To speak or not to speak, that seems to be the new question on many brides’ minds these days. While wedding speeches have traditionally been reserved for the groom, best man, or the fathers of the newlyweds, now many brides are stepping up to speak as well. Of all the recent high-profile weddings, you may recall that Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, was one such bride to attempt this feat after marrying Prince Harry. Although she is well-versed in public speaking, there’s no reason why you can’t nail this, too.
Is a Speech Required?
Not if you’re the bride. So if you’re not a fan of public speaking, you may want to skip this part altogether. However, it can be a nice modern touch to your reception and a way to express thanks or share a special moment with your guests. (It can also be a nice way to make an impression on your future family.)
What Should a Speech Include?
In theory, it can be anything you want. You can thank people for coming and sharing this special moment with you, you can express your gratitude to those who have helped you at your wedding, or you can share a heartfelt moment of your relationship. It’s fine to say a word or two to anyone who’s helped you in your wedding prep process, even if the person isn’t present at the event or if they’ve passed away. Avoid roasts, sensitive topics, intimate details, or anything that feels even slightly inappropriate. Remember, your parents-in-law are in the room!
Tips for Preparing Your Bridal Speech
If you’re up for the challenge, here are some do’s and don’ts for writing (or improvising) the perfect bridal speech.
Make it Short and Sweet
You’re likely not going to be the only speaker that night, so make sure whatever you’re going to say is around 5 minutes or less. You don’t want to bore your guests. Make sure your speech has a structure—as in, an introduction, a middle, and a conclusion. It should have a flow, or you’ll sound like you’re babbling and people might get confused. A structure will also help you memorize everything.
Have a Sense of Humor
Feel free to insert a punchline or two, but always keep in mind your audience. Whatever you choose to say should be appropriate and relevant, so avoid adding inappropriate language or inside jokes. Humor may seem like a good default, but if you’re not the jokester type, now is not the time to try out for stand-up. Sincerity matters more.
Keep it Real
Even if your wedding is a formal affair, try not to take it too seriously. Your speech should be a reflection of your personality and not an audition for the debate team. If it helps, try to think of it more as a toast rather than a speech.
How to Stay Calm
Even if you’re an experienced public speaker, it’s normal to get the jitters when you’re in front of a crowd. Hopefully, these tips can soothe your nerves.
Don’t Drink Too Much
Some liquid courage can help, but too much can quickly turn to disaster. Keep your alcohol intake at a reasonable level, at least until you’ve said all you wanted to say.
Say it Slowly
Don’t rush through your speech. Not only will it make you look nervous, but it might also make you stutter, which will only add to the stress. If you speak too fast, you also risk that some people might not understand you. And don’t hesitate to pause between your key statements.
Take a Pause
If you do stutter or feel like you’re going off-topic, take a deep breath and pause. Feel free to take a sip of water or champagne as a disguise. It’ll give you a short break to collect your thoughts.
Refer to Your Notes
It’s considered a bad idea to write out your entire speech because you’ll be tempted to read off the paper. Instead, have a small note card with key bullet points to refer to in case you lose your train of thought.
Practice Makes Perfect
Make sure to practice, practice, and then practice some more. Even once you think you got it, do it again. Practice is especially important if you expect to get emotional. Try speaking in front of a mirror, and have a friend or two listen as well. In addition, it’s helpful to film yourself making the speech. That way, you’ll be able to clearly see where you are doing well and where you can improve. Last, but not least: as you speak, don’t forget to smile and look around the room. Try to make eye contact, too. It’ll make you appear more relaxed, which will give you an extra boost of confidence.