The presence of speeches at South Asian Weddings is a trend that’s been growing exponentially over the last few decades. What began solely as a roll call of thank yous and gift-givings has evolved into an opportunity for the couple and their loved ones to provide an insight into the lives of the newlyweds and what truly makes them perfect for each other.
But there’s something you can bring to the table that nobody else can. You’ve known your children the whole of their lives. Who has a deeper insight than that?
Speech Etiquette & Length
As the bastion of wisdom (or, at least part of the older generation!) you will usually be first on the speech lineup. This has its pros and cons.
Firstly, you have to grab the audience’s attention, which isn’t always easy in a room of 800 people!
Yes, it’s difficult to hush people at South Asian weddings but it’s ingrained in our culture to be respectful, so hypothetically your guests should go quiet as soon as you take the microphone. If not, stand silently with your head bowed until the inevitable shhhhs echo their way around the hall. Only start once there is complete silence.
As the first one up, you’re essentially the warm-up act – so welcome all the guests and thank them for attending the wedding, however, don’t feel you need to namecheck half the guestlist. Thanking everyone who helped prepare for the wedding or members of the family who have flown over from Jallander is actually the newlywed’s job.
Of course, do acknowledge how pleased you are to welcome your daughter’s partner to your family and extend that welcome to their parents too.
Your main job is simply to show how much your daughter is loved and wish the couple well in their new marriage. And, here’s the tricky bit, try to do that in less than 1,300 words. Yes, you’ve got to sum up a lifetime of love in less than ten minutes. MAXIMUM.
Despite your wallet maybe suggesting you’re the star of the show, remember this wedding is all about the couple themselves, so no hogging the mic.
Gather the Evidence
Start developing your speech at least a couple of months in advance, adding new material as and when it comes to you.
If your other half isn’t doing a speech, pick their brain for material about your child’s life that you may have forgotten about. Scour your photo albums and family videos to fire up your speech with things to talk about. Get your daughter’s siblings involved (and prepare for some family revelations!).
Try to find the stories and anecdotes that prove your daughter’s qualities and personality in action – the good, the bad, and the weird habits too! This is not an opportunity to list your daughter’s academic and career achievements, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime to cherish the individual she is.
Make sure you don’t simply resort to bridal cliches (beautiful, caring, thoughtful etc). While they’re important to add, it’s crucial that you give a true flavour of the unique character she is too.
Is she a gym-addict, a library-nerd, overly competitive? Describe the woman her friends and family will recognise as truly ‘her’.
And, don’t just rely on adjectives. Remember the adage ‘prove, don’t tell’. Tell the stories that show how wonderful your daughter is without you even having to say!
Make sure you’ve introduced yourself (or someone else has welcomed you to the stage), then think of a witty or humorous way to welcome all the guests to the wedding. As soon as you’ve got your first laugh, you and everyone else there will immediately relax – so get it in early!
THE TRIBUTE TO YOUR DAUGHTER
Next, start telling your favourite stories. Well, the ones that relate to your daughter at least.
Your speech is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dwell on the relationship you have with your daughter and how it’s evolved over the years. Your fondest memories, and your proudest moments.
Don’t do what a lot of Asian fathers do and just list your daughter’s academic accomplishments and extra circular achievements. This speech isn’t about showing off – it’s about showing your love and paying tribute to your daughter’s character.
It’s also the time to make people laugh. Humour really is a great bonding juice and your speech is a chance to really kick-start the party as well as pay tribute to your daughter. She will be just as proud of you if you make her groom laugh, as she will if you bring a tear to her eye.
Of course, the trick to putting your speech into the premier league is to think of a theme that links all your random anecdotes and insights into one overall narrative. Is there anything that bridges the stories, any recognisable traits in your daughter, or common thread running through them? A good speech is like good story-telling; you need a beginning, a middle and an end; a clear flow.
THE TRIBUTE TO YOUR SON-IN-LAW
As well as paying tribute to your daughter (both as a child and the woman she is today) you also need to talk about your child’s choice of spouse.
So, what were your first impressions? At what point did you decide that they’re perfect for your child? What weird things did they do that caused you concern? What are some of your daughter’s characteristics her groom should be wary of?!
Obviously, you can add more levels of teasing if you can genuinely deliver it with true affection. If you have any remaining reservations, certainly do NOT even allude to them.
Conclude your speech by offering some wise, and also humorous words of wisdom regarding a happy marriage. Wish the happy couple all the best in their life together and ask the guests to join you in a toast to their health and happiness.
Adding The Wow Factor
As you were gathering your speech content you may have come across some great visual evidence of your daughter in action.
Seeing old pictures of your child, or videos of them dancing to My Name is Lakhan at the age of 5 (or even 25!) will always invoke a good reaction from the audience.
But whilst audiovisual throwbacks definitely add to the magic, be aware that the more technology you get involved, the more likely things can go horribly wrong! You also have to be clever in how you incorporate them into your speech.
You don’t want to keep stopping and starting as you play video footage – but if you use the video as a visual backdrop as you deliver your speech (talking about how shy and retiring your daughter is as the video clearly proves otherwise!) could prove fun.
Deliver Like A Pro
Shai and the Speechy team have directed and worked with some of the biggest names in the UK television industry – from Top Gear presenters like Richard Hammond to X-Factors Sharon Osbourne and comedians like David Mitchell and the Have I Got News For You team.
We know a relaxed presentation style is simply down to confidence and rehearsal.
Here are some presentation tips…
- HAVE HUMOUR EARLY IN YOUR SPEECH – If you’re not naturally the most out-going of personalities, you’ll become more confident if you deliver some humour early in the speech and you know you’ll get people laughing from the off. In fact, most of our clients end up looking forward to getting up there and grabbing that mic (even the shy dads!).
- MEMORISE YOUR SPEECH – Well, kind of. On the day, it’s fine to use notes (even Oscar winners use notes and they’re professional actors) but at least try to memorise it in advance so you’re really familiar with the flow of it. You need to know what to emphasize, where to leave appropriate pauses and when to add a comedic eyebrow raise.
- HOW TO MEMORISE YOUR SPEECH – It’s all down to good old fashioned repetition basically. Scientists have proven if you write something out with pen (typing doesn’t count) then it’s easier to retain. Also, reading your speech out loud five times in a row. And finally, reciting your speech just before you go to bed helps lodge it in your brain!
- GET A MIC – If you’re not used to using one, try to practise with a microphone if you can. You want to avoid the amateur ‘pops’ when you hold the mic too close to your mouth. There’s also a sweet spot in terms of where you direct your mic. Have a play before the big day if you can.
- LEAVE ROOM FOR LAUGHTER – If you expect laughter, leave a pause for it and it will come. Sometimes people just need a second or two to get it. Certainly, DON’T start talking over laughter once you’ve got it! You may feel nervous but just lap up the laughter.
- EYE EYE – Eye contact is essential. Use your body to its maximum potential – use facial expressions and gestures to add comedy and emphasis where you can.
- SLOW DOWN – Talk slower than you would naturally. It will immediately make you seem more confident.
- SMILE – When in doubt, smile. It’s scientifically proven to be infectious, so make sure you maintain a hearty grin throughout your speech.
- ENJOY IT – Relish this once-in-a-lifetime moment. It’s what memories are made of.