Photo Courtesy of Joe Conroy Photography Portlaoise at the wedding of the lovely James and Christine
Photo Courtesy of Joe Conroy Photography Portlaoise at the wedding of the lovely James and Christine
I am lucky enough to have been present for Hundreds of wedding speeches, using this experience I hope I can provide some clarity around good speech content as well as the logistics of the wedding speeches! Some of the most common questions I get regarding the speeches are:
"Who goes first?"
The traditional order of speakers is as below:
The Best man typically acts as MC throughout the speeches introducing each speaker
Father of the Bride / Speaker from the Bride's Family
Father of the Groom / Speaker from the Groom's Family
And the Big Finale – Best man
"When should we do our speeches?"
Before Dinner - Doing the speeches before dinner allows the more nervous speakers to “get it over and done with” meaning they can relax and enjoy their dinner. As soon as we introduce the Bride and Groom into the ballroom and seat them at the top table, we normally hand the mic straight over to the Best man to get the show started!
The timing of these speeches needs to be quite precise. If you are considering having the traditional 4 speeches and you are allowing 10 minutes per speech that is an additional 40 minutes before dinner service begins. I'm hungry just thinking about it. Of course, some speeches will run under 10 minutes. However speaking from experience the majority run over.
After Dinner - Having the Speeches following dinner is the traditional route. All guests are full and content and ready for some nostalgia and sentimentality before the dancing begins. From a dinner service perspective this can be the easier route. Once we introduce Bride and Groom into the Ballroom it is straight into serving the first course ensuring a smooth service. The main downside to this is if you have a very nervous or anxious speaker it does mean prolonging their nerves through the dinner service.
During service - Definitely seen least often, as it can be difficult from a food service perspective. Anyone who has ever cooked a Sunday roast knows when the roast beef is ready it's ready. If it is kept warm , as opposed to being served once ready, you run the risk of it drying out. This applies to many popular wedding menu choices including salmon. Obviously, Chefs are professionals and can of course avoid this better than any of us Joe Soap’s cooking a Sunday roast. However, should a speech run for 30 minutes rather than the promised 10 minutes there is only so much can be done. I would personally avoid this option altogether.
"Have you got any advice on the Do's and Don'ts of a wedding speech?"
Do practice out loud - Practice reading your speech aloud once you are happy you have finished writing it. This will help you ensure it flows and makes sense. Then practice “Giving” your speech. This will highlight where you need to emphasise, where you need to pause and where you can take a deep breath to relax.
Finally practice with whoever will listen! The more times you perform your speech, the more comfortable you will be on the day and less reliant on your flashcards/script. If you are very nervous about speaking in public try reading your speech for one person initially and then when you're comfortable build up to two and three. In my previous blog, I talked about how to deal with nerves surrounding speech giving, as well as all other aspects of the wedding day. You should check it out! (plug...plug...plug!)
Do consider using visual aids – Speeches are made all the more fun/interactive when photos or props are included! Personally, I wouldn’t use projectors or screens but instead get said Photos printed on A3 / A2 cards and ask a groomsman to hold up said card at designated times during the speech. Wedding speeches are nerve wracking enough without worrying about working with equipment unless of course you are well used to working with projectors and slideshows etc. Even still I would consider props over technical equipment. Should something go wrong it is much easier to poke a groomsman to hold up the right picture than it is to find a replacement HDMI, mid speech.
Do be yourself - Giving a speech can be completely nerve wracking and people sometimes feel that if they portray a character/persona it will be easier. It won't. Just be your genuine self. People understand how intimidating it can be standing up in front of a crowd and will be on your side when you stand up to give your speech. Take advantage of this empathy and allow it to give you some comfort.
Do smile! - Don’t be afraid to laugh at your own jokes or give a little smile. It is super endearing for an audience to see. When you smile the whole room smiles with you. This is 100% true and who doesn’t want to see a room full of happy people when giving a speech!
Do get a little sentimental - Open up about how you feel about what the groom means to you, let everyone know what he, his friendship and his happiness with his new life partner means to you. It’s a day for love and lord knows the world needs more brotherly love!
Don’t mention past relationships or hook ups, of either the Bride or Groom, it’s just awkward -In fact, just skip anything sexual altogether; it's not the place or time and your audience just don’t know how to react. Oooh I'm getting “cringe-bumps” just thinking about it. (similar to Goosebumps but induced by cringey/awkward situations. Normally followed by a shudder)
Don’t tell Inside jokes – unless there is a decent number of close friends who will pick up on this it is not worth alienating the rest of your crowd. A short one liner of an inside joke is fine but you will lose your crowd if you make it any more lengthy. Nothing kills the mood more than people looking at one another wondering if they should laugh or not....
Don’t talk about yourself - It is not your day! This also applies to telling stories about the groom where he comes off the bad guy and you the hero who saved him. People are there to celebrate the marriage, not how you saved the day and managed to get the deposit back after the groom trashed the Air BnB at the stag do. (an actual story told during a real-life speech – I wish it had been as short as I just made it).
Don’t do a speech over 10 minutes and DEFINITELY not over 15 minutes! - You have to keep in mind you are one of (traditionally) 4 speeches: if everyone went over by 15 minutes this means guests are potentially waiting up to an additional hour for their dinner and to be perfectly honest that is unreasonable.
"Have you seen any Alternative speech ideas that might be nice?"
Bridal Speeches – I love the idea of a bridal speech. The tradition of the bride not speaking doesn’t sit well with me. I think if you feel you have people to thank and appreciation for your partner to express, you should feel more than comfortable to do so. Remember at the very least half the crowd is there to celebrate you and your marriage, they want to hear from not only your partner but from you too.
Bridesmaid speeches – if your bridesmaid wants to step up and express their love for you on your wedding day let them. Why should the groom be the only one getting a dedicated speech from a friend/sibling! A couple of the best speeches I ever heard were given by Bridesmaids, so I am a huge advocate! GO ON THE GIRLS...
Letters to my Husband / Wife – writing each other's speech - This is probably my favourite alternative to the traditional groom's speech. Plus, it takes some of the pressure off performing a speech as everyone knows this is your first time reading the letter written to you by your partner. Like the speeches it does need to cover a few of the standard “thank you’s” to their family etc but there is something more personal and less pressurised writing a letter to the one you love than a speech to 200 people.
I got this idea when one very nervous groom turned to his new wife right before we introduced them into the ballroom and said he couldn’t do it and she said “that’s ok I'll do it for you.” There was something about watching her reading out his words and feelings about her that had not one dry eye in the room including my own. (Disclaimer - I have also cried at every ceremony I have ever attended.) I’m not claiming to have invented this idea but this is how I happened upon it. I’m sure it has been done before but I personally love this idea!
I hope this gives you a clear guide to what is involved in the wedding speeches. If you have any questions or perhaps want to run an idea past someone, i'm your girl! Leave a comment below or write to me privately via the contact page!
Here are a few helpful tips to help cope through from the initial planning process right through to your first dance!
The planning process surrounding your day
As a wedding coordinator I have had the pleasure of looking after many different people and personalities in the lead up to the big day. In my experience the main reason for people worrying in the lead up to their day is that, for the majority of them, this is their first wedding. They have never had to organise a wedding before! At most they have been involved in perhaps a sibling’s planning process or as part of a friends Bridal Party. However, the feelings do change when it is your own wedding, your own table/seating plan and of course your own Budget! I would always tell my Brides and Grooms if they needed anything wedding related to just ask, be it just someone to bounce ideas off of or if something you are unsure of is playing on your mind. This is where you should really take advantage of having a dedicated wedding coordinator/planner/consultant! You may not have been through this process before but your wedding coordinator lives this process day in and day out, use their experience.
One lovely couple in particular comes to mind, in relation to wedding planning nerves. The groom was an admittedly anxious person, he said he was aware he might find the planning process stressful. He had already envisioned the many nights of lying awake worrying about “should they or shouldn’t they’s” surrounding their wedding. The main stress being that they had no idea what to expect or what was involved in the wedding process.
We sat down over coffee and went through the main milestones in the planning process from Bedroom allocations, to invites and RSVP’s, menu tastings, final numbers and table plan deadlines to name but a few. I told them not to dare lie awake at night wondering and worrying about something and instead to send me an email, not matter what the time, asking the question and take some comfort in knowing there was a response for that worry on its way to them.
There does come certain point a few weeks before where all the planning is done, no more can be done and you can relax a little more. The time for changes and adding extra bits on is all done and dusted and it's time to enjoy the excitement of what's to come in addition to the Hens and Stag do’s of course.
The wedding day jitters
Once the big day arrives it is completely normal to have a few nervous butterflies in your tummy that morning. However once the bridesmaids /groomsmen join you to start getting ready your mind is so focused on what is happening around you rather than on the walking down the aisle portion of the day. I loved when we had a civil ceremony within the hotel, the Bride normally stayed the night before and got ready in one of our larger family rooms with plenty of room for hair and makeup. I would pop up to them about 11.30am to check in and see how their morning was going/ how they were feeling. It allowed me to offer that extra bit of support the morning of the wedding. Everything from making sure she is feeling ok to making sure she has enough prosecco/snacks on standby. (which in my opinion mean the same thing)
The most important thing is to know the order of your day inside out! Have a schedule in your head but try not to focus on the clock to much. If things don’t happen to the second as planned, which is normal, this can create unnecessary stress. Speak to your suppliers in advance to ensure they know how important punctuality on the day will be for you. Perhaps designate one person in your wedding party to make sure things are happening reasonably on schedule. One last tip would be, if you are having a wedding car do ask them to arrive 30 minutes before you are due to leave for your ceremony. This will allow you to relax once you see the car outside awaiting you. Also, a great opportunity to grab some photos with the car!
The wedding speeches
I have an excellent reference for this portion of the blog, my significant other. Andy was the Best man at my Best Friend's wedding, and that was the night we met. The plot of every RomCom ever, I know its sick! There were Kilts involved though so you can't really blame me...
ANYWAY, Andy said the nerves first set in the day after Rob asked him to be Best man, which just happened to be exactly 365 days before the wedding. There were a few drinks consumed the night Rob asked him and we can only assume the hangover didn’t help the nerves. This feeling eased off after a few days but really ramped up 4 months before the wedding and involved numerous nights lying awake thinking of the ways he could/would mess up and completely ruin Rob and Julies Big Day.
We sat for dinner and the speeches began, I remember thinking that Best man looked nervous, this was given away by the slight tinge of grey in his complexion. The wedding coordinator in me wanted to give his arm a squeeze and tell him it would be fine and to ask if he wanted a stiff drink to settle him. At this point in my thought process, Andy pulled out his hip flask and proceeded to what can only be described as chugged the half its contents. Which I was lucky enough to find out later was luke warm Scottish Whiskey.
He took a few deep breaths as he took the mic, and stood up and did his speech. The standing up and giving the speech is the easy part I promise. It is the lead in and the overthinking that is the hard part. The one thing I advise anyone who finds the thought of giving a speech nauseating, is l earning how to properly breath. People always say take a few long slow deep breaths and yes that helps but learning Ujjayi breath, commonly used during yoga practice, will help in more scenarios than speech giving. Focusing on this will calm your nervous system and regulate your breathing and oxygen intake. Thus, helping ward off panic attacks or anything of the sort. I promise it is worth practising in the lead up to the wedding!
The first dance
If you are nervous about cracking out the dance moves in front of a crowd, my advice would be no matter what happens during the dance, just remember nobody knows the choreography except the 2 of you! If you make a mistake no one will notice except you.
If you are going to wing it on the day rather than opting for a few dance classes and a choreographed first dance perhaps, the “all eyes on you” aspect of the first dance makes you nervous. Why not arrange for the bridal party to join you both on the dancefloor after the first verse of your song. This will take some of the focus off of you plus, when your bridal party join in your other guests will feel comfortable joining you all on the dancefloor and as a result kicking off the dancing for the rest of the night.
If you are finding the process too stressful or overwhelming please do reach out to your friends and family. The process is one in a lifetime for many and one to be enjoyed! However, it is completely normal to feel overwhelmed. It is such an emotional day and thus the decisions in the lead up to it are naturally more emotional to make. If you find yourself in need of someone to listen to your wedding worries or stresses please do feel free to contact me and I would be more than happy to help you come up with some resolutions!