A great wedding speech—one that’s touching, lighthearted, and just the right amount of sentimental—can really help set the mood of a reception. If the couple asks you to make a speech at the wedding, you’re probably of some level of importance (like the best man). So, take it as an honor if it happens to be you. For someone who’s afraid of public speaking, though, being assigned to give a wedding toast can feel overwhelming and scary. Since bailing is an unlikely option, you’ll have to step up to the plate and face the wedding crowd. Here’s how to get over the fear of public speaking to deliver a truly awesome wedding speech.
The best type of wedding speech isn’t the one that makes people laugh the hardest or is the most poignant—it’s the one that sounds most like you. No really. A speech isn’t going to go that well if you’re trying to be something you’re not. For example, if you’re not the type to crack jokes every other sentence then why try to force them into the wedding speech? Just stick to what makes you feel comfortable.
After all, you were chosen to make the speech by the newlyweds so they know what you’re capable of and they’re excited to hear what you have to say.
If you’re already nervous to give a wedding speech then winging it probably isn’t the best idea. The key is to write an uncomplicated speech that won’t trip you up.
Yes, this is the wedding of someone you really care about, but this doesn’t mean you need a long-winded speech to impress the audience. Keep the speech short, sweet, and simple. By this, we mean absolutely under 10 minutes. Everyone—including yourself–will thank you.
Stuck on what to even talk about in the speech? Keep the attention on the newlyweds. Share a short (and straightforward) story about them or just mention a quality or characteristic that makes them perfect for each other. Avoid anything controversial, crude, or embarrassing.
Right now you may be dreading the task, but getting to deliver a wedding speech is a big honor. You’re a significant part of the wedding, so express some gratitude for the happy couple and say thanks.
Writing the speech is one thing. Getting up and presenting it in front of a crowd is most definitely another. Fear not! Taking the proper precautions can help make you feel confident and ready.
After you draft out your speech, sit down with a fellow wedding party member or friend for a test run-through. It’s always helpful to get another pair of ears on a speech. They can tell you if the story is too hard to follow or offer some other constructive criticism to help boost your speech-giving confidence before the big day. Do as many test runs with as many people as you need to in order to feel comfortable.
You know what they say: Practice makes perfect. “Give” the speech at least three times to see where you tend to hiccup or blank. Literally—we mean say the speech out loud to yourself and track the difficult parts. You’ll probably find that parts of the speech come easy to you (you may even memorize them quickly), but others stop you in your tracks. Rehearsing helps make the speech more familiar to you, which means more confidence when you deliver it.
Pro tip: Do at least one trial run loaded with distractions, like people walking around or a cell phone going off. You never know what could happen during the actual speech delivery so it’s best to prepare for the unexpected.
You do not need to memorize your wedding speech. Repeat: You do not need to memorize your wedding speech. Feel free to bring up a copy of your speech in any format (short of poster board) that helps you read or reference it clearly. For some people, that means reading off their phones. For others, it means printing the speech on standard paper.
Bringing a copy of your speech with you to the microphone isn’t anything to be ashamed of. You might not even use the backup during the actual speech but for some people. However, just knowing you have the option to read your speech can be a major comfort. It may ease some of your nerves about fumbling or forgetting anything.
Forget the old adage of picturing the audience in their underwear. First of all, no thanks. Second, a great speaker is one who makes eye contact with the audience, wouldn’t you agree? They’re confident enough to look right at you as they seamlessly deliver point after point. No worries if you’re not ready for that type of commitment yet. Just focus your eyes on the tops of people’s foreheads. It gives the illusion that you’re making eye contact and keeps you from staring at the ceiling or floor out of nerves.
As tempting as the open bar is, try to lay off the booze until after you give your speech. You may think liquid courage will help things run smoothly but lowered inhibitions and a microphone is also the formula for some seriously embarrassing disasters. If you’re slated to give a wedding toast, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry and to hold off on going bottoms up.
We also recommend eating at least a small something before your speech. You don’t want to be uncomfortably full but you also really don’t want to be distracted by hunger pains or (god forbid) an audibly grumbling stomach.
Being in the spotlight, even if just for a few minutes, is understandably nerve-wracking so if you start to freak out, just remember to breathe and smile! Just the act of smiling has been found by scientists to relieve tension during otherwise stressful situations. So if you stumble over your words or trip on your dress on the way to the microphone, don’t sweat it. At the end of the day, the newlyweds are just excited to have you commemorating their big day with a few kind words.
You made it! End the speech with a toast and get the entire reception to clink their glasses and bring all the attention and love back to the happy couple.