Overcoming wedding speech nerves
Updated: Oct 24, 2019
Wedding speeches are one of the most important parts of the wedding day, but it need not be stressful for you, whether you're the father of the bride, father of the groom, the best man, the maid of honour, or even the bride or groom.
Here's some tips that will help you get through in the lead up and if you want to see some examples of real life speeches by people who have been in the roles I've mentioned above, then check out this article: Real wedding speeches
Expert vocal coach Alan Woodhouse gives some tips to find out how to keep your nerves under control.
Speak the Words Before You Write the Words
When writing a speech, most of us would start by writing down some notes, but Alan explains this is not the best place to begin:
“You need to plan what you’re going to say. And you’ll be tempted to start off by writing some notes: don’t. Turn on your mobile phone or computer, and find the voice-recorder. Start to talk through your ideas. You want to sound as if you’re talking to the guests, not lecturing them or reading them an essay. By speaking at the outset you will find the best way for you to tell the stories that you want to tell.”
Remember to Breathe
This sounds like an obvious one, but it is very important. Alan says that forgetting to breathe deeply can make your nerves worse:
“If our breathing gets stressed, we will feel stressed, and our voice will sound stressed. We need to breathe deeply in order to get some energy behind the message we want to convey. You are breathing, so don’t TRY to breathe, it will make you tense. Imagine you are watching the breath flow gently and smoothly away from you; and then imagine you are watching the new in-breath as it confidently flows towards you. Let the breath flow out, let the breath flow in. Perfect!”
Don’t Try Too Hard to Be Funny
You may feel under pressure to make your speech funny but joke-telling doesn’t come naturally to everyone and jokes that were funny on the stag do , may not translate in a room full of family friends and relatives. Alan recommends keeping it sincere:
“Get some ideas from the internet by all means, but steer clear of the jokes. You will be loved and appreciated if you share your thoughts and your stories about the people you care about.”
Think About Your Audience
If you’re not sure what to include Alan says to consider who will be in the room:
“This is a good way to develop a structure for your speech. Simply think, if I were listening to my speech, what would I want to hear about next? We start by greeting people: we all like people to say ‘hello’. Depending on whether you’re Groom or Best Man or Father of the Bride, you will have stories to tell. What did you see, what did people say, what did you feel? That’s what people want to know.”
Some Other Things to Consider:
Keep it Short
If you’re feeling daunted by the task, don’t put yourself under added pressure by trying to deliver a Kayne style speech. Go for the short and sweet approach. Thank the people that need thanking and make a simple toast. It’s all about the quality rather than quantity.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Make sure you start writing your speech early, giving you plenty of time to practice. You can never be over-prepared. Have a run-through every day if you can. The more familiar you are with the content, the less likely you are to trip over the words or lose your place.
Enlist a Friend
As well as practicing by yourself, make sure you practice in front of someone else at least one. They can give you some encouragements and may be able to give you some pointers!
When writing your speech down, structure it in a way that will be easy to follow on the day. Rather than writing a full script, put together some short bullet points, which can work as prompts. If the thought of free-styling brings you out in a cold sweat and you’d rather read it fully from a script – that’s ok! The most important thing is that you feel as confident as possible in your notes.
Change the Format
Traditionally speeches happen after the wedding breakfast but there’s no reason why you have to stick to this. Consider having the speeches before dinner so you can get it out of the way and be free to enjoy the meal without worrying. Making your toast whilst everyone is still standing enjoying a drink may make you feel less conscious of everyone sitting looking at you.
It may be tempting to have a few drinks to calm your nerves but this could be a big mistake. Give yourself the best chance of delivering a perfect speech by not having more than one or two drinks before the speeches. They’ll be plenty of time to party afterwards!
Whatever you do, remember everyone is there to support the couple and bridal party. By the time it’s all over, you’ll be wondering what you were worried about.
Steve Mummery is a marriage celebrant authorised by the Attorney General of Australia. Steve is based in Perth, but can travel anywhere. Check his website here. See some Facebook reviews of his work here and follow him on instagram here @smcelebrant.