Wedding Planning Q&A

How To Structure A Wedding Speech? with Lawrence Bernstein from Great Speech Writing

November 29, 2018

How To Structure A Wedding Speech? Lawrence Bernstein from Great Speech Writing shares the top 4 tips on how to create the best Wedding Speech possible.

Listen to Lawrence on the Wedding Espresso Awesome DIY Wedding Planning Podcast…

 

Lawrence Bernstein from Great Speech Writing
https://weddingespresso.co.uk/tag/great-speech-writing
https://www.greatspeechwriting.co.uk

 

James: [00:00:03] Lawrence thanks so much for joining me today. 

Lawrence: [00:00:06] Good morning. 

James: [00:00:07] Brilliant to see you.

So brides and grooms to be are asking “how to structure a wedding speech?”

And this is something obviously you’re going to able to help out with. So what do you think? 

Lawrence: [00:00:22] I think first of all, let’s not pretend that every wedding speech can be cut and pasted. There are different events, different people, different places, different atmospheres.

And the overriding piece of advice for any wedding speech by a bridegroom, best man, father, or anyone in between, is keep it relevant.

So let’s bear that one in mind first. 

Lawrence: [00:00:45] Then in direct answer to the question, there are four very, very simple points to help you go about it the right way. The first is think back to front. Most people writing a speech fall into the trap of simply listing all the things they want to say, and then working out what order to say them in. If you start from the finish which is, who’s listening to the speech? Who’s going to be in the room? What will they want to hear? And what will actually be right for the atmosphere in the room on the day? And then work backwards from there. You will find that some of those points are relevant, and others are much, much, more important than you may think.

So number one, put the audience first or your guests first. 

Lawrence: [00:01:26] Number two is have a think about what you would like, the morning after your wedding, for your guests to say about that speech. The chances are they will only remember one thing, maximum two. And so for all the thank you’s, and all the stories, and all the lovey dovey bits, and the quotes, and the poetry, and everything else you may want to put in there,

you’ve really got to decide what the one memorable thing will be, and let your speech weave its way around it, and ensure that’s what they remember.

And it will probably be, as a bride or groom, that you absolutely adore your other half, and that it was worth your guests coming all this way because it was a really meaningful great day. If you want to lace that with a bit of humour and everything, wonderful, but never forget that you want everything to be able to be summarised in one sentence. And that will sort it out. So that’s number two. 

Lawrence: [00:02:20]

Number three is, think really hard about that balance that you want to achieve between humour and sincerity.

On one hand you get the grooms who try and outdo the best man, and make the whole thing a sort of speech that would be relevant for the stag do, and it ends up ruining that part of the wedding. And on the other half, you have the over slushy, sentimental, lovey dovey stuff, that actually 30 seconds is probably enough. We’ve already had the service. You can deal with that stuff in private, but we really don’t want to hear your innermost thoughts for 10 minutes. And so get that balance right, keep checking the words as you structure and develop the speech. Keep checking that it’s not going one way too far in either direction. 

Lawrence: [00:03:03] And finally this is all about structure, but when you’ve got that structure in place, think of ways to link the various parts of the speech together.

What you don’t want is to finish a little piece about your parents, and then say “right, that’s enough about them, let me move on to my wife”.

Or “let me move on to my in-laws.” We want to seamlessly link everything. So for the 8, 10 minutes or whatever it is of the speech, the thing just flows and sounds absolutely natural, as if you’re not using notes at all. 

Lawrence: [00:03:32] And clearly there are a million more bits of advice when you actually get to the writing bit, or when you get to the rehearsing bit, or the delivering itself. But in terms of structure, if you have those four points in mind, thinking backwards, work on the one key message and take away, the balance between humour and sincerity. And then how the thing is going to link and be completely seamless. Then you’re going to put yourself in the top 10 percent of wedding speeches before you even begin. 

James: [00:03:59] Brilliant advice.

So do you think there is a run time that you shouldn’t exceed with a wedding speech? Let’s say for the groom? 

Lawrence: [00:04:11] Our advice is always quality trumps quantity. You should let the speech last for as long as you have brilliant content and a brilliant narrative. Now the parameters tend to be any less than five minutes, and if you’re the groom at a wedding, by the time you’ve thanked the necessary people, then it would be odd if you were able to finish with absolutely no additional information, with less than five minutes. If it starts getting more than 10 minutes, the chances are that you’ve gone too far. Now clearly if it’s 11 minutes of brilliant content, no one’s going to mind. But 20 minutes can start to really, really push it. And the key here is know your word count. We would suggest speaking, and you and I chatting here, we’re talking probably up to about 200 words a minute. When you’re giving a speech, you want to reel that back to about a 100, 120 words per minute.

So a ten minute speech shouldn’t be any longer than 1,200 words. So it’s quite a nice… If you’re writing it out in full, it’s quite a nice way of measuring how you go. 

James: [00:05:11] That’s Brilliant. So if you look at the whole sort of gamut then, you’ve got your father of the bride speech, you’ve got the groom’s speech, you’ve got the best men speech, could be best man speech, or best men’s speech. Occasionally you’ve got bridesmaid’s speech, occasionally you’ve got a mother of the bride speech. So would you say… I mean bearing all that in mind, would you say that there is a total runtime that we should be trying to stay under with all of these speeches. Bearing in mind that we’re trying to fill them with good content? 

Lawrence: [00:05:42] Yes I think if each individual speech is less than 10 minutes, you’re generally fine. And then when you’ve got pairs of speeches that may be repeating the same, or in danger of repeating the same thank you’s, and the same content, then let’s try and half them. So if the bride and the groom are giving a speech, let’s give them five minutes each. If the best man and the bridesmaid are going to speak, again, try and limit it.

If we look at a package of about 30 minutes of speeches, I think that’s ample. 

Lawrence: [00:06:10] If it ends up being five or six speeches, and we are big on encouraging more females to speak at weddings. I mean it’s ridiculous in the 21st century that three men are supposed to give the speeches, and the women remain silent. So if a bridesmaid, bride, mother, are going to speak, fabulous. But A) let’s try and make sure that everyone liaises beforehand, to check they’re not going to repeat each other. And B) split the speeches up through the evening. So don’t just have a 30 minute block, but have a speech before the thing begins. Let the father of the bride maybe welcome people if it’s a more traditional wedding. Have speeches between courses, and then finish maybe with an upbeat bestman’s or bridesmaid’s speech before the dancing. 

Lawrence: [00:06:50] But if a block becomes sort of 40, 50 minutes it becomes more of a Swedish wedding, or a lecture series. And I’ve been to both, and they can have a negative impact on the day itself. 

James: [00:07:04] Brilliant stuff. We’ve seen a lot of wedding speeches, we’ve filmed a lot of wedding speeches.

What are your thoughts on props? Yay or nay? For storytelling. 

Lawrence: [00:07:20] A prop, 1 picture, 1 brick, 1 something that brings something completely to life. I’d probably say, three quarters of a yay. The minute the thing becomes a PowerPoint presentation, or a whole series of props, or that we take away from the essence of the speech, it’s a nay. 

James: [00:07:46] Yep, I totally agree with you there. So we’ve also just got one question just to round out today’s little chat.

What got you started with writing and helping people with wedding speeches? 

Lawrence: [00:07:59] It was a hobby. I was in a completely different career doing less interesting things in the City of London. And I sat down with a friend, in a pub, and ended up dictating him a wedding speech. And as a result of that, put an advert in private eye magazine, and got one speech from the advert, which is… Ten years later that advert is still there. And yes the hobby became a business. So it’s been a very, very great stroke of fortune. 

James: [00:08:27] Fantastic. Well thank you so much for sharing your insight there with us. I’m sure that’s going to be really, really useful for people to know. And obviously, you know, if they’re planning a wedding speech, those four tips there are going to be super integral to helping them crack through it. And obviously if they need any additional help, you’re available to help them with that. So thanks again for today. I really appreciate your time and hopefully we’ll speak to you again soon. 

Lawrence: [00:08:55] Thank you very, very much. It’s greatspeechwriting.com. 

James: [00:08:57] Brilliant, thanks a lot Lawrence, we’ll speak to you soon, bye for now! 

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