A guide by professional speech writers Speechy.
Prepare to adapt
The last few years have taught us that nothing is certain. Despite this uncertainty, it’s no excuse to leave your speech till the last minute, even if that’s your normal style. Sadly, it’s rare for grooms to be hit by divine inspiration in the fortnight before their wedding, so take the time to put the work into your speech early.
Write the core of it and adapt the opening and toast depending on whether you’re addressing a smaller audience than you expected or one that is overjoyed to be back in a room together celebrating together.
Tell your story
Don’t get bogged down with etiquette guides and feel you have to be overly formal. Yes, thank the important people but it’s fine to start your speech with a ‘Well hello everyone’ rather than addressing your guests as ‘ladies and gentleman’ (chances are they’re not!).
Begin with a few insights about you as a couple: perhaps an anecdote from when you started dating or an account of any bumps in the road you hit while planning your wedding. If you’ve both managed to choose your wedding outfits (including your wedding suit) and accessories without a fuss, well done. These are the big decisions.
Don’t be shy in acknowledging the difficult times you might have faced; guests will naturally be able to relate. This needn’t be maudlin – humour lightens the hefty reality of all that’s happened since 2020 and helps you bond with your audience.
Cut the groom speech clichés
If there’s one thing every boring speech has in common, it’s being packed full of platitudes. Resist the urge to use catchwords like ‘best friend’ or ‘soulmate’ to describe your spouse. These are unoriginal and add nothing to the speech.
Every groom thinks his partner is gorgeous, kind and generally amazing, so make sure you prove, don’t tell. If yours has been checking in with all your elderly neighbours throughout the pandemic, give this some well-deserved acknowledgment.
Think about their unique character quirks – wedding planning may have accentuated some of these. Perhaps their super creative, DIY frenzy made you discover one of their hidden talents. Or maybe you were amazed at the way they made every effort to include people you love in your wedding ceremony.
Hunt the humour
Step away from the Googled jokes. Yes, it’s tempting but wedding one-liners are just not on these days. Ask yourself lots of questions. How does your partner make you laugh? What do you regularly ‘debate’? What do you do that annoys them? Remember the old adage ‘it’s funny because it’s true’.
Avoid starting your speech with the thank yous. Hook your audience with the entertaining stuff and get round to the formal stuff later. Don’t turn your speech into a roll call – there’s no obligation to namecheck half your guests. You certainly don’t need to thank anyone who’s been paid for their help.
There might be people whose support has been particularly significant in the past year. Give them a special mention, of course, but consider offering gifts and a more personal thank you at another time, to spare the guests who are there for the laughs.
Keep it punchy
There’s a skill in keeping your speech short. A groom’s speech should generally be between a thousand and 1,300 words. Any longer and you risk losing your audience.
Stories and jokes are stronger the punchier they are. ‘Command X’ is your friend – get rid of anything that needs too much explaining. If an anecdote is particularly long-winded, it’s unlikely to win any genuine laughs – drop it. We promise the more ruthless you are at the cutting stage, the funnier your speech will be.
No one even sat through a wedding speech and thought ‘If only it was longer’.
That’s jargon for ‘small wedding’ if you’re wondering fellas, something that’s become super trendy since the pandemic. Delivering a speech to a very exclusive guestlist requires a change of tone. Having fewer expectant faces in the audience allows more of an ‘in-joke’ vibe to your anecdotes which, chances are, most of your guests have heard before in a less formal setting.
Less background noise might feel intimidatingly quiet, but embrace the intimacy of the occasion – a small group, giggling together is a real tonic. These are literally your nearest and dearest, so give your speech the affectionate tone that warrants.
Prepare to deliver
A confident delivery is key, and sadly, Dutch Courage is a myth. Limit yourself to no more one than one drink before the speech.
Using notes is fine (on thick quality paper, or maybe off your phone at a push) but you need to know your speech beforehand. It’ll help it to flow more naturally.
In the run-up to the day, film yourself giving the speech, then watch it back and decide where you should put more emphasis or slow down. Don’t forget to delete it off your phone or risk your performance being outed before the big day!
As a general guide, slow down and talk at half the speed you would do in normal conversation. It feels odd at first, but it really does make you sound more confident.
On the day, maintain as much eye contact with the guests as possible, especially the people you’re thanking. Prepare for good-natured heckling and make sure you pause where you expect laughter (it will come, promise). And relax – smiling is contagious, and if you’re feeling comfortable then people will be able to see that and they’ll feel relaxed too.
Do what you need to feel confident
Whether it’s practicing in front of the mirror, roping your best mates or family in to be the practice audience (even though they might hear it in real time too) or getting the right fit for your suit so that you look your best, do what it takes to boost your confidence. You need to feel prepared and at free from nerves, sometimes that just takes a haircut, some practice and a bit of peace.
If you need to take yourself away from things beforehand just to have a little relaxation time and to mentally prepare, that’s cool. Just mention it beforehand so that no one thinks you’ve bailed.
Once your speech is over you take a little time out to reflect, relax or decompress if you need to. We’re sure you’ll have smashed it!
Speechy is a team of ex-BBC TV scriptwriters who now specialise in wedding speeches. Make a speech to be proud of with its quality speech templates, speech reviews and bespoke speeches.