I don’t know about you, but for me, reception speeches and toasts are one of the things I look forward to most during a wedding. Contrary to what people may think, it’s pretty hard to give a bad wedding speech. Because the emotional tone of the setting itself plus the loveliness of a longtime friend or family member telling intimate stories about the couple of the hour just happens to be naturally charming, no matter how creative or simple the speech ends up being. Even so, cringeworthy wedding speeches are a trope for a reason—they do happen, and they are brutal.
Luckily, there are some easy ways (that are still kind!) to safeguard your reception from bad wedding speeches—here’s how:
Touch base on the speeches beforehand.
Obviously you can’t tell your speakers what you want them to talk about in their speeches, but you can touch base with them before the big day so there are no bad wedding speech surprises, and you can ask them to leave out certain things (e.g., that one night in college you drank too much, that embarrassing moment in spin class, etc.). The best way to approach this is to simply be honest: Remind your speaker that you trust them and don’t want to micromanage, but also are trying to make sure the content of their speeches won’t stress you out or anyone else in attendance. If they know you’re actively involved, they’ll be less likely to take any wild risks in their speeches.
Have someone you trust offer an objective consultation.
Sure, you can’t see your maid of honor’s speech ahead of time and critique it (do not do this), but your mutual friend can. Enlist someone you trust, who knows you as well as the person giving the speech, to offer an editor’s eye to the speech-maker prior to the wedding. Let them be your eyes and ears to make sure there is nothing in the speech that could make it go south. Ask them to evaluate the speech both as a guest and as a proxy for you. Again, this is not about being critical, but rather, it’s about gaining confidence that your wedding speeches won’t hold any upsetting or awkward surprises—without actually having to spoil the surprise of the speech itself!
Create a time limit.
It’s a simple equation—the less time a speech goes on, the less there is an opportunity for something yiiikes to happen. And actually, one of the most common reasons a bad wedding speech can get awkward isn’t related to its contents at all, but rather to its length—we’ve all been to that wedding with the 30-minute MOH speech that keeps seeming like it will end but never actually does. So, when asking your loved ones to participate as speakers, give a gentle suggestion of a time window to stick within—experts suggest 10 minutes, but you should shoot for whatever is comfortable for you, your partner and the vibe of your wedding. Obviously, no one will be timing these or setting off buzzers if your speakers go over like at a Presidential Debate, it’s just helpful for everyone to have a few constraints to work within.
Keep speakers fed and hydrated.
A drunk speech is an unpredictable speech. And while it wouldn’t be fair to keep your speakers away from the booze if everyone else is imbibing freely, it’s smart to make sure your speakers have all of the necessities to stay sober-ish until after their speech. This means making sure they’re well fed (wedding mornings can be hectic for everyone and it’s easy to forget to eat!) and hydrated (have water as plentiful as possible during your wedding morning and ceremony). These are little details but they can make a world of difference to someone who’s nervous about an upcoming speech and might turn to cocktails as a means of chilling themselves out (who among us hasn’t?).
Be selective about who speaks.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but in the hustle and bustle of wedding planning, you might get swept up and lose track of who you’ve asked to speak. Instead of making it a given (“Duh, you should totally give a speech at my wedding!”) make speaker selections as persnickety as you would make your wedding party picks. Think long and hard about the relationship you have with this person and about their creative and public speaking abilities, and choose speakers based on that—instead of simply choosing who you’ve known the longest. And don’t say yes to ideas you’re not totally in love with—like having all seven of your bridesmaids deliver a speech along with the MOH. Remember, even though speeches are wonderful gifts given to you by the people you love, it’s still your wedding and you deserve to have a say in who speaks and how they deliver the speeches you’ll remember for the rest of your life.