Wedding Reception Speeches: How to talk at a Wedding
Wedding reception speeches have a reputation for being, painful. Painful to write, painful to deliver and worse still painful to listen to. Sure there are the nice sweet ones, the quick ones and even the unmemorable ones (depending on how much you have had to drink) but the ones that people remember are generally one of two things.
1. Long, detailed and therefore boring
2. Embarrassing to the bride / groom, or the audience
It amazes me that a couple (usually the bride) will spend so much time and money not to mention emotional energy on the “big day” and its reception then leave one of the most memorable aspects, the speeches to chance. Often when we think back to weddings we have attended, we don’t remember what the bride wore exactly, what we ate, or the flowers, we remember the atmosphere of the reception and the speeches. And when they are memorable for the wrong reasons we can’t help feel a bit disappointed for the bride and groom.
Comments I have heard recently confirm this.
- The father of the bride that told me how awful the best man’s speech was; it wasn’t only his generation that were uncomfortable with what he said.
- The groom who didn’t even tell his bride how beautiful she looked (they aren’t together anymore….)
- “I couldn’t believe it the Father of the Bride got up and started “I remember the day she was born….” 25 minutes later he was still going and our dinner was cold.”
The people we want to surround us on our wedding day and at the reception aren’t necessarily the best speakers. The may “fear public speaking more than death” but will be too shy to admit it. Or they may have little idea what is expected and just scribble some notes on the day (hung over from the night before and in a hurry).
My thoughts on avoiding the painful wedding speeches are simple:
1. Ask the person if they would like to give a speech – don’t make it a requirement.
2. If they say yes, then check that they are willing to plan and practice it in advance.
3. Plan and practice the speeches including anything the MC is going to do.
4. Make it clear to speakers such as Best man that jokes are fine but be clear on what isn’t acceptable.
5. If people admit to nerves get a speech coach to rehearse with them.
6. No unplanned speeches (unless you are 100% sure its quick)– when friends have had a few they can get loose lips!
While you are assigning jobs to friends and family, names to tables and gifts to stores, perhaps consider assigning bullet points to speakers. If done well it could end up ensuring that everyone gets thanked and complimented without any embarrassment, last minute add ins or corrections.
That is, it could end up being well executed and memorable for the right reasons.
A Master of Ceremony (MC) is a crucial and honored role at the wedding reception. They welcome and warm up the audience, detail the order of events, introduce and thank the speakers, they may read out emails (telegrams) and help with logistics (toilets, fire escapes, taxi pick-ups). If they are used to this kind of role winging it may well work, but ‘work’ may just mean things were OK. A sober MC is usually the only good one, and often asking someone to be a sober MC maybe a deal breaker.
Paid MC's are becoming a good option to overcome these issues and ensure the speakers are ready and everything stays on schedule.
To many this may sound all very much like the “Bridezilla” approach to wedding speeches, the control freak that wants everything perfect. Certainly if it is done with a bossy and uncompromising attitude its likely to get a negative reaction and result. But if done with a kind heart and caring approach the speakers hopefully will be open and welcoming to the proposal.
A speeches planning timeline could be:
1. Who do the bride and groom want to speak?
2. Are they willing to speak?
3. Do they have specific things they want to say and if so what
4. Approve speech content on a high level ( often speakers want to keep it a surprise)
5. Are all appropriate people being thanked or acknowledged in the speeches?
6. Ask someone to include if there is a No in step 5 above (e.g people who have travelled, people who past away recently)
7. Is everyone aware that they should tell the bride she looks stunning (well ok maybe not essential)
8. Give a rehearsal option or schedule along with advice on times (e.g.no speeches longer than 10 minutes & you are speaking after the mains)
See my facebook Page for a little graph of the simple timeline
Getting speech coaching could sound a bit “over the top” but when you stop to think about those memorable for the wrong reason speeches, it starts to make perfect sense. The speech coaching could be given as a thank you gift instead of a requirement. Benefits include that the new weds have some third party reassurance that the speeches will be coordinated and appropriate and not too long. Younger speakers will have the reassurance that they have been coached and helped to put their best foot forward, that their family will be proud and their feelings about the marriage / union heard. The inexperienced MC feels confident of its duties.
Sometimes speaking openly to a stranger can help really flesh out the important stories and feelings, it can get the essence of what the speaker wants to convey. Many people find it hard enough to speak in front of an audience, but on an emotional day speaking about love, gratitude or pride can be overwhelming. Small techniques from a speech coach can make a huge difference to the delivery.
If nothing else practice / rehearse in front of an audience would be my key recommendation. I did mine to my office colleagues. Some knew my future husband others didn’t, they were a good test run and sounding board. They all loved being asked to help and felt more invested in my day.
Asking for help isn’t always easy when planning a wedding but it has huge benefits. Help with wedding reception speeches is no different.