Writing Wedding Speeches

Another busy week gone by! After getting back from DC, a day later I flew to Dallas for my good friend Melinda’s wedding. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks because I was a bridesmaid along with all of my best friends from high school, and since I don’t live in Texas anymore we rarely get chances to get together. At the ceremony and reception Saturday night in downtown Fort Worth, I had to give a speech for a toast to Mel and her new husband Henry.

I’ve never written a speech for a wedding before, but I volunteered a year ago to give it because she was the first of my long-time friend group to get engaged, and I was overcome with excitement. I’ve known her for nearly 20 years, so I thought it would be easy to write a funny and heartfelt speech in her honor.

I was wrong.

Even though I started writing the speech months ago, when it came down to the week of the wedding, I started panicking about what I had written. Were there too many inside jokes that none of the out-of-towners and groom’s family would get? Were some of the anecdotes from our college days too risque for her Baptist relatives? Was it too long? Too short? Would I drink too much and not be able to deliver it without slurring or swearing?

On top of it all, everyone suddenly started giving me advice, on both how to write it and how to deliver it. Though I was not afraid at all about speaking in front of large groups, I was concerned about delivering the best speech I could for my good friend’s big day.

In the depths of my panic, I did some research and it turns out you can use a toast writing company to write a wedding speech for you for $149! How ridiculous is that?! It better be an effing good speech for that much money. Come to think of it, I should keep their info and see if they need any writers in the future – they are cleaning up!

After I dismissed that idea – what kind of writer would I be if I used someone else to write a speech for me? – I pulled myself together and tried to think about what would make a good wedding toast. I thought of famous movie wedding speeches, and I knew as long as I didn’t bring personal baggage into it, I would be fine. It turns out, the best speeches tend to have these 4 things in common:

1) Humor – You are tasked with entertaining an audience that is made up of people from all over the place, many of which don’t know each other or could be extended family members that do not get along. The best way to bring them together is by making them laugh. Usually this is done by anecdotes about the bride or groom’s past – their bad dating choices, the partying you did together in college or your first memories as kids causing trouble. The important thing is to make sure you don’t make it too revealing or embarrassing (Mel and I have done some crazy things with our group of friends, so this was difficult to avoid) and to not go off on tangents about “This one time when we were hammered in college…” and lose everyone that isn’t in your group of friends. This brings me to…

2) Relevance – Everything must relate back to the bride and groom. No one is there to hear you talk about the good times you had with the bride. They are there to celebrate a marriage and the commitment of lifetime love between two people. And maybe for the open bar. But they will have little tolerance for you wasting valuable dance time by rambling on about your favorite memories with the bridesmaids without making the connection back to the newly married couple and their new life together.

3) Sincerity – Even though jokes are great, you have to put words of adoration and encouragement in to it as well. The best speeches have a heartfelt message of love and support of your friend’s new marriage. At the same time, I feel like it is important to avoid any clichés when trying to be heartfelt – no talk of the new “journey” the couple is embarking on together or how their love is like two trees whose roots have grown together…..vomit. Keep it meaningful and don’t sound like a cheesy Hallmark card.

4) Brevity -In the end, this is a wedding reception and people want to eat, drink, and be married. You should keep your audience entertained for only a few short minutes and leave them smiling and misty-eyed for the toast. Don’t go on long enough that they lose interest while staring longingly at the glass of champagne in their hands.

In the end, I think I crafted something pretty decent, even though I was finishing it up while getting my hair done a few hours before the ceremony.  And the most important thing was that I had enough to drink beforehand that I was charming and relaxed, but not enough that I ended up swearing loudly into the microphone or falling over in my 5 inch heels.

But you can be sure as hell that I took several shots immediately afterwards.

Congrats Mel & Henry, and I hope enjoy your honeymoon!

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