A Wedding Speech – or death?

A Wedding Speech – or death?

Many people fear delivering a speech more than they fear death! (Apparently, this is a statistical fact!)

The likelihood is that most people will be called upon to write and deliver a speech at least some time in their life. It may be for a business presentation or else for a family event. It may be in front of a handful of people or before a whole crowd.

My credentials

Only a few years ago, before I became a civil celebrant, I was terrified at speaking about my own business in front of a dozen or so people – not any more. I can modestly claim to have brought the house down on two occasions with a wedding speech; I now willingly and confidently address small crowds (I haven’t got to the 1000s stage, but I hope that may happen).


I am going to concentrate here on wedding/vow renewal-type ceremonies. Content is another matter, but for now I really want to cover delivery.

10 Tips

  • It is better to be brief than over-long
  • If you can deliver humour successfully, do so; if not, keep those jokes to a minimum!
  • Avoid too many “in-references” – at a wedding half the guests may not know anything about one of the newly-weds, so in-jokes can fall very flat – and exclude whole groups
  • Use a script (only very accomplished, experienced speakers can deliver off the cuff), but rehearse so that you can make your speech with only occasional reference to your notes. Eye contact is very important
  • There may be a good sound system, but ensure you can be heard loudly and clearly – you can help that by not burying your head in your notes and by speaking more s-l-o-w-l-y than you would expect
  • Avoid saying anything controversial, whether about the families present or about politics – the idea of the proceedings is to create a wonderful atmosphere, not to score points or secure cheap laughs!
  • Use anecdotes, but ones that fit in and are relevant. Avoid meandering ‘shaggy dog’ stories that may lose your audience. Be very sure whether that embarrassing story about the bride will be well-received!
  • I stress that delivery should be slower, rather than faster, and do not be afraid of a silence for effect, if appropriate. Try not to address just one area of the room, but make everyone feel included. Smile – at least, at the beginning and end.
  • If very nervous, try a few deep breaths and no (or minimal!) alcohol – and remember, the guests will be on your side, and willing you to do well

Remember that it is a privilege to be asked to give a speech, so be grateful. Remember your audience at all times. Oh, and, however nervous you may be, save the alcohol for afterwards!

Enjoy the occasion.



Conducting a Ceremony at Home

Conducting a Ceremony at Home

Home or garden-based ceremonies are becoming more common. I’d like to suggest a few tips to make planning the occasion less stressful.

I am assuming that there will be a celebrant, and that they will plan the actual ceremony with you in advance as well as, on the day, meeting with participants, to confirm their roles.

The Venue

You will obviously need a suitable-sized room or garden to accommodate the number of guests you are inviting. In the event of bad weather, in consultation with the celebrant, you must be ready to hold the ceremony indoors.

You will need to consider the age and health of your guests, and the length of the ceremony, but you will need adequate chairs (and a table available for the ceremony). Consider wheelchair access, if appropriate. You might need to provide cover from sun (or rain!), at least for the main protagonists.

Make sure everything is laid out well in advance of the first guests’ arrival.



Outside ceremonies in particular can be liable to all manner of disturbances, such as aircraft, lawnmowers, animals, neighbours etc. You can ensure that your pets are shut away, if they are likely to disturb the ceremony. You cannot control external noise, but if there are regular disturbances (eg you are on a flight path), it may be better to hold the ceremony inside.

Alcohol should not be served before the end of the ceremony. There is nothing worse than rowdy guests spoiling the atmosphere!

If laying out chairs, try and leave some at the back for latecomers. If VIP guests are late, it may be possible to delay the ceremony (at the celebrant’s discretion), but you won’t want to leave guests exposed to whatever the climate is doing for too long – or to keep children fidgeting too long.

Health & Safety

Your domestic insurance will need to cover third party liability to visitors.

You’ll have to ensure entrances/exits are clear and safe, and that any garden structures (eg marquee) are safe and secure. Electrical equipment must be safe, with no trailing wires/cables. Water features should be treated as a hazard.


Quite a lot to bear in mind, but with planning and consideration, there is no reason why you cannot hold a wonderful ceremony in your home.





7 tips to get your children on your side

Survival guide:  when your child is participating in a ceremony

Major public ceremonies can be very stressful for parents and children. Obviously, I can only generalise (as each event, let alone each child, is different), but here are a few words of advice that may be of benefit for an occasion when your child is actually participating.


  1. Try and keep the changes of routine to a minimum. The occasion may involve a fair bit of travel and even hotels, but do what you can to keep mealtimes and sleep close to what she is used to.
  2. Bring favourite toys to provide comfort and, to avoid boredom, books etc. for the ceremony, according to age.
  3. Feed her healthy foods (and definitely not sugar or fizzy drinks shortly before the ceremony). Make sure sensible drinks (preferably not carbonated or very sweet) are on hand.
  4. Your cherub may well be nervous about his role in front of a lot of strangers. A rehearsal is often beneficial. If you can arrange it in the room or hall itself, then so much the better. If he can practise with props that he may need for the ceremony, better still. Take him through everything slowly, clearly and, most of all, patiently.
  5. Be relaxed – if you are uptight, you will definitely communicate this to your child, and his performance will suffer. Smile a lot and encourage her!
  6. If only one of your children is participating, make sure you show appreciation to the other(s) and make them feel valued.
  7. If your child refuses point-blank to participate, it may be best to go with the flow, accept it and warn the adults concerned. Don’t encourage a scene by forcing him to participate after all or by having a go at your child for letting everyone down.

Most guests will be tolerant of any slip-ups committed by your child, and most will be full of congratulations afterwards, even if not all will have gone strictly to plan! So relax!

If you enjoy the occasion, then your child almost certainly will too. Give plenty of praise where possible, and have a lovely time.

Remember: things are rarely as bad as you think they’re going to be!