Below you will see the most frequently asked questions that I've heard and situations that I've faced, plus how to handle problems before they happen.
Is a wedding toast the same as a wedding speech?
No. As you'll see below, there is a difference.
A wedding toast consists of short remarks said by people over a drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic). The toast should last no more than one minute.
The person giving the toast raises his/her drink while briefly giving complements to the couple and wishing them well.
The guests can then exclaim cheers!, clink glasses with their neighbors, and take a sip of the drink. That's a toast.
A wedding speech is longer and more formal.
The speech lasts between 3-5 minutes.
The speaker introduces himself/herself and mentions his/her part in the wedding (Maid of Honor, Best Man, etc.). The speaker then thanks the guests for attending the wedding, tells everybody about his/her relationship with the bride or groom, shares a glimpse of the couple, and wishes the couple well.
Wedding speeches usually lead into a toast.
How many toasts and speeches will I need to give?
Depending on the formal or informal nature of the celebration, you could speak at one or several of these events:
Bridal or Couple shower
Bachelor or Bachelorette Party
Wedding Farwell Brunch
Make sure you get a handle on the expectations so that you are prepared to speak at as many occasions as needed.
What If I Lose My Place?
If you are standing near your notes:
1st: Pause, take a sip of water if you want and look down at your notes to refresh your memory.
2nd: Resume your speech when you are ready. Don't worry about the silence, the audience will patiently wait to hear the rest of your speech.
If you are away from your notes:
1st: Walk back to your notes as you repeat your previous sentence. For example: As you walk back to your notes, say "Just to make sure you heard that point, I'll say it again..."
2nd: Pause, take a sip of water if you want and look down at your notes to refresh your memory.
3rd: Resume your speech when you are ready. Don't worry about the silence, the audience will patiently wait to hear the rest of your speech.
What if nobody laughs at my joke?
1st: After saying any joke, pause for three seconds. Silently count the seconds as one, one thousand, two, one thousand, etc.).
2nd: If nobody laughs by the time you get to three, one thousand, then continue with you speech as if you had not made a joke and you are just pausing before the next sentence.
Don't be surprised if the room is briefly quiet before there is any laughter. Sometimes it takes a second or two for the audience to respond.
What If the guests are not native English speakers?
1. Avoid Regional American Terms (such as the expression y'all used in the South). The audience probably won't understand the term. Instead, of y'all, use the word everybody.
2. Avoid American Slang or Catch Phrases because the audience probably won't understand these terms either. Instead, use the formal English Language equivalent of the word.
For example, instead of saying the term "cutting edge", say the word "new." Instead of saying "it's all good", say the words "I am fine" or "I am not disappointed."
3. Try to include a sentence or two in the audience's native language. The guests will appreciate the effort that you made.
The most popular example was John F. Kennedy's I am a Berliner speech, in which he used several German sentences while speaking to an audience in Berlin. The audience gave President Kennedy a huge ovation in response.
I went to a wedding with an American Bride and a German Groom in Georgia.
The Best Man, who is the brother of the bride, said to the groom and his family Welcome to the Family in German. The groom and his family were touched by this gesture.
Before the wedding, ask a person who speaks the native language to share a popular expression and its correct pronunciation.
Remember to practice saying the expression several times just to make sure you say greeting without any mistakes.
4. Speak a bit slower than usual and pause from time to time. This gives the audience an opportunity to "digest" your message. Plus, the interpreter (if used) has time to translate the message.
5. Finally, Be very careful about using humor. Your joke(s) might not translate well into other languages.
Before your speech, share the joke(s) with a few people who speak the native language of the wedding. They will know whether you should use your joke(s).
What if there is a heckler?
There is close to a 100 percent chance that this won't happen because you'll face a very friendly and supportive audience.
If there is a heckler, try to keep calm. Pause for a few moments and then continue your speech. If this persists, the Wedding MC or other guest(s) will handle this person for you.
The audience will be on your side as long as you don't get into a yelling match with this person.
What if I get real nervous a few minutes before the speech?
I recommend two techniques:
The Deep Breathing and Light Muscle Squeeze are especially helpful for fighting speech anxiety immediately before your talk.
Both can be done quietly if you're sitting in your seat while awaiting your turn to speak.
1. Deep Breathing
If you get a heavy amount of sweaty palms, shaking knees, etc. the reason is that the energy (that we call nervousness) piles up in certain places around your body.
Deep Breathing pushes this energy throughout your body and makes you feel more comfortable.
How do you do it?
Slowly inhale for 4 seconds...hold your breath for about 4 seconds...and slowly exhale for a few seconds...repeat this process 5 or 6 times.
The technique works a little better if you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, but this technique will help control your speech anxiety no matter how you choose to inhale and exhale.
2. Light Muscle Squeeze
The Light Muscle Squeeze does the same for your energy as Deep Breathing. Some people like this technique better...some like Deep Breathing better. So, try both and use the technique that works better for you.
I learned this trick when competing in a Toastmasters Speech Contest. Although it felt silly at first, this tip has made me feel less nervous about giving speeches to this day.
How do you do it?
Start by lightly squeezing your toe muscles--don't pull too hard because we don't want you to hurt yourself...continue squeezing your muscles from the bottom to the top of your body...hold your muscles for about 3 seconds...stop squeezing...repeat this process 5 or 6 times.
What if I forget my notes?
Note: If you don't have time before your speech, immediately skip down to Step 3. Otherwise, start at Step 1:
Step 1: Assuming that you have time before your speech, quickly brainstorm several key words for items that you planned to say during your speech.
Step 2: Put these items in order. Don't worry about the rest of your speech.
Step 3: Speak from the heart. Share a favorite story about you and the bride/groom before wishing the couple well. Other parts of the speech will probably come to mind as you begin your speech.
What if the microphone does not work?
Ask for help. If the microphone still does not work, stay calm. Briefly tell the audience about the problem and then continue your speech. Be sure to speak loud and clear.
FYI- This approach also can be used for other technical problems.
Where should you go from here?
Now that you know the answer to just about every What if? problems that you could face, here are some last minute tips to get ready for the wedding.
If you follow the Speech Checklist,then you will be ready for the big day. Here, you'll see the best speaking tips in one place.
Will you travel to the wedding? See the Travel Tips Page to make your trip as well as your speech an easier experience.
Your Wedding Speech just got Easier. Let us Help You!