Author Archives: Michael

HOW WEDDING PLANNERS CAN IMPROVE WEDDING SPEECHES

I don’t envy wedding planners!  They have the  toughest of jobs making that special day even more special.  Everything comes under their influence! They don’t make the cake but they make sure it’s the best possible.

They don’t make the wedding speeches but could they do more to make them the best possible? Here are some practical suggestions.

096_conquer_nervesThorough briefing of all your wedding speakers  Your speakers will normally have been chosen because they are family members or close friends. Not necessarily for their speaking ability. And among them, even experienced speakers will be relatively ‘unaccustomed’ to  speaking at a wedding. This is where the  briefing counts. It gives you, the planner, the reassurance that the speakers know what is expected of them. It gives the speaker answers to essential questions that they need to write their best speech,

The questions wedding speakers should ask.  Which speech – who is the subject? How long should the speech be ( Get agreement!). What is the ‘pecking’ order of speaking? Who is to be thanked, for what? Are there any specific things to cover? Are there any no no’s that must not be mentioned?  What is the make-up of the guest audience – numbers, ages, groupings, relationships, languages, nationalities, other? Where do speeches fit into the timetable (speaking to late evening festivity is different to morning alertness!) Is there a ‘theme’ for the day to be reflected in the speech?

Offer draft discussion opportunity. Some speakers will welcome this. An informed second opinion is reassuring before finalising a speech and a date in the diary is a useful ‘copy date’ to keep speech preparation on track. Reassuring to you too

Some will resist any opportunity. This might reflect  confidence and competence from your speaker. But often it’s the reaction of the last-minute merchants. Having agreed to speak, possibly overcoming nervousness to say yes, they are putting off actually doing anything. You cant insist of course, but  these are the speakers who need, and will benefit, from your intervention.

Speech Delivery and performance support. However much preparation goes into a speech it is the way it is delivered that will make it a success. As the wedding planner you can help in two important ways. Firstly make sure the speaker can check out the venue well speaking.  Can they be seen, can they be heard, does the sound system work, are they well positioned to talk without being crowded, are they too distant, do they have water/champagne to hand?

IMG_2140Second and most essential (but most will resist) suggest, persuade them to rehearse. Several rehearsals, to a ‘director’  (it might be you?) to see how they come across. Clearly, loud enough, looking up,     pausing .  Tell your speakers the more they rehearse the more spontaneous they will be, the more they, and the guests will enjoy it, the more confident they will be.

So will you.

 

 

ARE WEDDING SPEECHES GOOD ENOUGH?

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.

032_lightersGuests 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.096_conquer_nerves

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!

023_icing_on_cakeInterestingly, 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.040_dirty_laundry

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.

WHAT DO GUESTS WANT FROM THE WEDDING SPEECH?

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

 

 

 

WHY QUOTE A QUOTE IN YOUR WEDDING SPEECH?

144_marlene_smoking

” 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.”

 MARLENE DIETRICH 

 

 

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

                                                                         

20 WEDDING SPEECH DON’TS!

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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