Wedding speech writing: experts explain how you’re guaranteed to succeed

If you’re asked to give a wedding speech, it should be an honor, purely in theory. But in real life, it can feel more like the unfair punishment of being great friend, beloved brother or sister.

Writing the speech can be a daunting task. Because of the importance of the event, because of the pressure, which can be overwhelming and comical at the same time, and, of course, because of the general anxiety of giving a speech in front of a large, attentive group.

"A lot of people don’t give public speeches very often," says Simon Bucknall, author of "The Best Man Speaker: The Definitive Guide To The Best Man Speech".

"Judging by what’s at stake, for many people this is the most important speech they’ve given in their lives."

But don’t panic! We have simple but useful tips for bridesmaids and groomsmen on how to write a great wedding speech – from people who have done it and survived to tell that story.

How to start

For all of us, the beginning is the biggest hurdle. You’re probably sitting alone in front of your computers, staring at a blank document and have zero idea where to start.

Bucknall recommends that before you draft your speech, consider who the speech is dedicated to – bride or groom – and then make a List of character traits of this person could create.

Maybe they’re particularly compassionate, funny or extremely organized. Then you should consider what personal stories about him or her underscore those character traits.

At this stage, Bucknall recommends that a Call close friend, family member, or maybe even that person’s prospective for a brief conversation. A talk or two like this would help gather additional insight about the person and get the creativity going.

"At my own wedding, the best man interviewed my mother," says Bucknall, who placed second in the 2017 Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking, a speechwriting competition. "I’m sure one or two stories that came up in his speech could only have come from my parents. Makes the job a little less lonely."

After you’ve chosen two or three character traits and stories, use these key elements to structure your speech so you’re not rambling aimlessly.

The speech should be shorter than five minutes.

And it really doesn’t have to be complicated: character trait one, story one, character trait two, story two.

"The golden advice for public speaking in general is to make a point and tell a story – or tell a story to make a point.

So for a wedding speech, it’s "this is the person, this is their character trait, and then telling a story about it".

Must haves of a good speech

Mentioned at the beginning for guests who may not know how you know the bride or groom or how you are related. Thank other guests, members of the wedding party and the hosts. You could also mention people who wanted to come to the wedding but couldn’t for some reason. Be it because of a travel problem or someone lost a loved one. Give honest praise that comes from the heart. Not just for the family member or friend who asked you to give a speech – but for their new wife or husband as well. At the end of the day, after all, the speech isn’t just about your best friend or brother – it’s also about the couple as a whole.

Weddings are personal events and full of emotion. Your speech should have a personal touch and details to match. "The audience has a very good sense of whether the speech is really for them or cribbed from the Internet," Bucknall says. "The care with which the speaker addresses, alludes to or references things – whether to certain people or in jokes – these subtleties are hugely important."

At the end, don’t forget to ask guests to raise their glasses to the newlyweds.

No-go’s of any speech

As tempting as it seems to copy another speech from the Internet, it’s a huge taboo. "It completely sabotages that it should be about their most personal day," Bucknall says. "Copy-pasting or using templates is just bullshit, I think."Stay away from naughty expressions. That is, leave out the cursing and disreputable stories, no matter how entertaining they are. "Tastelessness is still too common, especially among male speakers," Bucknall says. "You just don’t need it. The reason it still happens, of course, is because the speaker is panicking trying to be funny. This is disastrous."It may sound obvious, but definitely don’t mention the bride or groom’s past boyfriends or girlfriends. Don’t make fun of the new husband or wife. A little careful teasing can be appropriate if it’s directed at your friend or family member – but putting your new wife or husband in a bad light doesn’t go over well.

"It’s their day to shine," Bucknall says.

Seven million clicks for a speech

Cut a slice Kelsey and Maddie Hallerman Off, who together gave an almost legendary speech at their sister Caitlin’s wedding in 2015.

It went viral and became Viewed more than 7 million times. The musical speech consisted of a medley of the bride’s favorite songs, but the bridesmaids had changed the song lyrics to include allusions to the newlyweds’ childhood together and love story.

"The first step was to choose songs. Michael Jackson, Tina Turner – that was the music we grew up with and that I knew Caitlin would love," Hallerman tells HuffPost.

"Once we had our songs, we worked on the song lyrics. We knew we wanted to tell a story that started with Caitlin as a child, went through her and John’s meeting and engagement, and ended with the wedding. With the frame we could end up flattening every song."

Stay authentic

John Boswell, who was best man at his brother David’s wedding in 2016, also opted for something less traditional, delivering a speech to the sound of "‘In my world’ from Disney’s Aladdin on – Appropriate because the bride’s name is Jasmine. With the help of his wife and sister, he put together a speech that overwhelmed the bride and groom and the guests.

"I like to start my work with a rough plan or big idea and then work backwards", Boswell says. "So, first, what is the main goal or idea? Then: how do we get there? Is there anything special that comes to mind – a story, a song, an experience? And then work forward from there, structuring the speech and filling in details."

The unconventional path is not for everyone. So you shouldn’t feel compelled to do something really unusual if it feels awkward or unnatural to you. There’s nothing wrong with doing something simple but meaningful.

"Don’t sing a song or do something extravagant just because of the pressure to be different," Hallerman says. If it feels more authentic to go the heartfelt and sincere route, do it your way", Hallermann says.

"You have to make it really simple. Don’t be held back and don’t be afraid that your voice won’t sound good," she says. "Our voices were terrible. I mean, really horrible – if we listen to all the shrieking and screeching again, our stomachs will turn. But that did not matter to us! We just wanted to put everything we had in there and have fun."

Now stop procrastinating and write something wonderful – whatever that may mean to you.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost USA and was translated from English by Moritz Diethelm.

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