You’re freshly married to the love of your life, emotions have been running high after years of anticipation … and now you have to give the groom’s speech.
I think people underestimate the significance of the groom’s speech. The Father is seen as sentimental and the Best Man is seen as the entertainment and somehow, the groom’s speech is seen as filler. One groom event said to me that the groom’s speech was simple; you just said a few thank yous and sit down again.
Well that would be a pity.
Let’s be fair, most British men are not forthcoming with emotion. I know I’m certainly not. There never seems to be an appropriate time to say the things you know to be truly felt but not consciously considered. This one (hopefully), five minute moment in your life is the greatest chance you’ll have to properly articulate how much you are grateful, indebted, besotted, bewitched, humbled, inspired, amused by or downright in love with those closest to you.
Ever told your mum how much she means to you? Ever really, properly, put down in words why you love your new wife so deeply? Probably not. Cometh the hour, cometh the man full of emboldened emotional frankness.
That does not say that you have to gush, indeed restraint can lend more power to displays of emotion than the waterworks being turned up to 100%.
So what, technically, should you cover in a groom’s speech? As ever, we consult Debretts;
First the groom must thank the father of the bride (or equivalent) on behalf of himself and his new wife for the speech – the reference to his ‘wife’ usually raises a cheer from the crowd.
He must then thank the guests for coming, the bride’s parents (if they are hosting the wedding), his parents for raising him and the best man for supporting him. He can also present both mothers (if applicable) with bouquets. He then says a few words about his beautiful new wife. The groom should finish his speech with a toast to ‘the bridesmaids’.
Now, wishing to be original is one thing, but as acknowledged above the cheer is almost a tradition, so you can choose how to play that one.
So how to go about writing the speech. As with the Best Man Speech, we have certain processes to go through;
The groom’s speech is really just a series of thank yous, but built around that is the opportunity for providing valuable content to your guests. You know that you are going to express gratitude and fondness for your bride, your best man/men/woman, your parents, your parents in law (hopefully) and all the various contributors to your day. But have you really thought about everything you are grateful for? I’m not going to go all Tony Robbins on you at the moment and talk about “practising gratitude” but it’s an interesting exercise to take a sheet of paper per important person and have a think about what you would thank them for. Not restricting this to any one person, because it is equally applicable, you could be grateful for; their help in difficult times, their awful sense of humour, something they have taught you, something they gave you, etc. Get it all down on paper and then you have a clear idea of what can form the basis of your speech.
Now boil down that list into the key points. You might find that you are actually looking to thank them for a broad theme and that many of the individual items you have written on your list will actually serve more as examples of that. An example of this might be; thanking your best man for always having your back, but the examples might be him helping you through a break up by coming round to your house and eating all your food so you had other things to worry about, or by being a 6’8″ guy with no money who took the Megabus (other cramped buses are available) through the night to help you out when your mum was ill. But work out one or two main points for anyone you want to thank from that big list.
In this case you wouldn’t necessarily structure the Groom’s speech around a theme. The structure is probably more likely to be a chronological affair. Now, the structure (as advocated for by Debrettes) which seems most common, and for good reason, is;
- Thanks FOTB for his speech.
- Thanks to all attendees for coming, noting significant pilgrimages from overseas/great distance.
- Thanks to ushers.
- Thanks to suppliers if desired, though we would suggest leaving this out because, from our point of view, we’re being rewarded for our work financially and prefer you to keep your speech personal to those that matter to you).
- Thanks to parents in law
- Thanks to parents
- Thanks to best man (90% of the time including a stock joke about them being a compulsive liar, in advance of their speech)
- Thanks to new bride
- Thanks to bridesmaids and toast to bridesmaids to finish.
Now, adopt the above if it helps. However, don’t be afraid to rearrange it slightly depending on your personal preference. I moved the toast to the bridesmaids into the first third, in order to pay it due care but also to put it into a place more in keeping with the “build” of the speech. To my mind, your speech should aim to build towards the most important thing about the wedding day, your love and relationship for your new spouse. To go from that emotional high point to then toast the bridesmaids is a sort of deflating anti-climax, almost an afterthought and wouldn’t do them justice.
So you’ve worked out the order in which you’ll talk about people and you’ve prioritised what you want to say, now is the time to write it. Really, you”ll have pretty much written it already so it’s more a matter of putting some meat on the bones of your notes. Don’t worry too much about keeping it short at the minute but 1000 words equals ten minutes roughly so that’s a decent guide. (NB: this article is 1400 words long, as an example).
Take that 1000 words and try to reduce it. Aim for 500. You won’t get there but it’s a good way of asking yourself if every word is necessary. Then. put it away in a drawer (literally or figuratively/virtually) and leave it for a week.
Take it back out of your aforementioned drawer and get yourself a red pen. Now, read your text out loud. If you stumble over any words or find them to be awkward/unnatural, draw a line through them. Do this a couple of times and you’ll have a speech which sounds natural and genuine, even if you read the whole thing off the sheet.
When I say perform, I don’t mean jazz hands (though feel free to do so). I mean delivery really, but then that sounds like the fella from DHL dropping off your parcel. In truth it’s simple; just try saying what you are going to say. Imagine not that you are saying it to a room full of people. Imagine, and actually do when the times comes, that you are going to say what you have written to say about special people, to them. Now, you probably want everyone to hear you and this is where projecting your voice comes in – NB: if they give you a microphone, this isn’t an issue – This sounds technical and actorly, but I’ve found two simple mental tricks help me get my body to do the physical work of projecting for me;
- Imagine that you are trying to do a lob shot with your voice. Think of it as a tennis ball, football, whatever. If you stood on a line and tried to hit a shot to a point 30 metres away, you would hit it so that it had an arcing path. The ball’s trajectory would fall to ground if you didn’t do that. Think of your voice doing the same thing. If you direct the force of your voice to a point in the air somewhere over the heads of your audience, about halfway into the room, you’ll find it carries better, because you are using more force to get it there,
- Pay attention to where you feel the effort of speaking in your body. Is voice throat doing all the work, vibrating, straining, but your chest and stomach are completely at rest? In that case you’re making life hard for yourself. Take a deep breath so that your belly expands without your shoulders rising and speak, this time try to lower the point of vibration/effort down to your chest. In doing so, you’re effectively using the force of a industrial leaf blower as opposed to a narrow hair drier.
Enjoy it. Everyone in that room is rooting for you, no one will judge you harshly. There is zero pressure and, not that you will, but if ever there was a safe audience to fluff your lines in front of, that’d be it.
And book us to make sure it is recorded for posterity.