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096_conquer_nerves Any speech, at a wedding or any other occasion, will only be good if it lives up to the expectations of the audience. Before starting to prepare, any speaker needs to establish some reasonable understanding of this particular audience, at this particular wedding.

This seems obvious but the typical audience of wedding guests can be extremely diverse, more so than, say, a political or business gathering

The families, and their friends of the couple may never have met. Hopefully they will not be like the feuding Montagues and Capulets in Romeo and Juliet.

034_three_generations_ However, they may be from different continents, cultures, religions, political affiliations with little in common apart from a connection with the couple.

Then there is the issue of tackling, say, six or seven different generations from ‘troublesome’ teenagers (and children) to doting grand (even great) parents.

It is not possible to identify all the different interests they have but an understanding of what they have in common can be reached. To help me in this I carried out some informal research talking to numerous guests, and speakers, from a variety of weddings. Their expectations fall into three areas.

Firstly, did I learn anything new about the couple, or the wider family member? Guests come from far and wide, can be out of touch. They are curious! Your speech is a rare opportunity for them to catch up, get some gossip. It will play a role in completing a special day.

061_jokerSecondly, was it entertaining? Not in a belly laugh way. Contrary to popular perception, most guest do not expect, or indeed want you to be a ‘stand-up’ comic telling second-hand jokes.

What goes down best of all is the humour that comes naturally from the telling of real and personal stories and anecdotes.

And finally, was there a touch of genuine feeling? Whatever the nature of the wedding, from deeply traditional to wildly unconventional, at its heart is the union of the couple. Simple, heartfelt words that capture the emotion of the day will make the speech. And verses from a favourite poet are often a wonderful way to lend expression to your feelings.

There are a lot more ideas in my book Unaccustomed As I Am… The Wedding Speech Made Easy  published November 3rd. You can pre-order on Amazon




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” I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognised wiser than oneself.”




It’s easy to search for quotations. The trick is to look for the ones that are relevant to what you’re trying to say, making a point that adds a degree of memorability to your speech.  Here are a few taken from my book.

 “The future for me is already a thing of the past-                                                                                        You were my first love and you will be my last.”          BOB DYLAN

Love is the greatest refreshment in life.”                PABLO PICASSO

“How do you spell ‘love’?”-Piglet                                                                                                                   “You don’t spell it … you feel it.” – Pooh                 A.A.MILNE

Dammit, sir, it is your duty to get married. You can’t always be living for pleasure.” OSCAR WILDE

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.”                        MARGARET ATTWOOD


 There are lots more in my book Unaccustomed As I Am… The Wedding Speech Made Easy  published November 3rd. You can pre-order on Amazon


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1.Don’t procrastinate, prepare early

2.Don’t ignore your brief

3.Don’t think a drink will make you a hero

4.Don’t go on and on and on

5.Don’t embarrass the guests

068_caveman_wedding 6. Don’t hesitate to tell personal stories

7.Don’t be shy about reciting poetry

8.Don’t read a script, looking down

9. Don’t fail to rehearse, rehearse

10. Don’t try to tell jokes when you can’t

101_lungs11.Don’t speak if you can’t be heard

12.Don’t use hard-to-pronounce words

13. Don’t get lost in complicated sentences

14. Don’t talk without           pausing

15. Don’t forget to breathe (now and again

017_jelly16. Don’t assume everyone knows you

17. Don’t focus only on your own friends

18. Don’t forget the names that matter

19. Don’t, please don’t forget to smile

20. Don’t worry about nerves, everyone has them

I get nervous when I don’t get nervous. If I’m nervous I know I’m going to have a good show.”      BEYONCE





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The average wedding in the UK costs upwards of £20K. Venue, food, drink, flowers, invitations, accessories, accommodation, travel- not to forget the outfits.

023_icing_on_cake Just about the only ingredients that come free are the speeches. They are the icing on the cake of the perfect day.

Unlike Tony Blair who can charge £200k to speak, or Nick Clegg a mere £25k, your efforts are rewarded only by thanks and appreciation. A memorable day made even more memorable.

Here are six ways to make them appreciate you even more:

  1. Stick to your brief.  Whichever speech you’re making  find out what is expected. Who else is speaking? Who should you thank?  Who do you toast?  How long should you speak? Are there any specifics to include? Anything you shouldn’t mention?

_brain_gears2. Research early. Your speech may be months away but it is never too soon to start preparing. Procrastination puts you under pressure and can lead to needless nerves on the day.

Get your brain in gear early to source the content material you will need to compose your speech. Try mind-mapping.

3. Find a thread. Rather than a random collection of reminiscences and anecdotes, it will help if you ‘hang’ them around a single theme or thread. Your speech will flow better and be more memorable.

4. Don’t embarrass.  It is tempting to tell a story  that maybe hilarious to a few who are ‘in the know’ but which is meaningless or, much worse, offensive to other guests.




Don’t wash your dirty linen in public.


5. Keep it short. Stick to the time agreed beforehand. Generally, two to three minutes for the shorter speeches and seven or so for the longer (often Best Man /Woman) speech. Don’t fall into the common trap of going on and on. As Dorothy Parker said: “Brevity is the soul of lingerie.” 

061_joker6. Tell stories, not jokes.  Don’t feel that jokes are obligatory. Your audience will lap up personal stories, laugh along with you, and you will be on much safer ground if you let yourself off the hook of being a stand-up comic.

My book Unaccustomed As I Am… The Wedding Speech Made Easy is published November 3rd. you can pre-order on Amazon    (Sorry, the title misleads, there is a cost involved!)



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if Aristotle was around today what advice would he give for making the perfect wedding speech? Pitchcoach_IMAGES_02131pillarHe would probably suggest we master the ‘five canons of rhetoric.’ As expressed by Quintilian:

“The whole art of oratory, as the most and greatest writers have taught, consists of five parts; invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery.”

invention ( inventio is the vital stage of exploring all possible avenues and sources for what you might say, anecdotes, stories, interesting facts and milestones – anything that may be of interest. It can help to create a mind-map. The goal is to find an idea, a narrative thread, for your speech.

Arrangement (dispositio) covers the organising of your content to make the best impact. In Greek, the word is taxis – to arrange your troops for battle! The-audience-is-not-your-enemyWhile not fighting your guests, it helps you to deliver it, and them to follow it, if you have a framework.. One is known as ‘the rule of three.’ It reflects Aristotle’s three act plot structure. For example you could introduce your narrative thread as ‘milestones on a romantic journey’ and arrange your stories – the heart of any speech- around ‘early days’, ‘significant stops’ and ‘arrival’.

Style (elocutio) This is  is all about making the guests want to listen to you!                                    068_caveman_wedding Seems obvious, but the point being made is that it is all about how you do it – the way you come across. The common error is to focus only on content, slaving over the writing and correcting until the last minute. Thus leaving little or no time to work, by rehearsing, on the impression you make with expression and body language. Essential to making the emotional connection you want.

Memory  (memoria)                                                                                        For the ancient orators notepaper was rare! They had to memorise their speeches and learn to deliver them spontaneously, something you will want to do. Something you can’t do reading from a script. The best ‘spontaneous’ solution is to prepare notes to refer to, only if really needed. You’ll have a good grasp of your content so the notes need only contain key headings and ‘signpost’ words.

Delivery (actio)                                                                                                                                     _ding_ding When asked what was the most important component in oratory Demosthenes replied ‘DELIVERY‘. Asked what wa second, he responded, ‘DELIVERY’ and, third, ‘DELIVERY‘.

You can’t escape rehearsal if you want to deliver. Keep in mind these final wise words:

‘I would not hesitate to assert that a mediocre speech supported by all the power of delivery will be more impressive than the best speech unaccompanied by such power.’ Quintilian, Institutes of Oratory

My book Unaccustomed As I Am… The Wedding Speech Made Easy is published November 3rd. you can pre-order on Amazon