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What TV Taught Me About Wedding Speeches

What TV Taught Me About Wedding Speeches

Speechy's Founder, Heidi Ellert-McDermott worked as a producer and director in TV before setting up Speechy. Here, she reveals the scriptwriting techniques she still deploys today...

(*Of course, if you’re looking for more than ‘advice’, check out all the different ways the Speechy team can help you write & deliver a great speech. Or check out our new AI-powered team member, SpeechyAI.)

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Working in telly for 15 years taught me a few things…

  • The ‘green room’ always has free alcohol.
  • The sets are shabbier than they look on screen.
  • The BBC canteen does good bacon rolls.

But getting back to wedding speeches…

Write for your Audience

Whether it was prime time comedy shows I was producing or light-weight fluff like The One Show, I learnt to write for my audience. My natural humour might be on the Scottish sarcasm scale but that wouldn’t really cut it when I was directing a film with Dan Snow about the latest archaeology dig. Then, I was on my best behaviour and trying my best to get excited about finding an old spoon.

Of course, audiences expect different things at different times and it’s the role of any wedding speaker to adjust accordingly. Yes, be yourself, but only to a degree.

Never Underestimate Your Audience

After producing the same TV show for six months it’s tempting to think ‘that will do’ occasionally but when you’re a freelance scriptwriter and the ratings come in overnight, you know that’s not an option. Audiences recognise lazy writing. In wedding terms, they can sniff out if you’ve used a free template and can only moan when they hear the usual old jokes. Remember if you’ve heard the humour before, so has everyone else.

Heidi Ellert-McDermott and Eamonn Holmes With Speechy

Tell a Story

This is key. Whether I was writing a topical comedy piece for David Mitchel, a consumer item for Martin Lewis or just trying to make Sharon Osbourne sound lucid, my script would always tell a story. Sometimes the story would be a 30 min programme, sometimes a 3 min item within a show  – whatever, it had to engage people from the start, keep them hooked and end in a climax.

In wedding speech terms, you need to think about a theme before you start writing anything. Rather than just trying to connect a series of thank yous and ‘to dos’, think about the story you want to tell first, and then fit them in accordingly. Read more about themes on our Speech Advice pages.

Heidi Ellert-McDermott

Shorter is Sweeter

Everything is better shorter (insert anatomy joke of choice). Stories are better succinct and jokes are 100 times better the punchier they are. (Ironically it was Adrian Chiles who taught me that, who despite his presenting career suggesting otherwise, is surprisingly funny and not actually that grumpy.)

When it comes to wedding speeches, once I write a first draft I always challenge myself to cut it down by a third. It’s amazing how much waffle can lurk in there. As Earnest Hemingway said ‘the first draft of anything is shit’.

You Have Less Time Than You Think

Yes, even when I was working on daily shows, when I knew I had less than 24 hours to write the script, order the props, brief the presenters and fit in a loo break, I’d still think I had loads of time. I’d start my day by looking through the papers, waiting to be creatively inspired and well basically buggering around. This does not help.

The key to ‘divine inspiration’ is getting on with it. Only once you properly engage in writing your speech (googling advice doesn’t count I’m afraid) will the creative part of your noggin kick in. So start now. It doesn’t matter if the wedding’s still three months away, if new events happen you can add them in. The fact you’ve started will, however, mean that over the next few months you’ll notice more great content.

wedding speech Heidi Ellert-McDermott Expert

Everyone’s Different

Yes even presenters. They come in all shapes and sizes (though generally smaller than they seem on screen). There’s good ones, fun ones, grumpy ones, inapt ones, really inspiring ones, ones you quite fancy and even ones who become your friend and help you get into swanky clubs where you can’t actually afford to buy a drink but the loos are really nice.

Whether it was Mel Giedroyc or Richard Hammond I was working with, it was important to appreciate their personal style and work around it. Some on screen talent had the power to make a pencil seem exciting, others liked to ad lib, others had photographic memories. Writing for them meant understanding their skills and exploiting those strengths.

Becoming a wedding speech writer has made me appreciate even more how different people are. I love getting to know the clients I work with and making sure the speech reflects the person they are and the couple they’re celebrating. It’s kind of obvious but no two people are the same so why should their speeches be?

The Speechwriting Experts

The Speechy team are TV-trained scriptwriters/comedians by trade & we’ve helped 1,000s of speakers around the world deliver their dream speech.

Our advice has been quoted everywhere from The New York Times to Grazia and from Forbes to The Observer. Our founder has also featured on the BBC Sounds’ Best Men podcast with Jason Manford and written ‘The Modern Couple’s Guide to Wedding Speeches’, published by Little, Brown.

Heidi and the Speechy Team

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''I had an unbelievable experience working with Speechy. From the moment I got in touch with them I felt supported and come the day of my best mans speech, it went down a storm with a standing ovation.''
''Speechy deserves more than 5 stars. (They) produced a factual, funny Mother of the Bride speech with just the right amount of emotion..... it was ingenious. Thank you so much for the wonderful & priceless memory of having delivered my speech at my daughter’s wedding and nailed it ... and got a standing ovation too. My children were very proud of me, including my new son-in-law! ''
''These Guys are tremendous! One main point is that its not their speech - its yours! This is because it is based totally around what you would like to say, but its the spin that Speechy puts on it, that is the magical bit... Ordinary words become a hilariously entertaining event. There were giggles, applauds, laughs, tears, cheers and standing ovation – all in that order!''
''Feeling anxious or stressed about an upcoming speech? Look no further than Speechy... I just delivered my Best Man speech this past weekend and absolutely crushed it. I was nervous leading up to the moment, but while delivering my speech, I didn't want the experience to end, the room was hooked, and laughing at every joke. Worth every penny... Thank you!''
''Navigating through the wedding industry often feels like you’re stuck on a conveyer belt....Speechy is the complete opposite. They treat you and your wedding like you’re the one and only. I couldn’t recommend them more.''
''Heidi and the whole team at Speechy are an absolute gem! In addition to their talent and extensive experience in speech writing, Heidi had an impressive way of listening to me talk about mine and my partners personal anecdotes, before putting it in such a funny and beautiful way that it felt as though she’d known us for years.''
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