Professional speechwriter reveals the secret to an amazing wedding speech

With wedding season in full swing, it’s likely you’ve witnessed your fair share of speeches; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

It’s a difficult balance to strike between funny and heartfelt, and an ill-judged joke or anecdote can leave a bad impression on guests.

All that pressure leads some people to contact the professionals, getting a helping hand to curate the perfect moment.

Lawrence Bernstein, from Thame, Oxfordshire, is a speechwriter for Great Speech Writing, using his skills for everything from weddings to TED Talks to political addresses.

During the wedding season they get around a dozen requests a day from best men, fathers of brides, and all sorts of folks looking to nail the big moment. With Covid causing a wedding backlog, the business is busier than ever.

If anyone knows what makes a great speech it’s someone who makes them for a living, so we asked Lawrence to share his tips.

From how you can level up your public speaking to the topics best avoided, you’ll be ready to wow when you make a toast.

Set the tone

Lawrence says that the best way to start a speech is to work out how it’ll be remembered afterwards.

He tells ‘Ask a very simple question: How would you like your guests to describe your speech the morning after the wedding? 

‘Then work backwards from there. Some will say fun and light, others emotional and sincere, a few will want something linked to a very specific theme.’

Start strong

The opening line can make or break a wedding speech, but Lawrence strongly advises against copying some generic opener from Google.

‘Try and find a theme to tie everything together,’ he says. ‘Once you do that, everything should fall into place, including where to start.’

He continues: ‘If you are stuck, a link to the couple, the venue, or the guests will ensure that everyone knows this is an original speech with no “cut and paste”.’

Don’t make a list

It can be tempting to prep using bulletpoints, but you then run the risk of sounding robotic or insincere.

Lawrence says: ‘There’s nothing worse than a speech that sounds like a school register; that gives a mention to every friend, relation and pet in their life, with no real theme or bigger-picture to bring it to life.’

Try not to ramble

Another big no-no, according to Lawrence, is when a speech has ‘little structure, no theme and a lot of yawns.’

He adds: ‘It starts slowly and decelerates. Guests with a bet on how long the speech will last are the only ones smiling. The story about his daughter’s birth seemed quite fun, until you realised that this was how he was going to approach every landmark of her life to date.’

Lose the shock factor

When you want to make an impression, it can be tempting to get carried away with inside jokes or risqué stories from your time with the bride or groom.

This is typically something Lawrence sees from a best man, who ‘forgets that the majority of the audience are middle aged and enjoying the biggest social event of their generation.’ 

He adds: ‘Ignore the temptation to mention ex-partners, drugs, sex, fighting, or rehab!’

Try flashcards

Lawrence advises against memorising your speech, saying it can cause unnecessary stress and impact your delivery.

‘Yes, Ian McKellan memorises hours of Shakespeare but that’s his job,’ he says. ‘Giving a wedding speech should be fun and you pile unnecessary pressure on yourself by memorising it.’

His team makes their clients handy A6 flashcards that look more professional than a shaky piece of paper and give you prompts as you go.

Use the power of the pause

‘You might have a brilliant speech but that’s no use if you spoke so rapidly that no one heard it,’ says Lawrence.

‘The same can be said of your tone of voice. If you’re prone to speaking in a monotone, try humming it through, or record yourself speaking it to identify any particularly robotic moments.’

Keep it personal

If you’re looking for a surefire way to deliver a successful speech, make sure it’s fitting for the couple and the occasion.

Lawrence says: ‘Tying it all together with a theme that is relevant to the newlyweds is always good.

‘We’ve had brides and grooms that met multiple times as acquaintances at ABBA-themed nights over a decade but took five more years to get together! Or perhaps the bride is really untidy and the groom is Mr Marie Kondo!

‘Make it personal, make it relevant, make it punchy and you won’t fail to impress.’

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