We’ve all heard the jargon that accompanies the next “must-see” Hollywood film.
Before it’s even been released there’s the “early buzz”.
As soon as it opens we hear that it’s getting great “word of mouth”. And before long come the “Oscar nods”.
But whatever you think about Hollywood hype, there’s nothing quite like coming out of the cinema on a high after seeing a really great movie.
Wouldn’t it be great if people had the same feeling after your wedding speech?
In this post I look at what we can can learn from Tinseltown when it comes to giving a wedding speech that’s a huge hit – not an embarrassing flop.
Hollywood’s Recipe for Wedding Speech Success
Screenwriter William Goldman famously once wrote “Nobody knows anything” – meaning that even seasoned movie producers have no idea whether a movie will be a success until it opens in theatres.
Likewise, you have no idea exactly how your wedding speech will go down until you actually give it.
Will the guests be buzzing from a story well-told and the memory of numerous killer lines? Or will your wedding speech be totally forgettable? Or worse still – unforgettable for all the wrong reasons?
Fortunately for Hollywood, there are certain key ingredients which the industry experts have learned will maximise the chances of a film’s box office success.
And fortunately for you, some of these exact same ingredients can be applied to your wedding speech to seriously improve your chances of delivering a real crowd-pleaser.
So here’s my Hollywood Guide to a Blockbuster Wedding Speech…
Ingredient #1: Big Stars
In Hollywood, having the right actor’s name on the poster can almost guarantee your film’s success. But at a wedding, the only headline stars you need to worry about are the bride and groom.
So don’t forget that the focus of your wedding speech should be one of those two people. Yes you need to make sure you don’t neglect essential duties – such as thanking people or reading out messages – but the hero or heroine of your wedding speech should be the bride or groom.
So for instance, if you’re giving the father of the bride speech, make sure you mostly talk about your daughter, the bride. Even if you’ve got a really good story about one of her siblings that seems relevant – save it for another time. Today the spotlight should be on her.
If you’re giving the best man’s speech, don’t spend too much time trying to get laughs with generic wedding jokes – you should be talking about the groom and your history as friends and deriving any humour from there.
And if you’re giving the groom speech, don’t spend too much time talking about yourself – even if you have some great stories about what life was like before meeting your bride.
Ingredient #2: A Popular Genre
The vast majority of successful films fit into a small number of familiar genres. This is so we know roughly what to expect before the film starts and to make it easier for us to get on board with the story once it does.
Think about it. You don’t often get aliens cropping up in a film noir. And you rarely have a big romantic scene in the middle of a horror movie. People like watching films that adhere to certain genre rules.
Luckily, each of the main wedding speeches can take its inspiration from a popular Hollywood genre:
- The Best Man Speech is a Buddy Film. The central dynamic is friendship and while the main characters may have very different personalities, it’s the friendship keeps them together through thick and thin.
- The Groom Speech is a Romance or a ‘Rom-com‘. It’s essentially a love story where things might not always go smoothly but love prevails in the end.
- The Father-of-the-Bride speech is a Coming-of-Age film. It’s a story about growing up and becoming wiser, told with love and affection.
Of course I’m not suggesting your wedding speech should have the full scope of any of these genres, but you might find it a useful way to think about the tone and content.
Ingredient #3: A Compelling Theme
A good movie always has a compelling theme, which is what the film’s really about. It’s the idea at the very heart of the movie. Certain genres attract certain themes but they’re not quite the same thing,
One theory holds that there are ten major movies themes, including:
- Good vs Evil – e.g. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars
- Triumph Over Adversity – e.g. Slumdog Millionaire, The Blind Side, Billy Elliot
- Man vs Himself – Leaving Las Vegas, Tin Cup, Walk The Line
But how does this help when writing a wedding speech?
Well, if for instance the groom is infamous for getting himself into all sorts of trouble, his best man could tell it as a Man vs. Himself story, i.e. the groom is his own worst enemy but finally someone (his bride) has come to save him from himself.
Or if the groom pursued his future bride for many months before finally winning her heart, he could fashion his groom speech as a Triumph Over Adversity tale.
Or if the father-of-the-bride was widely known to have disapproved of some of his daughter’s previous boyfriends, he could spin his wedding speech as a tongue-in-cheek Good vs Evil story where he is heroically ‘fighting off’ unsuitable suitors.
Ingredient #4: A Strong Opening
When we first sit down to watch a movie we don’t know exactly what to expect. We’re hoping it’s going to be the best film we’ve ever seen – but we’re also fearing it might be the worst.
In those first few minutes we’re trying to decide whether or not the film is going to be any good. In other words, we want to know: are we about to waste our time (and money)?
So Hollywood screenwriters know that they need to grab our attention from the very start of the movie. They want to pull us in and carry us along. Why do you think James Bond films always start with an impressive action sequence (which rarely has much to do with the rest of the story)?
It’s the same with a good wedding speech. You need to grab people’s attention from the very start. This might mean opening with a strong joke.
Or it might mean starting with a sentence designed to provoke our curiosity, like: “Ladies and gentlemen – I have a confession to make.”
It might even mean using some non-verbal gimmick, like a visual prop, or playing a piece of music.
The perfect way to start a speech depends on the speech and the speaker, but it can have a major impact on how well the rest of your speech is received.
Ingredient #5: A Happy Ending
Not all great films have happy endings but most do and your wedding speech certainly should.
The best man speech should mention how happy the bride has made his friend, and show great optimism for that happiness to continue long into the future. This sentiment is cemented by the best man’s toast to the bride and groom.
By the end of the groom’s speech it should be clear how happy the bride has made him and might end with a commitment to keep her happy too.
The father of the bride’s speech should leave us in no doubt that he feels a great match has been made between his daughter and her groom. It could even end with some tips from an “old pro” about how to keep a long and happy marriage going forward.
So that’s my Hollywood Guide to a Blockbuster Wedding Speech.
Good luck – and may your speech be the surprise smash hit of the wedding!