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Wedding Words: Giving a Great Wedding Speech

Updated on September 17, 2009

How to Prepare

If you haven't written your speech yet, take a look at my Hub page "Writing Great Speeches and Toasts."

After you've written your speech, you'll want to rehearse it. But first, you'll need to decide whether you're going to try to memorize it or work from notes.

Professional public speakers don't usually memorize their speeches. They use talking points, which are words or phrases that jog their memories and lead them to each section of their speech. They know what they're going to talk about in each section, but they don't follow their written text word-for-word.

You might be thinking, "Well, I'm not a professional public speaker." In which case, you might feel more confident if you memorize your speech. Whatever you decide to do, plan to rehearse until you feel comfortable.

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?

 You know. Practice, practice, practice.

If you want to sound like a fifth-grader who's just been called on to read in class, then don't bother rehearsing your speech. But if you'd like to sound polished and feel assured, then practice. Read through your speech as many times as you can. Read it aloud. You'll be speaking those words, and reading them aloud will help you to decide how you want to phrase them, where you want to place the emphasis, and where you'll need to pause while your listeners are chuckling at your wit. (You did put some humor in your speech, didn't you?)

After you've read it aloud a few times, decide whether you're going to memorize it or work from talking points. If you're going to memorize, then read each section repeatedly until you have it down. Start with the first sentence. When you're sure of it, add the second. Repeat this until you have the entire section.

FYI: When I speak of sections, I'm referring to the Introduction, the Body of the Speech, and the Closing.

If you're going to work from talking points, then keep reading your speech out loud until you could repeat it in your sleep. Then put the paper down, pick up some index cards and make some notes.

For example, if your introduction is "Good evening. I hope you don't mind that I'm not wearing any pants tonight. I'm so nervous about giving this speech that I cleaned my windshield with them and then tried to put on a roll of paper towels,"  the note on your first index card might be: Intro: no pants; cleaned windshield; paper towels.That should be enough to jog your memory.

Move on to the body of your speech and make notes on as many index cards as you need to remember each thing you're going to speak about. For example, if you're telling a story about a baseball game you attended with the groom, when he caught a fly ball, you might make a note such as this: "Mets game, Doug caught ball." Since you're using a story you've probably told many times, this will be enough to lead you into it.


Be Seated

After you finish your speech, please resist the impulse to make off-the-cuff remarks. You might be glowing from the laughs you got or the warm response to the story you told. That's great! Don't ruin it by straying from your prepared material. Stick to your speech; give the conclusion, thank your audience and depart. They'll be applauding you because you gave a great speech. You entertained them; you touched them; you made them chuckle. You honored the bride and groom, or the bride or groom honored the parents, which was the point. Your speech will be remembered warmly.

Remember this time-honored advice to public speakers: Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated.

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