The night Ben proposed, he asked me if I would speak at our wedding. For me, saying yes to this – on the most sacred night of our relationship thus far – was akin to promising somebody something on their death bed. I made an agreement I now can’t go back on. And the closer the wedding gets, the more the weight of what I consented to hangs over me.
I’m more than happy public speaking in a professional capacity. When I get up on stage as Charlotte The Fashion Editor, chatting about trends and styles off the cuff, I’m playing a role; standing in front of all our friends and family, having to bare my soul feels unnatural and a little intimidating. There’s so much pressure to remember to thank my parents, say nice things about Ben, acknowledge those who have flown in from afar – little room is left for spontaneity or a relaxed delivery, which means I run the risk of boring everyone to death. And hey, we’ve all sat through boring speeches before. But if it’s coming from the groom, or the father of the bride, everyone cuts them a bit of slack, because they’re under obligation to speak. If a new husband steps up there and holds a folded bit of paper in front of his face, and his words lack sincerity and meaning, chances are he’ll be met with a sympathetic audience – ‘he’s just a bit shy, poor thing.’ But because it’s not conventional for a bride to speak, there’s a whole extra layer of pressure – on top of the usual public speaking stresses – to be completely dazzling. You have to prove it was worth breaking tradition, and you stood up to speak because you had something to say.
So, what to do to make it different? YouTube was my first port of call. I waded through hours of brides speaking – some good, some terrible – and came up with a few key takeaways. And whilst draft one still leaves a lot to be desired, I’m confident if I follow my own advice, I can avoid being a major flop at my own wedding. Here’s what to think about when plotting your own wedding speech…
Don’t Be Overly Sentimental
Thanks to the heightened emotions of your wedding day, you run the extra risk of bursting into tears if you start mournfully honouring those who aren’t there, or getting overly wistful about your new husband. Sure, there are boxes you want to tick, but don’t forget you’re subjecting a hundred or so people to this speech, so try to keep it engaging for the right reasons.
Don’t Write Full Sentences
My deep dive into YouTube confirmed the best speeches are those that find a balance between being well-prepared and not overly rehearsed. If you’re not comfortable going off the cuff, try giving yourself well-explained prompts that don’t quite materialize into full sentences, for the best chance at a relaxed approach.
The bridal wedding speeches I enjoyed most on YouTube were those who told stories about their relationship – and I’m just a creepy stranger on the Internet. Imagine how much more enjoyable they are if you actually know the couple! This is also a great way to combat those nerves – telling a story you’re familiar with will put you at ease, even if you don’t remember it word for word.
Take Your Time
Obviously no one wants to sit through a thirty minute soliloquy, but part of proving it was worthwhile you speaking is making sure your audience get their proverbial money’s worth. Tell anecdotes, laugh, take pauses, breathe – the more it feels like you’re having a conversation with your guests, the better the response you’ll get.
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