Want to Deliver the Perfect Wedding Speech? Don't Do These 5 Things

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Keep these wedding speech tips in mind when delivering your Best Man or Maid of Honour speech

bride and groom toast during ottawa wedding reception

You probably didn’t see it when you signed up for Best Man or Maid of Honour. It’s OK, no one can blame you for not seeing it.

It’s just one line buried in the fine print of the verbal contract you signed over drinks that said you’d be giving a speech during the wedding reception.

So after dropping a dime to throw a bachelor or bachelorette party, tailoring the suit and fitting the dress, possibly drinking half your weight on the wedding day, you need to get up in front of a room of 100, 200, or, shit, 500 people and not make them choke on their meal, or worse, make them wish they choked on their meal.

After photographing countless weddings, I’ve been privileged to listen to some of the most beautiful, heartfelt speeches ever, the kind that brings down the house and brings on the waterworks.

But I’ve also found myself witnessing some real train wrecks. And here, in no particular order, is where I think the wheels fell off those speeches.

#1 - We know who you are

This is short and simple and maybe just coming from someone who’s listened to a lot of wedding speeches but if you’re sitting at the head table everyone knows who you are. So don’t start your speech with “For those of you who don’t know me….” Yes, of course, say who you are but then get right into the reason why you're there: a lifelong and/or deep relationship with either the Bride or Groom.

best man giving speech at ottawa wedding

#2 - It’s not a Roast.

This one mostly goes out to the men. For some reason, some Best Men think a wedding speech is an ideal time to bring up stories of the groom and his past girlfriends or embarrassing moments lost in a haze of alcohol-fuelled idiocy. Let me assure you, your “hilarious” trip down memory lane falls into the “You had to be there” category. No one finds it as funny as you do. Trust me. Grandparents and, especially, mothers do not want the image of their baby boy tarnished on his wedding day.

MoH’s aren’t off the hook here either. With the bride feeling amazing on her best day, recounting that “one day at band camp” should have stayed at the bachelorette party.

wine glasses clinking at ottawa wedding ceremony

#3 - It’s not a funeral

Albeit rarer than The Roast, the wedding speech is a time where two families are writing their own history by coming together to create a bigger, beautiful unit. But as weddings are milestones that trigger nostalgic reminiscing, some parent’s give speeches that sound more like eulogies. Mom, just because your baby boy fell in love, doesn’t mean he’s going to disappear. You’re still going to see him on weekends for dinner. Dad, your little girl has indeed grown up to be a strong, beautiful woman who now has a partner with which to navigate this crazy world. You knew this day was coming. But it doesn’t mean that she’s not going to come to you for advice down the road or will want to celebrate life’s joy’s with you any less.

My advice, then, would be to use this opportunity to express your pride in your child and acknowledge the similar ways in which his or her partner holds their heart as you have always done.

father hugs son at ottawa wedding reception

#4 - It’s not your show

Just like at the Oscars, weddings guests are into sitting through 2 hours of speeches so keep it tidy. The DJ is likely warming up by the time you're speaking and guests are itching to stretch their legs so you're more likely to offend with a 20-minute speech.

I love the effort but this kind of speech would be better said in an intimate, one-on-one talk with the person getting married or maybe during a rehearsal dinner with close family and friends. Take the Coles Notes from that talk and use it for the wedding speech.

Keep your speech to under 5 or 10 minutes while paying tribute to the qualities that you find inspiring. Pepper in some light, tasteful jokes or make fun of yourself if you’re nervous.

Good luck and remember, you can always imagine everyone watching you is naked..or they're imagining what you look like naked!

groom gives speech at ottawa wedding in metropolitain

#5 - Show some emotion

In my experience, wedding guests will forgive you for losing your composure. In fact, they may welcome the expression as a demonstration of how deep you really care. I see this a lot when couples are speaking about siblings and parents and I feel it's often the first time these words of tribute are spoken, which is likely the cause of the tears. As an aside let's all make sure to tell the ones we love how we love them more often.

bride and groom kiss during speech at ottawa wedding

DB