TYPES OF SPEECH
FATHER OF THE BRIDE
The father of the bride’s speech comes first. He will start by welcoming the guests, specifically mentioning the groom’s family. He will thank the people who have been particularly involved in the wedding preparations. He may want to mention a few important people who can’t be there – for example grandparents who are no longer alive.
He will go on to talk about his daughter with a mixture of humour and sincerity, telling the guests how proud he is of what she has achieved in her life, how beautiful she looks and teasing her with a few good stories going back to her childhood days. Mums tend to remember stories about children better than Dads, so he should ask his wife if he can’t think of anything!
He will talk about his new son-in-law – again teasing him a bit but also referring to his good qualities and expressing (hopefully) the confidence that he will be a brilliant husband. After wishing the happy couple many years of good health and happiness together, the father of the bride’s speech will finish by proposing a toast to the bride and groom.
The groom’s speech comes second. He starts by thanking his father-in-law for his (mainly) kind words. He will thank their guests for coming, some perhaps from a long way and for their presents. He will thank his in-laws for welcoming him so warmly into their family. He will thank his own parents for all they have done for him throughout his life. He may want to thank others too – eg brothers/sisters.
In the groom’s speech he will thank his best man and say a bit about their relationship – how and when they met and the value of their friendship. Hopefully he will have a few good stories. He will thank him for organising the stag party.
He will tell the guests a bit about how and when he met his bride, how their relationship developed and the circumstances of his proposal (there is often a good story there!). He will want to say some flattering personal words about his bride and how lucky he is to be married to her. He will thank the bridesmaids for all their hard work and will usually conclude with a toast to 'my beautiful wife'.
The best man’s speech comes last. While all wedding speeches should have the right mix of humour and sincerity, the best man’s speech will have a higher proportion of humour than the others. The audience expects some entertainment from him!
By all means embarrass the groom with stories arising from their times together – but don’t go too far. It’s important to remember that any wedding audience is made up of males and females of very different ages and tastes. Stories that might be fine for the boys might not be appropriate for children or for some of the older people! The stag party often produces a good story for the best man's speech.
The best man's speech should finish with a sincere tribute to the groom and what his friendship and loyalty have meant to you. Tell the audience how well-suited you think the couple are to one another. If there are two best men and if they choose to do a double act rather than make separate best man's speeches, this needs a lot of careful rehearsal to get the timing right. Otherwise it doesn’t work.
Finally he will propose a toast to the bride and groom.
ANNIVERSARIES / BIG BIRTHDAYS
Again you want to aim for the right mix of humour and sincerity in an anniversary speech or a speech for any important occasion. Generally it is better for sincerity to follow humour rather than the other way round. Again there will be the welcome, important people to mention and to thank.
It can be interesting to go back in time. For example, if you have a 90th Birthday Party you can go back 90 years and compare life then with life today – things we take for granted today that were not around then like televisions, computers, the internet and mobile ‘phones. Compare the cost of a pint of beer or a loaf of bread. If the guest of honour is or has been a keen golfer or football fan, tell him who won the Open and/or the First Division Football Championship the year he/she was born. Who was the Prime Minister? Who topped the Pop Charts?
If it’s a wedding anniversary speech there will be lots of stories arising from the couple’s years together. There will almost certainly be guests at the party who were also guests at the wedding.
A funeral eulogy will usually be delivered by a member of the family or a close friend. The length will vary but typically I would suggest 5-10 minutes.
Usually the speaker will say a bit about the deceased's early days, growing up, getting married, having children and perhaps grandchildren. He/she probably had a number of special qualities as a person, might have been involved in good works within the local community and may have had strong interests in things like sport or music.
Of course it's a sad occasion but at the same time it is an opportunity to celebrate the life of the deceased and the family usually want the right mix of sincerity and humour.
DINNERS & OTHER FUNCTIONS
Generally the main speaker at a function or an after-dinner speech following a dinner will speak for longer than a wedding speaker. The organisers will tell you how long they want the after-dinner speech to last – it might be between 20 and 40 minutes.
Putting together an after-dinner speech or a speech for an important function takes more time and must obviously be tailored to suit the particular event. A Rugby Club speaker would need different material from a speaker at a Masonic Dinner – I know, I’ve done both!
POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS & BUSINESS BRIEFINGS
Neither Boris Johnson nor Keir Starmer asked me to mastermind their election campaign speeches but I would have done so with little enthusiasm.
I have written political speeches and speeches for business functions but mainly I write for ordinary individuals - their wedding speeches, their anniversary speeches and speeches for other special occasions. And I do like people who can laugh at themselves. I wrote a speech for a Judge not long ago and he was very happy to include this Peter Cook classic:
"On the whole I would rather have been a Judge than a miner. When a miner becomes too old, too feeble, too sick and too senile to do the job properly he has to go. Of course those considerations don't apply to Judges."