These are the big decisions.
Don’t be shy in acknowledging the strange and difficult time you faced over the past year; guests will naturally be able to relate. This needn’t be maudlin – humour lightens the hefty reality of all that’s happened since 2020 and helps you bond with your audience.
Make your speech as unique as this year is, rather than resorting to a cut-and-paste job inspired by Google.
If there’s one thing every boring speech has in common, it’s being packed full of platitudes. Resist the urge to use catchwords like ‘best friend’ or ‘soulmate’ to describe your spouse. These are unoriginal and add nothing to the speech.
Every groom thinks his partner is gorgeous, kind and generally amazing, so make sure you prove, don’t tell. If she’s been checking in with all your elderly neighbours throughout the pandemic, give this some well-deserved acknowledgment.
Think about her unique character quirks – lockdown may have accentuated some of these. What’s her pandemic personality? Perhaps her super creative, months-long DIY frenzy made your mancave tidy-up feel less impressive. Or maybe you briefly wondered if her commitment to Joe Wicks might rival her love of your pandemic paunch.
Step away from the Googled jokes. Yes, it’s tempting but wedding one-liners are just not on these days. Living through coronavirus has been no laughing matter of course, but find the humour in the reality of your relationship.
Ask yourself lots of questions. How does your wife make you laugh? What do you regularly ‘debate’? What do you do that annoys her?
Remember the old adage ‘It’s funny because it’s true’.
Avoid starting your speech with the thank yous. Hook your audience with the entertaining stuff and get round to the formal stuff later. Don’t turn your speech into a roll call – there’s no obligation to namecheck half your guests. You certainly don’t need to thank anyone who’s been paid for their help.
There might be people whose support has been particularly significant in the past year. Give them a special mention, of course, but consider offering gifts and a more personal thank you at another time, to spare the guests who are there for the laughs.
There’s a skill in keeping your speech short. A groom’s speech should generally be between a thousand and 1,300 words. Any longer and you risk losing your audience – they’re already bored stiff from a year of lockdown.
Stories and jokes are stronger the punchier they are. ‘Command X’ is your friend – get rid of anything that needs too much explaining. If an anecdote is particularly long-winded, it’s unlikely to win any genuine laughs – drop it. We promise the more ruthless you are at the cutting stage, the funnier your speech will be.
No one even sat through a wedding speech and thought ‘If only it was longer’.
We’re all grateful for a return to more ‘normalcy’ this year, but if you’ve had to cut your original guest list, consider giving a virtual speech over Zoom, remembering to ‘mute all’, at least until the end.
Alternatively, try a live stream on Twitch – now you’re, like, an influencer.
If fiddling with technology on the day feels too awkward, simply ask someone to record your speech and email it to guests to enjoy later. Or perhaps set up and host a watch party the following day, where you and your partner can sit back and enjoy a few Proseccos as you watch the speeches along with the guests who didn’t make the final cut.
That’s jargon for ‘small wedding’ if you’re wondering fellas. Delivering a speech to a very exclusive guestlist requires a change of tone. Having fewer expectant faces in the audience allows more of an ‘in-joke’ vibe to your anecdotes which, chances are, most of your guests have heard before in a less formal setting.
Less background noise might feel intimidatingly quiet, but embrace the intimacy of the occasion – a small group, giggling together is a real tonic. These are literally your nearest and dearest, so give your speech the affectionate tone that warrants.
A smaller group definitely doesn’t mean fewer laughs though. In fact, humour is even more important when the usual entertainment is dialled down due to Covid rules and regs.
A confident delivery is key, and sadly, Dutch Courage is a myth. Limit yourself to no more one than one drink before the speech.
Using notes is fine (on thick quality paper, or maybe off your phone at a push) but you need to know your speech beforehand. It’ll help it to flow more naturally.
In the run-up to the day, film yourself giving the speech, then watch it back and decide where you should put more emphasis or slow down. Don’t forget to delete it off your phone or risk your performance being outed before the big day!
As a general guide, slow down and talk at half the speed you would do in normal conversation. It feels odd at first, but it really does make you sound more confident. Think more Obama, less Biden.
On the day, maintain as much eye contact with the guests as possible, especially the people you’re thanking. Prepare for good-natured heckling and make sure you pause where you expect laughter (it will come, promise). And relax – smiling is contagious, and if you’re feeling comfortable then people will be able to see that and they’ll feel relaxed too.
Whether it’s practicing in front of the mirror, roping your best mates or family in to be the practice audience (even though they might hear it in real time too) or getting the right fit for your suit so that you look your best, do what it takes to boost your confidence. You need to feel prepared and at free from nerves, sometimes that just takes a haircut, some practice and a bit of peace.
If you need to take yourself away from things beforehand just to have a little relaxation time and to mentally prepare, that’s cool. Just mention it beforehand so that no-one thinks that you’ve bailed.
Once your speech is over you take a little time out to reflect, relax or decompress if you need to. We’re sure you’ll have smashed it!
Speechy is a team of ex-BBC TV scriptwriters who now specialise in wedding speeches. Make a speech to be proud of with its quality speech templates, speech reviews and bespoke speeches.