Remember the deliciously cringe-worthy maid of honour speech ‘duel’ between characters Annie Walker and Helen Harris in the blockbuster movie Bridesmaids? While extremely entertaining to watch, it was almost the perfect example of what not to do.
While this observation may be pretty obvious, many maids of honour do find themselves scratching their heads wondering what they should say. As a relatively new addition to the wedding speech line up, the maid of honour speech is somewhat of a blank canvas and the challenge is to not replicate what’s already being covered in other people’s speeches.
Anita Stevens, Founder of Write It For Me, who specialises in writing customised wedding speeches for members of the bridal party, says the beauty of a maid of honour speech is that without any traditional roots or official ‘duties’ to deliver, the format and approach is pretty flexible.
“You can pretty much make it your own, but ultimately you should focus your speech on two things: celebrating your friendship with the bride and celebrating her marriage”, she says.
"It doesn’t need to be a tear-jerking, gushing account of how great your friend is. The maid of honour speech can be just as entertaining, heart-warming and funny as the best man‘s – in fact, I encourage women to really try to give the best man a run for his money in the comedy department and knock it out of the park.”
Here’s Anita’s ultimate guide to writing a knockout maid of honour speech.
It might seem like a no brainer but people often forget to introduce themselves. You need to tell people who you are and explain your relationship to the bride. This gives your speech context and helps people connect with what you’re about to say.
TIP: Don’t feel like you have to open with a joke. There’s nothing worse than leading with a forced joke that falls flat. Your confidence will take a hit and you’ll create an awkward vibe that you may find hard to recover from. Let the speech and the humour build around the stories – don’t force it.
Tell a story
Like any good story, your speech needs a beginning, middle and an end. A clear, simple structure is like a road map for your audience – it helps them stay on track and if they do get distracted they won’t get lost.
TIP: Try this basic structure for a maid of honour speech.
1. Introduce yourself – Tell people who you are and your relationship with the bride.
2. Start with the bride – Talk about why she’s a good person and friend. Don’t just say, “She’s really great”, share a story about why she’s great.
3. Share the love story – Share your version of how they met. What was her impression? What did she say? How did YOU know she had met The One?
4. Compliment the groom – Say some nice things about the groom. Why he’s great for your friend, share some of the nice things he does for her.
5. Celebrate the couple – Why they are great together, how their lives have changed for the better.
6. Share some words of advice - Wish them wonderful things for the future or offer some pearls of wisdom. You could also insert a quote or poem at this point.
7. Toast to the bride and groom - Raise your glass and say: “Here’s to the happy couple”, take and sip and you’re all done.
Inject humour but don’t force it
Working humour into a speech is probably the hardest part. The best way to approach it is to write everything down and then look for the comedy. It might be a story about the bride or how the happy couple met. Comedy is everywhere – look to your stories and friends for inspiration if you’re having trouble.
TIP: If you’re not comfortable telling jokes or being funny then don’t. A genuine heartfelt speech beats try-hard humor every time. Be true to who you are. Oh and avoid internet jokes because a) they’re mostly terrible and b) people have heard them a million times.
Practice but don’t memorise
Don’t feel you have to memorise your speech because you will only trip yourself up if you try. That’s not to say you shouldn’t practice. You should – a LOT. The trick is to know your speech well enough so that you only need to refer to your notes to jog your memory. The more you can look up and connect with the audience, the better.
TIP: When you practice you must read your speech out loud. You need to get a feel for the rhythm and it will help you weed out any awkward phrases and words that may trip you up.
Go easy on the anecdotes
One or two anecdotes are enough. Avoid private or in-jokes because you will alienate people in the audience. Even if you fancy yourself as quite the entertainer, one or two good stories told well are much better than five average ones that seem to go on forever.
TIP: Avoid stories about drunken nights out or other really embarrassing moments. A little bit of embarrassment is funny but telling everyone about the time the bride wet her pants at school camp is not a good idea.
Less is more
There’s nothing worse than a long wedding speech. Weddings guests are there for a good time, not a long time, and chances are you are not the only one speaking at the event. Brevity is good.
TIP: Aim to speak for no longer than five minutes. Any longer and you will probably start to see people looking at their watch or heading for the bar.
Be sure you've got it right - get it written!
If you’re not a great public speaker or writer, why not hire a professional speechwriter to help you write your speech? Your bride and the guests will appreciate the gesture and you can relax and enjoy the event knowing you have the right words for your friend’s big day. Contact Anita at Write It For Me.
Most of all, remember a wedding is a happy occasion and the audience is having fun and they WANT you to succeed – so have some fun with it!
Feature Image: Jenny Sun Photography