Avoid the most common speech mistakes with Uniquely You Ceremonies

Someone looking frustrated while making a wedding speech
Credit: Dan Biggins Photography

Speaking in public is an experience a lot of us dread. Let alone when it’s to a room full of intoxicated strangers with high expectations that are ready and willing to heckle at any moment. Yes, we're talking about the dreaded wedding speech!

Despite the fact that celebrant Lucy Prout-Laing from Uniquely You Ceremonies used to earn her living as an actor, she hated public speaking. Ironically, she now coaches people on understanding the challenges and common mistakes of making a speech from the first draft through to the final delivery. Giving a wedding speech is likely to be the most emotionally invested you will ever be when speaking in public. The stakes are pretty high and the pressure is on.

To get you started Lucy has outlined a few of the biggest mistakes made when writing and delivering a speech. "Feel free to subtly, or blatantly, pass it on to the best man, maid of honour, father of the bride, or groom," she says. Read on as Lucy tells us more.

Wedding couple kissing among ruins surrounded by guests.
Credit: Marek Dorcik

Not getting started!
This may seem obvious but it’s incredibly common. Not giving yourself enough time to throw your thoughts down, edit and re-edit is an easily avoided mistake. I have walked past many a best man writing the first words of his speech the night before the wedding, and trying to finish it off during the reception drinks.

By starting early and doing what I call a ‘brain dump’ you will have plenty of time to let the ideas come to you organically. You want enough time to go through and edit after having a good break away from it. Fresh eyes without the pressure of a deadline are priceless and you’ll have a much stronger speech because of it.

Making it too personal
Inside jokes are great but not at the exclusion of the majority of the room. Though it may make the wedding party chuckle you’ll leave the rest of the guests behind and once you loose your audience it can be hard to engage them again.

Nor do you want to disclose anything that would gut-wrenchingly embarrass anyone. A bit of a blush? Great. Mortified to the point of never wanting to show their face again? Not so much.

A good way of gauging it is asking yourself, “is there any reason why the couple may not want this publicly aired?” If the answer is yes, or even maybe, then cut it. It’s not worth the risk.

Wanting it to be perfect
I’m going to disappoint you here. There is no such thing. As we know, what’s perfect to one person isn’t to the next.

A helpful approach when you first start writing is to expect the first draft to be awful. Giving yourself permission to not expect greatness from the first moment keeps you off the perfection pedestal, plus it’s far more realistic.

Aiming for perfection puts pressure on every part of the writing and delivery of the speech. This will only act as a distraction. As cliché as it is, speaking from the heart and being genuine is just about the most perfect thing you can do.

Rushing through
So you’re happy with what you’ve written but are a little nervous about the delivery?

Kent-based celebrant Lucy Prout-Laing
Credit: Marek Dorcik

Another very common mistake with any form of public speaking is speaking too quickly. We’re programmed to read faster in our head so when it comes to speaking out loud, and with nerves, we automatically speed up.

The trickiest part of this is that most of the time people don’t know that they’re doing it.  What’s more, it happens even if we start off slow.

Getting into the habit of taking a breath after each thought will build slowing down into your muscle memory. It’s also worth having someone else listen to a practice run of the speech or, if you’re really not sure, recording it and playing it back to yourself.

Losing your audience
This is probably up there as one of the worst. Is there anything more disarming than looking out across a room of glazed over eyes?  

Fear not, the zombie effect usually only happens for one of two reasons. Either your speech is too long or it’s irrelevant.

But what is the right length? Part of this can be taken out of your hands by asking the couple how long you would like the speech to be. As a general rule I’d say 5-10 minutes is a good length of time.  I was once witness to a twenty minute speech about the cosmos and how, fundamentally, we were all related to each other – including the bride and groom!

Is it relevant? When you’re reading your first ‘brain dump’ back to yourself, keep asking the question does this relate? If the answer is no then it shouldn’t make the final version.

Relying on the Internet
So many of us turn to Google when we are stuck. The problem with relying on a search engine for inspiration and guidance to write your wedding speech is that it is going to sound like everyone else’s. As an example, a classic compliment/laugh: ‘(Bride) you look stunning, (Groom) you look stunned.’  Lovely but, unless this is the first wedding the guests have ever attended, they’ve heard it before.

If you are stuck on what to write, engage the services of a speech writer. They can either coach you through the writing or write it for you, preferably without Google!

Good Luck and enjoy.

Find out more about Uniquely You Ceremonies at www.uniquelyyouceremonies.co.uk

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