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.
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.
Secondly, 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