We all love a good wedding – the dressing up, the food, the people you’ll meet and of course, the loving couple tying the knot.
But what about if you have to give a wedding speech or read at the ceremony?
Do you feel excited at the chance to share a story about the couple or do you tremble and feel physically sick at the thought of having to stand up and either read at the ceremony or worse still, have to make up a speech and give it?
But there are some rules to follow when you have to speak in public.
The first rule of public speaking is “know your audience” and we start from this point. What is the purpose of the wedding speech? At least a reading at the ceremony, the words are there and you just have to read them. That’s easy, isn’t it?
Whether they are your own words or someone else’s, the nausea and anxiety are the same. It’s like you are being taken over by this inner alien who doesn’t understand how humans communicate. Speech anxiety can be so overwhelming, you may not even be able to say your name if asked. So going back to our first rule – we are gathered here together to celebrate the union of this couple. We are in a gathering because we love this couple and they have made the choice to have us witness their union. What an honor!
Everyone is present for the couple. Not to judge your speaking skills or mark you on your speech. Take a guest who is doing a reading, we have to manage your body language and what goes on inside your body and mind and in this way you read with reverence. After all this is a reading chosen by the couple so we need to give it the due care it requires. It is not a test. So break down the various parts so each step becomes easier to deal with.
Giving a wedding speech is essentially made up of three parts:
1. Congratulating the couple, welcoming the couple.
2. Some anecdotes about the first time you met the bride/groom and including some fun.
3. Wishing the couple all the best in their future lives together.
That’s it really. Once we break down the actual speech, it becomes easier to get started. But the delivery must be in your style. No-one wants you to fail and I’ve yet to hear anyone complain about how a wedding speech was delivered.
The second rule of public speaking is practice, practice, practice. The most natural deliveries have been practiced so often they become second nature. By practicing your words, you are making them your own and of course, they are your words and you need to own them. By all means, use guidelines on structuring but it has to be how you say things, your phraseology. When you practice, you must record what you are doing and play it back to critique and improve. What can be better? Repeat, critique, improve. Repeat, critique, improve. You know this couple and they have chosen you to mark their day. They are making the biggest commitment at couple can make so let’s put your wedding speech into perspective.
The third rule of public speaking – do not drink alcohol to ease your nerves. Anxiety can metabolize alcohol faster than usual and you are compromising your state of mind with self medication. The worse scenario is that you get rude and offensive and in some way embarrass the couple.
The aspect I’m most interested in is body language. There is a point in public speaking that either eases you and you get the feeling “I’ve got this” or you get the “I’m screwed” feeling. This aspect varies from person to person. For some people, it is when they open their mouths to speak, that they hear their voice. When anxious our voice is higher and we talk very fast in an effort to get it over with. This aspect can be dealt with by a professional who can teach you how to improve. For others, it is when they stand up, that they can feel their legs holding them steady. Whatever your key to success is, it can be found, worked on, improved so that you have appropriate adrenaline, so you can deliver. The right amount of adrenaline brings your wedding speech to life, you can be animated and you can wait for the laughs rather than rushing to finish your speech.
Make your wedding speech one to remember for you, for the couple and the guests. Whatever your role, you can learn how to manage your state of mind and body. Control the body, control the mind and deliver a great speech. And remember to smile!
Whether you are the father of the bride, best man, best woman or just want to say a few words, don’t let your nerves get the better of you. You can learn how to deliver a great wedding speech and be your natural self, as ease. All it takes is a little practice and know-how on what to watch out for in your self talk and body language.