Speeches are an inevitable part of any wedding, and as a wedding planner I can tell you that the best ones are the ones that are quickly forgotten. If, years later, the most memorable part of the wedding is your speech, it means it was terrible. Unless you're a professional comedian. Which most of you are not.
It's just a matter of fact that things can go off the rails when egomaniacs get in front of microphones, and the results can mean that your guests are forced to endure awful/inappropriate/coma-inducing speeches that over-shadow the entire affair.
It's a phenomenon that has never really made much sense to me, given the extensive time, money and planning that goes into a wedding.
A typical reception lasts five hours, with at least half of that time dedicated to toasts, prayers, the first dance, a father-daughter dance, possibly a mother-son dance, the introduction of the head table, usually some sort of ethnic or religious dance/tradition, and the not-at-all-embarrassing bouquet/garter-toss.
With the cost of a DJ or live band for the night, one would think hosts would therefore prefer to keep any additional speeches to a minimum, yet the magnetic pull of the microphone seems to just be too much for most people to resist.
I therefore implore you to think and plan carefully before you reach the podium. Here are some tips to get you started.
- Keep it short. Three minutes is a good benchmark. If that seems too short, practice first. You'll see that it's ideal.
- If you are the parents of the bride or groom, please make sure you say something nice about your new son/daughter-in-law. This is not the time to brag about your other children's accomplishments. This is about the newly married couple.
- Don't humiliate your new bride. Seems obvious, but if your first-date involved any story relating to your new bride's menstrual cycle, it is NOT APPROPRIATE for your speech. (True story.)
- Keep it short.
- Don't do "shtick." It's a speech, not a play.
- If you are having speeches before the meal, PLEASE have some food out for snacking. Pickle trays, bread baskets, olives. Anything. The only thing worse than a long, boring speech is being forced to sit through one on an empty stomach.
- Keep it short.
- Parents of the bride and groom do not each need to speak separately. Couples can split the time, allowing the evening to move on.
- PREPARE your speech. I see so many people decide to just wing it, believing that speaking from the heart will be more meaningful and genuine, but it usually just leads to disjointed rambling. Thinking about what you want to say does not negate its sincerity.
- Preparation will also mean that you can keep to a reasonable (i.e. three-minute) timeline. One groom was so nervous, he rambled for half an hour.
- Which brings me to the next, very key point: Keep it short.
- Emotional speeches are touching and wonderful, but if you know you're going to lose it, better to deliver the more intense speech at the shower or rehearsal dinner; business associates from your in-laws' side don't need to be privy to such personal moments.
- Have a brief discussion with the other speakers to ensure the guests aren't forced to hear the same story multiple times.
- Most importantly -- Keep it short!
Let the band earn its fee, and let your guests have a good time. Ideally, the speeches should be the least memorable part of your day.