how to give a wedding speech
My cousin got married last weekend. And I can objectively say that his speech was the best speech I've ever heard at a wedding. By an enormous margin.
Here's some truths about wedding speeches:
- They're an opportunity to express your love for somebody in public
- They're often highly contextual, but empathy (i.e. just seeing somebody being emotional) does a lot of the work in making them "enjoyable"
- The less context you have, the more they become an exercise in pure emotion
So if you want to make a speech that resonates with /all/ of the guests, the only way to do it is to reduce the amount of context you need to really /get/ it. To get to the personal, you have to go through the universal.
My cousins' speech was brilliant for a number of reasons. But it also had some things I'd never seen in a wedding speech before: structure, a gimmick, and a callback.
The whole conceit of the speech was that he's a man of few words, and that he often keeps his thoughts to himself, saying much less than he really feels.
Or, in his words "saying one thing, but thinking another".
The genius here isn't just that it sucks the audience in, but that it gives the audience something they can all relate to. They've (presumably) all met the groom at a wedding. And if they have, they presumably know that he's a man of few words, who says little but thinks a lot.
It takes it away from the hyper specific stories that nobody was witness to, and allows you instead to just deal with the information you have in front of you. To be sucked into the story.
The speech was bookended by two moments where Buzz (the groom) "thought one thing, but said another". The first was when he met his wife for the first time - they were young. at a shitty bar. she was wearing all black. And the last was on the wedding day - at their wedding. she was wearing all white.
The joke was that he was thinking the same thing both times.
It's hard to communicate humour. How funny the descriptions were. How well the story was told.
But it's an undeniable storytelling device.
Him saying one thing while thinking another, allowed you to hear one thing and think about another. When he tells you that he thought the same the first time he met his wife as he does standing in front of her now the conclusion is obvious - he loved her since the very first moment.
We're seeing somebody marry the love of their life. So the joke conveys the emotion because it conveys the truth.