Wedding speeches: the nitty gritty
Ahhhh wedding speeches. Love them or loathe them, they are a reality that looms on the checklist of things that couples can sleepwalk into without considering whether they want them or not, or work for their wedding party.
Now don't get me wrong; I love a tradition when it's thought through and embraced with meaning. I also absolutely love a speech when it's done with love, humour, conviction and joy by someone who wants to be doing it.
What is no fun for anyone is enduring a speech that has come from a sense of obligation. We all know what those speeches look like: dads muttering into microphones, grooms sweating and best men thinking they have to somehow come up with toe-curlingly embarrassing stories about their pal even if none exist.
Why do we do it? We want our guests to have the best time possible, so why do we sometimes fail to include our wedding party in this? These folks may well have spent the whole day sick with nerves until their speech is out of the way and nobody should feel that tense or stressed on a day that is supposed to be a celebration of love.
Now I know, I know... a lot of dads are proud creatures. Of course they want to say something on their child's big day. But what if they get cripplingly nervous speaking in front of people? What if they hate having attention on them, or are so worried about messing it up that they spend the build up to the wedding dreading the whole thing?
It can be a minefield. So how do we get round all of this?
1. Normalise no speeches This might sound radical, but if you know there are wobbles in the group and neither you or your partner fancy getting up there either, then make it explicit to your bridal party. It doesn't need mentioning on the big day unless you want to - everyone will be too engrossed with their meal or partying to be waiting for the glass tap! Try sending this to your bridal party so they can relax: We have decided that we won't be having any speeches at our wedding reception, so we can just focus on enjoying the drinks, food, dancing and the company of our wonderful guests. We hope this means everyone (including us!) can now relax and just enjoy the celebrations.
2. Get your wedding party to pitch Not quite as radical as it sounds, but ask your bridal party if there is anyone who is genuinely desperate to say a few words. If there are, then let them go for it. These will be brilliant speeches as they are coming from people who have something they are desperate to share.
It also means that if the groom's dad is a brilliant public speaker, or one of the mums fancies getting up there, that the floor is open. I've seen some joint speeches done gorgeously too. Make it clear there's no obligation, no expectations and no set format and you'll be onto a winner. Try sending out this wording to your crew: During the reception, there'll be some time for speeches. We want to make it absolutely clear that we are happy to have no speeches at all (more time for dancing!) if no one is keen. We mean it when we say there is zero obligation for anyone to say a few words. In fact, we only really want people to volunteer if they are excited about doing it. If you're not, then relax: there's nothing you need to do. If there's things you'd like to say but don't want to make a speech then feel free to write these to us or share with us privately before or after the wedding. We want everyone to feel comfortable and enjoy the day, so please know we are really relaxed about how this part goes!
3. Switch up the timings Often speeches take place between the courses of your wedding breakfast which can mean plates left untouched as nerves set in. Moving them to a different time was something we did at my own wedding - we had a slightly condensed drinks reception and then cracked on with the speeches whilst people were still full of canapés. Everyone could then eat their meals knowing the public speaking was done and dusted!
4. Empower the ladies to do the talking If you've got a powerhouse group of women then let them take centre stage. Your bridesmaids could write a speech together with one delivering it, or make it a group performance. Mums of brides and grooms should get just as much stage time as the dads, so make space for them. And of course, if you're a bride and you're happy speaking in front of your guests then that will always be a winner in my book.
5. Have an open mic This is one of my favourite ways to incorporate speeches into a laidback wedding. Let your guests know that there'll be an open mic during the evening. If you're having a two day celebration, this can be done to gorgeous effect on the first night. I'm picturing a campfire with everyone gathered around it, a star-lit sky, an acoustic guitar, guests roasting marshmallows. Totally chilled, authentic vibes. Guests can come up and say a few words they may have scribbled before, or just as the moment takes them. Giving everyone advance warning means they have a chance to prepare, but also takes the pressure off if no one fancies it. It doesn't have to be a speech either; imagine the musician in the group singing, or a child sharing a poem they've written. Totally gorgeous and inclusive.
Whatever you choose to do, remember there is no right or wrong; this is your day and you need to plan it in a way that best suits you and the needs of your guests.
I'd love to hear about the best wedding speech you've ever heard. What made it so great? Tell me in the comments.