For most people, being assigned to give a wedding speech is a nerve-wracking experience. Even the most prepared and experienced speakers might sweat at the thought of hopping up in front of wedding guests and attempting to do the newlyweds justice with just a few enlightening sentences. With all that pressure, wedding speeches have a tendency to go haywire. Thanks to alcohol, anxiety, or attention, it’s easy for people to end up rambling or mumbling the rest of their speech. Keep your wedding speeches and your reception on track. Here’s how to gracefully cut off a wedding speech when it starts to go overboard.

What makes a wedding speech worthy of an interruption?

Wedding speeches should be short, sweet, and always focused on the newlyweds. Obviously, the style of the speech should be tailored to whoever has the honor of speaking. If the best man is a jokester then expect lots of laughs. However, there are a few symptoms of a speech heading south.

  • It took a dark turn. If someone’s speech turns toward upsetting topics, stories, or even darker humor, it might be wise to step in before the entire mood of the wedding shifts.
  • It’s turned to a tangent. Most commonly, wedding speeches end up on a tangent that leaves everyone sitting there listening to an unrelated story about “this one time when…” When you notice the topic shifting from the newlyweds, give it a minute to come back. If the tangent continues, step in.
  • It’s getting embarrassing. Embarrassing stories are pretty commonplace for wedding speeches. However, if you know for a fact that the bride didn’t want a certain story from college to be revealed to her coworkers and relatives then you might need to cut off the speech ASAP.
  • It became controversial. On that note, wedding speeches should avoid topics that you wouldn’t typically want to bring up at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Politics, for example, aren’t really wedding speech material.

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How to Stop a Wedding Speech

Now that you know when to stop a wedding speech, let’s talk about how to stop a wedding speech—with as much tact as possible.

Show a sign.

Your first attempt to halt a rambling speech should include a signal to the speaker from the back of the room with your hand. This is the least disruptive way to get their attention without getting the audience’s attention. In fact, if the speaker knows that they’re going to be giving a speech, let them know ahead of time that you’ll be giving them a signal when it’s time to wrap up the speech. Blame it on wanting to keep the reception moving so the couple can celebrate and get dancing.

Wait for proper timing.

Sometimes a hand signal just doesn’t get the right message across and it’s time to physically interrupt someone’s speech. Interrupting anyone who is speaking can feel incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. We’re taught to not interrupt so this behavior can feel backward.

When someone’s speech starts going south, make sure to pay close attention to timing. Don’t just jump in while they’re mid-sentence. That will only embarrass them and draw attention to the fact that they were struggling with their speech. Try to wait until there’s a natural lull in their speech like a pause or a moment of brief applause.

Blame the schedule.

To ease awkwardness as much as possible, try blaming time and the tight wedding schedule for cutting someone’s speech short. Apologize for cutting them off and be as warm as possible so that the person (and honestly, the audience too) doesn’t feel like anything went wrong. Smooth sailing, folks! It’s all about illusion.

Thank the person.

When you do have to stop someone mid-speech, make sure to exhibit all your manners! Be as polite as possible. If there is just one thing you do when interrupting a rambling speech, it’s to thank the person for their kind words. Then focus the audience’s attention back onto the newlyweds.

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Who should stop a wedding speech?

You may not feel like the right person to cut off one of the bride’s family members or one of the couple’s close friends. That makes sense. It could dad who gets too long-winded, after all. Who stops the speech can be just as important as how the speech is stopped. Here are some people you can count on to help.

  • The wedding planner. If the couple has employed a planner or day-of coordinator, he or she can step in to keep things moving and cut a rambling speech off. This person is probably already privy to any potential difficult speech moments (maybe the groom’s sister tends to swear and tangent a lot) so he or she will likely be on the lookout to step in.
  • The DJ or band. The wedding entertainment usually plays a big role in keeping the reception and speech timeline moving. They’ll introduce and also call for applause or a toast at the beginning and end of each speech. So, in a pinch, get their attention and they can play the speech-giver off in a funny and gentle way.
  • The parents. Not the most ideal situation, but sometimes you need a parental direction to get things back on track. If the offending speech-giver isn’t mom or dad, then perhaps a parent can give the hand signal to wrap it up. This could be especially helpful if the person giving the speech is a close family friend or sibling.

Rambling wedding speeches may be a bit uncomfortable and awkward but in all honesty, they’re miniscule compared to everything else that can go haywire or “wrong” during a wedding. As long as you’re polite but assertive, you can smoothly regain control over any wedding speech mishap!