Earlier this year I got married to the love of my life, Sarah and without a doubt, beyond all of the wedding planning, the most stressful thing in the lead up to the wedding was the thought of delivering my grooms speech.
The grooms speech should be a fairly straightforward affair however if you’re not much of a public speaker the reality is that this part of the day can be terrifying and make you feel a little bit like this as your big moment approaches…
It’s the biggest speech of your life. It’s being delivered on behalf of you and your wife. Everyone at the wedding reception is hanging on your every word. You have to get it right.
So having been through the experience of writing and delivering a grooms speech, here are my top 10 tips!
1. Start to plan your speech months ahead
I honestly can’t stress this point enough. If you’re getting married next month and you still haven’t written/started writing your speech, you’re leaving it late and setting yourself up for some last minute panic writing – quality will suffer.
In the days and weeks leading up to the wedding there is a huge amount to sort out including last minute purchases, discussions with your bride to be about the format of the day and sorting out the details of your perfect honeymoon. With this in mind I can assure you, you will find very little time.
Weekends to yourself will be hard to come by, as will evenings, so unless you want to be writing your grooms speech in the late evening/early hours after work when you’re tired, start sooner rather than later. I started to seriously plan my speech around 2 months before giving me more than enough time.
Trust me, start early. It will be a lot less stressful and you’ll have plenty of time to make any revisions and enjoy yourself and your speech on the day.
2. Create a speech structure / template to work to
If you dive straight into your speech and just start writing with no planning you’re likely to end up with a lot of waffle. Not only that but different groups of people you reference will get unequal attention and the details/stories that matter to you will be missed. That’s not a good thing.
Make sure you fully plan out each section of your speech and start out with bullet points to keep things focused. There are many different ways of writing your speech which you can find online however what worked really well for me was to first list out the different groups of people I wanted to address in order:
- Father and mother of the bride
- Grooms parents
I then created a sub-structure for each group:
- Transition from previous group
- Tell a story
- Thank them
- Toast (optional)
Within each of those points I then wrote some bullet points of what I wanted to get across and any funny anecdotes I wanted to share. On the day itself I then opted to write my speech out long-hand on cue cards with each card focused on each group of people. I didn’t really need it in the end however as by the point of delivering my speech I knew my content inside out.
3. Be careful with using jokes – it’s not the same as being funny
Including jokes in your grooms speech and being funny/entertaining are 2 very different things and it’s easy to forget that when drafting your speech. The first is not going to go down well with your guests however the second will. Your guests want to enjoy your speech and laugh at your stories, not listen to a stand up comedian trying a bit too hard – leave that to the best man as that’s what everyone is expecting.
Trying to include a couple of jokes is an easy mistake to make and in the early stages of writing my grooms speech I certainly fell victim to trying to make it too funny.
The jokes you tell will make or break your speech. Overload it and you’ll look like you’re trying too hard. Underload it and you risk your speech being a little too dry and monotonous. My advice is not to worry about telling jokes or being funny. Tell a story. Tell several stories. Perhaps about you and your wife or when you first met your father in law. But do not and I stress, do not, tell a flat out joke. It just doesn’t work.
The best bit of advice I read on the internet whilst planning my grooms speech was the following and you should treat this line like Gospel. Read it and then read it again – If in doubt, leave it out.
With good planning and a bit of luck your stories will go down perfectly with your guests.
4. It’s not an acceptance speech
The job of the grooms speech is essentially to thank your guests for coming on behalf of both you and your wife. It’s also to thank your in laws and your own parents for any support that they have given you with the wedding (financial or otherwise, be subtle!). And finally it’s to thank your bridesmaids and groomsmen.
That’s the traditional format but you know whatever you read online, this post included, is not something you need to stick to. Thank who is important to you and your wife. Be sincere. Also be careful with your wording. Simply stating “Thank you mum”, “Thank you dad”, “Thanks to the bridesmaids…” etc. let’s face it, it’s going to get boring. Try and find creative ways to thank people to mix it up a little and not have it sound like you just won an Oscar even if you do feel like a million dollars.
And don’t forget, if you do want to get a laugh out of the room, as the groom it’s your one and only opportunity to be allowed to firstly thank your wedding party and then publicly shame your groomsmen/ushers/best man for their help (or lack of!) with the wedding/stag do – I made sure I did!
5. Timing and duration of your speech is key
This was a real mixed bag of advice when I Googled articles on “how long should the grooms speech be?”. Everyone has an opinion however there are so many different variables to take into account. Firstly you have to decide on the ordering of your reception – 2 options:
- Speech before the meal
- Speech after the meal
And this is important.
If your speech is going to be before the meal then my suggestion would be to keep it shorter. Your guests are going to be hungry and as much as they will love listening to you and hanging on your every word, if they’ve been drinking all day they are going to be looking forward to their meal – if your speech is going on a bit they are going to get a bit fidgety and impatient.
On the other hand if your speech is after the meal then you can make your speech a little longer – typically the only thing your guests will be waiting for post-meal is tea and coffee.
I made the decision that we would do the speeches after the meal so that everyone could relax a little.
In the end my speech was around 20 minutes or so long which actually worked well. No one fell asleep anyway and people were laughing so I’m taking that as a positive sign!
6. Rehearse it
OK, it’s not supposed to be a performance however you don’t want to come across to your bride, father in law or guests looking unprepared. Make sure you practice your speech. It’s an age old saying but practice really does make perfect. I practiced my speech at every given opportunity in the days leading up to my wedding day – on the train to work, on the train home from work and in the evenings out loud in my lounge.
Knowing your speech inside out will make you feel far more confident in yourself and you’ll remove any temptation on the big day to ‘wing it’ and go off on a bit of a tangent or have the dreaded “umm’s” and “err’s” coming out distracting from your key points. It will also ensure you know exactly how long you will be delivering your speech for.
This does of course come back to my first point – start writing early enough so that you have enough time to practice and revise it.
7. Keep a check on your booze consumption!
This really does go without saying – do not get drunk before your speech. It’s so easy to say however as I found on my wedding day it would have been really easy for me to have unknowingly got drunk if I hadn’t been paying attention.
If like us you have an early ceremony, the drinks will be have been flowing from before 12. Post ceremony you’ll be handed a glass of champagne and then you’ll receive repeated top ups of your glass or be handed new ones. It’s incredibly easy to lose track of how much you’ve had. If you are then spending a couple of hours with your guests before the wedding breakfast AND you opt for speeches to take place post-meal, that’s a lot of time to be drinking.
On my wedding day I made sure I was sticking to less than 1 small drink per hour following the ceremony. Even during the meal I stuck to 1 glass of wine and a glass of water. Drinking and enjoying yourself can be done with the evening entertainment but as the hosts you don’t want to get drunk. You certainly don’t want to get drunk and then attempt to deliver a speech, your guests may look at the situation as being hilarious but your bride and family certainly won’t be impressed – I’m not drunk in this photo incidentally!
8. Proof check
Now this step is optional depending on how confident you are about your speech however for me I found it incredibly useful. Once I had turned my bullet point speech into a fully written out version which on the day I could loosely follow, I called on the support of my best man. I delivered my speech to him as I would on the big day (taking out the section about my groomsmen of course!) and got his opinion on things. He made it quite clear that several sections could be delivered in a slightly different way for greater impact along with advising me to take out a couple of sections which came across as a bit too try hard or, well, inappropriate!
You don’t want to under-cook an important part of your speech and you also don’t want to come across as a bit of a dick if you’re trying to crack a joke or two that are ‘on the edge’ so for me I found this dry run invaluable. This should give you the perfect balance of humour, sincerity and appropriateness!
OK so this is a big one and one I struggled with it. Who do I toast? How many times do I toast? Do I ask people to stand up? It’s a bit of a minefield.
I ended up with several toast options including my brides parents, my own parents, the bridesmaids, the groomsmen, absent friends and family and of course my new wife. That would have been 6 toasts – too many! There are of course no set rules with any of this. It’s your speech and you should do what you like with it. However toasting everyone in the room can lose a bit of the sincerity of each group.
I ended up going with 4 toasts:
- Mother and father of the bride
- Mother and father of the groom
- Bridesmaids and Groomsmen
Needless to say I finished my speech with a standing toast for my beautiful bride.
10. Enjoy it!
This is your moment. Your moment to tell your carefully selected day guests what you wife really means to you. And your guests want to hear that. No matter how stressed out you’re feeling about your speech, no matter how nervous you are about it, you must remind yourself of the situation you are in. It’s your wedding day. Your guests want to hear you speak. No-one is judging you… except maybe your wife! Relax and enjoy your speech, don’t rush through it. Take some deep breaths before you start, talk calmly and deliver clearly.
Also make sure you deliver every word of your grooms speech honestly – don’t use a pre-written template from internet as even one line heard before by your guests will give you away and lose credibility – think every best man joke you’ve ever heard more than once, terrible (my best man incidentally did a cracking job!).
Follow some of my advice and you’ll nail it!
Honestly, I was bricking it on my wedding day however I needn’t have worried as my speech went down a storm.
My parting piece of advice – be yourself. Your guests know you, your wife knows you – they know your personality. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
Good luck and enjoy the best day of your life, cheers!
All of the images in this post were taken by our excellent wedding photographer Aaron Collett Photography.