I’m a professional comedy writer. Clients come to me to make their wedding speeches funny.
But all the funny in the world won’t matter if your speech is hard to follow.
What you really need is a clear structure, your speech will flow, because there’s a logical reason for this to come after that.
I’ve written several hundred wedding speeches, and what works for me is breaking it down into six (6) basic building blocks.
Sure, go ahead and call it a template
Here’s how to structure the best possible wedding speech
1. Introduce yourself
Who are you and why are you speaking? “I’m Steve’s brother, Chris. Steve spoke at my wedding, and I have a feeling that’s a decision he’ll soon come to regret.” Add a laugh or keep it all business. Most of the purpose of this moment is to give the room an extra second to settle and tune in. The informational part is so they don’t turn to their tablemates to ask, “Is that his brother?” If they’re talking to each other, they’re not listening to you. And if they’re not listening, they’re not laughing. Punchlines don’t get laughs if people haven’t heard the set-up.
2. Thank yous
If you’re the best man or maid of honor, don’t forget to thank your hosts. If you’re a bride, a groom or a parent, don’t forget to thank the guests for coming. When in doubt, thank. You’ll never regret adding a thank you, but you will regret forgetting one. People have long memories. And by “people,” I mean “crazy family members.” If you end up with so many thank yous that it starts to sound like your Oscar acceptance speech, say that. How often do you have a chance to publicly thank the people you love? But do try to keep your thanks streamlined. The more you have, the shorter they should each be.
3. Your half of the couple
Tell us how you first met your half of the couple and why they're wonderful. “Michelle and I first met when we were both camp counselors, 28 years ago. What’s amazing is that neither of us has changed a single bit since then. The doctors are mystified. Over the years we’ve (EXAMPLES OF YOUR ADVENTURES TOGETHER.) But I think my favorite Michelle story is about the time we ____.” Conversational. Specific. Self-aware. Remember to not only tell us why this person is wonderful. Show us.
4. The other half of the couple
Tell us how you first met the other half of the couple and why they're wonderful -- even if you don’t think they’re wonderful. Find something nice to say and don’t be passive aggressive. Building block #4 is usually shorter than #3. “I first met Scott when Kristen brought him home to Thanksgiving – a trip no previous boyfriend had made. Jan and I saw immediately what Kristen saw in Scott. He’s hardworking, compassionate and smart as a whip – even if he can’t figure out which part of a baseball cap is the front.”
5. I’m so glad you two found each other, or words to that effect
(See tip #4 if you’re not happy they found each other.) This is the wrap up. Tell us how you feel about the couple finding one another. “Tim, I honestly couldn’t ask for a better match for my best friend. But if you make her sad, I’ll cut you. Of course, I’m kidding. I wouldn’t do it myself. I’d hire someone. There must be an app for that.” If you’re a parent or sibling, this is also the place to welcome the other half -- and their family -- to your family.
6. A great big, raise-your-glass toast
Finally, a great, big, 'raise your glass' toast to the bride and groom. Toast, then leave. Can't follow that. Also, while this is a ‘drop the mic’ moment, don’t actually drop the mic, unless you want the cost to come out of the couple’s deposit.