1. The main purpose of a wedding reception is to celebrate the happy event and to give guests, from both families, the opportunity to meet and get to know one another. You can create the desired atmosphere through the wedding speeches.
2. Speeches are primarily a way to congratulate the happy couple on their marriage and to give thanks to those people who have taken an active part in the proceedings. They are also an ideal opportunity to add humour and fun to what is otherwise a serious event.
3. Find a balance - Speeches should be sincere but also provide an element of entertainment for guests. Delivered correctly, they are an important element of a successful wedding and, for you giving the speech, serve as an opportunity to express your best wishes for the happy couple.
4. Despite having a solemn element, marriages are also meant to be happy occasions so don't get bogged down in any lengthy, boring procedures after the official ceremony has passed. Short, amusing speeches from the best man, groom and brides father are more than sufficient for most audiences. If you wish to have more formality the bride, maid of honour etc can be added to the list of those speaking.
5. The running order of the speeches is not set in stone but here is one of the most popular timetables:
a. The master of ceremonies or best man calls on the father of the bride to propose a toast to the bride and groom. The bride's father then welcomes the guests before saying a few words about his daughter.
b. The groom replies by thanking his parents and normally concludes with a toast to the bridesmaids and the presentation of small gifts to them of his appreciation.
c. The best man then replies on behalf of the bridesmaids and sets the tone for the remainder of the day with a short, humorous speech.
6. The ideal length for a total of all the speeches is around 20 minutes. For three speakers, therefore, the duration of each should be around seven minutes. Experience has shown that the guests will have an attention span of around seven minutes. One or two main points in a talk are ample material for each of the speakers.
7. It follows that if your speech is to be short you don't need piles of notes. Trying to remember where you are up to with lots of sheets of paper will cause you unnecessary stress. Your level of stress will increase dramatically if you were to drop the sheets!
8. A single index card is more than sufficient for a wedding speech. Don't attempt to write down your speech verbatim. Reading a speech is viewed as amateurish and handwriting easily becomes illegible when standing ‘in the spotlight’ at the front of an audience.
9. If absolutely necessary write the odd word or two to aid you. Notes are meant to jog your memory and ensure you don't leave some important point out - nothing more. Use a large font with different coloured inks if possible to separate different sections of your talk.
10. Speeches normally come after the meal and before the cutting of the cake. Know the place and approximate time in the proceedings when you will be expected to speak. Remember around of half of the audience are likely to have no idea who you are so begin by identifying yourself. Speak clearly and slowly to assist the audience to digest your masterpiece. Remember, they have already digested a substantial meal if it is a formal dining reception.
11. If of the persuasion, try your utmost not to have more than the odd alcoholic drink before giving your speech. One drink may assist in helping you relax, whereas two can seriously impair your judgement and overall performance. There is a saying ‘Everyone likes a drink. No one likes a drunk’.
12. Avoid making fun of anything associated with religion or politics, as there is a very good chance someone, somewhere in the audience, will end up being offended.
13. References that have strong *** connotations are also taboo. The wedding reception ethos is not the same as might be found at a Stag or Hen Night celebration! Stories or jokes that are too rude will make the parents of any children at the reception feel somewhat uncomfortable. Your speech material should be fit to be on a family television programme shown before 9pm.
14. The biggest mistake made by those giving a speech is that they try too hard and end up well out of their comfort zone. Be natural; speak as you do with friends in polite company and, if possible, do it from the heart. Showing you are a caring, emotional person always goes down well with ladies in the audience.
15. Providing you don't cause any embarrassment, attempt to include stories that involve guests at the reception. People like amusing stories in which they are included. It is all about building a rapport with your audience.
16. Comment on something that happened at the church or reception the guests will marvel at you ability to ad lib and will laugh all the more during your speech. It doesn't need to be side- splittingly funny. If they feel part of your humorous observation their laughter will be loud and often becomes contagious.
17. If possible, throw off the constraints of a ‘prepared speech’ by interacting with light-hearted banter that always comes from a happy and perhaps slightly tipsy audience. Get the tone and pace of your talk right and you will have the audience eating out of your hand.
18. If you are speaking but are not down to give a toast, I have found that an ‘So, here's again to the happy couple’ can be useful in letting the guests know you have finished and gives them an excuse to have another quick swig of champagne.
19. The wedding celebration is for your enjoyment too. Prepare your material well in advance. Practise and practise again. Get to a point where you feel you know your material without having to refer to notes. It is not essential to get it word perfect. Relax, be natural, don't try too hard and there is every possibility your speech will be a fantastic success, admired and enjoyed by all.
20. In conclusion a few words of caution: don't get too carried away when your speech goes down well with the audience and start believing they want you to go on for a lot, lot longer! You will quickly over stay your welcome and a great speech will become a ‘It was ok, but he went on too long!’ saga.
Do your seven minutes, stop and leave them wanting more.
I wish you every success.
Motivating talk expert John Bell has been voted ‘Best UK Speaker of the Year’ on four occasions. He has been speaking professionally for over 25 years. John works full-time as an author and a conference, seminar and convention presenter. In addition to motivating delegates, he teaches people how to harness the power of positive thought to succeed in both their personal and professional lives. John is also extremely popular as an after dinner-speaker and has a unique style of delivery in that he often allows the audience to chose the topics of his talks. Only the most experienced of speakers, at the top of their profession, would have the courage, confidence and capability to adopt such a style.
He is the author of over 25 books including How to Become a Conference Speaker, How to Manage and Motivate, How to Hypnotize, How to Acquire a Remarkable Memory, and, for those involved in sales, the best seller How to Negotiate. John may be available to speak at your conference or provide on-site training for your staff.
Learn more about John at his website http://www.johnbellspeaker.com