Before writing my book I wanted to understand just what guests expected from the wedding speech. Did the speeches live up to their expectations?
In my research I asked lots of questions of lots of people, guests at all kinds of weddings from the traditional to the unconventional. The expectations were the expected – to satisfy natural curiosity, to be entertained, but not in an X-Factor style, and to share the emotions of a special day.
Guests are not in critical mode, like a first-night theatre audience. You will feel the love.They start off on the side of the speaker, fully appreciative of what it takes to stand up in front of an audience, perhaps for the first-time. Probably feeling relieved it’s not them up there!
Given this benign attitude, which should encourage the speaker, how are speeches rated? The three main groups can be categorised under these headings:
“A FOR EFORT – COULD DO BETTER”
This is the majority. A lot of work has gone into finding interesting stories, many will have a clever theme or narrative to hold the speech together, they will have ticked the boxes asked of them. Their wedding speeches will, deservedly, be appreciated.
The caveat of ‘could do better’ will be aimed at the delivery, the performance. This is not surprising given the average lack of ‘stand-up’ experience. Most will have concentrated their energy on the script only. They fail to realise that by the simple act of rehearsal they can raise their confidence, hence their delivery. The more you rehearse, the better you’ll feel, and more confidently you’ll perform.
“All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.” Sean O’Casey
“ICING ON THE CAKE”
A minority, these speakers, some experienced, some not, understood that their role was to add to the experience, not to be the experience!
Interestingly, the positive praise mentioned little by way of specific comment on the content. What it really related to was the manner of the speaker, the sense of sharing the moment, engaging with them, not talking at them. These speakers had searched for a deep understanding of the audience with whom they were sharing this special moment in time.
“The happiest conversation is that of which nothing is remembered but a general effect of pleasing impression.” Taylor Swift
“LETTING THE SIDE DOWN”
Definitely a minority but these are the ones people talk about most and without prompting. Weddings may only be remembered for the bad speech! And often the problem is one of ego rather than expertise. Wanting to be the centre of attention rather than being support to the main act.
The remarked upon ‘sins’ include ignoring the guests not in their own peer group; liking the sound of their own voice so going on and on; and thinking they’re hilariously funny telling a string of googled jokes or worst of all telling an embarrassing story at someone else’s expense.
“You mustn’t upstage the bride.” Ian McKellen
To raise your speech to the ‘icing on the cake’, you will find plenty of useful advice in my book, “Unaccustomed as I am … the Wedding Speech Made Easy.‘ Bookshops and Amazon now.