Wedding Speeches Ultimate Guide: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

When they are good, they are very, very good, and when they are bad, they’re painful.

To help you perfect your gay wedding speech, we chatted to professional speechwriters from Great Speech Writing London based company.

They told us two very different gay wedding speech stories, both of which they assisted with; and there are lessons in both…

“…by not thinking differently about the speeches because there were two grooms, I was able to write a funny, personable wedding speech my best friend.”

Speeches Vince and George wed at their pink wedding Berkshire photographed by gay wedding photographer Benjamin Stuart Photography - Wedding Speeches Ultimate Guide: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

Wedding Speeches: Speaking Roles

But first, let’s discuss wedding speaking roles as they are important.

Many wedding traditions were enshrined in a very different time. The giving away of the bride, or the absence of female speakers at the reception are reflective of an age where gender roles were less fluid than they are today.

Until recently, traditions in the UK itself denied same-sex couples equal rights in marriage. In other words, wedding traditions aren’t sacrosanct.

Seb, of Great Speech Writing, shares his thoughts on getting those speeches right.

“The main benefit of the typical running order at heterosexual weddings (father of the bride, groom, best man), is the limit it imposes on how long wedding speeches will go on for – typically somewhere around the half-hour mark.

In Sweden – where as many as 10 speakers are not uncommon – they can go on, literally all night, and the challenge becomes staying awake, or sober enough to remember anything.

While we wouldn’t necessarily advise subjecting your guests to such a test of endurance, you might consider taking a leaf out of the Scandinavian wedding book: i.e. having a greater number of wedding speeches, each lasting slightly less time.

Lawrence Bernstein from Great Speech Writing, London

Speaking Roles: Traditional and Some Alternatives

Mothers and Fathers of The Bride/Groom

In the spirit of equality, a common alternative is to ask a parent on each side to give a wedding speech. This has the added benefit of allowing you to choose the parent that will a) enjoy it more, and b) deliver a better speech.

Another option is to ask your parents to do a joint wedding speech. If they’re on speaking terms, that is. And if that thought doesn’t send shivers down your spine.

Again, this has its own advantages, as often each parent will have a unique take on their child, and asking them to collaborate might make for a wedding speech greater than the sum of its parts.

Having already delivered his father of a bride speech at the wedding of his lesbian daughter some months before, and now tasked with writing another speech in celebration for his daughter and daughter-in-law’s first year anniversary, Martin sought Lawrence’s help.

He felt his speech had been one of those bad wedding speeches, where the focus was all wrong and he hadn’t got across the real message, which should have been one about love.

And this is his story…

“My daughter married a woman.

It’s not unusual or in any way newsworthy. But for some reason I allowed it to get in the way of my thinking.

I’m not embarrassed to say that I hadn’t expected to have a gay daughter, or that it took some time to come to terms with her being gay.

But I now realise that the time to reflect on that wasn’t in my father of the bride speech.”

“I was keen to show her – and her wife – that I was happy. And I tried to do it by making a couple of self-conscious ‘blokey’ jokes.

I also gave quite a long, heartfelt explanation about her coming out and how it affected me at the time.”

“My daughter-in-law’s father didn’t speak, but a good friend did. He got it right by focusing on who she was, not what she was.

It was a speech that would have been equally relevant had she married a man.

It included a lovely piece about happy the couple are together, and how love conquers all.

I learned that although there may be many differences between a gay wedding and a straight wedding, the speeches aren’t the place to make that point.””

Best Man/Best Woman/Maid of Honour

“”Bob, who is straight, called me after he had been asked to be best man at his best friend’s same-sex wedding. Although he was thrilled to be asked, he became stuck on what his focus should be.

He couldn’t work out whether to focus on the ‘gay wedding’ angle, whether he should be bawdy and play to the friends of the groom that he’d spent so many nights out with, or whether he should emphasise that he was straight.

So I gave him some advice.

I told him not to think about this as anything other than a wedding.

His friend was getting married, he was in love and he had invited loads of friends to celebrate.

I suggested he should forget that this was a relatively modern arrangement and that he should simply work from the basics of writing a great wedding speech, and then his content would flow naturally.”

Even the best man speech is rooted in relatively rigid ideas of gender norms: the assumption being that a groom’s best friend is inevitably another man. Yes, it is often the case, but it is by no means a universal.

Quite understandably, many same-sex couples choosing to marry will want to avoid heteronormative traditions.

So in place of the best man/maid of honour, you might consider forgetting gender altogether, and giving (or burdening!) the responsibility to the individual, or individuals, who you feel knows you best.

Ironically, this was once the case. The father of the bride speech was traditionally given by a family member – or friend – with some experience in public speaking.

Ask someone else

Or you could ask someone to speak whose speech you know will be memorable for all the right reasons. It goes without saying that this needn’t be the privilege of only one of your friends or family members – quite the opposite!

Still struggling? Relax…

Equal Marriage is a long-fought and hard won-right, and it’s shown us that traditions which seem entrenched can change with the world around us.

To paraphrase a famous song, it’s your party, and you can do what you want to. This couldn’t be more true of same-sex marriages.

You don’t have to conform to the same traditions as most heterosexual weddings. Rip up the rule book and write your own.

Key Wedding Speech Writing Rules

Start By Thinking About The Other Guests

Yes, there will be a few people who wanted to get a warts ‘n’ all picture of him, but there will also be large numbers of relatives and family friends.

It is vital to make your humour and approach relevant to them too; a gay wedding doesn’t mean exclusively gay guests!

Work Around Your Friend And What Has Defined Him Over The Years

  • What has made him unique?
  • What elements would hold together in a speech about him?

In a room with so many gay guests, being gay won’t actually be unique at all.

“Bob found what was much more interesting was that his friend had been obsessed by the film Chariots of Fire for about 30 years.

So he built the wedding speech around that and the influence it had on his life.”

Consider your friend’s partner.

Rather than thinking about him being a man, think about him as the person who has made your friend so very happy.

As a best man, that’s all that matters: your friend being happier with his partner than without him.

So, when it comes to writing a wedding speech, there really is no difference between a same-sex and different-sex wedding at all, except for the pronouns!

Speeches at real gay weddings of Gareth and Paul at Merchant Taylors Hall London image by Emir Hasham via the Gay Wedding Guide - Wedding Speeches Ultimate Guide: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

Wedding Speech Tips: Overcoming Public Speaking Nerves

Dry mouth, sweaty palms, butterflies in your stomach; not the typical romantic reactions you would associate with a wedding.

But the thought of standing up to speak in front of a large audience – especially one that consists of the people who know and love you the most in the world – is a terrifying prospect for the majority of us.

Alys Metcalf, specialist coach at Great Speech Writing, shares her seven top tips for overcoming nerves before giving your wedding speech.

Be prepared

Take a leaf out of the Scout’s book for this one: a week or so before your wedding speech, think through all the possibilities of what could go awry and find solutions to prevent the worst.

For example, if you’re worried you might forget your words, have a joke up your sleeve ready to get a few laughs and give you time to get back on track.

By taking the element of chance away, you’ll feel more confident from the get-go.

Practise

This cannot be overemphasised: practice really does make perfect. Read your wedding speech aloud several times (perhaps even in front of a friend who can give you some pointers) so that you’re familiar with the material.

If you feel secure with what you’re saying, the words will flow more naturally and you’ll be far less nervous on the day.

Visualise the speech

Positive visualisations can help you bring the speech of your dreams into reality. Have a clear picture in your mind of how you want to deliver your wedding speech.

  • What hand gestures are you using?
  • How often are you pausing?
  • How do you feel when you’ve finished the speech?

Imagine yourself being confident and you’ll slowly start to feel it too.

Drink lots (of water!)

Drinking water before you get up to speak will ensure you don’t get a dry throat. Have a glass of water nearby to you during the wedding speech, in case you need to take a sip.

At all costs, do not get drunk beforehand! It may feel like the easy way to get through it, but it won’t seem so sensible afterwards.

Focus on your breathing

While you’re readying yourself to speak, take a few deep breaths (in and out, in and out).

Focus on being in control of your breathing; seeming out of breath during your wedding speech will immediately signal to the audience that you’re nervous.

Instead, breathing steadily will make you appear completely confident and you’ll be able to enjoy the speech much more.

Manage the shakes

Paste your wedding speech onto a card and rest it somewhere you can see it.

Holding a shaky piece of paper will put you off and you’ll spend more time worrying about whether the audience can see your shaky hands than you will focus on delivering a brilliant speech.

Connect with your audience

The common advice when it comes to public speaking nerves is to picture your audience naked. Instead, keep reminding yourself that the audience is on your side.

They don’t want to see you fail, they are there to celebrate the happiest day of your life.

Make eye contact with them and smile. You’ll instantly feel more relaxed when you see them smiling back at you.

Nail Your Wedding Speech During The Lockdown

Nail Your Wedding Speech During The Lockdown

Yes, you read that right! Stuck at home, wedding on hold, tailor working from home, caterers not picking-up. It’s not quite how you planned it, but in a crisis, there is always an opportunity to be grasped.

In this case, you have time on your hands. You have a computer, an imagination and a few ideas.

So why not get cracking with the wedding speech?

Yes, you probably imagined winging it. A few scribbled notes at the last minute. A thank you or two and a sweet toast. If you’re the best man or woman you’ll possibly have a joke or two up your sleeve.

But now just pause for a second. And let’s face it, there’s not much else to do.

Imagine that you’ve just given your wedding speech (whenever that might be). And rather than a relieved round of applause, you are met with a prolonged standing ovation. Guests crowd around congratulating you on the best wedding speech they’ve ever heard (at a gay or straight reception).

Years down the line you bump into old friends who still refer to your oratory magic. Well, it’s not as hard as you might think. It just needs time, focus, and a lot of rehearsing.

Here are six tips to get you started:

Be Original: Use This Extra Downtime To Think Outside The Box

How can you turn your stories or thoughts on their head?

Can you draw together a theme that may come as a surprise to the wedding guests?

Can you use some rhyme or write a poem?

Build a wedding speech around the groom’s impeccable manners and sobriety. Or the bride’s decades of abstinence before meeting her husband.

It’s instantly funnier and different. 

Avoid The Internet! (We Know, Yeah! It’s Tricky)

You may be in lockdown but resist looking solely to the internet for help writing your speech… there are so many corny, cliched jokes out there.

Much better to sit down and use the time to think about what really makes your relationship special and what you really want to say about them.

This lockdown gives us a great opportunity to go back through old photos, scrapbooks, etc.

Go old school! 

Create A Theme

Memories and anecdotes work best when linked around a central theme about the celebrant – something that defines them, that drew you together, their most memorable feature when someone meets them for the first time… the possibilities are endless!

We’ve written wedding speeches based around Top GunOne DirectionBarbara Streisandsongs, Sebastian Faulks, the Royal Family and Torville and Dean.

Each was completely and utterly original and only worked because it reflected the bride or groom to a tee.

Edit It

Great books don’t get published after a single draft.

Nor do great wedding speeches become great right away.

You need to read them, tweak the structure and the words, make them punchier and clearer, and get to point where you can pause for breath at the perfect moments.

Practice Out Loud And Practice Speaking Slowly

Many of us instinctively speak very quickly without realising.

Take your time and practise pausing for breath and emphasis.

If you’re locked down with a suitable audience member then use them and get their advice on your pace and delivery.

We also offer delivery coaching over Skype for anyone feeling particularly jittery about standing up in front of a congregation!

Ale and Eva real lesbian wedding speeches image copyright Paola De Paola Photography via The Gay Wedding Guide - Wedding Speeches Ultimate Guide: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

How To Have Guests Hanging From Every Word

Poetry is a great way to heighten a wedding speech. It is traditional and deeply romantic when chosen with a careful touch.

But how do you choose a poem which encapsulates you as a couple, sounds organic, not forced, and engages your guests?

Katie Hedges from Great Speech Writing shares her expertise to help you find one that works for you.

Set A Theme

Decide on a theme for your speech, otherwise by itself will be impossible to choose.

“A great speech requires a clear structure;

Decide on a theme that will hold your speech together and write it in short, seamlessly flowing sentences.”

explains Katie

Choosing the theme is up to you – you may want it to coincide with your wedding theme (if you have one), or perhaps you’d like to dedicate it to something more specific.

Once you’ve made your decision, start looking at a poem to compliment it.

Make It Personal

Don’t just pick a poem you think is suitable for a wedding setting, nor for a clichéd old favourite by the likes of Keats and Shelly (unless you feel it fits perfectly with your speech); a verse from a song or a poem by Allen Ginsberg or Ezra Pound could fit just as well.

“Using song lyrics or a poem written by your favourite band or poet can create a brilliant, original structure for your speech.

You don’t need to sing it to the audience if you don’t feel comfortable, but it’s vital that you retain the original metre.

Song lyrics can be just as effective as traditional poetry if chosen with care and delicacy.”

Katie

Consider Length And Tone

Make sure your poem cultivates the right tone – whether that’s solemn, romantic or lively; and keep it the right length – you don’t want to bore your guests!

“Generally, we recommend 10 minutes as an optimum speaking time.

So make sure that any poems or quotes you pick won’t mean that you’re talking for too long.

Deliver With Confidence

It isn’t just choosing the poem that’s important, it’s the performance itself.

Remember that you’re speaking in front of your friends and family, so relax, stand tall and speak clearly.

When delivering your speech, make eye contact with the audience, use positive body language and have a clear voice, says Katie.

If you look confident and natural, the speech will come across as all the more heartfelt.

This applies doubly to poetry; sound as if there’s genuine meaning to each word.

Mean What You Say

Performance is all very well, but to truly immortalise your day, choose a poem which you are emotionally connected to; one that you can read aloud and truly mean every single word.

Being honest from your heart is the most important thing of all.

Looking for something different?

We’ve also compiled a list with what we think are some of the best same-sex wedding readings, wedding quotes and wedding vows around. Find something that resonates with you: our selection of alternative wedding readings and poems may help.

Let us know if they help you when you’re writing your beloved wedding speech, or share any wedding speeches you love with us.

Need Professional Help? Hire a Speech Writer

We’re lucky enough to spend our working lives thinking about and writing original wedding speeches.

We know what works and make the time to get to know you personally so we can help you write something that sounds like you at the very top of your game.

We are all working from home during the lockdown, writing away and we’re at the end of the phone if you’d like to chat through any ideas you have for your wedding speech or to edit your first bash.

These are very odd times, and the wedding may seem a long way away. But there will never be a chance quite like this to nail the speech of your life!

Lawrence Bernstein is the founder of Great Speech Writing and, together with his team of writers, has worked with a range of speakers at different events.

In recent years Lawrence and his team have seen more clients coming to them for help speech-writing help for civil partnerships and same-sex weddings.

But their message never changes: don’t write for the occasion, write for the audience.

Don’t worry about the ‘type’ of wedding, think about the people and be sure you include the right balance of humour and sincerity for both the couple and for their guests.

If you would like help writing your same-sex wedding speech, give Great Speech Writing a ring on 020 7118 1600 or e-mail them at [email protected].

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