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10 Great Ways to Cock Up a Wedding Speech

‘Get a wedding speech right and it’s going to stay with you forever. Get it wrong and it will also have the same effect’ – and this is coming from a man in the know. Adrian Simpson started out writing and presenting for television – so he’s got bags of experience in speaking confidently in the public eye.

Groomsmen jumping for joy

Follow Adrian's tips and you'll be jumping for joy

However, after moving into speech-writing last year, he’s written hundreds of wedding speeches for chaps all over the world. ‘Working in the television industry meant I was comfortable talking to the camera, but it was easy to forget that this isn’t the norm,’ he says. ‘For most men, giving a wedding speech is an incredibly nerve-racking experience and the pressure is on – especially if you’re the Best Man and you’ve got to strike the right balance of humour and sentiment. Wedding speeches are not difficult to get right but they’re easy to get wrong if you haven’t got the time to devote to them.’ We caught up with Adrian to get his top tips on how not to cock up your wedding speech…

1. Googling

If you’ve run out of time to be funny then chances are you’re going to start reaching out to Google for inspiration. This is a huge mistake. There isn’t a single funny thing available on two million pages of Google that comes under the heading of weddings. There are dozens of lists of ‘funny’ things to say in speeches that will make you look like a desperate halfwit - and that everyone has heard a million times before. If you have already penciled into the start of your speech ‘it’s an emotional wedding, even the cakes are in tiers’ - stop right now and try using your brain.

2. Drinking (not enough)

Man in suit jacket holding wine glass

Dutch Courage

Most blokes that speak at a wedding want to – understandably - get the performance over and done with so that they can then start to enjoy themselves (which usually involves drinking their own bodyweight in table wine). So, what normally happens is that our hero decides to abstain from the booze until the speech is over. This has two very neat effects: one is to make him sprint to the end of the speech so that he can start quaffing Merlot like he’s putting out a fire and secondly, so preoccupied with making the speech and not drinking, his nerves are shot to bits, which renders the whole thing a wobbly calamity. If a drink is your thing, then have a couple of gentle ones in the run up - take the edge off and you’ll resist the urge to rifle through it.

3. Singing

The thing about YouTube hits is that at some point people become bored with singing best men and move on to the next thing. Ok, right now we have some guy who’s had over 300,000 hits in a week for singing his tribute to the groom and that’s all lovely - but in very much the same way that people used to go to roller discos and wear leg warmers. Great for five seconds of life but never again - except the internet doesn’t understand that bit. And so your disgrace will be complete – not only has it amassed 12 views but it will be there for your children’s children to ‘enjoy’.

4. Not Using a Microphone

Microphone

How else are people going to hear all your hilarious anecdotes?

Wedding venues come in all shapes and sizes these days. It’s quite possible to have the reception in a disused warehouse, chemistry lab or indeed a church hall, but no matter how whacky and bonkers some may be, they all share one thing in common: dreadful acoustics. You can be just a table away and see the Groom’s mouth moving but for all you can tell he could be reading out the menu. It’s basic: if you want them to laugh, listen and enjoy - be heard. Use a microphone every time.

5. Trying to Memorise

If you had the ability to faultlessly memorise around 1,200 words, then you should move out of IT support and start touring the country as part of some kind of card-counting syndicate. Trying to memorise a speech like this is a really great short-cut to being sectioned, which is certainly one way out the best man responsibilities. Instead (for a less institutionalised outcome) just keep reading your speech through and get to know it in blocks. Simply use some prompt cards and keep practicing.

6. Former Girlfriends

Best Man giving speech and looking at Groom

"Before you, there was Kate. And before that, Janet. And Susan. And Jenna. And Alice..."

This is an absolute no. As far as any girl who is getting married is concerned, their brand new husband didn’t have much luck really before they met and it’s your job as the best man (or indeed groom) to perpetuate that myth. A certain level of suggestion may be acceptable but I once had to talk a Best Man out of not only mentioning exes, but also listing them in date order. He was Scottish and trying to do the number on his brother. I saved his life.

7. Thanking

There is of course plenty of thanking to be done, lots of people have helped out and done their bit purely out of the kindness of their hearts, but there is a limit you should go to when it comes to thanking. This really applies to the Groom who needs to acknowledge various contributions, but there’s a golden rule here: never waste time thanking somebody for a paid service. In other words, yes the flowers do look lovely and the food is scrummy - but you’ve remortgaged the house to pay for them. They don’t need your thanks, it’s the other way around.

8. Going for more than 10 Minutes

Best Man giving speech and laughing

Wrap it up, son.

The length of a wedding speech is everything. You may well love all the things you have to say in your 20 minute epic, but beyond 10 minutes, laughter and sympathy will simply turn into a boiling hatred of every word you utter. Americans get it spot on: they give their speakers around four minutes to hit all the targets in their speech, so no word is wasted and no guests are left comatose with boredom. Keep it tight and to a 1,200 word maximum.

9. Edgy

If you want to make a lasting impression on everyone there and have people talking about your speech for years to come, simply go down the route of one Best Man I witnessed who decided to use the worst swear word in his speech. Yes, that one. Although it’s two years ago now, his counselling is still in full effect. Being on the limit with vulgarity or swearing just never works at a wedding, you’ve got to pitch everything straight down the middle. Think daft and you’ve got it.

10. Never Double up the Toasts

Champagne glasses toasting

"And for the fifth time... to the ushers!"

You can fill up the wedding with as many of these as you like as long as you keep within my magic 10-minute time slot and - crucially - don’t repeat them. In truth, the only real one to remember is the toast to the bridesmaids from the groom, the parting toasts from all speakers are pretty generic but get them to speak to each other beforehand and make sure they’re not toasting the same people. It can be pretty grinding raising a glass to flower girls for the fourth time.

LNOF
Adrian Simpson

Adrian Simpson

www.allspeechesgreatandsmall.com

Speech writer extraordinaire - this man can turn you from a babbling wreck into a witty, romantic hero.

By

Ex-Byker Grover. Ant and Dec called her a third wheel. Now sings show tunes at Butlins in a stolen sequinned dress.

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