Groom Guide

The chances are she isn’t marrying you for your writing skills or public speaking talent… but you want a kiss, not egg, on your face.
Picture of Oliver Lucas

Oliver Lucas

Published 07 Sep 2023

A groom have his button hole fitted

Maybe she proposed, maybe it was you, and the answer was yes! But it’s a million miles away from the romance of it all now, as the practicalities and duties set in. The chances are she isn’t marrying you for your writing skills or public speaking talent… but you want a kiss, not egg, on your face.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just HER Big Day, is it?! You are opting to spend the rest of your life legally, and maybe religiously, bound to this woman for the rest of your life. It’s a biggy! And whether you consider your speech to be an onerous task or an absolute privilege – you have to get up there and say something! Unlike the best man or the father of the bride, there can be no dropping out or last-minute replacements for you… so let’s get it done!

There are a lot of things to consider when you get down to a blank page, and this can be daunting. “What’s my actual job in this speech? Can I make it funny? Who should I mention?”

Enter SpeechMate.

Our experienced writers will take you through the journey step by step, gathering your ideas, stories, thoughts and feelings to weave them into a moving, amusing, original speech that will sound as if it’s all yours – because it will be! 

We help craft a tailored speech, with humour and warmth, and assist you with your alterations, tone and delivery until you are assured it WILL work and that your guests will be toasting you all day. If you want to be the greatest groom, you have found the best spot.

We will be onside throughout the creative process, be it last-minute or months beforehand. You don’t need any previous experience at all. However, for those by scouts amongst us who always want to ‘be prepared’, we have supplied a guide below, so that you can begin your research and revision. Alternatively, simply drop us a line and get the ball rolling today. It’s never too early.

Wdding ceremony raising a toast

NUTS & BOLTS 

Typically, you are there to give thanks and wax lyrical about your bride – but it’s not as simple as it may appear at first. If sticking to convention, you are the second to speak, before the best man and after the father of the bride. It’s always a good idea to liaise with other two, to ensure no overlapping of tales, jokes or other elements. Particularly the father of the bride, although his perspective will be different to yours, his primary focus will be to say how wonderful she is. Part of your remit is this too

The best man is there to provide humour and light relief (usually in the form of making you feel uncomfortable).The father of the bride is there to welcome you and pay tribute to his daughter, as you officially become the most important man in her life.

Yours is a mixture of function and feeling, thanks and tribute, and it can be very tricky to get the balance right when there are so many people involved. But, in short, you’ll need to show your appreciation for the folk involved in getting you here – through life and this incredible day in particular (further detail below).

 

This would typically mean thanks to the guests for coming and the best man, bridesmaids and ushers for fulfilling their duties; also to your parents for getting you this far; then her parents for accepting you into the family and, of course, the bride for taking you on! Here, there’s a bit more to it. Tell us about your wonderful wife. Don’t forget any children involved and a nod to absent friends. 

There may be guests who have travelled long distances you feel worth a mention, and you could go to include the caterers, the cleaners, the church cat – but don’t. Please don’t. 

You have the best man for the laughs and the roast, and the father of the bride for the gushing tribute. Your first job is to show your gratitude to all present for making the day the incredible occasion it will be. But that doesn’t need to mean a dull list. 

It may also fall upon you to mention those who cannot be with you, and this can be an emotional moment. Don’t dwell. Acknowledge then lift the mood. Positivity, is the order of the day, and best not to start with a frog in the throat or running mascara.

You want to get the speech sorted because, of course, you will also have another, more formal duty to focus on; to stand with your best man at the head of the aisle, and say ‘I do’ to the love of your life. You can never set too many alarms!

DOs & DON’Ts 

Do:

  • Liaise with your best man – he will be probably be a little anxious too, and it’s good to check you’re not covering the same things. He will, obviously, not want to let you know what’s coming for you, so just make sure you’ve covered the basics. 
  • Allow yourself to be (possibly uncharacteristically) warm and grateful – it’s the best chance of your life to put those who have helped you most in the spotlight, without it being awkward. 
  • Link your themes and stories either chronologically or by subject. There may be different approaches to the speech structure, but most common is a chronological collection of the adventures that led to this day, in which the bride comes out smelling of roses. These might include character traits, odd habits or obsessions – anything that can provide a link between anecdotes and other elements in the speech. It helps transform a scattered collection of happenings, to a sequenced, flowing chronical of your life shared.
  • Make sure you know the names and pronunciation of those absent friends you may be mentioning. Never such a clanger as fluffing a late friend or relative’s name. To a lesser degree – the others you have to thank. It’s the basics!
  • Incorporate props, such as blown-up photos or old costumes, if you feel comfortable doing so – this can bring an anecdote to life.
  • Revise and have cards to put your speech in bullet points  – or if necessary print the whole thing off. If you chose the latter, have the paper with you or within easy access.
  • Most importantly, practise religiously, until you have the pauses, emphasis and any jokes feeling like they are second nature– so you can make eye-contact as you speak. Run throughs can be done with a trusted friend or relative to get their view.

 

Don’t:

  • Number ONE. DO NOT thank the world. This is the biggest danger in a groom’s speech. Yes, you’re grateful to everyone, but there are only so many hours in the day, and you can probably get away with leaving out the cleaners and the bank manager! We’ve all seen tedious Oscar’s speeches and an endless list of helper mentions is a sure way of losing the audience. 
  • Make it about too much you, other than how your life has been improved by your bride. Plenty of stuff coming up about you in the next speech!
  • Push yourself into getting overemotional. Avoid being sentimental to the point that you get choked up – particularly when mentioning those not present. (If there is a heavy moment, ensure a lighter one follows).
  • Make it too bawdy. Children and grandparents will be present – so avoid too much banter and don’t actually swear, if at all possible. In the same vein, if you are making risqué jokes, allude. Most people enjoy some subtlety and jokes that can work on two levels, but many also feel a little awkward with rude words coming from the groom’s mouth. You don’t want to embarrass yourself or others.
  • So, forget mentioning sexual adventures and run-ins with the law (or anything that the bride’s guests may not wish to hear about on this special occasion. It’s the best man who has a little licence to be bawdy.
  • With this in mind, forget mentioning any awkward circumstances surrounding your meeting (ex-partners etc) 
  • Golden rule: if you are wondering whether it’s a good idea to say something or not, then it isn’t. Leave it out. Play it safe.
  • When you have your anecdotes and shout-outs collected – be ruthless with what makes the cut. Never try to include every last detail or person – you want a hit single, not double album.
  • Get material off the internet (ie jokes). People will have heard them (probably many times) before so you will look lazy and unimaginative.
  • Go too heavy with the booze to calm any nerves. *Hint: one or two drinks for a bit of a steadier is fine but much more and you may start slurring your words, losing your place and going over the top in your moment to shine.

STRUCTURE

Clearly – there’s nothing wrong with you being brave and going your own way, but the conventional speech design has been around for decades and is proven to work. This may not be the time to re-invent the wheel. You will see below that there is a lot to get through, so your pace needs to be a good trot, without seeming like anyone is being glossed over for the sake of time. A fine art! If you look at the number of sections below, and base your speech on no longer than around 10 minutes, you will see you have to prioritise. At no point is there scope to go on and on

1 – Introduction:

All speakers need to get started in a way that grabs the audience, says who they are (however obvious) and gets them ready to listen.

An example:  “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, I hope by now everyone in this room knows who I am but just in case I’m (name) – (bride’s) husband and someone who feels like the luckiest man in the world.

 

2 – General Pleasantries:

How lovely it is to see so many friends and family from all areas of life and time. A phrase to slip in early, that guarantees a round of applause and stomping of feet before you’ve even really started is, ‘on behalf of myself and my new wife’.

An example:  “First of all on behalf of my new wife and I, can I thank everybody for coming. I could have married (bride) in any place at any time and it still would have been the happiest day of my life. But doing it here with all the people who mean the most to us makes it even more special.

 

3 – Thanks:

3.1: Travellers

This may, of course not apply, but those who have come a long way or made a great effort to celebrate you deserve a mention – pick no more than three or four of the furthest: names and areas. You could, of course compare with the nearest, for humour, or likewise those from anywhere more glamorous than your venue.

An example: “Some of you have travelled far, from Australia, Italy, Mexico and even the depths of Suffolk. But wherever you’ve come from, today wouldn’t be the same without you so I hope you’re all enjoying it as much as we are.”

 

3.2: Absent friends

As mentioned, this is a tricky but important part, if there any close members of the circle that have passed away, or are infirm. (Also anyone significant that has not been able to make it for other reasons)

You may wish to go through the list with your bride, as these mentions invariably pull at the heartstrings and can be a catalyst to early tears. This is why we get them done early…take a deep breath…and move on. This is not a time to go into detail – it’s a time to acknowledge the absence and move on to the brightness of the future.

An example: “I’d like to give a special mention to (bride’s) grandfather (name). Sadly he can’t be here today but I he was a huge influence in (bride’s) life and I’ve no doubt he would be very proud of her today.”

3.3: Bridesmaids

Say something about how beautiful they are and how well their duties have been carried out (you need not single-out names, depending on bride’s wishes). You can finish this part with a toast if you wish.

An example: “Thanks of course to the bridesmaids, who look beautiful. They’ve always been a big support to (bride) and I know it has meant a lot to her to have them by her side today.”

3.4 Pageboys/flower girls

Again, something about how charming they have been and how well their duties were performed (naming at discretion).

An example: “Next I’d like to thank some of our younger guests who have shown great maturity as they’ve carried out their duties. The page boys and flower girls have been brilliant and a big part of today’s celebrations. You’ve done us all proud.”

 

3.5: Ushers

It can be the case that in reality ushers don’t do that much on the day, but they’ve been chosen for a specific reason – they are important to your life, if not the ceremony itself. So it’s nice to acknowledge with thanks, even if it’s for past deeds. Unlike bridesmaids, any reference to how good they look can be done with a bit of sarcasm!

An example: “There’s been a few guys who much to my surprise have scrubbed up well and look quite pretty themselves. My team of ushers have been a big support, being ready to step in should they be needed for anything.”

 

3.6: Best Man

Once more – you can afford to be a little tongue-in-cheek here, but spend a little longer honouring your partner in crime – no life stories though. That’s his job and it’s coming up next.

An example: “You’ll be hearing from my best man shortly, and if I tell you all what a great friend he has been to me I’m hoping he’ll prove this right by going easy on me in his speech. Regardless of what he says though, he really has been the best of friends. We’ve had many good times, shared a lot of memories and he’s always been there in times of trouble. Always someone who can be relied upon if you need help and lots of fun into the bargain.”

3.7: Helpers in general

You are short of time, so you are really thanking the people who have featured in your life – not just for this day. However, you may feel a need to thank the aunt who did the flowers, the cousin that lent the limo etc. For all the others, a simple ‘and everyone else who helped make this day what it is’ will suffice.

An example: “There have been so many people who have helped with our big day, it’s impossible to mention everyone, other than to say thank you to them all. We really are grateful. A special mention though to (name) for producing the most spectacular of cakes. I’m led to believe these things take ages so I’ve no idea how long you must have spent on this masterpiece.”

3.8: Her parents

For producing such a wonderful daughter and for welcoming you into the family. Perhaps recount your first nervous meeting and how things have developed since then.

An example: “I remember the first time I met (bride’s) parents. I was taking her out and when knocked on their door, despite (bride’s) frantic efforts to get their first it was they who  answered. Her dad said, ‘take a good look at my wife because all daughters turn into their mothers so that’s what you’ll end up with’.

(Bride) was mortified and I was a little taken aback, but it was typical of how from day one they’ve been instantly welcoming and taken me in as part of their gang.”

 

3.9: Your parents

For doing their job – getting you through life until this point. You’ve probably been a pain, and probably never told them how grateful you are for their support and care. No time like the present!

An example: “And finally thank you to my own parents. Not just for all your help with this wedding but for everything you’ve done for me over the years. The best parents are the single biggest influence in their children’s lives and I wouldn’t be who I am now without all their help, support and guidance. So thank you mum and dad.”

4 – Your wife

Of course – the main event and the opportunity to let the world know how your wife beguiled you from the start to this day; how she has made you a better person; the qualities she has that make you admire and love her – and how thankful you are to be taking the first step into the world as a married couple with a rosy future ahead together.

An example: “But the most important person here today is of course the bride. (Name) you look beautiful every day but today you took my breath away. I love the way that whatever life throws at you, things never get you down.  I love how you always put others before yourself. I love that when we argue we are laughing again a few minutes later. I love how we find things funny that no one else would. And most of all I love that we will now get to spend the rest of our lives as husband and wife.

TIMING

Time flies in a good speech with a great speaker who has a lot of tales to tell. But it can really drag if it’s poor. As a groom you probably have a little less flexibility with speech length than the other two speakers. So the actor’s approach of ‘always leave them wanting more’ is the key as opposed to draining the goodwill.

People often opt for 10 minutes without really thinking through how much work and practice is required to make that pass without losing pace. Six minutes can be enough to do a thorough job well – and may become longer with some laughs and ad libs.

Anywhere between these two figures is fine, depending on your confidence, and material. To time, always read aloud (preferably to a friend or partner who can laugh in the right spots). And remember, clarity is important. Speak at around two-thirds your normal speed when delivering a speech. Your speech is, perhaps, the most poignant. So if there is a particularly touching part there can a slight slowing or pause to let the words sink in with guests.

  • In addition to the overall timescale, there are more specific things to consider. Which stories deserve a longer telling? Which can be nipped and tucked? This doesn’t come naturally to most people, because they want to include every story they remember. But there is a very limited time in which you have to reflect on usually up toa few decades – so you cannot do it all, and certainly some things will have to be left on the cutting room floor.

People’s attention span flags quickly if the stories are too complicated, long, or overly detailed. So, try to avoid unnecessary detail, stories that probably won’t resonate unless you were actually there and get to the point pretty quickly. Our job is to spot and remove the dead wood that adds little.

  • EDITING – Good editing is not just to cut down length, but to enhance flow, make sense of which parts go where and get all elements working together in terms of pace, set-up, theme and chronology. We can return to previous ideas and use them as a launchpad into new themes to make each section fit together seamlessly.

Whilst you will no doubt have gathered plenty of stories on the way, it becomes increasingly difficult to cram them all in. So a focus needs to be on whether they can remain in the context of the themes and flow. That can often be the crucial criteria for what is used and what is not.

TONE 

Everyone is different and you want your speech to sound like you and hit the rights spots with guests. Some advice on this will follow, but part of what we do is work with you to fit the language to that you would naturally use, so you are sure not to drop a clanger and seem like you’ve had any help! 

As mentioned, you’ve had the Stag Do – the speech is not for the lads. It’s for parents, grandparents, children and colleagues so bad language is not to be used (may sound obvious but on occasion this has had to be pointed out). Depending on the audience and your familiarity with them, we can help you judge the level of politeness or bawdiness, perhaps creating jokes that work on two levels. Generally, though, keep it clean and clever. There will also be time for sentiment throughout speech – but avoid anything so touching that it could produce a tear or two; or, at least, no long eulogies to the dearly departed.

DELIVERY 

No matter how good your speech it won’t deliver itself, you’ve got to do that bit! Nerves are natural but if kept under control not necessarily a bad thing. The best way to do this is practice, get familiar with your speech so you it feels familiar. Like the song you loved as a kid 20 years ago, haven’t heard in a decade but still somehow know most of the words.  We can advise on speed of delivery, projection, and how to stress the humour and leave the pauses for a laugh. Also, where to make the sentiment hit home and how to combine the two effectively. Remember, you will never have a more encouraging audience, so don’t let those nerves spoil your work – practice makes perfect.

Nervous people can make one of two mistakes. Firstly, speak too quickly, like a monotone machine gun. Secondly, calm their nerves by having too much to drink. The best antidote to nerves is practice but if it helps take the edge off with a glass or maybe two (but no more, there will be plenty of time for that later!).

There’s nothing wrong with having cue cards or even the whole speech printed out as a reference. Other key things to remember are try to speak at two thirds normal speed, stand with your feet at shoulder’s width apart and – again – go through the material repeatedly beforehand. Ideally with someone to act as a sounding board who can give you feedback as an ‘audience’. Hopefully they will get which parts are you being sincere and which bits are you joking.

There may or may not be a mic, if there is it normally needs to be a little further from your mouth than you think. If not try to project from the diaphragm.

IF YOU PANIC

Here are a few key things to remember:

  • If you lose your place or train of thought. Brief pause to refer to your cue cards or script, find where you are, go again. No one will mind.
  • Should you need to, wait for the audience to laugh, clap and go ‘aww’ and that’s the time to have a little look at your notes to keep on track.
  • Have a glass of water on hand in case your throat gets dry. As above best done when the audience are reacting.
  • If you get overwhelmed or something knocks you out of your stride it’s absolutely fine to admit this. A quick, ‘I’ve suddenly lost my place, was I?’ is no problem.
  • Keep in mind you have a very willing audience and you can only do the best you can. Guests like you and the bride and want the best for you. That’s why they are there.

PROPS

Normally more best man territory but they can make for a memorable groom’s speech too. Nothing too technical but they do say a picture tells a thousand words. As with the rest of the speech, the tone is very much laugh with, not laugh at (that’s definitely best man territory). But, for example, there could conceivably be pictures that fit into this category. It’s possible you could supersize them into big print outs to hold up or put them on a projector screen. Make sure you are familiar with any necessary tech first – and even more importantly check the venue actually has it.

Also you may be talking about outfits that she wore as a child or daft things she has made or her favourite childhood toy. Bring them in for a bit of show and tell! You may wish to present these yourself or employ an assistant to do the honours.

I REALLY DON’T KNOW THE GUESTS VERY WELL

Perhaps you are not in your own country, or maybe she has a huge extended family in comparison to your nuclear unit. Increasingly, two receptions are held for international couples in their own homelands. You may be a hermit to her social butterfly…but, more often than you might think, you may not have had the chance to properly meet everyone at your own wedding!

Well, it may not feel like it, but this is absolutely not your problem. It’s your day and you play it your way. You will never have a more willing and appreciative crowd, so need not be worried about what colleagues, distant relations or others may be expecting.

Of course, there may be cultural sensitivities to discuss with your partner if abroad, religious connotations to note, and other general guidelines on etiquette or house politics to be aware of so make sure you do a bit of homework. But that aside, giving thanks is not generally a controversial matter if you play it safe. It’s an introduction on your terms.

THERE ARE STRAINED RELATIONSHIPS/AWKWARD Exes etc

What family is perfect? It could be that you met the bride when one or other of you were attached to someone else; the in-laws don’t get along; it’s a fifth marriage or any other awkward scenario. The simple rule: less is more.

Your job is really to provide a warm and grateful glow, not to risk angering anyone, or lingering on the sad or awkward. The usual golden rules apply. Do your homework and if you are unsure whether or not this is something should go in your speech, err on the side of not. Certainly, you should probably consult your fiancé regarding anything that is close to the bone or may step into the murky area of family politics..

I DON’T LIKE THE IN-LAWS

Sadly, however justified your feeling are, these are people that will remain in your life for the foreseeable future (if all goes well). It’s no time to grind axes or settle scores. If you haven’t got anything nice to say, then the bare minimum is still required – and could be the time to thaw any frost in a spirit of new era. Your wife will certainly appreciate the gesture. Even if you have to ask her for some input (for example what’s the nicest thing her parents have ever done) do so, and then use what she says. This could, of course, be extended to your own parents, if there are stains in that area.

LAST-MINUTERS

Life is busy and the best laid plans can have all sorts of obstacles thrown in the way. We realise this. So if you have only days before your wedding and no speech to give that’s not a problem, you are not the first person to find yourself in this position.

So don’t worry, we can still help you. We can provide the necessary focus under pressure, we just need you to briefly focus too. This means following these steps in good time.

  • Get your questionnaire filled out and include as much information as possible. Immediately.
  • Find the time to speak with your speech writer via phone if more detail is needed.
  • Probably best to opt for a shorter speech.
  • When the draft is done have a read, if there are any changes that need to be made let us know. Avoid the temptation to add any new stories or parts after it has been written, unless they are absolute gold. It’s better to get something concrete you can rehearse and get comfortable with.

LGBTGQ

We thankfully live in somewhat enlightened times, so yours may be a LGBTQ wedding.  Most speeches, regardless of community, usually follow the established, tried and tested format – but the speaker stamps their own personality on it.

So the above guide is one that can be followed, with a few changes to titles and maybe pronouns. As ever, the key is to do your research. This is true of both us and you. Should you wish to use our help, we are guided by you to write something suitable and tailored, as with any speech.

WISE WORDS

You may want to add in a quote from a great mind. This can work well – there’s a reason why certain phrases have remained famous, they’re actually pretty good. However, don’t make any quote too long and don’t use more than one. Also, the potential problem with words that are so good that they are widely quoted is that people may well have heard them before. For example, the classic ‘it’s been an emotional day, even the cake is in tiers’ was once a brilliantly witty play on words. Now it’s a cliché.

An example would be ‘love is not about finding someone you can live with, but finding someone you can’t live without’. It’s not quite reached cliché status and it is a lovely sentiment, but everyone will have heard it before. If you want to go down this route you can always give it a twist to relate it back to something you have previously mentioned in your speech. Alternatively here’s a few other less quoted, but equally meaningful lines.

“I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you.” — Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“You know you’re in love when you don’t want to fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” — Dr. Seuss

“Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get—only with what you are expecting to give—which is everything.” — Katharine Hepburn

Another option is lyrics from a song/band that means something to you and your wife. Although people may have heard them before, they will not have done so in quite the same context. Likewise, a tongue in cheek play on words with some of their song titles can also work with a bit of imagination.

HOW WE WORK

Our aim is to get to know as much as we can about you, your bride and the relationship you have. The more detail, information and colour we can get out of your head and into ours, the better speech we can write. The starting point is a questionnaire we send for you to fill out. Some questions are just confirming the basics, others are designed to probe a bit deeper and get you to think.

Once that is returned a speechwriter will give you a courtesy call to let you know the matter is now in hand and to devise a schedule that will deliver your speech by an agreed date. Having looked at your questionnaire in detail it is then likely we will arrange another call, which is essentially a bit of an interview. As mentioned above, this is to get all those details transferred from your head to our speechwriters.

Then we get busy writing the speech and return a draft to you in the timeframe agreed. All being well this is pretty much the final draft, but if you’re not satisfied with it then neither are we. In this case we can go back and forth as you see fit to make amendments, add in new parts or take sections out until you have the speech you want.