Sunday 14 November 2010

Writing A Bride's Speech - Advice To Die For

Advice from a speech writer for the woman planning to speak at her wedding reception

Writers and Publicists often have had to write speeches as part of their every day job. Speech writing sounds so important, but, it really isn't much fun. It takes lotsa work and in the end you don't get any credit for a job well done. But, it pays well.
I learned my speech writing technique in the 80's from Art Schwartz, former captain of the HMCS Haida. He explained to me one day how he used to address the Admirals of the Queen's Canadian Navy.
"You tell them what you are going to tell them. Then tell them a joke. Quote somebody famous. Then tell them what you told them you were going to tell them. Then tell them another joke. Then tell them what they just heard in case they weren't listening. Then get off the stage."
Sound Advice. And it always works.
When you are writing a speech, the person you are writing it for will tell you what to say (either in person or through an assistant) and will give you copies of past speeches so you can see how the person likes to say it. What is harder is to make it flow and make it interesting (and not put audiences to sleep).
I received a note last week from a friend who was about to hold a wedding reception with her new husband. She wanted me to write a speech for her. Out-of-town guests (Sault St Marie) had to be acknowledged. Something witty had to be said about her work friends (she is a pharmacist) and she wanted to say something nice about her musician husband who was going to be performing a song he wrote about her.
I had to turn down the job (suspect there was no pay involved)and I had to decline an offer to dance with the bride (two left feet). But I did give her some pointers. If you are a bride thinking about what to say on that big day, feel free to borrow and revise this guideline.


It is true, I don't dance. And now for the bad news. Don't really have any advice about your speech. I do write speeches, but, they take days. And I usually get told what to say.

So can't help you. But here are some tips from a professional that you can follow, make changes as you see fit:

* A lot has to do with the age and temperament of your audience. Obviously you would rather drink than talk, but this is really something that your guests are expecting. (I don't buy that you owe your husband because he wrote a song for you -- isn't that is his job? It would be like you filling a script for him and telling him he had to write a damn speech)
* I would keep it short. Really short. Keep it light. Really light. Keep it even shorter and lighter than that. Leave them begging for more.
* However, I think you should take a serious note at the get go and talk about your late mother and father right off the top.
* I think you have to acknowledge the Sault St Marie (you know, the town near the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald) contingent at the party. Tell your friends that if they see anyone in flannel to say hello because it is probably your relative.
* I think you have to make a few jokes about pharmacy with the usual dispensing jokes and tell all the women in the audience that you have good news, you have put Viagra in the punch. You know that sort of thing.
* Style suggestion: Last year I was approached by a Giller nominee to help promote her book. It was a bit of a thriller all based on hasty notes left by a stalker (book didn't win). Aside from her I think of you as the most literate writer of yellow sticky notes.
* I would approach your speech as a series of hasty notes. Stick 'em all over your dress, your arms, your head and the palm of your hand a la Sara Palin. While you are at the mike just randomly pull them off and read them. Any topic. Any order. Then if it sounds disjointed the audience is going to assume that you pulled the wrong sticky note off and not that you are slightly "touched" when it comes to writing speeches.
* Remember to say great things about your audience. Make them feel that they are at something special. Lie and tell them that Shinan Govani is in the audience. Read a few telegrams (they still send them for weddings) from Stephen Harper, the Pope annulling your Italian wedding because he couldn't read your handwriting, Spongebob and a job offer from Walmart's pharmacy (yes they do more than sell walls).
* I might read a brief sticky note in French in a tip of the hat to your blood lines (quote Marcel Marceau if your French is like mine)
* As for quoting other people, in speeches I usually give a quote from Seinfeld. Showing my years. Guess given your age and your crowd I would look for a bon mot from Jon Stewart or The Office. I remember that George Bush once told his audience "I hope you leave here and walk out and say, 'What did he say?'" - George W. Bush, Beaverton, Oregon,2004.
* Probably too biting but when you address your new husband you can remind him what Paris Hilton said: "Every woman should have four pets in her life. A mink in her closet, a jaguar in her garage, a tiger in her bed, and a jackass who pays for everything."

Anyway, no point in going on, I bet deep down inside you know what you want to say (but I like my yellow stickee idea ...) Final Advice: If the audience is really fidgety, lift up your dress and show them your wedding garter (If your husband is wearing his kilt it will work for him too).

Top: After a certain age you look at weddings and wonder why bother? why spend the money? why bother to buy a dress? why bother to wear white? However in this case, I think the effort was worth it. The bride wore red (with a splash of red) and her young best man was all heart when it came to hors d'oeuvres. Picture taken in a Toronto park in late October
Middle: Always tip your hat to out-of-towners. Mention something about their home town that shows you know what their life is all about. In this case the bride's family came in from Sault Ste. Marie. Their proximity to the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald isn't probably their biggest claim to fame ... but it is funnier than mentioning that the city is the birthplace of the first youth police cadet group in Canada. And, it sure beats singing a line from a Boy Named Soo.
Bottom: President George Bush always kept them guessing when he gave a speech.