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The Must Know Guidelines for Every Wedding Speaker

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Wedding speeches are no longer the cut and paste jobs that were so prevalent a decade ago when the influence of internet templates were at their height. Now, speeches are being seen as a reflection of the couple themselves and an opportunity to kick-start their marriage with a bang.

Heidi Ellert-McDermott, founder of Speechy (the bespoke speechwriting service) and author of The Modern Couple’s Guide to Wedding Speeches, reveals how to ensure your wedding speeches are remembered for the right reasons.

Modern Etiquette

Good news. Wedding speech etiquette has changed.

There’s no longer a need for grooms to conclude their speech with a toast to the bridesmaids (in fact, it now seems strange if they do). No one has to give gifts during their speech (and it generally adds an awkward pause if they do). And no newlywed has to address their friends and family as ‘ladies and gentlemen’ (chance are, some of them aren’t).

Modern etiquette is simply about being genuinely grateful, welcoming and loving. Sometimes a bit of tact is required (how to include step-parents etc) but there’s no need to turn your speech into a tedious thank you list.

Individually namechecking people who’ve travelled far is both boring and unnecessary. Thank them personally, yes, but no need to waste your speech word-count on personal call-outs for anyone other than parents and close friends. Certainly don’t bother thanking people who you’ve paid.

Wedding speeches are less about formalities these days and more about adding a sense of fun and occasion to the day. It’s a chance for newlyweds to address all their nearest and dearest, and for guests to bond over the stories and relationship insights they’re privy to.

Shaking Up the Line-Up

As well as the content of wedding speeches evolving, so too has the line-up.

The traditional father, groom and best man is becoming less common. Speechy is working with more and more women (brides, mums, and mates) and diverse speaker’s too; sons of the groom, uncles of the bride or even parents of groom delivering a joint speech).

Of course, we’re keen to see even more nearlyweds shake up the traditional line-up and commit to getting at least one woman on the mic.

Having given my own bride speech, rather than making any sort of feminist statement, it was just about having fun, making my friends laugh and my family smile. I also thought it was only fair that my husband had a few compliments thrown in his direction too.

My wedding speech actually become one of my wedding day highlights so I’d encourage any bride to make the most of the opportunity and pay a personal, public tribute to their favourite people. Remember, this is one of the few times to you can shout about how much you love your other half without anyone rolling their eyes.

Size Matters

Of course it does. All speeches should be delivered within ten minutes. That’s a maximum wordcount of 1,300, though nearer 1,000 is better.

Our advice? Write your first draft and attempt to cut it in half. Punchier is always better.

No one ever wished a speech was longer.

Kill Off the Clichés

So many speeches sound the same; full of clichés, tick-box etiquette and platitudes.

We advise, if a line could be delivered by another speaker, then it shouldn’t be in your speech.

Rather than resorting to adjectives when describing your partner or the newlyweds, think about the anecdotes that prove those qualities in action. So rather than describing them as ‘thoughtful’, tell everyone about the time they imported your favourite beer that you discovered in Thailand for your surprise birthday party. Stories resonate so much more than descriptions.

Hunt Down the Humour

Laughter is scientifically proven to be a social bonding juice, and humour shouldn’t just be the prerogative of the best man.

Humour is the gift you can give to your guests. And it’s free.

Some clients we work with are intimidated by the need to be funny but there’s no reason to be. You don’t need to be a stand-up comedian or aim for belly-laughs but you do need to get people smiling (and not just a polite smirk, but a proper smile-from-the-soul).

Rather than diving straight into Google and hunting down cheesy wedding gags, play with what you’ve got. Look at the reality of your or the newlywed’s relationship. The adage ‘it’s funny because it’s true’ works.

Jokes about ‘even the wedding cake being in tiers’ will illicit groans not giggles, so instead, look at how the couple work together. What do they ‘debate’? Who’s the tidy one? What guilty pleasures do they share?

Every couple has their individual quirks and eccentricities – so just observe the relationship in action and see what you spot!

Make the Most of the Moment

Delivering a wedding speech is, not only an honour, but an opportunity to create an awesome, life-affirming moment. This is your chance to create a life-long memory so make sure you’re delivering a speech that’s a bit different and completely blooming brilliant.

Heidi Ellert-McDermott is the founder of Speechy and the author of The Modern Couple's Guide to Wedding Speeches (Publishing on 10 March)

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