Wedding Speeches

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At Irish weddings, it is traditional for certain members of the bridal party to make a speech at wedding reception venue. There are no set rules about who actually gets to speak or for how long, but at most weddings in Ireland, the father of the bride, the groom and the best man are usual suspects.

Speeches before or after the meal?

It is becoming increasingly popular to have the wedding speeches before the meal. This is the case especially if any or all of the people destined to speak are in any way anxious about their own delivery. This usually has to be arranged with the reception venue at least a couple of days in advance so that they can plan their timings for presentation of the dinner. If the speeches are before the meal, nervous speakers can relax and enjoy their food once the speeches are over and done with.

How Long should our Speeches be?

Again, there is no set rule but the attention span of your guests should be taken into account! In Ireland, the duration of the full wedding speeches (including all speakers) usually lasts 25 to 40 minutes. Of course, it is also normal practice to have shorter and longer speeches. Most speech experts will agree that the speeches should be as short as possible while covering all of the essentials. If you want your wedding speeches to be short, then you have every right to tell each of the speakers beforehand to keep them as brief as possible. Long speeches carry the risk of repetition and guest boredom!

What Format do the Speeches normally take?

Either the banqueting manager at the reception venue or the best man will adopt the role of toastmaster at the wedding who will start off by introducing the first person to speak. Traditionally, the first speaker at Irish weddings is the Father of the Bride.

Father of the Bride Speech

The bride’s father usually begins his speech by welcoming all of the guests and especially the groom’s parents. If the priest or celebrant is present, he will usually begin with Father XXX, Ladies and Gentlemen, you are all very welcome to the wedding reception of Bride and Groom. He would then normally proceed to officially welcome the groom into the family and perhaps say a few words about him. Before he ends his speech with a toast of health and happiness to the happy couple he would then say a few words about his daughter and perhaps a story from her early years. After his toast, he would hand the microphone back to the best man.

Father of the Groom Speech

The father of the groom will make a short speech at most weddings in Ireland today. He would usually begin by responding to the Father of the Bride’s speech by thanking him for his kind words of welcome and if the bride’s parents are paying for the reception, this would also be acknowledged. He would then normally say a few words about his son and officially welcome his new daughter-in-law into the family. The father of the groom can then make a toast to the bride and groom if he so wishes.

The Groom’s Speech

The groom’s main role during his speech is to thank the guests for travelling to the wedding and also for their kind gifts. He is also expected to thank the bride’s father and his own father for their kind words. It is polite at this point to thank the hotel management and staff for their professionalism and hospitality. It is the groom’s duty to propose a toast to the bridesmaids and to thank them for helping the bride throughout the day and during the lead up to the wedding. The groom should also thank his own parents for their significant contribution to his life. At this point, it would be standard practice for the bride and groom to present gifts (usually flowers) to both mothers at the top table. If there are any grandmothers present, they might also receive flowers at this point. The groom would normally end his speech by thanking his new wife for marrying him and agreeing to spend the rest of their lives together.

The Bride’s Speech

Although it’s not traditional, it is becoming popular for the bride to say a few words at her wedding. She will usually thank her own parents, the groom’s parents, her bridesmaids and her friends. She will usually end by saying a few words about her new husband.

The Best Man’s Speech

The Best Man is normally the last of the speakers and will usually open by welcoming all of the introducing himself and welcoming the guests. He’ll usually continue by mentioning how he came to know the groom and recall a couple of memorable stories about his past. The best man is sometimes under pressure to be funny and witty but the secret to a good best man’s speech is to just be himself and not try to be funny if he isn’t a natural comic. It is the best man’s duty to thank the groom for his kind words and toast on behalf of the bridesmaids. It is also is duty to compliment the groom on his excellent choice of bride and finally to compliment the bride on how beautiful she looks on her wedding day.

Wedding Speech Fun

At Irish weddings, the guests often have their own fun with the wedding speeches as they are taking place. These usually involve betting on the length of the best man’s speech or the duration of the speeches in total. Sometimes, a pint glass filled with money will be passed around the guests sitting at a table each time a speaker says a keyword (usually thank you). As soon as the speeches are over, the person holding the glass wins the money inside.

Finally

Most of the speakers will be glad when the speeches are over. Apart from the first couple of dances, the speeches are normally the last of the formalities at each wedding. Hopefully this article has been of some use in helping those who are unfamiliar with Irish wedding speech traditions. In future articles, we will go into more depth with the individual speeches of the Father of the Bride, the Groom and the Best Man.

{top image – source: Robert Mullan Photography}
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