I have sat through many wedding receptions. Speeches are my favourite part, partly because it's usually my chance to eat supper, and partly because I love learning more about who my clients are. I have sat through funny, rude, embarrassing, thoughtful, awkward, well-planned and not at all planned speeches.
I have two favourite speeches. The first was from a brother/best man of the groom, who talked about the silly games they played when they were little, how proud he was of the man the groom had grown up to be, and how excited he was to have the bride as his new sister. It was humorous, obviously well rehearsed, and had a pang of sadness for days gone by mixed with excitement for the brother/groom. Perfect.
My other favourite speech was from a groom who talked about how his new wife had practiced walking down the aisle with her dad when she was a little girl. The brides father had passed away, and the groom said that he would always treat the bride in a way that would make her dad proud. Tears. The whole room was in tears. It was beautiful.
If you have never given a wedding speech or toast before, it can be really overwhelming. Here's a few tips:
1. Shorter is better. About 2-3 minutes is perfect, no longer.
2. Tell stories that the audience can follow. Long winded stories, embarrassing stories, and especially drinking and ex-girlfriend stories are off limits.
3. Remember that the speech is about the bride/groom. If you are the hero in your story, pick a different story to tell.
4. Acknowledge the other partner briefly. For example, a toast to the groom could say "I have never seen Jim so happy as he has been since meeting Steph, and I am excited to welcome her into the family..."
5. Write it down. Even if you don't read off the page, writing it out beforehand will help you focus your thoughts. If you want to, have someone read over the speech (I have done this for clients, and just hearing that someone else thinks your speech is good gives you confidence to present it).
6. Do not drink (too much) before your speech. I have hid drinks on people who were overdoing it before speech time. Nobody wants to hear you slurring about how you wish the groom had chosen you.