A stressful time when many personalities collide, combined with financial worries The most magical time of your life. There's much to decide on, like who will be in the bridal party, and who will give a speech?
Traditionally it's one (or both) fathers, then the best man and finally the groom who give a speech. Women didn't get a look in, because back in the day women didn't really get to speak publicly.
Well guess what? It's 2016 and times they are a changin'.
"There is a growing trend for brides and grooms to throw out the rule book and do their own thing," speechwriter and founder of Write It For Me, Anita Stevens, told The Huffington Post Australia.
"We're also seeing grooms with best women, and brides with best men of honour. These days anything goes and it seems the more creative and unique the wedding is, the better."
Stevens believes that with couples marrying later in life and often paying for part or all of their weddings, they feel more at ease with turfing traditions and having the bride or maid of honour giving a speech.
"I think that given the average wedding is now somewhere around $35,000 and upwards and couples are largely footing the bill themselves, they are more inclined to want to do things on their own terms and that often means tweaking or opting out of the wedding traditions that simply don't work for them, speeches included," Stevens said.
So, if you're a soon-to-be bride, bridesmaid or even mother of the bride and you're planning on giving a speech, set aside some time to sit down and write it, or at least make a few notes. Stevens offers the following tips:
- Always introduce yourself. People need context. If you're the bride's best friend, explain that;
- Don't go crazy with anecdotes. Share one or two well-chosen stories about your experiences together to bring your friendship/relationship to life;
- Heartfelt is good, but avoid being overly sappy and emotional. The maid of honour speech can be just as entertaining, heart-warming and funny as the best man's;
- Focus on your purpose. Ultimately you are there to do two things: celebrate your friendship/relationship with the bride and toast to her marriage;
- Remember it's not about you. A good check is to write a draft and then count the number of "I's" in there and circle them with a red pen. If you end up with a sea of red, see previous point and start editing;
- Always find something positive to say about the groom. Always.
Further to the above, there are some total no-go zones. While they might seem obvious to you, it's worth noting that you should avoid jokes or stories about ex-boyfriends or previous sexcapades, even if you're making a positive comparison. Likewise, avoid toilet humour or anything to do with bodily functions -- yes, that means the one about the bride wetting her pants after a big night out, and steer clear of in-jokes -- nobody will laugh and they will alienate your audience.
When it comes to delivering your speech on the day, nerves can take over. There's no need to stress because you've already nailed the content, now it's all about the delivery. Stevens has some tips for that, too:
- Your speech is a story and needs a clear, simple structure that your audience can follow;
- Less is more. A good speech is a succinct speech. Aim for five and never more than 10 minutes;
- Never wing your speech. A brilliant on-the-fly wedding speech generally only happens in the movies so make sure you prepare and have a clear idea about what you want to say;
- Know your stuff, but don't memorise. Trying to memorise a whole speech is not a good idea. Don't forget you'll be nervous, which will affect your memory and you don't want to end up looking like a deer in the headlights;
- Notes are fine but the more you look up and engage with your audience the better. Watching someone reading a piece of A4 in a monotone voice is painful;
- Be yourself. You want to sound natural so if you're not funny, don't feel like you have to open with a gag. Use your natural sense of humour and inject humour with your stories instead.
If the thought of writing a speech stresses you out and takes away the joy of the leadup, get help if you need it. If you're not a gifted wordsmith, there's no shame in hiring a professional wedding speechwriter to help you. It's a relatively small investment for one of the more memorable aspects of a wedding.