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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!) 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.




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




Ten things to bear in mind to help you manage nerves about your wedding speech

1. It’s natural to feel nervous. As Mark Twain said ” There are two types of speakers: those who get nervous and those who are liars.”

2. The audience is on your side. Unlike some speaking events, like a political rally, you face no hostility . They  are not in critical mood. They don’t mind mistakes. They want you to succeed.

3. Know what is expected in your speech. Which speech? How long? Who’re you toasting? Who are you thanking? What must you cover? What to avoid?  Answers early on lends confidence to preparation.

4.  Don’t procrastinate.  For some, nerves leads to delay in preparing the speech. This increases pressure on performance leaving no time to rehearse . Get your brain in gear ,

5. Master your start. The toughest, nerviest time is when you stand up, your first few words. So keep them simple, easy to say, no ‘clever’ joke. If you practise nothing else, practise the first 30 seconds. Master these, the rest will seem easy.

6. Take ‘bite -size’chunks. Don’t think of your speech as, say, 5 daunting continuous minutes. Break it down into separate short sections. 30 seconds or so. Pause between them. This will  make your delivery easier

7. Signpost notes for security.  Reading a script, eyes down, loses your audience. Prepare short ‘signpost’ notes, to keep you on track. Pause, glance at them, look up, continue talking.

8. Keep it simple. Don’t write long paragraphs , difficult to deliver, adding to nervousness, difficult to listen to. Short sentences are easier to deliver. Avoid longdifficulttopronounce words .

9. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Ask a friend to ‘to direct’ you, How do you come across? The more you rehearse the more spontaneous you’ll be. The more you rehearse the more confident you’ll be.

10. Let your body talk. Just before speaking, find a private space and do some vigorous powerful movement, fist pumping ( I am the greatest! ) The powerful feeling will carry into your speech. Try it! And listen to Beyoncé:

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

More ideas  are in my book  Unaccustomed As I Am … The Wedding Speech Made Easy    Amazon now and bookshops.

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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:


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


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


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.



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






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