Today I’m delighted to welcome talented writer Helen Moorhouse to Bride and Joy with buckets of advice on the subject of wedding speeches. Helen’s on a
one-woman mission to make the tradition of after-dinner oration the best it can be.
She offers a writing service for reluctant public speakers – or those who just can’t put their thoughts into words. She’s also a published author – her first novel, The Dead Summer, was published by Poolbeg last year and the sequel, The Dark Water is due out in the autumn.
I once attended a wedding which is now referred to as ‘the one with the speeches’ among my friends. We don’t remember the flowers, or what we ate for dinner – we’re not even sure if there was a first dance or not. What we do remember is that once the meal ended and spoons were clinked against glasses, that any positive memories of the day were immediately eradicated.
The bride’s father was the main culprit. He started by telling touching stories of how special his little girl was before moving on to her manifold achievements, her incomparable beauty, and then some.
After a while, however, the praise went on that split second, that single anecdote too long and a nervous hush descended as we all realised that this was leading to something. And it was. When he reached the part where the groom had entered her life and swept her off her feet (read; stole her away and corrupted her, according to dear old Dad), a dark cloud descended over the top table and for the remainder of the time, we cringed in embarrassment as, smiling throughout, he punched high and stabbed low with barbs disguised as jokes and affectionate joshing.
By the time all the toasts were done, and the best man had retaliated with equal barely concealed bitterness, my table had to go outside for fresh air. And a full, hushed analysis.
It didn’t go unnoticed by the bride, either. I may not remember what her dress was like, but I do remember the sound of it swishing furiously while she stormed around the hotel afterwards, a look of fury on her face. Every time she walked by I fancy I could hear music play. The Wicked Witch of the West’s signature theme, that is.
Years on, the couple in question have stuck together like glue in the face of any opposition, have beautiful children and are very happy together. They even manage to still be nice to each other’s families which is a triumph of good nature and willpower. But I cannot help but feel that they look back on their special day with a slight shudder of discomfort. They had spent a lot of money and undertaken so much hard work – the dress was amazing, the hotel a stylish boutique dream; the meal was exquisite, the canapes sublime. But no one remembers any of that. They just remember that it was ‘the one with the speeches’.
A cautionary tale, indeed. If you’ve accepted a role where you have to speak then it’s worth taking a moment to stop panicking and think carefully about what it is that you’re going to say, not just how you’re going to say it.
A couple’s wedding day is the absolute zenith of their lives so far, the culmination of months and years of planning. As human beings we have the gift of advanced communication – of speech – so if ever there were a time to use it wisely, then this is it. If you are a parent, then it’s time express pride and love; If you’re a bride or groom, then this is it the time for you stand up and declare your love for the person who is at your side in your own words.
If you’re a bridesmaid or a best man well, then you’ve got the trickiest job of all. You’ve got to be funny but no-one – that’s no-one – wants to hear about the night when your pal got drunk and (insert appropriate hideous misdemeanour here). Their parents are sitting there, for heavens sakes. Probably grandparents. And a clergyperson. And in some cases the person with whom they have committed the misdemeanour. Unbeknownst, possibly, to the person with whom they have just swopped rings. No, no no. Put that story away and let us never speak of it again. Be funny, but not inappropriate, or insulting or passive aggressive, or crude. Save that for a dark corner later with only your closest friends. Or better still, don’t say it at all. Remember that, despite yourself, some sincerity would go down well here. After all this is your sibling, or your friend, or your cousin or your colleague – you are speaking at the marriage of someone who has chosen you to take the second-in-command role on the most special day of their lives. It’s an honour and a privilege so think hard before you blurt out the bawdiest of tales for a cheap laugh. And be nice.
Because in the long run you want whatever you say to be remembered. For all the right reasons, that is.
For more information on her wedding speech writing service, visit Helen’s website.
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