How to write (and deliver) the perfect wedding speech

By Beck Pura // for The Bride’s Avenue
 Photo: Dan O'Day

Photo: Dan O'Day

Being appointed as a Maid or Matron of Honour is a symbol of true friendship and trust.  The Bride to be has selected you, not only because you're one of her closest friends, but also because she knows she can depend on you for support throughout the engagement process.  Taking on the role as your friend's right-hand woman means taking on a list of responsibilities; multiple trips to the dress shop, delegating bridesmaid duties, planning the bridal shower, keeping a record of gifts she received, planning a bachelorette party, and of course providing her reassurance when things feel overwhelming.  If you can get through that, delivering a speech on her wedding night should be a slice of cake, right?  Think again.  There's a fine line between clinking glasses and the sound of crickets.  Even if you have no experience in public speaking, following a few of our simple tips will ensure your speech will be a hit as you toast to your best friend on her special night.

1.  Preparation

Like any good speech or presentation, preparation is key.  Do not procrastinate -- give yourself ample time before the wedding to avoid stress.  Remember, all great stories have a beginning, a middle and an end, and so should your speech.

2.  Keep it original

Google is fine for getting tips on writing your speech, but relying on an example that you found online is out of the question.  Be specific, and ensure that you're not only speaking to the audience but also to the newlyweds.  Adding this personal touch will remind the Bride why she chose you as her Maid of Honour.

3.  Memorisation lacks personalization

Outline all the points you want to touch upon when you address your audience and write them down.  There is no harm in keeping note cards as to reference occasionally, but avoid reading your entire speech off them directly. You don't want to sound overly rehearsed--this is a testament to your friendship, so speak from your heart, and your audience will listen.

4.  Seek feedback from friends

Run your speech by a few trusted friends, preferably ones that know the Bride and Groom personally.  Ask them about content, structure, tone, and delivery.  Your friends should be able to provide you with their honest opinions and criticism; remember that they make up part of the audience too, so make sure you get a few thumbs up before you make any finalizations.

5.  Save the drinking until after the speech is delivered

You're bound to have a one or two glasses of bubbly by this point, which is completely understandable, however, anything more could be a recipe for disaster.  You're the lead representative of the Bride, so keep it classy -- there will be plenty of time to toast and pop bottles throughout the night.

6.  Engage your audience and make them laugh

The microphone is in front of you, and the noise in the room has come down to a low hush.  Now that you have the attention of the audience, you have to make sure you can keep it.  Start off with some light humour to get the crowd laughing.  Laughter is a good indication that you have everyone's full attention.  Remember that jokes need to be appropriate for everyone -- a good rule of thumb is keep the speech rated PG; suitable for Parents and Grandparents.  So keep the embarrassing stories about exes and memories about drunken parties between you and the Bride.

7.  ... Now bring them to tears

If you can make them laugh, you can make them cry (tears of joy of course).  After softening them up with your jokes, give a tug at their heartstrings.  Share a quote about the meaning of love and life-long connections.  Shift the focus from the audience to the newlyweds.  Now is the perfect time to share the exact moment you knew for yourself that your best friend found her perfect life-partner.  Like laughter, tears are contagious too, and if you get the Bride to shed tears the whole room will be reaching for tissues in no time.

8.  Five-minute maximum

Less is more could never ring truer when it comes to wedding speeches.  Five minutes in the spotlight is all you need to stir up emotion in the crowd.  Ask someone in the bridal party to keep time for you, and give you a signal to let you know if you're rambling.  The last thing you want are guests dozing off, or striking up conversations before you've raised your glass.

9.  Above all, have fun

Giving a speech about someone so close to your heart is an honour and a celebration.  You only have one chance to share these special words, so make sure your speech is a wedding gift she will treasure for years to come.

 Photo: Dan O'Day

Photo: Dan O'Day