Speech Material for Short & Long Engagements

I once knew a couple who'd been together for 10 years. Every time we'd go on a night out, the girl would complain that her boyfriend, one of my oldest mates, had yet to ask for her hand in marriage. This charade continued until one night she snapped, burst into tears, and eventually, he relented. Anyway, to cut a long story short, the wedding was horrible, she went and had an affair with her boss, and they were both divorced and remarried within a year. Ain't love grand?

This is a worst case scenario, obviously. Sometimes a long engagement or relationship works out perfectly well. Short, shotgun weddings can also turn into long-term partnerships; provided the marriage isn't being conducted to settle some form of bet or dare. But both of these situations make for dangerous ground when it comes to the speeches. When there's a sensitive issue behind the scenes, that's when you must tread with care.

So to help you wade through this shark-infested minefield, here are a few tips and templates you can use when the newlyweds have taken their sweet time or jumped the gun.

The Long Haul

For a couple who have been together many years already, the most awkward question you can ask the groom is "why didn't you ask her to marry you earlier?" If you are going to answer this in your wedding speech, you'd better come prepared with a cast-iron reason which nobody can question. Struggling for a believable response? Don't worry, we've got you covered:

  1. "I often get asked why it took me 10 years to ask for Carrie's hand in marriage. The answer was simple; I wanted to grow to become the husband she deserved, and earn enough to give her the marriage of her dreams. Also, I had to make sure she aged as well as her mother. And by gove, hasn't she just?"

The groom's best man should ideally know exactly why his mate hasn't gotten married sooner because that means he can avoid the real reason and make light of something else. But if you temper your jibes with a little reference to a bromance, you may score some easy extra points with your audience:

  1. "It's easy to criticise John for taking so long to propose to Kelly, but what most of you don't know is the inner turmoil he's been going through all these years. He's had to choose between his two loves. He's had to decide whether he's going to stick with Kelly and Kelly alone, or whether he can juggle his commitment to a significant other. But then Kelly said John could see me on weekends if they got hitched, so I guess that settled it."

The Father of the Bride will likely never know why his son-in-law took so long to ask for his daughter's hand, and nor should he ever find out! So in lieu of an explanation or any attempt to derive meaning from this, the Father of the Bride should keep things light-hearted when mentioning a long courtship:

  1. "Now some people may be wondering why Harry and Lucy took so long to tie the knot. Did Harry have cold feet? Was Lucy waiting to see if she could do any better? No, of course not. They're madly in love! The reason they've enjoyed such a long courtship is twofold; they don't need a piece of paper to reaffirm their commitment to each other, and they knew the longer they waited, the more I'd have saved up to put behind the bar."

Short and Sweet

A short engagement doesn't always mean that the bride-to-be has been knocked up, but sometimes it does, and whether you mention this or not is entirely up to you. Other reasons for a quick wedding are that one of them is dying, there was a discounted booking if they got married in a week, or it could just be that the pair of them are so bloody besotted it makes you physically sick. Whatever the reasons are, try to avoid cynicism on the happy couple's big day and put a positive spin on proceedings; especially if it's your own chuffing wedding:

  1. "Paula and I have only been together a short time, and I know some of you may be surprised at how quickly we've moved. But this isn't a decision either of us has rushed into. We've been waiting for each other our entire lives; it was simply fate which stopped us getting together sooner. (Pretend to hear a whisper from your wife) What's that honey? Oh, sorry, not fate. Fat. It was my fat which stopped us getting together."

The best man has a little more leeway regarding what he can get away with when referencing a short relationship, but even so, you must prioritise the feelings of the bride, groom and any women within a handbag swinging radius. Focus on the positive attributes which may make someone decide to get married within a short amount of time, such as decisiveness, confidence and efficiency:

  1. "When Jack said he was getting married to Louise I wasn't shocked in the slightest. Yeah, I know they've only been together a few months but that's Jacky-boy all over isn't it. Trust me, I've seen him in Tescos. Two minutes, in and out, job done. When he knows what he wants he doesn't faff about. Although I'm hoping he'll take his time a bit more later on tonight."

The Father of the Bride always needs to take things a little more seriously than the Best Man, because the wrong words from him can cast a shadow over the whole day. You want to be seen as not only accepting of your daughter's short relationship but practically over the moon at it. Since this was her decision, you should muster up as much jolly spirit as you possibly can - any words of warning can be given to the Groom over a few whiskies out the back later on:

  1. "When Alan asked for my permission to wed Hannah after only three months of knowing her, I had to ask three simple questions before I gave my blessing; do you love her, is she pregnant, and are you dying? The answer was yes, no, and I hope not. That was good enough for me."