RTE's The Afternoon Show Wedding - Survival Kit for Speech Makers

When, Poll Moussoulides, Director of 'Voice Coach Training' appeared on the Afternoon Show to offer advice about Wedding Speeches, he provided viewers wiith a Speakers Survival Kit.

Below is the full length article:

TIPS & ADVICE FOR WEDDING SPEECHES

There is nothing unusual about feeling nervous - it’s our body’s way of letting us know that something is important. It is stress, and how stress manifests itself (e.g. dry throat, shaking hands, clammy palms, a quivering voice…etc) that can have a negative effect on how we deliver our speech or presentation.

A Wedding Speech can often be one of the most nerve-racking things that anyone can do, but there are several techniques that the most experienced Actors, Performers and Public Speakers use to ensure that most people don’t notice the stress.

By breaking down a Wedding Speech into Preparation and Delivery, and spending a little time on both, we can make life so much easier for ourselves, and have the audience believing that we are practised professionals.

Remember, Weddings by their very nature are sentimental occasions. Guests are there to celebrate a happy occasion, and all of them will expect you to tell them about how important and special the Bride & Groom are to you. Do this and you won’t disappoint anyone! You don’t have to convince anybody of anything, everybody is already on your side.

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So, how do you make yourself look calm, poised and confident?

SMILE
You may be nervous, but when you smile you look like you are happy, looking forward to speaking and people are more likely to relax and enjoy what you say.

EYE CONTACT
Make as much eye contact as possible with both the guests, and with the Bride and Groom. You will see friendly faces which will give you re-assurance. Confident speakers ensure that they look at several different points in their audience – even if you look in the general direction of different tables, people will assume you are talking to them.

SLOW DOWN
Your audience will be really grateful if you slow down the overall pace of your delivery. The experienced speaker knows that going slower allows you to go faster later on for dramatic effect when telling a story or describing a funny moment. But if you are already going too fast, and you go faster and faster with nerves, no one will actually hear what you are saying. Don’t forget to use pauses, it allows time for a point to sink in, or for you to gather your thoughts, or for people to laugh at something humorous you’ve said (always pause for laughs). When you combine a pause with good eye contact you will once again look like a relaxed professional.

STAND STILL
When you stand up to speak, smile, breathe in and out a few times (you’d be amazed at how many people forget to breathe out!), make eye contact with the guests (a simple scan across the room), and ensure that both your feet are on the floor, and your weight is equally distributed. This will give your body a solid foundation, and will reduce the amount of unnecessary rocking or shifting around. Breathe in and out again, keep smiling, and begin slowly.

MEAN WHAT YOU SAY
There are very few occasions in life that you can publicly tell or show someone how much you love them and care about them. The great thing about Weddings is that the room is already charged with good will, love and happiness – and it doesn’t take much to tune into that. If you follow all the advice above when telling your son / daughter / husband / wife how proud / happy / loved they make you feel – the impact of what you have said will be remembered by them (and others) for many years to come. Smile, Eye Contact, Slow and Still allows the meaning of the words to really take effect.

BE YOURSELF
A Wedding is not the time to try out your new ‘posh’ voice, or to show us that you have found some really long words in a dictionary! Not everyone is dynamic, loud and confident (thankfully!). The more different you make yourself, the more uncomfortable you will feel, and the more nervous you will become. It is human to make a mistake, or stumble over a word – you see professional Newsreaders and Presenters do it all the time. So don’t be too hard on yourself – say the word or phrase again and carry on. Your family, friends and guests know you as you are, and they will be more impressed that you’re smiling, making eye contact, standing still, using pauses and looking and sounding like you are enjoying yourself.

SPEAKING TIME
There are certain areas that each speaker is expected to cover in their speech (these are listed below), however the amount of time that guests will happily sit to listen to Wedding speeches is 10 – 40 minutes. 10 minutes allows for everyone to say a short few words, and although 40 minutes is well into “numb bum” time, if you have some confident, humorous and experienced speakers this allows for them to have their say. No matter how interesting you may think you are no one wants to listen to someone drone on and on. People are at a Wedding to celebrate and share in the couple’s happiest day, and it is hard to do either if the speeches go on for ever. The wedding day is all about the bride and groom. Keep your stories and anecdotes short and focused on the happy couple. I would suggest 3 minutes minimum – 15 minutes maximum per person.


WHAT SHOULD YOU SAY / NOT SAY

Best Man
The Best Man often acts as the M.C. at the Wedding Reception. He may introduce the Bride and Groom into the Dinning Room, and he will most likely introduce each speech-maker. (Sometimes the Hotel / Venue Management will do this, however the Best Man should really take this opportunity to establish his role to those guests that may not know him.)

The Best Man (who normally speaks last) should include the following:

  • Explain how you met the Groom and your relationship with him and maybe tell a humorous story or incident about that relationship.
  • Mention how good it is to see so many friends and relatives supporting the couple on their Wedding Day.
  • On behalf of all the guests, thank the hosts for a wonderful wedding reception.
  • Comment on how beautiful the Bride’s looks and compliment her personality traits and remind the Groom how lucky he is.
  • Vouch for the Groom’s ability to be a great and loving husband, and highlight what a good team they make.
  • Express your own good wishes to the couple.
  • Your official role is to respond to the toast of the Bridesmaids

Avoid the following:

  • Never be crude, smutty or offensive. You may think it will be funny when you are preparing your speech, but most likely on the day it won’t be. The couple will not thank you for the embarrassment on the day, and constant reminder every time they sit down to watch their Wedding DVD.
  • Do not mention previous partners of either the bride or groom.
  • Go easy on the alcohol, and don't drink too much before speaking.
  • Avoid in-jokes that only a handful of people will understand – save them for the bar afterwards.


The Groom (who normally speaks second last) should include the following:

  • Explain your relationship with the Best Man, why you chose him, and maybe share a humorous story or incident about that relationship.
  • Thank both sets of parents for their care and love. If a parent is deceased, express how proud they would be, and that they are there in spirit.
  • Thank your guests for their presence and presents.
  • Show appreciation for the celebrant of the Wedding ceremony, and how relaxed he / she made you feel.
  • Express gratitude to the Bridesmaids (if the Bride is speaking, she may wish to do this herself) for their support to the Bride in the lead-up, and on the day.
  • Most importantly, you will want to praise your Bride, tell her how much she means to you, thank her for the happiness she brings you and tell her how much you love her.
  • Your official role is to end with a toast to the Bridesmaid.

At some point in the above (sooner rather than later) you will say the words that everyone is waiting to cheer “On behalf of my WIFE AND I….. Make this moment special and allow a pause for the cheers and applause.

Avoid the following:

  • Never be crude, smutty or offensive. You may think it will be funny when you are preparing your speech, but most likely on the day it won’t be. No one will thank you for the embarrassment on the day, and your Bride will not appreciate the constant reminder every time you sit down to watch your Wedding DVD.
  • Go easy on the alcohol, and don't drink too much before speaking.
  • Do not mention previous partners.
  • Avoid in-jokes that only a handful of people will understand – save them for the bar afterwards.


Father of the Groom (who normally speaks second) should include the following:

  • Thanks to your hosts for a wonderful day, or if you are hosting or co-hosting the wedding you should welcome friends, family and guests.
  • Describe your relationship with your son, and express you pride (or amazement!) that your son has finally settled down. Include a humorous story of his childhood that may have given you a clue about his personality as an adult.
  • Mention your other children (or if none, the Best Man and other of the Groom’s friends) and how their relationship with the Groom fit into your family life.
  • Essentially, express great happiness in welcoming the Bride and her family in to your family. Highlight the Bride’s positive personality traits, and compliment her parents on the wonderful job they did in raising her.
  • You may want to offer some humorous or sentimental advice on marriage, and you should include some gracious words about your wife and her involvement in your son’s upbringing.
  • Thank any of your family members that may have helped with the preparations or on the day – eg the flowers in the church or the making of the Wedding cake.
  • Your official role is to give your full blessing to the happy couple.

Father of the Bride (who normally speaks first) should include the following:

Without wishing to pile on the pressure, the Father of the Bride is associated with the most significant and poignant speech of the day. A Wedding Day is the traditional acknowledgement of a daughter becoming a woman in her own right, and while this may seem a little dated, it still carries significance. If ever there is a time for a grown man to allow emotion, this is it! Smile, beam with pride, and the whole world will see how much you love your daughter.

  • Thanks to your hosts for a wonderful day, or if you are hosting or co-hosting the wedding you should welcome friends, family and guests. 
  • Welcome the groom and his family into your family. Compliment him and his parents for the joy they have brought to your daughter.
  • Mention your relationship with your new son-in-law, there may be a humorous story about the first time you heard about him or met him.
  • Speak of your love for, and your pride in, your daughter. A humorous childhood story may provide a link into her current ambitions and achievements.
  • Refer to your own marriage and thank the Bride’s mother for your own happiness. (If separated or divorced – refer to a positive trait in your ex-wife, and link it to your daughter.)
  • If the Bride is not speaking, you may wish to also thank the Bride’s mother for her help in organising such a great day.
  • Even if the Groom is going to also do it, ensure you thank the Celebrant from the Marriage ceremony earlier in the day, especially if they are a relative or a family friend.
  • Make a positive reference to the Bridesmaids – especially if they are family members, or if they have been childhood friends of your daughter.
  • Thank any of your family members that may have helped with the preparations or on the day – eg the flowers in the church or the making of the Wedding cake.
  • Finally, your official role is to toast the happiness of the Bride & Groom.


Avoid the following: 

  • Never be crude, smutty or offensive. You may think it will be funny when you are preparing your speech, but most likely on the day it won’t be. The couple will not thank you for the embarrassment on the day, and constant reminder every time they sit down to watch their Wedding DVD.
  • Go easy on the alcohol, and don't drink too much before speaking. 
  • Do not mention previous partners of either the bride or groom.

 

REHEARSE, REHEARSE, and REHEARSE AGAIN
The most important thing when making any speech is to allow time to rehearse. Like all rehearsal or preparation it is important that you practise in the way that you hope the end result will be. (Do not mutter into a wall, or talk to the plant in the corner of your office. All this does is prepares your body to be really good at muttering to a wall or talking to a plant!) You don’t see footballers in training slowly walking around, or musicians half-playing their instruments when getting ready for a big match or concert – they rehearse it the way it’s going to be.

Practise the tips above, Smile, Eye Contact, Breathe in and out, make sure your feet are equally balanced on the floor, smile again, Speak Slowly and be yourself.

My advice is to have a piece of card with keypoints / reminders written or typed in clear, big text. You can then refer to this to remind you what area you want to talk about next. Writing your speech out word for word is a good exercise to try and construct the content of your speech, but if you practise it enough times you will very quickly find your own natural way of talking around your keypoints, and will no longer need to read word for word on the day.


Below is a website link to a great weddings page that lists (for free!) hundreds of wedding speeches. Have a browse through these to get a few ideas that suit you, and suit your feelings towards the Bride & Groom’s happiness. Adapt the ideas and make them your own.

http://www.hitched.co.uk/speeches/examples/index.asp 

Have a wonderful day – and enjoy it!

 © Poll Moussoulides 2007
Voice Coach – Total Communication Specialists
www.voicecoach.ie

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