Wedding Speeches

29 Nov 2011

They're perhaps more scary for a man than saying his marriage vows. Professional speech writer, Ian Heydon, reveals how to give a good groom’s speech

In terms of enjoyment, public speaking can be up there with root canal treatment, but unless a groom is marrying a bride who loves getting up and saying a few words, the groom will undoubtedly be expected to make a speech. The main tip is to be prepared. Knowing you have the words ready and rehearsed makes it a lot easier than trying to ad-lib. And ‘winging’ a speech comes with the risk of leaving out someone who should be thanked (yes, Aunt Doris, we’re talking about you).

For those who get nervous when called on to speak in public, remember that you’re among friends and family, most of whom will be getting free food and drinks; they’re likely to be a very welcoming audience!

Thankfully, the groom’s speech doesn’t have to be long but it has to be sincere, as entertaining as possible and also cover a bit of ‘housekeeping’. Being ‘entertaining’ doesn’t mean presenting a stand-up comedy routine – it just means having the words to ‘hold’ the audience. It’s important that the speech reflects the personality of the speaker. Of all days, this is one where you should be yourself.

As for humour, this isn’t the time to unleash your inner Eddie Izzard. A groom’s speech doesn’t have as much scope for laughter as the father of the bride or the best man, which initially makes it look like it is the easiest of the three speeches to write. Rather, it can be the hardest because you have to tug at the heartstrings with words of love for the bride (without making anyone want to throw up), it should show your new in-laws that someone of substance has joined the family, and it can be the warm-up act for the best man. This may also be the first time some members of the bride’s family will have seen what sort of man their relative has married, so the pressure is on. Here’s how to get through it, without goofi ng up:

The running order

Your step-by-step guide to saying the right things
Respond to the toast made by the father of the bride and thank him for giving you his daughter’s hand in marriage. If not responding to a toast, welcome all guests and thank them for being an important part of this special day in your lives. Make particular mention of anyone who has travelled a long distance.
2. Thank both parents for welcoming you into their family (and for providing the wedding if that is the situation) and for giving their daughter so many characteristics you admire, respect and love in her. Assure them that you will not let them down in your charge to love and care for their daughter.
3. At this point your own parents need a mention as well (perhaps for giving you the sense to see the characteristics mentioned above). It will probably be the last chance for you to publicly thank them for bringing you up and being there to support you. Thank them for making your wife welcome. A mother probably needs more TLC than a father.
4. If you didn’t thank guests at the start, you can do it now. Thank them for coming and for their wishes.
5. Thank the best man, groomsmen, usher(s), minister or celebrant (if they’re still there) and anyone who played a part in setting up the wedding – especially if ‘love’ was involved, like a friend making the cake or providing decorations. Paid contractors don’t necessarily require thanking.
6. Talk about how happy you are thanks to your wonderful partner. If the term “Bridezilla” has been mentioned by anyone at any time in the past 24 hours, you should probably make this section of the speech extremely sucky.
7. Thank the bridesmaids (and matron of honour) for their support and assistance. Propose your own toast to the health and happiness of the bridesmaid(s). If no bridesmaid toast is required, thank them back around Point 5.
8. It is difficult to give examples of the type of humour you can inject into this speech because it’s so personal, both in your own relationship and the possible circumstances existing in your extended families. As mentioned, this may be the first time some guests have actually ‘met’ you. And on that note, if you’re worried about what the best man may say, talk to him about how he’s an ‘extension’ of you, as a best friend, and that you’d like to impress – and tell him past girlfriend anecdotes are never received well.
9. While it may look like a ‘dry’ speech, there should be openings offering opportunities for humour - e.g. an anecdote about the first meeting with your in-laws or a night out with your father-in-law, or asking for his permission to marry his daughter. When praising your parents, you might choose to relate an incident where you mucked up and how they handled it. When referring to your partner, again, make yourself the joke by relating a story about a clumsy proposal, first kiss or embarrassing moment (for you). When thanking the best man, perhaps take a preemptive strike by guessing what he’s going to say and why it will be exaggerated or even totally fabricated.
10. Ending the speech? A toast is a very convenient way to end. If there’s no toast, you can just reiterate how happy you are and how much you’re looking forward to the journey ahead, together. Or you could end the speech by asking everyone to charge their glasses and be upstanding, to drink, dance and be merry!

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