The Perfect Wedding Speech 101

Text ALLEN LEUNG Illustration DREWSCAPE, www.drewscape.net

The Perfect Wedding Speech 101We hear couples making “thank you” speeches like those at the Oscar’s in wedding dinners more often now. Why are couples finding it hard but necessary to do so? What is the tradition behind them and where can they seek help to make that perfect speech?

When Leslie and Fanny, both young doctors, got married after a six-year-long courtship two years ago, the most difficult task for them at their wedding was making their “thank you” speeches during the church solemnization ceremony and later at the dinner celebration.

Saying ‘xie xie’, or thank you to their friends who helped them organize the wedding was easy. But expressing their gratitude to their parents who brought them up, attended to their needs all the years of their lives was hard to do, especially when they stood before all their friends and relatives.

Recalling that memorable evening at the five-star Marriot Hotel in Orchard Road where they had their wedding banquet, Leslie, now 32, and his wife Fanny, 28, said they spent many sleepless nights agonizing over the words in their “thank you” speech to both their parents, not because they had to, but because they wanted to.

“I think it was important we say so in public to show that we really appreciate all that they had done,” added Leslie.

In the end, they stole the show with their very sincere and emotional speeches, touching the hearts of many, especially both Leslie’s and Fanny’s parents who evidently shed tears of delight.

Like Leslie and Fanny, Daniel, a 40-year-old boss of a film post-production house, said when he got married 10 years ago, he even hired a speech writer to help him pen that “thank you” speech to his parents simply because his father had given him everything he needed, including expenses for his wedding banquet amounting to nearly $100,000.

Besides screening a video showing the newly-weds’ past, how they met and courted, and highlights of the big day’s events, guests at wedding dinners are increasingly hearing more brides and grooms and even their bridesmaids and best men speak.

Gone are the days when the bride was supposed to look pretty and quiet and the groom could do better drinking than talking. Some of them even took the opportunity to present their parents with gifts, from jewelry and overseas holiday packages to just a bouquet of flowers for mum and a shirt or tie for dad.

The Western tradition of making wedding speeches is catching on with the young in Singapore and many other Asian countries as a new generation of better-educated newly-weds becomes more articulate and independent minded.

“Yes, there is an increasing trend of the wedding entourage that gave speeches, including those by the best man, bridesmaids and even the parents,” said Anna Lim, a wedding planner from Spellbound Wedding.

She noted that “the grooms are normally the ones who give the speech, but the bride will also say something too. If it’s bilingual, the groom will speak in one language and the bride in another.”

A survey W&T did to check out how exactly the speeches were made at more than a dozen wedding dinners recently showed couples here were not following the traditional Western style of making wedding speeches to the letter.

In a traditional English wedding for example, the purpose of wedding speeches is to congratulate the couple, wish them well in their future life together and to thank the appropriate people for their efforts in making the wedding a success.

They included the toasts, which occur after the last course of the dinner, followed by the cake-cutting ceremony and then the first dance on the floor led by the newly-wed couple.

The bride’s father who gave his daughter away to the groom is usually the first to speak, giving a story of the bride’s early life and events leading to the wedding before congratulating the groom for taking his daughter’s hand and to ask for their happiness.

It is followed by the bride and groom who will thank the bride’s father for his daughter’s hand and then showing happiness for having such a lovely bride, praise her parents for bringing up their daughter so well at the same time.

In his speech, the groom will also thank his own parents for his upbringing and usually tell an amusing story about how he met the bride or any problems that they have to overcome before the big day. Then, he will go on to thank all those who helped him in the wedding preparations and finally the guests for their presence and gifts before a toast to the “bridesmaids”.

The bride may or may not speak to thank her parents and her husbands’, but the best man’s speech is often the most anticipated so it is generally saved till the last.

As most of the necessary thanks have been said, he has the opportunity to entertain the guests with witty comments and interesting stories, especially those pertaining to the newly-wed couple. Lastly, he will present a toast to both the host and hostess.

The adapted version of wedding speeches practiced in Asian societies and including Singapore’s, is quite different from the traditional Western one.

In Asian weddings, the bride’s father is seldom a speaker. The bride and groom are the centre of attraction. It is the groom’s speech which is often more important, though increasingly the bride’s voice is also heard.

Essentially, it is an occasion for the bride and groom to thank their parents and friends for helping them organize the wedding and guests for their attendance and gifts or Hongbaos.

Unlike in the West, at wedding dinners of Asian couples, especially the Chinese, the toast to the newly-weds, usually by an announcer or the master of ceremony, is offered after the speeches are made during the dinner, usually after the third of a 10-course feast.

The practice is to toast three times consecutively. All the guests are usually requested to stand as they raise their glasses high for each toast yelling the words, “yum seng” – meaning drinking to victory or success.

No book on the Asian or Chinese wedding etiquette and speeches has been written, but there are plenty published on the Western way.

Some of the more popular ones published recently include How To Write Wedding Speeches & Toasts by Barbara Jeffrey and Natasha Reed (Foulsham),One-liners For Wedding Speeches by Mitch Murray (Foulsham) and Making A Wedding Speech by John Bowden (How To Books).

Besides Making A Wedding Speech, John Bowden also wrote and published related titles including Making The Best Man’s Speech, Making The Bride-groom’s Speech and Making The Father of The Bride’s Speech, all published by How To Books.

Author John Bowden in his book, Making A Wedding speech, said the principles behind a good wedding speech are no different from those for other occasions. There must be an opening, a body middle or the main message and a closing. The aim is to communicate with the audience, to establish a dialogue with them and to turn them from just listeners into participants.

How? He explained: “By involving them. By making them laugh. By making them cry. By allowing them not only to hear your speech but also to experience it.”

He asked whoever making the speech, except the one by the bride herself, to remember these three words, KISS THE BRIDE.

Firstly, the word, KISS is simply the abbreviations for Keep It Short and Simple.

He said one shouldn’t be suffering from the illusion that he or she can turn a speech immortal by making it everlasting. After all, he pointed out, the story of the Creation in the Bible is told in just 400 words, or over three minutes.

So his advice is: “Try to say everything you need to in less than 650 words, which is about five minutes.” In wedding speeches, he believed size, or the duration of the speech, does matter. And no speech can be entirely bad if it is short enough.

The second and third words, THE BRIDE, he said, should remind all speaking on the wedding day that it is her big day. So don’t spoil it by embarrassing her or by knocking the institution of marriage.

Kiss the bride and you can’t go wrong.

In Barbara Jeffrey’s and Natasha Reed’s book, How To Write Wedding Speeches & Toasts, they said that unless one is a gifted public speaker, every bride’s father, bride-groom or the best man making a speech should do some research and write out a draft of the speech before making it on the big day.

Here are some quick questions to ask while doing the research, especially for the bride’s father and best man:
•        How long have you known the couple?
•        How did they meet each other?
•        How did he propose and what was her immediate response?
•        How long have they been together?
•        What three words come to mind when you think of the groom/bride?
•        Are there common interests they share?

The book also suggests searching the web or Internet which contains a whole host of information on speech writing. Just typing the words, “writing wedding speeches” into the search engine Google will probably result in over 200,000 hits.

Some great websites the authors recommended include:

www.confetti.co.uk which offers free planning advice for the big day. The wedding speeches section (under Weddings) contains tips, sample speeches, toasts and an A-Z of jokes and one-liners.

www.hitched.co.uk/speeches offers a free advice on every aspect of getting married. Here you can find quotes, readings, delivery tips and example of speeches for the bride’s father, the bride-groom and the best man.

www.presentationhelper.co.uk/wedding_speech.htm offers articles and free advice on writing speeches, as well as model speeches for the whole wedding party including the bride’s.

www.youandyourwedding.co.uk is created by one of UK’s best-read wedding magazines. It offers features, advice, chat rooms and all kinds of up-to-date information on weddings.

While information, tips and advice and even model wedding speeches are now so easily available in this modern age, the important thing is not to be carried away with all the information out there.

You must be selective and choose materials that are appropriate to your own wedding. Don’t just copy speeches wholesale and blindly for they will lack originality and won’t sound either natural or personal. The secrets to good wedding speeches, whether for the bride’s father, the groom and bride and the best man, may be just a click away.

So turn on your computer now and get your mouse ready.