We’ve all experienced it. The wedding where the speeches went on and on…and on and on and on. At my cousin’s wedding, after the ninth speaker took the microphone and we closed an hour’s worth of toasting, I had to excuse myself to splash some water on my face. Yes, speeches are important and impactful, but they don’t need to go on forever.
Richard Branson wrote, “When will people realize that a short speech is so much better than a long speech? Most of what anybody has to say of great note can fit on one side of paper.” I love this sentiment because it’s so true. And this applies to many different types of speeches, but especially weddings. So if you’re preparing to toast the bride and groom, here’s why your speech needs to be five minutes or less:
1. You’re probably not the only one speaking. Don’t forget that you will likely be one of many people speaking at the wedding. At a minimum, typically the father of the bride, best man and maid of honor deliver a tribute, but at many weddings other family members and friends may be on the docket. It’s a good idea to find out in advance who else will be taking the microphone. The more speakers there are, the shorter your speech should be.
2. You can say a lot in 500 words. There’s a lot you can share in 500-750 words. Remember that a wedding toast isn’t an opportunity to tell a life story. Pick 2-3 main points or anecdotes to share, or one interesting theme to thread throughout. Say what’s necessary to make your point and leave it at that. There’s no need for fancy words or flowery prose; just be yourself and speak from the heart.
3. You’re not the main event. It’s important to remember that speeches are one of a series of moments throughout the celebration. Most weddings are carefully timed and choreographed to showcase a number of noteworthy elements like first dance, cutting of the cake, throwing the bouquet and more. Although it may feel like speakers are under intense pressure to deliver a killer toast, it’s a good idea to keep in perspective that the most important moment is when the bride and groom say, “I do.”
4. Guests don’t have the stamina for anything more. After five minutes, it’s natural that people’s attention starts to wander. It’s nothing personal; it’s human nature. So do yourself a favor and leave your audience wanting more, not less.
5. There’s dancing and partying left to do! Keeping your speech short and sweet allows everyone to return to the celebration. Chances are that most people won’t remember exactly what you said, but how the speech made them feel. Take the time to prepare and leave them with a good feeling as they head back to the dance floor.
If it’s your turn to toast the newlyweds, make sure to write out your speech in advance and then actually practice aloud while timing yourself. This is a sure fire way to make sure that you don’t overstay your welcome. It also gives you a chance to make sure that you’re delivering a speech to remember…for all the right reasons, of course.