Not having the ability to write well is no excuse to turn down an opportunity to deliver a wedding speech. If you are the best man, you definitely have to utter those words that will captivate the audience. Well, perhaps not captivate, but at least hold their attention. And if you want to make them laugh by cracking a joke or two, that’s fine. There is, however, a fine and fragile line between funny and crude. Don’t even go there. The wrong speech could destroy the entire ceremony. Embarrassing the bride or groom or anyone in the reception is out of taste.
Who’s expected to say a speech in a wedding? Nowadays there is no set rule as to who should be given this task. Anyone can be asked to speak, but tradition dictates that these people are expected to offer a few kind words:
- Bride’s father
- Best man
Speech by the Bride’s Father
If there is any doubt as to a speech potentially hurting the feelings of a person, or make that person feel uncomfortable, then change your speech and start from scratch. In their attempts to be funny, some fathers tend to reveal details that have no place in a wedding ceremony.
For instance, what was this father thinking when he uttered these words about his daughter?
“Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. I have to say how relieved my wife and I are that Sue has finally decided to get married to such a fine young man. She was such a tomboy growing up and so terribly masculine that my wife and I swore we had a lesbian for a daughter. She didn’t go for all the feminine stuff that young women typically like, she was always spending her allowance on sneakers and mountain bikes and male clothing gear and we were afraid that she just might go for a sex-change operation.”
Ladies and gentlemen, would you have fidgeted in your seat and wished that someone would shut the old man up?
If you heard this wedding speech in a reception, would you not feel sorry for the bride? Would it make the groom uneasy because he had not been aware that his wife was an all-out tomboy in her youth?
As the wise say, a joke can produce a chuckle or it can sting.
What is the bride’s father supposed to say?
Think “terms of endearment.” A father who respects his daughter will show her only in a positive light. His speech, however, need not focus on the bride alone. He can include these elements:
- Words of welcome to all, with special mention to the groom’s parents and the bridal entourage. If he is aware that there are people from out of town, he should thank them for making this special trip;
- Praises and compliments to the groom. He should express the family’s satisfaction and happiness about having him as part of the family;
- A quote or two would be nice. A popular one is that about how the parents should give roots and wings to their children. Roots would refer to the permanence of the family home and wings so they could go out to the world and lead their own lives. If a quote is called for – say as an introduction for the main speech – then every effort must be made to find unique ones that have not been used over and over again, no matter how eloquent the quote is. A woman once remarked that she had been to a hundred weddings in her life and she would always wager a bet that a particular quote would be uttered, and she was right 6 times out of 10. Be sure you include the author of the quote;
- The conclusion of the speech takes the form of a toast when he asks everyone to raise a glass to the bride and groom and wish them love and happiness.
Speech by the Best Man
The best man attracts a lot of attention in a wedding reception because he represents the groom and is supposed to have intimate knowledge about him. Naturally, when he delivers his speech, the guests will want to hear something light but personal about the groom: how they met, how long they’ve known each other, his quirks, his delightful traits, what he likes to eat. A humorous anecdote is certainly appropriate, the kind that does not brew enmity between two brothers or two best friends.
The best man can also propose a toast to the bride and groom at the end of his speech.
Speech by the Groom
The groom has to show his humorous side because by making everyone laugh, people will see that he’s the type who can also make his wife laugh. Again, terms of endearment for his parents, the bride’s parents, for his bride, for his best man and for the wedding party are appropriate. He can also directly address the remarks of the best man, but he should allocate a few minutes talking about his bride. He could speak of her qualities, and what initially attracted him to her.
Essentially, the groom – as the gentleman par excellence – is supposed to thank everyone present in the reception, beginning with his new wife (“thank you for choosing me and not Jim, Roger, Pete, Henry or Jack”), his parents (“thank you, mom and dad, for the education and the guitar lessons and the car keys whenever I needed to take off), parents of the bride (“thank you for welcoming me into the clan, and for not objecting to the wedding), his best man and the bridesmaids, and all the other people who have made the ceremony and reception a success.
Wedding Speeches- Do’s and Don’ts
For participants who will be delivering speeches or toasts during the reception, here are a few tips. Beginning with the “dos” –
- Do make it brief (five minutes for a speech and one to two minutes for a toast);
- Do maintain eye contact. Engage your audience and not speak at or to them, as one expert recommended. Eye contact is important so that no one feels excluded or forgotten. A sweeping glance of the hall, left to right and back again, helps;
- Do pay attention to your body language – don’t let your body contradict your words. This means that if you say “how wonderful it is to be here today, I’m enjoying every minute of it”, your body has to show that you mean it. If your posture belies nervousness and your hands are twitching and your face is somewhat distorted, then people won’t believe you;
- Do inject humor, but do it with finesse;
- Do thank everyone and mention special thanks to those who have played a role in the wedding.
And the don’ts:
- Don’t read your speech notes verbatim. This is one way where the groom “loses” it. We’re speaking of audience connection. The most effective way to connect with your guests is to NOT read your notes;
- Don’t neglect the wisdom that it pays to practice with a friend, or in front of a mirror, or to record your speech and play it back. It’s an excellent way to receive feedback about which parts of the speech and delivery can be improved;
- Don’t say anything that might embarrass anyone;
- Don’t give the impression that you’re rushing to end your speech. Take a few breaths, take meaningful pauses;
- Don’t forget to smile (especially if you have a smile like John Travolta);
- And this is the BIG DON’T: don’t drink excessively before it’s your turn to give a speech, otherwise you’d make a fool of yourself, embarrass your party, and land on a stretcher.
If you’re organizing your wedding reception, avoid asking too many people to do a speech or a toast because you don’t want your guests to feel that they’re in a seminar or conference. Part of the reason people attend weddings is to have a good time, not to listen to long winded praises and clichés!