Being a wedding speechwriter is not hard if you have basic speechwriting skills and a good concept of true, eternal love, as it is displayed between a couple at their wedding and, most importantly, after the wedding.
Here are some more tips for becoming a wedding speechwriter:
It is useful to be married. This is because the speeches are about aspects of marriage. For instance, sometimes I included a section on marriage manners, such as the infamous "don't go to bed angry" and "learn to say please and thank you at the dinner table." Granted, this kind of information is common sense, but I think it comes more easily to someone who's married.
It also helps to be married in the sense of knowing what it's like to stand up in front of a crowd and say your vows and then go through a reception, where your friends and family are honoring you. As a married person, you know the kind of information you want to hear in a speech and the kind you don't want to hear. No bride wants to hear about her groom's ex-girlfriends, and no groom wants to hear how hard it was for the bride to decide to marry him.
It also helps to be able to think out of the box. For instance, I wrote father-of-the-bride speeches. I had to put myself in the father's shoes and imagine what he (a mature gentleman) would want to say to his daughter on her wedding day. The same was true for best man speeches. Obviously, I'm a woman, so when I wrote for best man, I had to think like a man. This involved telling stories about the groom and the best man and explaining how their friendship was special. So getting beyond your own gender and age is necessary in writing wedding speeches. The speechwriter must be able to bridge gaps – be they gender, age, religion or culture.
A wedding speechwriter should have good judgment. This is because people who commission you often have questionable requests. For example, I had one best man ask me to try to demoralize the bride because he didn't like her. Now, obviously, a wedding speechwriter should never demoralize the bride. The bride is the person who is being honored. It's in instances like this that the writer needs to have good judgement. Pleasing the customer is not always the right thing to do, and you have to say no to unreasonable requests.
You also should be able to at least "do" religion. Most of the speeches I wrote were for Christian weddings. Although I had a few weddings in which the speakers, mostly fathers, didn't want any mention of religion, almost all the wedding participants wanted religious references in the speech text. If someone requests that a speech have a religious flavor, then the vocabulary of religion as well as specific prayers might be included. If you're an atheist or an agnostic and can't tolerate a religious ceremony, then wedding speechwriting probably isn't for you.
Buy or at least get your hands on the following: a book of love and marriage quotations by famous individuals, a book of love and marriage jokes, a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a good book on organizing and writing wedding speeches. Two books on wedding speeches are Wedding Speeches & Toasts, by Cassell Illustrated, 2006, and Wedding Speeches and Toasts: Your Indispensable Guide to Writing and Giving the Perfect Wedding Speech, by Angela Lansbury, reprint, 2002. And the most recent title I found was Wedding Toasts & Speeches: Finding the Perfect Words, by Jo Packham, 2nd edition, Feb. 2007. And there are many more. Take a look at the many Internet Web sites that sell books, along with Toastmasters' own store. You'll be amazed at how many resources you can find easily.
You should be able to write or incorporate light comedy as well as deep sentiment because different people want different things. As the speechwriter, you should ask the customer what kind of tone he or she wants before writing the speech.
Moreover, the speechwriter should create a questionnaire that the customer fills out before the speech is written. In addition to name, phone number and occupation, ask the customer to give you stories or memories about the bride or the groom. In this questionnaire, you're trying to find material the customer will enjoy in the speech. You need information about how the groom and bride met. Also ask the customer for any text he or she definitely wants included – a prayer, a quote, a joke or something the speaker wrote himself.
Pay attention to the customer's "voice" in the questionnaire. Does she use "big" words? Does he use slang? From analyzing the customer's word choices, you can create the appropriate voice for the speaker. In other words, avoid putting inappropriate words in the speaker's mouth. If the speaker doesn't write like he's a college professor, don't give him an academic voice.
Now, with this questionnaire and the customer's phone number handy, the speechwriter can draft the speech. You'll need the phone number because you'll probably have questions. You might want her to give you more details on a particular subject or to verify a name or locale.
The father-of-the-bride, the best man and the maid of honor speeches are the ones I wrote the most. These are the most typical. For these three speeches, the organization is pretty much the same:
First, the speaker introduces himself or herself and thanks everyone for coming. He or she may say a few general words about "this occasion of love." This beginning section is mainly to convey how happy the speaker is to be standing there and how wonderful the day is.
Next, add details about how the speaker knows the bride and groom, how the bride and groom met, how long they've been together. Then, perhaps add personal stories about the bride or the groom. These might be childhood stories or memories.
Finally, you might conclude with advice for the bride and groom or good wishes for their happiness. I always ended my speech with a little toast – something like this:
May you never grow tired of one another.
May your love deepen throughout the years.
May God bring you brilliant and adoring children;
and may you always remember to be
thankful for the other's love
each and every day.
(raise glass) To Bill and Cathy!
The speechwriter should, of course, keep track of how long a speech is. Most of my wedding speeches didn't exceed five minutes. And on the average, they were about 500-600 words in length.
How much should you charge? I would say that a fair price for a beginning wedding speechwriter would be around $50 per speech.
Wedding speechwriters should never miss a wedding. Go to them all, and take notes on the speakers. Maybe you'll learn a new phrase, joke or love story to add to a speech.
In my Internet position, I simply wrote the speeches. But as a Toastmaster, you might also offer to coach the speaker before the wedding. This isn't necessary, but it's a nice service to offer. Some of the concepts you can stress with the speaker are volume control, speed of speech, eye contact, nonverbal communication and general demeanor.
Most importantly, the speeches you write are meant to be read aloud. Be sure to read the speeches to yourself after you compose them to see how they sound. Eliminate extra words and watch needless repetition. Try to eliminate slang and be sure the grammar is perfect. Watch subject/verb agreement and improper pronoun usage. If you don't know grammar well, you're going to have a hard time as a speechwriter.
A wedding speechwriter also must have a deep belief in the convention of marriage. The speeches you create will be spiritual in nature, sacred. They'll be treasured for years to come. Writing wedding speeches is a real honor and a service. People are placing their complete trust in you to make them look and sound good. Like a marriage, this vocation is not to be entered into lightly. Remember, a speech can make or break a wedding!
Now all the wedding speechwriter needs is some kind of advertisement. Place a classified ad in the newspaper; get a booth at a bridal show; put an ad in the church bulletin and your employee newsletter. Shout it from the rooftops! You're a wedding speech writer!
"Good evening everyone. I want to welcome you all to the wedding reception of Lisa and John. Thank you so much for coming, and I want to say a big thank you to those of you who traveled down to South Carolina to be with us. (Look at crowd) I must say, you're a great looking group. I suggest that you sit back and have another glass of cheer. It's going to be a fun night. Welcome, all.
I can't express how thrilled I am that Lisa has finally found her prince. My new son-in-law, John, is a Lutheran minister. Lisa's mother and I are so happy that these two wonderful people found each other. We want to thank Lisa's cousin Mike O'Donnell for introducing them. What a great couple they are – smart, educated, healthy and beautiful. But most importantly, these are two very kind souls. John works with the homeless in his ministry, and Lisa treats and counsels battered women. More power to you both.
Lisa, you will always be my little sweetheart. I remember how lovely you were as a child, a little ballerina with a silver crown and a beautiful white tutu. You have always made me very proud. We were not surprised when you were admitted to medical school early. Then, your studies took you to Yale. After this, you traveled the world, going to China, the Netherlands and Australia, just to name a few places. I just want you to know that I love and admire you. You are my hero.
Honey, you've made a wonderful life for yourself in South Carolina. You have a booming gynecology practice. You have your own lovely home, and now you have someone to share it with. I have to say, you're two lucky people to have each other. Your grandparents on both sides would be so happy to see you tonight. I'm sure you have made them very proud.
Now, just a little advice for both of you before we drink a toast. Forever is a long time; don't panic. Take one day at a time. Everything you need to know will be revealed to you as you go along. Try to make the other happy. Remember the little things such as cleaning up after yourself. Tell each other "I love you" each and every day. There will be people along the way who will assist you in your journey. Don't forget to say thank you.
And so, without further ado, let us raise a glass and toast Lisa and John:
May your home be a happy and peaceful one.
May God bless you with children who love you.
May you delight in knowing that you're each other's favorite person.
May God make many miracles in your lives
and may you always be grateful for what Our Lord has given you.
To Lisa and John! "