We featured, real bride, Ashely's wedding a little while ago and loved her writing style. Ashley made a speech on her wedding day, which we know lots of our amazing brides do, but there's just nothing out there online to help and support you. This is why we've invited Ashley to talk about her bride's speech today. Enjoy this feature, it's a cracking article and I'm excited to hear all about the fabulous speeches you'll be making on your wedding day.
How To Write A Brides Speech
There’s a paradox hidden at the centre of the Wedding Complex. It is mostly women who run this industry - mostly women who plan the weddings, mostly women who design and make and sell the dresses, mostly women who bake the cakes, and mostly women who write these blogs. But when it comes to wedding day speeches, women are mostly silent. Why? In a highly unscientific poll of my own friends and family, the reasons seem to fall into two camps: fear and/or tradition. Now, I can’t promise that this article will cure you of either - but it can’t hurt to try. Because silence is no longer the only option. When my partner and I got engaged on a mountaintop in Canada, I wrote most of my bride's speech the following day. In truth, I wrote my vows first. But those were just a sketch of me giving him one of my fries (the most romantic thing a person can do for someone else). I got to the bride's speech soon after. I wanted to get down all my thoughts and feelings about this person I was going to marry before we ever had a single conversation about colour scheme (there wasn’t one) or budget (there might as well not have been one), or any other distracting wedding day details. Suddenly, I thought, ‘Hold on, this is a big occasion. There’s probably some etiquette I’m missing - something the bride is expected to say at her own wedding. I should look this up - I don’t want to offend anyone.’ Little did I know. After a quick Google search revealed just one flimsy advice column tagged with the heading ‘Unusual Weddings’, I realised there wasn’t much help out there at all. As it turns out, brides don’t often give speeches. Which meant I got to say exactly what I wanted. And this is what I learned:
Don’t take yourself too seriously
This is probably the most important lesson. If you can do this one thing, then a great deal of the fear and pressure of public speaking will melt away. But it’s not easy. Our society expects brides to get hitched without a hitch - to pull off their ‘perfect day’ without so much as a hair out of place. It’s no wonder then, that brides don’t want to attempt to deliver a brides speech in the face of such uncompromising standards. But, if you are able to embrace a little messiness; to show humour and grace when you mix up your words or smudge your mascara, and allow yourself to be you - not some idealised princess who is beautiful but mute - then the rest will come much more naturally. And it’ll be a lot more fun when it does.
There is a sort of tyranny with traditional wedding speeches. For some unknown reason, so many men seem contractually obligated to analyse their relationships through the prism of the Lad Bible. It’s painful (and not terribly funny) watching schoolteachers and accountants, fathers and brothers, try to wear the swagger and casual misogyny of a mid-2000s Dane Cook. That same cringe factor also keeps women away from the microphone. They don’t fancy themselves a comedian, or maybe they don’t fancy sharing a stage with a half-rate one. But just remember: it’s funnier if it feels true. It’s about being authentic and observant and poking a little fun at the people you love most, including yourself (see lesson #1). As a chatterbox who likes to spend her time talking about feminism, this is the joke I told to open my own brides speech: So. Here we are. The last speech of the night. Don’t worry - this will be quick. Just a 35-minute exploration of the complicated politics of feminism and heteronormative marriage. Nah. I’m just kidding. (Pause) It’s only 23 minutes. Okay, so I’m not going to be hired on Saturday Night Live anytime soon. But who cares? Your wedding guests are perhaps the safest crowd you’ll ever have. Why not be a little playful and try out some new material?
Unless you’re Adele (and maybe even if you are Adele), I really don’t suggest singing your brides speech. However, there’s a lot we can learn from the craft of songwriting, not least how effective songs are in delivering powerful messages in limited time. Not everything requires a full backstory or exposition. Sometimes, you just have to get to the heart of the matter. To illustrate, this is how I thanked my parents that night: Mama and Dad - For dropping me off two blocks away from the school gates on the night of the middle school dance For sending me a singing telegram (a woman in a gorilla costume) for my 18th birthday For being the loudest, most enthusiastic cheerleader at every game For turning up - in coveralls, straight off a helicopter - to get there in time to see me perform in the school play For being the bow to my arrow For letting us do this our way And for teaching me that marriage is about nurturing a beautiful, complicated and unconditional love - a love that takes commitment, forgiveness and, apparently, fart jokes to sustain For that and for everything else, thank you. Telling each one of those stories would have taken far too long. But deploying a repetitive songwriting technique meant I could get through decades worth of content in an economical 30 seconds.
A bride giving a speech may have Emily Post rolling in her grave, but that doesn’t have to mean we forego all wedding day traditions. Most other speeches involve expressions of thanks to those who have helped make the event happen. If you’re struggling with what to write - or if you’re more private and don’t want to bare your soul - use the tradition of saying simple ‘thank yous’ to frame your brides speech. It is a very meaningful gesture to stand up in front of your loved ones and declare your genuine gratitude to your friends, family and in-laws.
Your wedding is a #nokids kind of affair? Fine. Then do it for the photos. So when your future child (or someone’s future child) happens to be flicking through your wedding album, they will see you holding a microphone. They will see you, on one of the most important days of your life, speaking for yourself. Do not underestimate the effect this can have. Part of the reason brides don’t give speeches is that we didn’t have any examples of it in our own lives. Now’s your chance to be that example for someone else.
In the weeks and months leading up to our wedding, people spent a lot of time reminding us that ‘it’s just one day’. The implication, of course, was that we shouldn’t fret too much about the wedding because it’s the marriage that would really count. And I see what they were saying, I really do. But I have a little quibble. Because wedding days and marriages are actually very similar: For starters, everything costs more than you thought it would. And nothing is as good in real life as it looked online. On wedding days and in marriages, you have to constantly negotiate and reject and reimagine and tear up outdated gender norms (which is exhausting, but important). For weddings and marriages, you should think hard about your environmental footprint. And at the end of the day, you’ll still be a total hypocrite. Both wedding days and marriages are largely about schedules and traffic and the London tube map and love and laughter and in-laws and whether or not to invite kids to the party. They each see a great deal of joy; a few tears; a few surprises; too much wine; stealing a few quiet moments alone together; and probably being too tired for sex :| In many ways, your wedding day can be a blueprint of the marriage that will follow. It’s the first day of the rest of your lives together. Why not start it on as you mean to go on? Why not share every part of it - including the responsibility of giving a speech - with your partner? It will be scary. Most things worth doing usually are. But both fears and traditions are only as powerful as we let them be. They fill vacuums. They fill the silence. To take away their power, all you have to do is find your voice.