Author Archives: Michael

A WEDDING SPEECH BOOK THAT IS “PLEASINGLY UNGENDERED”

This nice expression  captures the principles in my book, “Unaccustomed as  I am … the Wedding Speech Made Easy,” It came from Kate Willis’ review in You and Your Wedding magazine. I like it! When I set out to write, I was surprised to find that the majority of existing titles  were specific to the ‘best man’ or ‘groom’ but few if any to the bride or best woman.

Traditions are changing, slowly

This bias can be explained, if not excused, by ‘tradition’. After all the word marriage comes from the Latin word ‘mas’ meaning male or masculine. And ‘tradition’ still influences much of the ceremonial. The Anglo-Saxon father would use his daughter as a form of currency to pay off his debts, the bride standing on the left is rooted in the groom’s need to keep his sword arm free for action to prevent ‘bride kidnapping!’

Some, not all, of these traditions  continue but one which is changing is in speech making. It is no longer a male bastion.  Most women I spoke to in my research, while still less likely to speak, saw it as much their role as that of the men. However this does not mean a need for books aimed at the bride or best woman .

The principles of the wedding speech are constant

In twenty years of coaching presentations and speech making, roughly equal numbers women  and men, I have never needed to give, or been asked for, different advice depending on gender. As I spell out in my book the principles of speeches are a constant:

“Whether formal or impromptu, religious or civil, straight or same sex, first, second, third or fourth marriage, at the heart is a constant: the celebration of the union of a couple. And the basics of a good speech are constant too. Depending on the nature of the event and the audience – hundreds of guests in a grand ballroom or a handful outside on  garden lawn – you may tailor the content of your speech, but stick to the principles.”

If you are speaking as a bride, best woman or mother you can find these constant principles in my book.  (So will the men.)

Unaccustomed As I Am … The Wedding Speech Made Easy” amzn.to/2bEoQSH

 

 

 

THE ‘SPREZZATURA’ PERFORMANCE

Making the wedding speech of a lifetime or the crucial must-win pitch, the challenge is to rise to the occasion and perform at your best when it really matters. Why not go further and aim for a moment of sprezzatura.

DECORO-NEW  The sixteenth century Italian philosopher,  Baldassari  Castiglione, described the ideal approach as having two necessary principles. The first, ‘decoro’, is the graft, practice, preparation and rehearsal, the essential foundations for any performance.

sprezzatura    The second is ‘sprezzatura’,

This is  a word he coined. It has been described as the vital spark, the flash of lightening, recklessness, the art of nonchalance, a touch of the ridiculousness, rehearsed spontaneity, studied carelessness, practised naturalness, joy in improvisation, embracing the unknown and enjoying it …

We see it in the greatest of stage actors, musicians and athletes. Not every-time though, even from a  Yo-yo Ma, a  Kate Blanchet or a Usain Bolt. For us ‘normal players’ it will be even more elusive but worth chasing,

Assuming you have done all the hard graft, the preparation, the rehearsal allow yourself to let go.  Be free in the moment.

Step outside your comfort zone, stop worrying about yourself, start caring for your audience. Try taking risk,  delight in your performance and who knows sprezzatura may strike.

 

WEDDING SPEECH ADVICE FOR THE ROYAL WEDDING

Most wedding speeches are only listened to by the guests present. They are not instantly relayed to the world. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are media savvy and unlikely to allow any speakers at their wedding  to emulate the Best Man at the last , almost Royal wedding.

One newspaper reported ‘toe-curling ten minute address made several close-to-the knuckle references including likening Pippa to a dog’, He ignored these rules

  1. Do not embarrass anyone, particularly the couple, don’t wash dirty linen in public
  2. Tell stories not jokes, particularly off the internet. Sound false and can fall flat
  3. Don’t go on too long, temptation to hog stage.3 to 7 minutes enough for most
  4. Don’t just talk to your peer group. Grannies will not ‘get’ your in-jokes
  5. Check your speech with the real heroes of the day, the couple. Don’t be the hero.
  6. Think about what your audience want to hear, not what you want to say.

For more wedding speech wisdom check my  book Unaccustomed As I Am… The Wedding Speech Made Easy  in bookshops and on Amazon

RULES IGNORED IN BEST MAN SPEECH AT PIPPA WEDDING

Apparently Pippa (then) Middleton  ignored my advice to her, for her best man, in my last post. There are many simple ‘rules’ that would have helped him. if he saw them he ignored them. The result according to various press reports was dismal :

‘posh wedding guests squirming’,  ‘best man turns air blue with bawdy jokes’, lewd best man speech flops’,  ‘toe-curling ten minute address made several close-to-the knuckle references including likening Pippa to a dog’, ‘crude sex references’  ‘unfunny, dull, clichés,’  ‘beyond cringe’,  ‘awkward silences’ and ‘dull, disrespectful and pilfered from the internet’.

The best man is quoted in one paper as saying : “As far as I’m aware it went fine.”

On the premise that typically the only speeches that get talked about are the bad ones, then he may have achieved some desired ‘celebrity’.

However…. if he had noted these simple ‘rules’ everyone would have liked his speech, not just him.

  1. Do not embarrass anyone, particularly the couple, don’t wash dirty linen in public
  2. Tell stories not jokes, particularly off the internet. Sound false and can fall flat
  3. Don’t go on too long, temptation to hog stage. 7 minutes enough for most
  4. Don’t just talk to your peer group. Grannies will not ‘get’ your in-jokes
  5. Check your speech with the real heroes of the day, the couple. Don’t be the hero.
  6. Think about what your audience want to hear, not what you want to say.

For more wedding speech wisdom check my  book Unaccustomed As I Am… The Wedding Speech Made Easy  in bookshops and on Amazon

 

 

ADVICE TO PIPPA. PERFECT WEDDING SPEECHES COST NOTHING!

The average wedding in the UK costs upwards of £20K. Venue, food, drink, flowers, invitations, accessories, accommodation, travel- (not to forget the outfits!) What will Pippa Middleton’s cost?

023_icing_on_cakeAs she prepares for the big day, it’s worth noting that Just about the only ingredients that come free are the speeches. They will, or should be, the icing on the cake of the perfect day.

The speakers will have been chosen. However, there is advice they can be given to help ensure the memorable day is made even more memorable.

Here are six suggestions.

  1. Stick to their brief.  Whichever speech they’re making, they must find out what is expected. Who else is speaking and what will they be saying. How long should they speak? Are there any specifics to include? Anything they shouldn’t mention?

_brain_gears2. Don’t procrastinate. The  speeches may be weeks away but it is never too soon to start preparing. They should have been written and checked by now. Leaving proper rehearsal time.

The more they rehearse, the  more spontaneous they will be. The more they rehearse the more confident they will be.

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

4. Don’t embarrass.  It is always 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. This is unlikely in such a high profile event but it is one of the commonest errors.

040_dirty_laundry

 

 

Don’t wash dirty linen in public!

 

5. Keep it short. Make sure they stick to the time agreed beforehand. (Generally, two to three minutes for the shorter speeches and seven or so for the longest.)  Don’t let them fall into the ‘nervousness’   trap of going on and on. As Dorothy Parker said: “Brevity is the soul of lingerie.” 

6. Tell stories, not jokes.  Don’t let them feel that jokes are obligatory. The audience will lap up personal stories well told and laugh along with them. They  will be on much safer, and easier ground if they let themselves off the hook of being the next ‘great’ stand-up co061_jokermic.

My book Unaccustomed As I Am… The Wedding Speech Made Easy is in bookshops and on Amazon