How to Avoid Saying The Wrong Thing in a Wedding Speech

How to Avoid Saying The Wrong Thing in a Wedding Speech

Have you ever been at a wedding, enjoying toasts from the Mother of the Groom to the Maid of Honor, when a single speech (sometimes a single comment) interrupts the night’s rhythm like a record scratch? A risky joke doesn’t land, the bride’s face falls, and you’re left making awkward eye contact with your neighbor, silently communicating something along the lines of, YIKES.

Take it from us, we’ve been there. And while these flubs are sometimes the natural result of drunken rambling or poor preparation, other times they stem from the speaker’s failure to clarify the couple’s “no-go’s” beforehand. It could alllllll have been avoided.

So What Do We Mean by “No-Go’s?”

Great question.

A “no-go” is any sensitive topic or story that the couple would prefer avoid on their wedding day, whether out of self-preservation or respect for certain guests. What may seem to you like a perfectly harmless joke about a personality trait (read: flaw) or checkered (read: hectic) dating history may fall firmly within this category.

“No-Go’s” are tricky. They go beyond the bounds of everyday etiquette, often relating to tensions you’re unaware of. Only the couple (and their closest confidantes) can flag sensitive family dynamics, history between guests, or matters they themselves prefer not to discuss before an audience of everyone they know and love. So having a conversation with them is kind of a no-brainer.

First, Have a Conversation with the Couple

Before you even begin writing, strike up a conversation with the couple to establish some hard and fast “no-go” topics.

Dating history? Skip it. Divorce? Not ideal. American Politics? Let’s maybe not.

Every couple’s list will differ — as in the old adage, one man’s blazing landfill is another’s playground — but it’s advisable to establish early, as these “no go’s” will be useful to anyone crafting a speech for the big day.

As far as process, plan to have the conversation with each partner separately, as they may be more comfortable speaking candidly about certain sensitivities alone. Be sure to ask three main questions:

  1. Are there topics, subjects, stories, or jokes related to you and your history that you’d prefer I don’t mention.
  2. Are there topics, subjects, stories, or jokes related to your partner and their history that you’d prefer I don’t mention.
  3. Are there family or guest-related sensitivities I should be aware of while writing my speech?

Many people, in an effort to seem chill and low maintenance, will answer that there are few or no sensitivities in their own history, so questions 2 and 3 are essential to push them toward a broader view of the question, considering the dynamics between guests and their partner’s comfort, alongside their own. When a couple invites a guest to write a toast using Provenance, they have the option of answering these questions ahead of time so that their guests don't even have to ask.

Then, Take Your Toast For a Test Drive

It’s natural, and good, to keep your speech private from the couple until the big day. Nonetheless, you may want to dry-run it a few times with others. Pick a mutual friend of the couple’s, a sibling, the officiant, etc. and shoot them an early draft of your speech. That way, they can flag any concerns that may have evaded you.

We get it. Engineering things this way may feel like it takes the spontaneity out of a wedding speech, but done right, it can actually open up possibilities — release your inhibitions (and feel the rain on your skin?).

Knowing what to steer clear of will help you focus on the meaningful moments, the nuggets of gold.

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