The order of the speeches for a wedding is generally as follows (although at some weddings many more folk make speeches and it is becoming increasingly popular for brides to make one of their own):
Master of Ceremonies
The role of the Master of Ceremonies is to ensure that the function flows smoothly. It is his job to welcome the guests and to keep them informed of what is taking place, for example when the meal is about to be served, or when the bridal pair are getting ready to cut the cake. At a wedding, the Master of Ceremonies is usually a friend of the bride’s family, or the best man himself. If he is a family friend, he might be called upon to propose the toast to the bride and groom. He will also introduce each speaker and it is his duty to ensure that important people (like the photographer and band) are kept informed of what is about to happen. Certain professional entertainers offer their services as Master of Ceremonies for any function, and an experienced MC will certainly help to create the right ‘vibe’ for the occasion.
Strictly speaking, speeches form part of the entertainment at a function – a fact which should be borne in mind when choosing the speechmaker! It’s no secret that making a speech is something most people dread. (It has been noted that there are only two occasions in life when you are totally on your own: one, when you’re dying and the other, when you are making a speech!)
If you are unaccustomed to public speaking it can be daunting to stand up and address a gathering that includes many strangers. However, the wonderful thing about making a speech at a wedding (or any other special event), is that your audience is already warmed by the happiness of the occasion and is not expecting a long or serious oration, which would be out of place. All you need to do is give them a few well-chosen, sincere and amusing words. A speech at a wedding should be brief, certainly not more than four or five minutes at most. Always remember that one of the most vital aspects of any speech is sincerity: as long as you are sincere and not pompous or patronising, the audience will be on your side.
Speeches can make or break an event so take great care in choosing the right speaker, and state up-front (and well in advance), exactly what is required of them. It is best to ask them to adopt the KISS method (Keep It Short and Sweet). The other age-old advice to speakers is to ‘Stand up, speak up and shut up!’
The most important of these is of course to ‘speak up’. Nervousness often makes a speaker inaudible, and at a large venue a good sound system is vital. The problem with microphones is that they can be a bit daunting if you are not used to them. If you are nervous, remember to breathe properly and try not to deliver your speech at a hundred kilometres an hour. A pause between sentences will help to get your point across. And no matter what the occasion, resist the temptation to launch into long, boring stories about the family’s past achievements. This is particularly important at weddings, when one often feels great sympathy for a squirming bride having to sit through the saga of her parents’ history!
The bride and groom should also be spared the embarrassment of vulgar or risque jokes. The golden rule is to tell only one joke, and to stick to the kind that you could tell your elderly maiden aunt without blushing! By doing so, you won’t run the risk of offending any of the guests. Never make fun of the bridal couple or any of the other guests and try to steer away from jokes about wedding nights and honeymoons – apart from running the risk of being tasteless, they tend to be hackneyed and predictable.
As previously mentioned, the various speechmakers at a wedding must be given plenty of warning, to allow them sufficient time to prepare. If they know each other, it is a good idea to have them check that their speeches do not overlap. Richard Curtis, scriptwriter for the popular film, ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’, advises speechmakers not to crack an obvious joke to do with the bride or groom. He once attended the wedding of someone who worked for American Express, a company whose slogan included the words, ‘that’ll do nicely’. The father of the bride began his speech by saying, ‘When Martin offered to marry my daughter, I said, ’that’ll do nicely’. At which point he looked across at the best man, who had turned white. His entire speech had been based on the ‘that’ll do nicely’ concept. Suddenly the groom fainted. ‘That’ll do nicely’ was his speech. So beware – you have been warned! Richard Curtis also advises the best man to mention love in his speech. As he says, ‘No matter how grisly the whole speech has been, if you point out that the groom loves the bride and the bride loves the groom and look as though you mean it, everyone will love you and you will have done your job’.
Order of speeches
Although at some weddings many more folk make speeches, and it is becoming increasingly popular for brides to make one of their own, the order of speeches for a wedding is generally as follows:
After the Master of Ceremonies has welcomed everyone, he will either make a short speech and propose a toast to the bride and groom, or call on the person who is performing this duty. Next the best man (who also reads e-mails from guests unable to attend), proposes a toast to the beautiful bridesmaids, as well as any other attendants, and talks about his friendship with the groom. It is also his duty to check with the bride’s parents in case any late e-mails or messages have been received.
If the bridesmaids are making speeches, they would then follow and talk about their friendship with the bride.
Next comes the groom’s speech, which is usually one of thanks to everyone for being there, especially guests who have travelled a long way to do so. He also thanks the bride’s parents, his parents and all who have contributed in whatever way to make the day special. He then proposes a toast to the parents. (A nice touch is to include any grandparents who may be present.) At this point, couples sometimes present their mothers with a gift or a bouquet of flowers.
The groom then proposes a toast to his beautiful new wife, after which the bride (once she has dried her eyes!) has the last say – which, like the groom’s speech, will include thanking all the special people in her life.
Sometimes the bride’s father proposes the toast to the bride and groom, but some fathers are so overcome with emotion that they have to battle their way through the speech. It may be kinder (and safer) to give the task to a close family friend or relation.
If a videographer is not capturing the event, don’t forget to tape the speeches, as this is something often forgotten about and regretted later.