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The Write Question is a weekly video podcast about writing that I started in 2017 and that ran, more or less weekly, until April 2022. This is a republication of issue #17, on preparing a wedding speech. The post first ran on May 19/17.
Welcome to The Write Question, the video-podcast designed to answer your questions about writing. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant.
Today I have a question from Geeta Sukhrani who wrote to me from Alberta, Canada.
Her question was: “How do I prepare a speech for my daughter’s wedding?”
Thank-you Geeta. If you’re not accustomed to giving speeches then there’s probably nothing more terrifying than the idea of public speaking.
Understand that the vast majority of wedding speeches are truly AWFUL. So if you put a little bit of thought and preparation into the job you’re going to be way better than most people.
A wedding speech should be no longer than about five minutes — and no one will be unhappy if it’s shorter than that! People typically speak at a rate of 150 words per minute so that means you only need 750 words. That’s way shorter than most essays you would have written in high school or college.
Don’t try to give a summary of your daughter’s life and try to avoid a bunch of predictable comments about how happy you hope she will be with her new husband. Instead, tell a story. Maybe about something she did as a child or a young adult. The story should reveal her character or her personality and it should be long enough to have a beginning, a middle and an ending.
The best example I ever saw of this was at one of my family weddings. The story, told by the sister of the bride, was succinct, charming, and funny; it had everything you look for in a great speech. I wrote a full blog post about it and I’ve included a link below.
If you’re feeling brave, don’t write out your speech word for word. Instead just give yourself some notes and tell the story.
But if there’s any risk that you won’t know when to stop, then write the whole thing out, and, regardless, practice beforehand. Have your notes or your speech on firm paper so it won’t shake. (Cardstock is better than regular paper for this reason.)
For many people, public speaking causes more fear than the idea of death. But if you have practised enough beforehand then your body will already know what to do, even if your nervous system is vibrating.
You can help yourself out by doing some due diligence. Check out the podium and the microphone before everyone arrives for the party. Stand there and speak into the microphone so you know what your voice is going to sound like.
When you’re giving the speech, pay attention to your breathing. If you take shallow, inadequate breaths then your body might start to panic. Taking slow, deep belly breaths will help calm your nerves. Many people have discovered that pressing their index finger to their thumb is also a calming manoeuvre.
Finally, let me wrap up with a wedding-oriented quote from American writer Mark Twain: “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to share it with.”
I hope you enjoy sharing a story about your daughter with the guests at her wedding, Geeta. Cheers to all of you.
Thanks so much for watching. If YOU have a question, you can email, tweet, or skype me. You can find the details in the description below along with any resources I’ve mentioned. And don’t forget to like and subscribe to the video.