Step 1: Know Your Etiquette & Plan For The Day
Luckily, there isn’t much.
These days, you don’t need to address anyone as ‘ladies and gentlemen’ unless it’s a particular formal affair or you simply want to.
A sister of the groom doesn’t need to think about thank yous either. These will be handled by the newlyweds.
Of course, something you DO have to do is compliment your brother’s choice of partner. It helps if this is sincere (but not essential). Again, try to avoid cliches and highlight anything you’ve bonded over (whether it’s a good Merlot or a tolerance of your brother).
If you’re the only person from your side of the family speaking (apart from your brother hopefully) then make sure you also convey your excitement at the prospect of getting to know your new (extended) in-laws too.
In terms of length, it’s good to chat to the nearlyweds in advance of the big day and see what they’re comfortable with. If there are a lot of speakers, they may ask you to keep it on the shorter side.
Generally, we think five to nine minutes is a good length to tell a few fun stories and pay a genuine tribute to a loved one. 750 – 1,100 words is a good guide.
Remember, no one ever wanted a speech to be longer. In fact, once you write your first draft, a good challenge is to try to edit it down by a third. Generally, it will make your speech much stronger. Punchy is always better.
In advance of the day, confirm whether or not an MC will be introducing you. If not, you will have to explain who you are at the start of your speech.
It’s also helpful to know whether you’ll be given a mic. If so, you might want to practise your mic-technique in advance (though don’t worry, it’s not rocket science!).
Step 2: Gather Your Intel
At the heart of all good wedding speeches is a collection of heartfelt and hilarious memories. Get flicking/scrolling through the old photo albums, Facebook, Instagram – maybe even pay a trip to your family house to go through mementos. And while you’re here, get together with other family members to share memories (a.k.a. incriminating stories).
Of course, your speech is not only an opportunity to tease your brother but pay ‘a tribute’ to your parents and the way they brought you both up. Remember how they wouldn’t let you watch Hollyoaks or eat sugar after 4 pm? ‘Well, mum, there’s a three-tier cake over there with our name on it, and YOU can’t do anything about it.’
Did you grow up squabbling or were you always as thick as thieves? Was one of you ALWAYS the favourite growing up? If so, it’s time to dish the dirt. Lovingly of course!
Step 3: Find Your Theme
Once you’ve gathered your anecdotes, hopefully, there’ll be some kind of theme emerging. Some writers call it the ‘throughline’ but a theme is a narrative thread that will help give your speech some structure. It’s the thing that connects all your content so it sounds like a narrative rather than just a rather arbitrary list of thoughts.
Your theme is likely to center around that one thing that perfectly sums up your brother – whether it’s the fact that he’s a control freak, accident-prone, or a dedicated ‘foodie’.
- For example, if the groom’s now a vaguely respectable teacher, reveal the alarming things he’s taught you over the years (snorting Sambuca etc).
- If he’s a wannabe musician, chronicle his life through his musical eras.
- Perhaps having lived with him for nearly two decades, you feel well-placed to tell his partner how they can continue your mission to house-train him.
You get the idea!
Step 4: Get It Write
To simplify the writing process, think about it in sections. It makes the whole process less intimidating and also stops you from going off track, if you have headings to work with.
If, for example, your speech theme is centered around you and your brother being partners in crime, your headings may be
- Hello – establish the theme
- ‘The toddler years’
- ‘The teenage troubles’
- ‘Adult misdemeanors’,
- ‘Going on the straight and narrow’ – a loving tribute to my brother and his new partner in crime.
- Toast to the newlyweds
Then you simply insert any stories that fit these categories and connect them so it becomes a free-flowing narrative. You can already see how much easier this speech will be to write.
Once you’ve added in the appropriate anecdotes and insights you simply need to make sure they all link together seamlessly.
Of course, make sure you have regular humour throughout. If you’re struggling to find your funny bones, read our blog on How To Make Your Wedding Speech Funny and find out how you can add laughter to your speech without resorting to any wedding jokes, sexist stereotypes, or Googled gags. The trick is simply to observe your brother in action and identify what makes him unique. Let’s face it, everyone is weird in their own way, so you just have to watch him in action!
The final third / quarter of the speech should be the emotional sucker punch (the bit where you reveal how much you really blooming love your bro). It should also express your joy in them finding their soulmate and your sibling-in-law.
Once you’ve written your first draft, get brutal with it. Invite others to read it and, here’s the tricky thing, take their feedback on board. If they don’t get a joke, don’t bother explaining it to them. You won’t be able to do that on the day!
Step 5: Deliver Like A Pro
Written the perfect speech? Great! Now it’s time to master it.
Practising reading the speech out loud, five times in a row. It’s a simple but effective memory technique. And read your speech just before you go to bed. It sounds ridiculous, but apparently, this is the best time to memorise something – scientifically proven!
Of course, you don’t need to know your speech by heart but you need to be familiar with it.
It’s fine to have notes on the day. Using electronic devices to read from is now commonplace (as it avoids ‘paper shake’ or faffing about with cards) but personally, at Speechy, we still prefer old-school paper as many of us are now trained to resent people reading from tech in our presense.
On the day, eyecontact with the guests remains paramount to a good delivery. As does smiling – which is scientifically proven (again) to be infectious.
Read our How To Deliver Like A Pro guide.
Now we reach the big moment – actually delivering the speech on the day!
It’s easy enough for us to say but you really have nothing to worry about. Everyone wants you to do well.
So just take your time, read slowly, take deep breaths, and you’ll be fine. You’ll ease into it no time and by the end, you’ll have done your brother proud.
Scroll to find out how you can work with the Speechy team and nail that dream speech….