PSA: How To Give a Great Wedding or Party Speech
Yep, it’s time for a PSA because this is a topic that really needs to be tackled. You know it, and I know it, because we have all been to a party or wedding where the speeches given are either really awkward, boring, or before we can escape, take a form eerily similar to a marathon filibuster. My feet are getting sore at the thought…
The good news: it doesn’t need to be this way! Regardless of your experience, you can give an amazing, thoughtful and creative speech that will be appreciated by both the guests and those being celebrated.
First – 4 THINGS TO ALWAYS AVOID:
- Birth Stories – I have no idea why people (especially mums) feel inclined to share publicly the details of childbirth. Nobody wants to picture that. Nobody. Ever. For some reason birth stories have become a piece of staple content for significant birthday parties AND IT HAS TO STOP!
- “In” Jokes – this piece of content is often wielded by the close friend. The joke may be funny between you two, but nobody else gets it. It is especially bad for the listener when the joke sounds degrading or offensive to those who don’t get it. Use humor, by all means, but “in” jokes have as much value in a speech as Monopoly money has in my wallet – it only makes for an awkward moment.
- Speeches Over 5 minutes – as soon as the clock hits 5:01, that speech has gone too long. WHAT?! You scream, “How will I ever fit in all that I want to say?” Believe me, all that you need to say can fit in with plenty of breathing room – save the ‘want’ for another time or place. Plus, you are also respecting the other people doing speeches by keeping your guests awake.
- Non-amplified Videos – first of all, well done! You were super-creative and people love that in a speech; you are officially now the second most-memorable speech just behind the guy who did the magic trick. Now, PLEASE don’t throw all your work away by not having the video amplified! There is nothing worse (except perhaps birth stories) than guests straining to hear your video from the 2watt speakers of a slightly elevated laptop. If your video includes a lot of speech, then volume is more important than visuals. PLEASE NOTE: the 5 minute rule still applies.
Second – 2 THINGS TO ALWAYS REMEMBER
- The purpose of a speech is to celebrate who the person is – a list of what they have accomplished is nice, but only when it is used to reinforce something of their character or personality (eg. courageous, passionate, vigilant…). This is what the guests are expecting and really want to hear, so anything that diverges from this is best left for another time. There are very few occasions when people are publicly commended, this is why it it worth making our speeches count!
- Recognize who is in the room – the people who are in the room will, or at least should, affect the stories that you tell. Grandma does not want to hear about the night her grandson went binge drinking and ran over a puppy, no matter how hilarious you think it may have been. Guests know who is in the room, and they will naturally sympathize with those who may be offended by content.
Third – ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN
You don’t necessarily need your speech written out fully, a memorized outline works fine depending on your confidence level, but you still need a plan. With a strong plan you can then add creative elements as you wish, but with all the above points in mind, here is a basic outline for an great wedding or party speech:
- Briefly describe your relationship to the person being celebrated
- Share a funny story or two where you were both present – draw out a key character quality that you genuinely value
- Expand on that quality (illustrate it with an quote if you want)
- Share a more serious/deeper story when an exceptional quality came out – a situation or key relationship
- Expand on that quality, then project it into a inspiring future picture for that person.
- Thank the person for their contribution to your life
- End by singing the chorus of Michael W. Smith’s “Friends are Friends Forever“…nah just kidding. End with something like, “It is these qualities and many others that make me proud to be a [relationship] of [the persons name].”
Boom. And that is how it’s done, simple, profound, beautiful, AND under 5 minutes. What has been your best/worst speech experience? Got any additional advice? Comment below!