Have you ever googled how to give a wedding speech as a bride or groom? (I realise that’s probably how you found this article, but bear with me.)
The advice is always the same: you’ve got the easy job, just thank everyone.
The problem with that is it assumes the person giving the speech knows how to make a list of thank yous interesting. But if our best and brightest actors can’t do that come Oscar season, how are the rest of us meant to manage?
Because it’s not just thank yous – it’s thank yous you’re doing in front of your entire wedding. It’s thank yous as entertainment.
And a genuine thank you isn’t entertaining.
Worse still, a lot of the advice out there insists speeches are the perfect time to give thank-you presents to everyone who helped with your wedding. You’re encouraged to make your whole speech a list of people to thank, punctuated with presents.
Now, I’ll grant you hurling sparkly objects at your audience may distract them from the fact you’re not actually giving a speech but, if anything, it makes the thank yous as entertainment problem worse: watching other people open presents is boring.
No one in the room has vested interest in watching someone they’ve just met open presents. The only person who might want to see it is you – and you’re too busy handing out the next one.
A few years ago, I went to a wedding where the groom took the thank everyone advice to the letter. His speech came across like a raffle. He would call a name from a sheet and that person would awkwardly shuffle up to the top table and collect their prize. He didn’t tell any stories, he didn’t say any words about his new spouse. He just asked people to pick up their presents.
It was obvious that he didn’t want to give a speech, but he thought he had to – and he tried to give the least interactive (and most painful to sit through) speech he could.
Here’s the thing: you don’t have to give a speech. No, really! It’s okay! You don’t need to follow any traditions you don’t like. You don’t need to do anything that makes you uncomfortable.
Every single person at your wedding is on your side; they love you and want you to have the best day imaginable. They’re going to understand.
If you don’t want to stand up and give a toast, don’t do it. Everyone would rather not hear from the bride or groom at all than hear them force themselves through an awkward, mumbled checklist.
You can still invite other people to talk, if you’d like to. Or you can skip the prepared speeches and invite anyone in the room who wants to speak to say a few words. Or you can leave off the speeches altogether.
You can do it a lot of different ways – but if you’re dreading the idea of speaking, if you’re trying to find the bare minimum you can say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.
Which isn’t to say you don’t need to thank the people who helped you with your wedding. You just don’t need to do it publicly.
If people have helped you, if they’ve contributed to your wedding fund, or helped you make crafts, or listened while you were on the verge of an emotional centrepiece-based breakdown, thank them. Find a quiet moment on the day and pull them aside. (If you can do it before the ceremony, do – it’ll be harder to find time afterwards!)
It doesn’t need to be a big moment and it doesn’t need an audience. Just say thanks. Give them a hug and a small thank-you present. (We can help you with ideas if you’re struggling.)
They’ll appreciate it much more than being called up in front of your entire wedding.
And so will everyone else.