Writing the perfect wedding speech is no easy task—do you go heartfelt? Funny? Short? Long? It’s enough to make even seasoned speakers nervous. That’s where Speech Tank comes in. From inception to delivery, Marisa Polansky and Kristine Keller, your speech fairy godmothers, will consult, edit, write, and revise to make sure your toast goes off without a hitch. So, raise a glass and read on for their 10 best tips to giving the perfect speech.
The whole process starts with identifying who you are as the speaker. If you’re not the class clown, it’s not the time to try it and be a stand-up comedian. If you’re more earnest, you should probably lean into that and go more heartfelt. We always say that at a wedding, no one is ever gonna say, “Oh my gosh that speech was too sweet.” There is no such thing as too sweet, but there is definitely a not-funny speech. Everyone always says they want humor and heart. I would say your speech should be 90 percent heart and 10 percent humor unless you are truly known for your hysterical wit. But, also being aware that you should be wedding appropriate.
Even if you’re a really great friend, if you aren’t a natural or seasoned public speaker, which most people aren’t, you’re not going to magically become one on the day of the wedding. Having a final draft at least a week or two before you actually have to give it is great because you have the opportunity to practice in front of other people — get a sense if you’re jokes aren’t landing and any other edits you might need to do. Practicing helps and everyone is so anxious about their moment in the spotlight that giving yourself enough time to prepare is huge.
Don’t Bring Up Past Relationships. Ever.
I cannot think of a reason why any past paramours — ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends — should be brought up. I think also wild party stories that are probably best left for a bachelor or bachelorette party. I think you have to think about who else will be in the room. If you wouldn’t say it to an 85-year-old great aunt, then don’t say it.
Focus on the Good
If you don’t know your friend’s partner very well, which happens all the time with people who live in other cities, ⅔ of your speech should focus on the person you know and ⅓ on the person and their relationship. Try to think more about the relationship than the second part of the couple. Instead of talking about how funny he or she is, focus on how your friend has changed (or what you have noticed about your friend) that makes you know that this [relationship] will be something good. And even if you don’t like the person, there is usually something that has had a direct effect on your friend’s life that was for the better.
Don’t Read From Your Phone
No one expects you to memorize your speech and honestly that might make you more nervous. But be very familiar with it. I really, really, really, do not recommend reading it from your phone. If you are scrolling on your phone and lose your place, you have to sit there and scroll and that’s not going to be fun for anyone. Just like any other presentation that you may do or any other moment of public speaking, have your speech in your hand in case you lose your place, but be really familiar with it so you can look out into the crowd.
Avoid Inside Jokes and Marriage Advice
You’re speaking to a greater audience, so saying something like, “Remember that time in Cabo?” makes everyone feel excluded. A lot of people who give a wedding speech feel the need to give marriage advice to the bride or groom and nine times out of ten, that is not necessary. Of course, if you are the father of the bride or you have some really pivotal relationship advice that you think you really want to impart on them, then great. But, so often people reach for that if they have not been married or married. And it is not a necessary part.
Give Your Speech a Narrative
When you’re writing a good speech you need to have a very clear theme. It should all work together to tell one cohesive story. Yes, you may have an example that supports the story, almost like a B Plot, but the A Plot should be telling the full story. Introduce an idea at the beginning and then by the end, wrap things up by tying it back to that original idea. And, logistically speaking, it should end in an actual toast so make sure to write that in for yourself — whatever you wish for them in the toast and then a call to action like, “Everyone join me raising a glass.”
Use Your Own Words
You’ve been asked to give a speech and it’s one thing if you say “My dad always said…” or “My favorite teacher…” or I learned from this…” like a personal quote from someone you know. But finding a quote by some famous person that has nothing to do with you isn’t as effective as your own words. You were asked for a very specific reason and it is a really big honor to give a speech and they want to hear what you have to say.
Try to Be Original
First and foremost, think about specific stories. A lot of times it can be hard for a sister or lifelong best friend to figure out what stories or to differentiate one story from the next. Typically there is one story, like a family story that everyone always tells like, “Oh, remember when she slid down the stairs in a pillowcase!” Then when you start to think of the stories there is a pattern that usually emerges that could work one way or another. For example, if she slid down the staircase in a pillowcase whens she was younger, maybe she is fearless and that presents itself in her adult life in some way. Or, think about why the friendship has lasted. Usually through that something will come out like, “she is so loyal.” Then, you try to find an example of that loyalty.
Know When to Hire the Pros
We offer two main packages. One is like an editing package where if you have a full draft of your speech, we will top-line edit it and bring it all together. But our bread and butter is taking the client from beginning to end. We have a call where we get all of their stories it is really informal — that’s the most fun really, just hearing about everything. We do everything from Maid of Honor and Bridesmaids to Father of the Bride and Vows. So, we talk about whatever it is they need to talk about and gather a sense of the client and then we work up a first draft using the stories and everything else we got from that call. Then we send it to the client and they have some time to look it over, ask any questions they might have, and give us any feedback. Then we incorporate their notes and go to a final draft.
Need help writing the perfect speech? Contact Speech Tank for your next major speech here.
Want more inspo? Watch some epic wedding speeches below:
Caitlin and Carl's wedding by The Good Folk Film Co.
Hope and Jacob's wedding by By Tyler.