Let me start by saying I am not a public speaker. I am not an extrovert. I am not a Toast Masters kind of person. I knew that going into my wedding speech I could not count on my charisma or humor to warm the hearts of the audience.
I’m just an introvert who wanted to convey in a convincing way how much my best friendship with the bride means to me and how important it is to me that she has found happiness. And I wanted to not completely embarrass myself. As an added bonus, it’d be nice if my speech was as good as or better than the best man’s. But I didn’t get my hopes up.
So it was to my great surprise when, after I gave my speech, I had more people than I can count on three hands come up to me and tell me that my speech was the best wedding speech they had ever heard. I don’t mean to boast, I was honestly surprised by the reception. And I take it to mean that if I can do it, then certainly, you can do it too.
Here’s how I did it.
I read articles, I listened to podcasts, I listened to and read other peoples’ speeches, I planned for months, and then I combined all of this research into one superspeech that included all the best elements of all of these other peoples’ speeches. Needless to say, it wasn’t very personal.
Don’t get me wrong. It sounded like a bridesmaid speech. I was fairly certain it ticked all the boxes, and it would have done the job just fine. But the night before the wedding, I couldn’t sleep. The speech was fine, but it wasn’t very us.
So I rewrote the entire speech in the middle of the night.
I’m gonna break it down now, but feel free to skip this if you really just want to know what I said.
Introduction – while the crowd settles down
First I opened up with a light-hearted story about the crowd. To be honest a lot of people couldn’t hear me at this point because they were still quieting down, so I’m glad it was a light throw-away story that got a few laughs from those who were listening.
Light story about the groom
Then I told a story about what the bride told me about the groom when they first started dating – this got some laughs. Lighthearted note.
Serious story about the bride and our friendship
Then I told the story of how long the bride and I have been friends, and how she’s been with me through everything, including my first heartbreak. At this point, I was making myself vulnerable to the crowd. Serious note.
Light story about the groom
I continued with the progression of their relationship, getting to know the groom and his eccentricities more.Those who knew the groom particularly liked this. Lighthearted note.
Serious note, then light note
As the relationship got more serious, I shared the concerns and fears that I had for her. Serious note. Followed by another lighthearted note.
Emotional, heartfelt epiphany
And then I crescendo’d with an emotional expression of why being around them melts my fears. And I ended on a funny, touching note that tied back to the beginning of the story.
So the formula here is light, serious, light, serious, light, emotional proclamation, heartwarming finish.
I wasn’t following a formula when I wrote this, but now that I’ve broken it down I see what I did there. And it seems to have worked. So if like me, you are a maid of honor who’s pulling her hair out and wanting to deliver a speech that hits all the right notes – or at the very least gets you through this event unscathed, then I suggest this formula.
Wondering what story to tell?
I was too. The truth is I did have a lot of fears and concerns about the relationship, so I was having a really hard time putting into words a speech that didn’t feel fake. It felt like the opposite of what I should say in my speech – “I thought he was crazy because he said he loved her after 2 weeks and then he wanted to marry her not long after that.” But in the end, that’s exactly what I decided to talk about. Because it was real. And so I talked about what had turned me into a skeptic (heartbreak) and how they showed me that stupid crazy love still exists.
If all else fails, you can give this speech. Without further ado, here it is, “the best bridesmaid speech I’ve ever heard” according to many inebriated wedding guests.
First of all I want to say thank you to everyone who tried to help me with this speech, I was really worried about it and I was asking everyone for quotes at the rehearsal because I couldn’t think of what to say, Chet your groomsmen had a lot to say but none of it was safe to say here. So I decided to skip the quotes, and I’m just going to tell you a story.
I remember getting a call, when Marisa and Chet had first started dating – it was really early on – and Marisa told me on the phone,
“I know this is going to sound crazy, but, he told me he loved me.”
And I’ll be really honest, I did think it was crazy. You’d been dating for like a month, you hardly knew each other, how could he possibly think that he was already in love? But then I thought, of course he’s falling in love with her, he’d be crazy not to. She’s literally the best person I know.
Marisa and I have been friends for over 15 years, we’ve been through a lot together, she was there for my first love, and my first heartbreak, and I think deep down I just wanted to protect her from that.
But then I met Chet, and we hung out for the first time and I got to know him a little bit better, and by the end of that meeting he told me he loved me. And I thought… this guy’s nuts!
I’m just kidding, I could easily see that his heart was so full of love for Marisa, and Marisa loves me, and so his love had overflowed. And Chet, now that I’ve met your parents I can totally see where you get your love from.
So then they’d been dating for a couple of months, I was starting to get used to the idea of this guy Chet, who loved Marisa and whose love had overflowed to me, and I got a call from Marisa. (If you can’t tell Marisa and I talk like 20 times a day). And she said, “I have something to tell you, this happened a couple of weeks ago but I haven’t told you yet because I’m still wrapping my head around it.”
And I started to get worried.
She said, “a couple of weeks ago, he told me he wants to spend the rest of his life with me.”
And I said, “withholding, flag on the field” because that’s what we say when we keep things from each other.
So they’d been dating for like 2 months, and now he’s talking about marriage. And as her best friend and the protector of her heart I’m thinking what am I supposed to do with this? She’s head over heels so she can’t see how crazy this is. Neither of them can.
So if you’re like me, and you tend to want to protect your heart, and the hearts of the people closest to you, I suggest spending a little bit of time around the two of them, and all that starts to melt away, and you remember what it’s like to love fearlessly, and generously, and boundlessly.
And so today I just want to say that Chet,
I love you too.
To Chet and Marisa
To sum it up here are a few tips I have for you nervous speech givers out there:
- Be light, then serious. Then light, then serious, light, serious, light, serious.
- Be vulnerable. It’s a fast way to endear yourself to a crowd full of strangers.
- Be repetitive. You may notice that in my speech I repeated some key words and phrases, like “protect her heart” and “crazy” and “love” throughout. This is something I picked up from queen Shonda Rhimes. If you’ve read her book or watched her shows you may notice that she and her characters speak quickly and they repeat things over and over – think Olivia in Scandal and all that white hat gladiator business. It creates a kind of rhythm that’s easy for people to follow and understand.
- Be raw. If there’s something that feels too raw to talk about, maybe that’s exactly what you need to talk about. That means there’s emotion there, and when I was completely stumped, this turned out to be the solution. But remember keep it light, serious, light, etc.
- Be brief. There’s nothing worse than wishing someone would stop talking. As you saw above, my speech was pretty short. Of course when I gave it I paused and emphasized certain words and waited for laughs to die down, but my speech totaled about 4 minutes long, and I wouldn’t really want to go any longer than that.
So that’s it. If it’s 2am the night before the wedding and you don’t have your speech written yet, there’s still hope.
Break a leg!
Photos by Nicole Ryan Photography