Memories Are Made of This...
Weddings are all about making memories. They're packed full of what we used to call 'Kodak moments' - worth breaking out your camera for. These days, the 6 giga-pixel smartphones in our pockets mean we catalogue every moment of our lives, from bus stop selfies to home cooked meals. But be honest, when you're thinking back over the last ten years - or twenty - or thirty - what are you really going to remember? Your best friend's wedding, or that awesome turkey sub from the place by the station?
Of course, the wedding and the speech you give at it - will help to create a whole bunch of happy memories for the newlyweds and their guests. But it's worth keeping in mind that the unusual intimacy of a wedding crowd means that many people in the room will already share common memories - happy, sad, funny and outrageous - from years of family relationships and personal acquaintances.
Wherever there is common ground, there is an opportunity to get the crowd on side. Whether you're the Best Man, the Groom, or the Father of the Bride, sharing a memory about your friend, your new wife, or your daughter is a great way to warm the audience up and put a smile on everyone's face. Mutual friends and relations will delight at personal details that they recognize as authentic, and by awakening shared memories, or inviting your audience to think back to younger days, people who may not have seen each other for years can be brought closer together in an instant. It's difficult to provide specific examples because we're talking about stories and remembrances of the most personal kind, but we can provide a few pointers to get you thinking.
Firstly, and especially if you're playing for laughs, don't plough into any old story, however funny you think it is, without properly considering the impact it might have on a crowd who range from 3 to 93. If as Best Man, for example, your favourite shared memory with the Groom involves wrongdoing or criminality of any kind, maybe it would be best to save that one for a select few at the bar later. You don't want to scandalise Granny, or learn the hard way that Uncle Pete who you met before the service is an off-duty copper.
Secondly, as ever, exes are off limits. Unless there are very special extenuating circumstances - like, say, the ex is dead and their donated organs saved the lives of everyone else at the top table - just don't go there. It is an unwritten rule of weddings that the Groom has no memories of relationships before they met the bride. Nothing to share here, people, move along, please…
On a more serious note, a shared memory can sometimes involve a lost loved one. Tears are to be expected at a wedding, but not for the wrong reasons. Be sensitive to those closest to the departed before you bring up a lost relative in your speech; doubly so if the bereavement is recent. Have a word with those touched by the loss before you take to the mic, and seek their approval, rather than surprising them with an emotional gut punch, however well meaning you may be.
And if you don't have a specific memory that you want to share in your speech, sometimes it can be enough to hark back to the subject of your speech's younger days, and let those who love them fill in the blanks. There'll be rosy glows all round when people consider the happy couple, and compare them to the children they once were. And that kind of generalisation we can help with! Try the following for size. And for more tips on wedding speech do's and don'ts with a royal twist, check out this ITN appearance marking Britain's last royal wedding!
"Me and the Groom used to play football together when we were kids, but I have to say, these days he outdoes me in terms of physique. I put it down to his new wife's 'clean living' regime. All that exercise. You can hear her leading it as you pass their house… "Clean the shed! Clean the garage! Clean the car! Clean your shoes!""
"I've known the Groom since school days. I used to help him with his spelling when we were seven years old. That's why I bought him a dictionary as a wedding present… He said he 'couldn't find the words to thank me'. I must've bought a dud."
And, while only the most brazen Best Man would use a fictional anedote like the one below, here's an example of how to structure your own stories for use.
"When the Groom was a little boy, he was a page boy at his big sister's wedding. He was supposed to carry the rings on a little cushion up the aisle, but five minutes after they gave them to him, he lost them! One of his aunties had seen him messing about near the trifle but he denied even going near the buffet. Still, the rings did show up… the proof was in the pudding, so to speak."