By Emma McGowan
Whether you decide to give it at the beginning, the end, or somewhere in between, at some point during your reception you’re going to have to give a speech with your wife. Not sure what to cover? Hate public speaking? Have nightmares about standing up and realizing you’re naked? Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. We spoke with a bunch of guys who have already been there so that you can learn from their mistakes — and copy their excellent ideas.
Don’t be drunk.
Number one rule: DON’T BE DRUNK. If you want to get drunk at your wedding, cool — but wait until after the speech. Give yourself a two drink, pre-speech maximum so you can be sure you have all of your faculties with you when it’s time to stand up in front of everyone you love.
Work on it together.
Even if you’ve decided to each give your own speech, work on it together — you can help your wife-to-be and she can help you. It’s a good way to make sure you’re not repeating stories and that your speeches work well together. It’s also good practice for, you know, working together in your marriage.
“Make sure you both work on it,” Brett Steele (married two years) says. “It doesn’t feel as good if you both don’t have ownership of the comments.”
It doesn’t have to be fully written out.
If it makes you feel more secure and prepared to have everything written out word by word, then by all means — write that shit down. But if reading off a script feels stilted to you, it’s not a hard and fast rule. However, some preparation is still a good idea.
“We wrote bullet points that we wanted to touch upon as well as who would say them,” Brett says. “I’m a big ‘no notes’ guy so this made it easier. I also wanted it to seem like it was coming straight from the heart, so we only rehearsed it once or twice to get it down (and avoid tears). It felt really good to be able to tell everyone who had been such an important part of our lives how much we loved them before the actual wedding.”
Don’t be afraid to get vulnerable.
One of the hardest but also most important things you can to do in order to make your reception speech the best it can be is be vulnerable. Seriously: Weddings may be the only time when being sappy and lovey dovey actually makes things better.
“Focus on feelings,” Sam Gallagher (married seven years) says. “This may be tough for those of us living in a masculine framework, but if the marriage feels right then what could be better than talking about that? This is a good opportunity to get a little vulnerable in a context of love and support for you and your spouse, so take advantage of it! Even if you stumble over the words and feel like an idiot, speak from the heart and it’s hard to go wrong.”
Avoid wedding speech cliches.
Joking about paying your father-in-law to say nice things. Using words like “soulmate.” Pretending you’re a bumbling fool because you’re a man and the wife is in charge now. These are just a few of the tired wedding speech cliches you don’t want to include in your speech.
“Avoid the common cliches like the plague,” Stephen says. “If you’ve married this woman than chances are you did so for a reason. You’ve got to distill that reason into a story that paints a picture of your life together. Finding what makes your relationship unique is the name of the game.”
Share something only you know.
When Stephen gives speeches with his wife, he likes to include small little things about her that only he knows. We’re not talking embarrassing or overly intimate things here — he’s not up there talking about anything she wouldn’t want shared in public — but just the small things that you’re privy to when you love someone. For example, he likes to talk about how his wife seems like a “sweet little lady who never steps on toes” but he knows she’s a “fierce, fiery badasses who is just good at projecting calm and sweet.”
“Some people explain the way they met or what made them know she was the one, but the speech subject matter isn’t interesting unless you offer a little window into your relationship that you normally keep jealousy to yourself,” Stephen says. “Your goal is to make the audience see her how you see her, if only briefly in a small way.”
Keep it short.
No one likes a long wedding ceremony and no one likes a wedding reception where speeches drag on and on and on and on. Your guests want to eat, probably get drunk, and maybe dance a little to cheesy wedding music. So while there are a million things you want to say and people you want to thank, keep it short. Under three minutes is good — after that, you’re going to lose your audience.
Talk directly to your wife.
Even if it’s only for a sentence or two, take the time to make eye contact with your wife and talk directly to her. Tell her how much you love her. Pretend like no one else is in the room with you. That’s guaranteed to get even your most cynical cousin reaching for a tissue.
Be selective about who you name.
And speaking of thanking people, be careful about naming specific people in your reception speech. Immediate family is fine — Mom, Dad, siblings — but outside of that could lead to people feeling slighted if they didn’t get a specific callout. Weddings can cause enough drama as it is — why add extra when your wife’s aunt is pissed because you talked about your aunt but she wasn’t mentioned?
But definitely thank your parents — and hers — especially if they helped pay for the wedding. That’s just good manners.
No jokes at your wife’s expense.
It might be tempting to include easy humor, but do not make jokes at your wife’s expense.
“I don’t care how funny you think you are,” Stephen says. “I don’t care if she’s laughing on the outside — embarrassing her at your wedding will come back to haunt you. No jokes about how mad she gets when you do X stupid thing that husbands do. No jokes about nagging,
Nothing about how she looks without makeup or jokes about her taking long to get ready — that shit is hack. You’re better than that, bro.”
And remember — it might actually be great.
While most of us get at least a little bit nervous at the prospect of giving a speech, this might actually be one of your favorite moments from your wedding.
“It was one of the best moments of the weekend for us,” Brett says. “When we talk with friends and family about that weekend, many keep bringing up how awesome it was that we took the time and effort to do that speech. Definitely worth it!”
So take a deep breath and schedule a time to sit down with your future wife. You’ve got this.