The art of public speaking


This weekend was the wedding of one of my very best friends and, with her other Maid of Honour, I was tasked with delivering a speech to celebrate the occasion.

People laughed. I was told the speech was extraordinary, that people had never heard anything like it, that it was quite exceptional. The bride didn’t hit either of us. I’m pretty sure that counts as a success.

The bride was an old school friend who lived less than a hundred metres away from me as a child so we were foisted upon each other from an early age as a convenient drop off zone for working parents. She knew my folks pretty well so they had been invited to the wedding. One of the guests on their table said that the Maids-of-Honour should be a comedy double-act and I’m sure they were in no way simply being polite to my parents. There was definitely talk with the bride’s mum about sell-out shows at next year’s Edinburgh fringe festival and I’m sure that was also meant seriously. We were evidently a knock-out.

Perhaps this doesn’t  need to be pointed out,  but public speaking isn’t a skill that comes naturally to me. However, I wanted to do a good job and make the bride proud. (I might have failed there.)  I asked mum for advice, who told me to make it funny so I thought I’d start with a joke or two to keep it light. The bride’s only request was to include the groom in the tribute so I bore that in mind when starting work on the speech.

I didn’t have much time to coordinate with the other chief bridesmaid but at the hen-do (bachelorette party for you non-Brits) we came up with a vague plan that we’d chop and change so that one of us would talk then the other and so on. As it happened we thought that approach might ruin the flow of our sentimental texts so we decided to just go one after the other. I was to go last.

I had planned and written out a speech, which I think balanced the humour and sentimentality reasonably well. Unfortunately that wasn’t the speech I delivered. I thought my speech might be a bit on the long side so tried to cut it down a bit the night before the wedding, and then again after the ceremony. But it wasn’t until the father of the groom gave his speech that I realised just how long my speech was. So when the other Maid of Honour decided to put down her speech and ad-lib I thought I’d do the same.

Her speech was a little brief,  mine wasn’t brief enough!

I didn’t want to go straight into the mushy stuff so started by telling everyone how much I used to hate the bride. Remembering to include the groom I also spent some time explaining how much I also didn’t like him very much when I first met him. I did at least manage to briefly touch on the fact I liked them both now but completely forgot all the sentimental wishes for the future and faith in their love stuff, which would have probably rounded it all off a bit better and made me seem less like I loathed everyone there! 

In retrospect it may have been better not to drink quite so much before the speeches began.  I was pretty nervous and thought  a little Dutch courage in the form of vast quantities of wine was the way forward. On the plus side I could use drunkeness as something of an excuse later. 

So if you were wondering how not to give a speech at a wedding then follow my example and focus on how you don’t like the bride or groom and see how well that goes down! Ideally with a suitable co-wedding party personage dancing behind you the whole time. If the father of the groom feels the need to give an impromptu speech to try and save the day you’ll know you’ve struck exactly the wrong note. 

I’m not entirely sure it was what the bride had in mind. I’m fairly sure in hindsight she wouldn’t have asked us to give a speech. Still, she did say that fear of us ever giving another speech again was a darn good incentive not to get divorced. So in our own, unique way, I think we can proudly say we have contributed to a lasting marriage! 

You’re very welcome Mr and Mrs C!