As Meghan Markle prepares to marry her prince,hears our experts’ tips on what she should (and shouldn’t) include in her wedding speech.
As an estimated 2bn people will tune in tomorrow to watch the wedding of Prince Harry to his love match Meghan Markle, lots of us are excited to see the ways in which the US actress will buck the traditions of matrimony.
Rumours have been swirling about who will walk Meghan down the aisle of St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, now that her father is too ill to attend, and insiders suggest that the wedding feast will consist of bowls of food, rather than a formal sit-down meal.
Possibly the most divisive wedding rumour so far is that the bride-to-be will break tradition and deliver a speech in tribute to her husband during the wedding breakfast.
There is no doubt that Markle knows how to address a crowd; she has honed a successful career as an actress after all, but even the most seasoned of speakers would quake in their boots at the prospect of speaking at such an audacious event.
As ex-editor of Bash magazine and boss lady at Love & (lovnd.com), a wedding and event planning service, Kate O’Dowd is well versed in the requirements of brides in these modern times. She believes Meghan is paving the way for a new wave of social niceties when it comes to the Royals.
“I love that Meghan is breaking convention in the small ways she can and especially how she’s supporting fresh local suppliers for the likes of her flowers and cake,” she says. “I bet she’ll give a speech.”
Kate gave a speech at her own wedding, and says it was one of the best parts of her day.
“Deciding to make a speech happened quite organically, and I must say, I never considered it as particularly progressive. We both got married and we both had people there that meant a lot to us, so it felt like we should both give speeches. Obviously, my lip wobbled for most of it, but I kept it brief and felt great afterwards. I highly recommend it.”
When radio personality Alison Curtis married her husband Tony Hegarty in 2007, she bucked the trend of the time and made a speech.
“There is nothing conventional about my relationship with Tony, and our wedding reflected that. I asked him to marry me, for example,” she laughs. “I am much more vocal than Tony — he is much more relaxed and chilled. I felt like, ‘why should he be the one to talk, when I want to?’ — and ultimately, I think it’s a weird tradition to hold onto.”
The Today FM star believes the key to a successful speech is to speak directly from the heart. “Remind yourself that every one is there for you, and they love you — that’s why they’re at your wedding.
“They are not there to judge what you’re saying on the day. A close friend of mine spoke at her wedding and it was completely unscripted and from the heart — that’s what made it one of the best wedding speeches I have ever heard.”
Celina Murphy from website onefabday.com says that about half of the weddings they feature have speeches by the bride.
“In the last six months or so we have definitely seen an increase in brides giving speeches,” she says.
“I’m not sure whether it’s because of Meghan and Harry, but I do know that with a lot of the traditions that come with weddings, all it takes is someone planting a seed about doing something differently to start a new trend.” Most of us don’t give any thought to why tradition dictates that we should only have speeches by certain people at our wedding, according to Murphy.
“We often don’t dissect why it’s essential for the father of the groom to make a speech, for example,” she suggests.
O’Dowd’s advice to brides who are intent on making a speech is simple. “Keep it meaningful and to the point. Don’t repeat yourself by thanking every single person who helped you (you can do that privately). Be witty (everyone loves a gas bride). And what the heck, be really romantic — when else will you get the chance?”
O’Dowd says there is no time for long speeches, however heartfelt they are.
“In my mind, the biggest wedding speech no-no is talking for more than five minutes. Spouting in-jokes that only a handful of guests will get is tedious, too”.
Be hyper aware that you are hosting your wedding, advises the wedding expert. “The biggest faux pas is to stand up to speak while your guests are thirsty. Instruct your venue manager to give you the nod, once a fresh round of glass-filling has been done and you’ll have a much more receptive audience.”
Steer clear of anything controversial when writing your wedding speech, cautions Hegarty. “Anything referring to money, sex, politics and religion are a no-go, I think. 99% of people aren’t witty and funny enough to carry these subjects off, so we are all better off to steer clear.“
Slagging off the inlaws is an incredibly bad idea, she advises. “If you have to make a joke about your family do not focus on one person or make more than one joke — that is not going to sit well.”
Should you find yourself stuck for ideas about what to say, immerse yourself in romance, says O’Dowd.
“If you’re finding it hard to get your plan going, think about milestones in your relationship, things people may not know about you as a couple, and maybe even rob a few of someone else’s words, if you’re particularly stuck — but avoid Pinterest at all costs. For intellectual kudos, look to your favourite book (even if that means pretending it’s not Fifty Shades of Gray).”
Practice, but not too much, makes perfect says Kate. “Unless you’re a very witty and confident speaker, I wouldn’t advise going completely un-rehearsed. But equally, reading from a wad of printer pages shouldn’t be your plan, either. Give yourself five bullet points, to keep you on track and after that speak from your heart, looking at specific people along the way.”
At the end of the day, making a speech is an opportunity for you to pay tribute to the people you love, and should not make you frightened. “Do what works for you; the people who are there to see you get married are there because they love you, not whether you make a speech or not.”