3 Questions to Ask a Couple Before Writing a Wedding Speech
By Rob Franklin
If you've been asked to deliver a speech at a friend or loved one's wedding, congratulations! It's a tremendous honor but can also be daunting to stand in front of a crowd and try to say something meaningful about love.
The process of drafting, tweaking, practicing on the phone with your mom and then tweaking again can be stressful, sure, but also meaningful. After all, it’s a great time to reflect on what the couple means to you (and here, we can help).
But before you write a single word, you should start with a conversation, one in which you pose three simple questions to the couple. These questions will help you (and them) set expectations and get a sense of the parameters for your speech.
1. How Long Should My Speech Be?
This first one is simple, logistical, and yet will provide much-needed direction for your entire speech. Are you expected to give a 1 - 2 minute toast or is your speech the centerpiece of the ceremony? Setting clear expectations here will not only aid the couple in planning but you, as you define tone and structure for your speech.
Depending on where they’re at in planning, the couple might not have an answer immediately. Nonetheless, they should have basic context for how long they hope their ceremony, or the speech section of the reception, to be — as well as how many people they are asking to speak. If they’re hoping most of the speeches will be roughly equal, some simple math should get you to a rough range.
And if they’re not sure: below, you’ll find some averages for different types of speeches, which may help facilitate the conversation.
Welcome / Introduction: ~1 minute
Officiant’s Speech: ~5 minutes
Best Man / Maid of Honor Toast: ~3 minutes
Other Wedding Toasts: 2 - 3 minutes
2. What is the Purpose of My Speech?
Understanding the purpose of your speech will help you generate content and determine the tone. The couple’s answer may be fairly simple if, say, the purpose of the speech is to welcome the guests or to introduce a reading. However, if your speech is more celebratory (for instance, a wedding toast), you may press them on what they hope you will speak to.
If you’re a childhood friend, for instance, perhaps they thought of you because you can speak about one or both of the partners before they were in a relationship — the qualities they’ve always embodied. If you’re a parent or grandparent, perhaps they hope you can pass down generational wisdom about romantic love.
Regardless, posing this question is valuable because, well, it forces them to answer it. If they can reflect on what role they envision you playing in their big day, their answer will provide inspiration as you begin to craft a winning speech.
3. Is There Anything You Don’t Want Me to Say?
Defining "no-go" topics with the couple is an important step in crafting a respectful speech that meets their expectations. These are topics that one or both members of the couple would prefer not be mentioned, as they may relate to family tensions or other sensitivities between the couple or guests.
While you can find a full breakdown of how to approach this conversation here, we recommend you posing these three questions in particular:
- Are there topics, subjects, stories, or jokes related to you and your history that you'd prefer I don't mention?
- Are there topics, subjects, stories, or jokes related to your partner and their history that you'd prefer I don't mention?
- Are there any sensitive family issues or relationships that I should be aware of?
By asking these three questions and having an open and honest conversation with the couple, you can set clear expectations and get a sense of the parameters for your speech, which will be essential in the writing process.
Plus, we can help with the process of drafting, tweaking, and practicing your speech.