The wedding speeches are probably the most worried about element to any wedding. Whether you are used to speaking in public or not, you will present an amount or nerves during the build up, whilst speaking and even afterwards. Being nervous is actually a good thing and once you learn more about nerves, what they are and how to address/reduce them, you will learn to embrace the feeling.
Being a performer often in front of large crowds I have learnt many tips to ensure I no longer let nerves beat me. I still get nervous from time to time, but i’ve learnt to deal with them in a completely different way. I can now and regularly do perform in front of large rooms of people with complete confidence, this confidence frees me up to concentrate on the people I perform to and this natural persona means people warm to me easily.
Below are some tips i’ve picked up along the way on what you can do to ensure you NAIL THAT WEDDINGS SPEECH!
1. Understanding nerves
Feeling nervous is perfectly natural, it’s not something you can completely stop, indeed you really don’t want to but it is something you can learn to deal with. We feel nervous about new situations, the anticipation of the unexpected, we build an idea in our head about a certain outcome. It is our bodies natural defence and is a feeling normally in your stomach. Nerves are good and help you raise your game in any situation.
2. Everyone is on your side
Every single person in that room, when you stand up, wants you to do well. They will all be supportive of you all the way. If you stumble, it won’t really matter – they all know how difficult it is getting up there, some could not even face going through with it themselves if asked, so hold your head up high and be proud that not only are you involved in the big day in such a way, but that you have taken this task on the chin and are about to deliver a memorable moment in the happy couples very special day.
Make the content your own, from your heart and it really will be amazing. You have a lot to talk about if you put your mind to it but keep it to some key moments during the lives you have shared together. There may be some embarrassing moments, some funny moments and some heart felt moments. Unless it really does fit your character and the situation, try not to swear (or at least too much). There are likely to be young people, some older folk and you don’t want to upset with coming across too rude, if you do, encourage them to cover their ears as you are about to say something rude, making them feel like you are thinking of them will show the room how thoughtful you are too.
4. The 3 p’s – Plan, Prepare and Practise
THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT. One of the factors of why we get nervous is when something is unfamiliar. If you are not used to speaking in front of large crowds, then feeling nervous about the situation is to be expected.
There are a couple of ways you can deliver your speech.
If you are a more natural speaker you may wish to not prepare anything at all and just stand up and talk, I have seen this work and I have equally seen this fail. In this situation I think it’s always best to have some cue words or points written down to bring you back on track if you start to waiver off topic.
If you are planning to write a full speech, prepare it long in advance of the big day.
Write it, read it, refine it until you are happy and then start to practice it.
Read over and over, at a time of day when it is convenient. A good time is at night before bedtime, go over it 5 times before bed for a week and I bet after 7 days you have remembered every word.
Once you can remember your speech, or most of it, you will relax more when standing up in front of everyone. It will flow better, you will be able to take pauses and feel more comfortable.
Familiarity with the set-up
If you haven’t got a chance to see the room before the big day, nip out from the drinks reception for a few minutes and take a look around. Stand in position and imagine yourself speaking to the room, have a look at where people are sat and if there are particular people who make you feel comfortable, making eye contact with them during the speech will relax you.
5. Cue cards
Though you may have remembered the speech, always have some cue cards with you on standby. If for some reason you stop mid flow (it could be a baby starts to cry, some drunk uncle heckles something or anything else slightly un-expected) – having some cue cards with words or key points on the speech will bring you back on topic at a glance.
6. Keep the whole speech in your pocket
Just in case the nerves still get to you and you can’t remember a point, have the speech printed out and keep in your pocket. I’ve been to a few weddings where this has happened and you know what, everyone just laughed a little, the whole thing became a great relaxing moment and after a pause, the best man started again ending in thunderous applause. In extreme cases i’ve even seen the speaker (often Father of the Bride) so emotional they can’t get through even the first line. Having the speech on paper will mean someone else can jump forward for you and read it through instead – trust me, when this happens it still has the same impact as if you read it yourself, the words and sentiment are what is important and there will not be a dry eye in the house.
7. Timing of the speeches
The bride and groom are who decide how the day goes. There are many ways a day can flow and one brilliant way I have seen happening more recently is to move the time of the speeches.
A wedding day can be long, traditionally the ceremony is around 40 minutes, 2 hours Drinks Reception, then 2 hours Wedding Breakfast meal – overall that’s nearly 5 hours from the start of the day to the point when the speeches are done.
One thing that long time and build up won’t help is your nerves. The longer the time period from start to the actual speech the nerves will just build up, people will be asking you if you are nervous, which in turn will make you more nervous, or if you were not even thinking about it, it may mean you start to.
So, here’s the clever idea – have the speeches at the start to the Wedding Breakfast. This means the speeches are over before anyone has eaten and also means the day is over and done with and you can then relax for the rest of the day.
8. Entertainment – plan the day correctly
If the whole day is filled with nothing but guests, no distractions no entertainment then this will just make you more nervous. Nothing else to take your mind away from it will just not help. It’s very common now for drinks reception to have some music, perhaps a harpist to relax the mood, a background singer or of course a magician.
During this Wedding Breakfast (below) they had ‘The Singing Waiters’, an amazing team who really knew how to get the crowd going and the subsequent speeches were the best i’d seen.
During Drinks Reception and/or Wedding Breakfast, having entertainment is essential for many reasons but here is how having a magician and specifically me helps. I will mingle with groups of people and ensure they have a lot of fun. I specialise in making sure people are enjoying themselves fully, they are laughing, screaming and applauding – but why is this important to help with speeches?
When people are relaxed and used to reacting and applauding, they will do so during your speech more freely.
Part of my service as a magician during the Wedding Breakfast is to RAISE ENERGY LEVELS, so by the time the speeches arrive absolutely everyone is on a high and ready to react by applauding, cheering and even screaming with joy. Imagine if during the day nothing has been happening, energy levels are low, everyone is bored, you look up and out to the room to start your speech and it is evident on everyones face that they just want you to get on with it – careful planning of the day can completely avoid this.
This has never happened at a wedding I have attended, because I have been the entertainment, but I have in speaking with guests over the years heard some stories to make your toes curl.
Ensure your wedding is the best anyone has ever been to.
9. Slow down and breathe
It is a classic reaction when nervous to speak very quickly. Have a glass of water with you and make sure your mouth is not dry. Take natural pauses during your speech as this will create cues for the audience to laugh and applaud and also help you relax even more.
10. The absolute #1 rule left to last
Your speech will be over in a flash, things move fast and once over you will wonder what you worried about.
Being part of any wedding really is an honour but you have been given the duty for a reason. You hold a special place in the newly married couples lives and hearts, they have full trust and faith in you to deliver and you will. You will rise to the challenge and nail your speech, everything will fall in to place, you’ll see.
So, relax and enjoy this moment it really will be one of the best in your own life too.
I hope some of the above has helped you and thank you for reading.
Please share to anyone you feel may take something from it and stay tuned for more blogs of this kind.
Good luck and remember, YOU WILL NAIL IT!
Photography courtesy of Rachel and Esmé at https://www.luminweddingphotographers.com/