Public speaking can be your worst nightmare. Flashbacks to school assessment pieces, sweaty palms, awkward laughter, “ummm”. Gives you shivers just thinking about it, doesn’t it?
To alleviate some of the stress when considering what to say, when to say it and who to thank on your wedding day, we’ve compiled some short, sweet tips to tick all the boxes.
1. Decide who is speaking
Traditionally, the groom will speak on behalf of the newlyweds, however, in this modern era, it’s common for both the bride and groom to speak. This can be done individually or together.
If you choose to speak individually, the order of speeches traditionally is as follows:
- Father of the bride
- The groom
- The bride (if she’d like to speak)
- The maid of honour (if she’d like to speak)
- The best man
Now, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation; you can mix it up however you like and include other key guests in the list.
These days couples often choose to hear from the bride and groom’s parents as well as any particularly close friends or relations. It’s also become more popular for the newlyweds to speak last, thanking everyone who has been involved in the celebration as well as each other.
2. Plan your speech in a style that works for you
It sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at the number of brides and grooms who, in the hustle and bustle of the week leading up, forget to write their speech out on paper.
To keep things simple for yourselves, consider if you’ll find reading the speech easiest by writing your thoughts in doc point form or in full sentences.
Some speakers find that trying to follow fully written sentences can be challenging and messy, and so prefer doc points. Using doc points can allow for some delightful anecdotes to be shared off the cuff and can make the words feel more genuine as they seem less rehearsed. However, it’s easy to lose your train of thought and become flustered.
Others prefer the comprehensive style of writing in full sentences. There’s less room for mishaps and you can ensure everything that needs to be mentioned has been. A large concern with full sentences, however, can be tracking where you’re up to as you attempt to make eye contact with the audience, or the tone of voice that can come with over rehearsing.
Ultimately, decide what works for you and stick to one way of writing.
When writing out your speech there are two varieties of formatting to consider: the way the words look on the paper and how you’ll read out your speech when speaking together.
When formatting the document on a computer, ensure you use double spacing, large – size 12 or 14 – font, an easy-to-read font such as Arial or Calibre, and space each section of your speech into separate paragraphs. This style of formatting is optimal for readability and will assist you in keeping track of your words.
The second variety of formatting, how you’ll read your speech out when speaking together, is key to maintaining a good flow.
Some options to consider:
- Stand together but read separate speeches (ensure the last sentence of the first person’s speech leads into the second’s)
- Stand together and take turns reading paragraphs (one speech, two speakers)
- Stand individually and read individually
- Stand together and one person reads
If you choose to read together with alternative paragraphs, consider using headings or colour-coding to show who is speaking when.
Overall, aim to maintain a good flow of words and topics throughout your speech and you can’t go wrong.
4. What to cover and who to thank
Whether you choose to read separately or together won’t influence what needs to be said because, ultimately, you’re thanking everybody for everything.
Consider thanking the following groups of people, in the following order:
- Everyone for coming and celebrating with you.
- Friends and family who have travelled, even if it’s just a few hours away. Consider specially naming those who have travelled from overseas, unless it’s the majority of guests.
- Friends or family who assisted with the reception, ceremony or getting-ready as the MC, ushers, flower delivery, celebrant, etc.
- The bridal party for their assistance with the wedding and their love for you as friends. Be sure to mention how handsome or beautiful they look.
- Your parents and your new in-laws for raising you and any assistance they offered in relation to the wedding.
- Each other for choosing you, for loving you etc.
As you write your speech, consider anecdotes or humorous stories to include about those you’re thanking. Steer clear of anything off-colour or inside jokes to keep the laughter flowing and the feel inclusive.
5. Practise – speed, eye contact and body language
Practising your speech is always a good idea, but consider limiting your readthrough to three or four times.
When you over-rehearse a speech, it’s easy to become so familiar with the words that you rush through the reading. Suddenly, a five-page speech has been flipped through in about two minutes, and your guests are wondering what’s happened and if it’s time to applaud or not.
Take the time to breathe, make eye contact and smile throughout your speech. Aiming to look up and make eye contact every five to seven words (or once every sentence) is a great rule of thumb. Don’t be afraid to gesture with your hands, stand up straight and relax – this is supposed to be fun! This will help you slow things down enough to feel and look natural.
Also, be aware of your pitch; when you’re nervous it’s easy for your tone of voice to rise in pitch. This can quickly become uncomfortable to listen to, especially in large, old, echoing halls or churches. Try to keep your pitch low by dropping your chin slightly and speaking from your stomach, rather than your throat – it will sound less breathy and help you maintain a lower pitch.
Until next time, keep making your special moments unforgettable!