Recently, my sister got married, and I kind of had to give a speech at the rehearsal dinner. Typically I may not have had to, but this was a unique case. She wasn’t marrying some guy I’d seen three times a year at family events and talked about the crazy Odell Beckham catch the other day. It was one of my best friends. I was close with him before they even met. I was a groomsman in the wedding and probably knew them both better than almost anyone there.
I’d been to weddings before, but this was my first time giving a speech. I’d always observed what worked and what didn’t as far as wedding speeches go so I wanted to make sure I killed it.
How did it go??
Of the 80-100 people at the rehearsal dinner, I probably had a dozen come up to me afterward and tell me it was the best wedding speech they’ve ever heard. Some people who I’d never met in my life said they’ve never seen anything like it, and “the part when you said X was so true and is exactly how marriage goes.” Several people at the reception who didn’t even go to the rehearsal dinner told me they heard about it and wanted a recording.
So… below I’m going to share the ideas that went into making my speech, record the speech on a screen-share (not sure if it will be the same), and write it down. This should help you write a good wedding speech if you’re a bridesmaid or groomsman, or not even in the wedding.
First, let’s cover what not to do in a wedding speech.
How To Give An Uninspiring Wedding Speech
During my first several rehearsal dinners, I didn’t speak. I watched and listened. Some speeches were amazing and funny. Others were the queue for a bathroom break and unremarkable.
Things that don’t work include:
Individual stories with you and the bride/groom.
These are the easiest speeches to give at a wedding because you remember the stories so vividly. Just stand up and say what happened. It’s also a nice comfort zone because you know at least the bride/groom will remember it and laugh. This is also a good way to not stand out. Most people will not really listen or pay attention, until you queue them with “to Brooke and Michael.” Then they’ll start they’re golf clap and have sip what’s left of their champagne glass (they probably finished it during your boring speech).
**EXCEPTION** IF you’re an awesome story teller, you can tell personal stories. I’m not, so I didn’t go this route. In my experience listening to wedding speeches, less than 1 in 20 people are good storytellers.
Similar to the story with the bride/groom, only a few people get these. Even their laugh is more of a courtesy laugh because they’re probably sitting next to people who don’t get the joke and are looking around the room thinking “this is weird.”
You’re perfect for each other
This is just boring. Everyone says this so it doesn’t really mean anything anymore.
What Does Work for a Good, Funny Wedding Speech?
The key to creating a speech that works for the whole crowd is finding something everyone can relate to, but also sets you apart from the other dozen speeches that are given.
I learned this at my cousin Philip’s wedding last year. His older brother used blown up pictures of Phillip as a child that were funny without any commentary. EVERYONE has funny pictures of them as a kid. Use them.
One thing I haven’t seen that I thought about was using props or getting Fatheads or masks of the person to pass around.
I used a powerpoint presentation because it’s one of my strengths, but use some kind of visual that works for you. Using exaggerated graphs to display something visually worked as well.
Get the crowd involved
I used embarrassing pictures of my family in the slides but first asked my cousin to come up and stand in front of everyone. This got a big laugh from the crowd because of the way I used the images (see video below).
Make up contradictions or sarcastic stories
People won’t be able to relate to the real stories (unless you’re a good storyteller), but if you make up a story that sheds some light on a funny personality trait that people know about then you can get a laugh.
Be Contrarian and Original
I think one of the biggest reasons people loved my speech so much is that it was contrarian. It flipped the traditional “y’all are perfect for each other and will be so happy together,” on its head. It actually made people think.
The Creative Process – How I Came Up With My Speech
Below I’ve listed exactly what I wrote when I started working on my speech.
Overall, the speech took me about 4-6 hours to write if you don’t include the books and articles I read that lead to this knowledge (links below). Every time I sat down to write the speech I reviewed the top questions before writing.
- I wrote down the outcome I wanted from the speech.
What do I want out of this speech??
- Advice – unconventional
- Good wishes
- I wrote down what bad speeches include. This helped me remember things to avoid.
- Individual stories with you and the other person
- Inside jokes
- Next, I wrote down what good speeches include based on my experience of listening to wedding speeches.
- Funny pictures
- Slide show
- Bring people up – involve the crowd
- Greg Jones (a family friend who’s given some of funniest wedding speeches I’ve heard) – make up contradictions/stories
- Brainstorming – I wrote down as many ideas as possible for the speech. Don’t filter any out. You won’t use them all but you need to write them all down.
Trivia (I didn’t use this part)
Ask people who each story is about – use a name PAT and make them guess who pat is. “Let’s see how well everyone knows Brooke and Michael.”
Top XX reasons Brooke and Michael work. (this ended up being the bulk of the speech)
Tell reverse stories — swap Brooke for Michael — to show how different they are (did not make the cut)
Bring someone up from the crowd. (this worked well but choose someone funny)
Pass around embarrassing pictures of Brooke and Michael as kids — turn them into cheap masks for people to use for the weekend (didn’t make the effort to implement this one).
- Write – don’t worry if it sucks, just start writing and a coherent speech will start forming from your brain and fingertips. When I started writing mine it sucked, then after the first 30ish minutes, a speech started forming that made sense.
One of the last and most important reasons I think my speech went so well is that I never finished it. If you look at the original google doc, you’ll see that it was very incomplete. This gave me an attitude of, “we’ll see how it goes, but no pressure because it’s not complete.” I didn’t feel like I had to stick to a script or get every detail right.
These articles and books inspired most of the thought that went into the speech.