Never mind ‘how’, worry about ‘when’.
Start soon, ideally two months before the wedding. Do not be tempted to put off writing until you’re hit by divine inspiration and do not get side-tracked by table plans or biscuits.
Don’t underestimate how long it can take to be witty, meaningful and memorable. Yes, you know your subject rather well (we’re hoping) but even professional comedians can take weeks to ‘knock out’ a sketch.
Lock yourself in a room, shut off all social media and get writing.
A speech is not about handing out gifts and it’s not (just) about thanking people. It’s about reminding everyone why they should be celebrating the newlyweds getting hitched. It’s explaining why two sane people have just promised to tolerate each other’s crazy habits and personality quirks for the rest of their lives.
So, forget the old fashioned etiquette books, the essential elements in a modern groom speech is relatively simple…
- Funny stories and insights to make your guests laugh
- A meaningful tribute to your bride (poignant & unique, not cheesy or cliched!)
- The thank yous (we’ll get to those next)
- Poss a tribute to the dearly departed
- A toast that leaves everyone smiling (not bored by how predictable it is)
And that’s it really.
There’re plenty of good etiquette guides online but sound the klaxon, they come with a warning.
Etiquette guides can seriously damage your speech. They can make you think your groom speech has to include a long list of thank-yous and old fashioned clichés. Resist the urge.
Here’s our no-nonsense guide to speech etiquette –
- Be yourself – just because you’re wearing fancy clothes doesn’t mean you need to use formalities like ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’. Your friends and family want to hear the real you.
- Thank the important people– Sure, thank everyone for coming but don’t namecheck half the guestlist.
- Remember those actors who win an Oscar and thank their parents, the director, the lighting guy, their dog? Boring isn’t it? Especially when you don’t get a mention.
- Simply thank both sets of parents, anyone who’s contributed financially (though don’t be explicit about that), the people who have gone beyond the call of duty to help and any children you may have.
- Don’t thank people like the caterers or anyone who’ve your paid. Unnecessary.
- Don’t give thank you gifts – Well, feel free to but don’t include the gift-giving as part of the speech. It will put you off your flow and it’s awkward to sit through.
- Give any gifts earlier or later in the day.
- Be clever– Make the thanks yous feel part of the story you’re telling. If you’re having a festival themed wedding then thank the backstage support and the incredible roadies who have helped.
- Your toast – Don’t feel pressurised into toasting the bridesmaids. Certainly, thank them and say how stunning they look (they took at least three hours getting ready after all!) but these days you can toast anything you want and we encourage you to be personal.
- Why not propose a tequila toast? Something inclusive, something about love and something that gets people in the mood to party.
So, other than the speech ‘to dos’ what makes up the bulk of your speech? Well, stories of course…
STORY HUNTING – Imagine you’re one of those detectives you see on TV (only without the Swedish accent or psychological problems). You have a theory, maybe that you’re marrying someone kind of special. It’s now up to you to prove it.
Retrace your romantic steps (metaphorically not literally, that could take some time) and work out the key bits of evidence.
What moments have been meaningful, funny or illustrate a point? If you want to reference the fact she’s a bit ditsy, remember the time she reported her car stolen only to discover she’d parked it round the corner.
GET INSIGHTFUL – Hunt down the things that make you and your partner unique. This is what adds depth, meaning and humour to your speech – and helps you avoid sounding like a generic cliche of a groom.
So, how does your partner put up with you? Are you the husband who can’t open jars? Do you eat your burgers with a knife and fork? It’s time to confess.
And what unique traits does she have? The ability to respond to Whatapp messages before they’re actually sent? An encyclopedic knowledge of The Great British Bake Off and its soggy bottoms? A ridiculously long tongue?
Whatever it is, make sure you paid tribute to her individual quirks. It says much more than just saying how beautiful she looks (though it’s essential you say that too!).
Right this is the important bit.
Your speech is made up of lots of different elements but it needs to hook people in from the beginning, establish a theme and carry that through to an almighty climax. It needs to tell a story.
An example of how to use a theme to bring everything together is a bride who used her teaching profession as her hook. She talked about what she and her husband had learnt from each other over the years, ranging from the comedy to the soppy, from the perfect poached egg to understanding rugby’s scoring system (she taught him). She toasted ‘a lifetime of learning new and wonderful things about each other’ and everyone rather liked it.
So write a list; five things that people would associate with you, your partner and your relationship and see if you can spot a theme.
- Maybe you’re complete opposites – illustrate this point with a retelling of your love affair.
- Maybe she’s an engineer – talk about how you plan to build a happy marriage (clue: always say she’s right and you’ll be fine).
- Or maybe your partner is a bookworm; use quotes from much-loved authors to chronicle your romance (making sure there’s plenty of funny ones in there).
Even if the crux of your speech is emotional and romantic it’s still good to have some humour in there too.
Nobody is expecting you to be a stand-up comedian but try to find the comedy in your reality. Are you and your partner really alike or really different? Do you share a guilty pleasure? Do you have a distinctive style of arguing? These sorts of areas make great speech material.
Reveal surprising facts or even, in some cases, props, like the fashionista’s teddy bear dressing gown.
For our comedy scriptwriter insider tips, read our how to be funny guide.
Firstly, be honest. There’s no point making declarations of love if people don’t recognise the person you’re talking about.
Don’t pretend that your partner is perfect or that you don’t argue over control of the TV remote control. Love her for the crazy nut-job she really is.
Secondly, don’t go OTT. You have to get the balance right between sweet and just showing off. Leave the pet names at home and keep anything overly gushing for the bedroom.
A good trick is simply writing a list of all the little, quirky things you like about your partner a la When Harry Met Sally.
Try to avoid cliches like ‘special’ or ‘the one’ and create new ways of describing love.
One groom said he was attracted to his wife because she looked like ‘Bridget Bardot dressed up for a night at The Hog’s Head disco’.
Another groom said his first date with his wife had left him with ‘the feeling you get after the three course special at The Raj; very happy, completely satisfied but slightly nervous about what’s to come’.
If you’re really stuck, replace a generic cliche with a good, solid quote. Whilst plagiarism and being boring is never acceptable, using quotes is seen as positively inspired. Check out our favourite Groom Speech Quotes.
Aim for somewhere between seven and nine minutes. And that includes the pauses you leave for the laughter. Jokes are funnier shorter and emotion more powerful.
You may feel you have SOOOOOO much you want to say but the real test is saying it in the least amount of words. It’s kind of like a perverse game of Scrabble.
Firstly on yourself. Read the speech out loud and if you find yourself stumbling on the same bit every time, change it.
Then get an audience. It needs to be someone whose advice you value, so don’t ask your mum if you’re going to ignore her.
Deliver it as you would on the wedding day. Leave pauses for the laughter (ironically speakers often talk over the laughter they’ve worked so hard to achieve). Remember to smile. Look at your audience.
And then – be receptive to criticism. If someone doesn’t get a joke, don’t waste your time explaining it as you won’t be able to do that on the day. The point of testing your speech is you still have time to change it.
And if at the end of all this, you still feel you need help…