“I wasn’t going to give a speech,” says the bride, wobbling to her feet, “but seeing as you’re all here…”
Quite apart from playing havoc with the sweepstake on how long the speeches were going to last, this kind of announcement strikes fear into the hearts of many guests. How much champagne has the bride had? Did she prepare anything to say? Will she – God forbid – cry? Will she cry to the point where she hyperventilates and we all have to politely sit and watch her turn into a 5’3″ meringue of emotion?
The fact is, we just don’t trust women to speak in public. It’s not their job. We don’t expect them to be funny, and frankly, without the funny, there is no wedding speech. That’s why it’s the job of the bride and bridesmaids to sit there and look pretty, and the job of the groom, best man and father of the bride to stand up and thank them repeatedly for looking so pretty.
And yet, in a society where women have had the vote for nearly 100 years, and seem to be doing pretty well in education and at work, there is this growing feeling that it’s OK for them to speak for themselves. Even at their own symbolic handing-over from one man to another. When you think of it – women are taking over many of the roles that have traditionally been reserved for men at weddings. Mothers of the bride speak in the absence of the fathers, best men may be best women, and many brides even pay for their own receptions.
Brides to be tend to have a strong line on whether they want to give a speech or not. Many will err on the side of tradition and keep schtum, which enables them to get through the day without the tension of worrying about a speech, and allows them to drink what they please. Most crucially, most brides are wearing 5″ strappy heels that they’ve never worn in their lives before and won’t be able to focus on anything but the shooting pains in their feet while standing up.
But where a bride-to-be has expressed a strong will to say a few words, I urge grooms, fathers and so on to swallow that cry of “Iron my shirt!” and respect her wishes. Sure, you can offer her a few pointers if you’re a more experienced public speaker than she is (see Brownie Points), but you’ve presumably chosen this woman knowing that she has her own mind and may even have decided that you like her because of this.
So when that dreaded moment happens, and the lady in white gets up to say something, smile supportively and remember to laugh at all her jokes just as you would at your mate’s. One of the many, many weird things about women is that once she knows you’re happy for her to be her own person, she’ll compromise on almost anything.
If your lady’s keen to make a speech but worried about what to say (and as stated women have to be funnier, because no one’s expecting the gags), send her towards Burn The Toast. They’ll sort her out with a few pointers or even write the whole thing for her.
Compare notes if both the bride and groom are planning to speak; you don’t have to go into it too much, but make sure there’s no crossover as it’s boring for guests. Stick to the rule of thumb for grooms which is that the speech should last between 5 and 8 minutes.
Even if she hasn’t raised the idea, ask your wife-to-be if she wants to make a speech, and if not, discuss together what you both want your speech to say. It’ll be the first thing you do together as a married couple: without wishing to be girlie… ahhhhhh!