Please, Can We Start Hearing from Women at Weddings?

'Very few brides even consider giving a speech, but when they do they're usually the best ones,' says speech writer Heidi Ellert-McDermott. Here's her best advice...


by Heidi Ellert-McDermott |
Published on

‘Manels’ (those all male-speaking panels) were still far too prevalent throughout 2022, but have you noticed it’s often the blokes doing the public speaking socially too. Take weddings, how often do we still see men hogging the mic?

Less than half of weddings have a woman speaker and as a professional wedding speechwriter (Yes, it’s a thing!) I know brides, mums and best women have just as much to say as their male counterparts. And their usually funnier. So why do so many brides stay mute?

While my own writing company, Drew Barrymore approved-Speechy, is working with more women (up approximately 10% year on year), less than a quarter of our clients are female and around 15% of them are in a same sex relationship. Exhibiting at a national wedding show recently, I was shocked at how few brides had even considered giving a speech. Or wondered if their mum would appreciate some mic time. Or whether their best mate has more to offer than keeping the bride’s prosecco topped up in the morning.

Sure, nobody has to do anything they don’t want to do on their wedding day, but surely men can claim an equal fear of public speaking as us. Isn’t it odd, a shame really, that the only speech paying tribute to the groom is one that roasts him? Doesn’t he deserve a few compliments thrown his way too? Wouldn’t your guests love to hear what you think about him and why exactly you’ve agreed to tolerate each other for the rest of your lives?

As someone who delivered my own bride speech (and my mum and sister-in-law gave a speech at my wedding too), I think women are missing an opportunity if they decide to sit quietly at their wedding.

It's not about making a feminist statement, it's about having fun.

From personal experience, it wasn’t about making a feminist statement, it was about having fun. I made people laugh and ensured all my friends and family (and the groom) felt a little more loved. I ended up getting more compliments for my speech than I did my dress (and it was bloody gorgeous).

So brides-to-be, I’d encourage you to speak up. In a digital world, the power of the spoken word offers a different type of intimacy and connection. Grab the opportunity and don’t let your partner hog all the speech glory. Remember, this is one of the rare occasions when you can shout about how much you adore your partner without your mates sticking their fingers down their throats.

Here's how to write a Bride’s Speech...

Cut the clichés – So many speeches sound exactly the same. If a line could be delivered by another bride, then it shouldn’t be in yours. Words like ‘soulmate’ should be banned. Avoid the white noise and don’t resort to too many adjectives.

Bring your partner’s qualities to life by telling stories that illustrate them in action. Rather than saying he’s ‘kind’, tell everyone that he didn’t moan when he picked you up at 3am after a night out, even after you ‘discovered’ your wallet in your jacket as soon as you got home.

Don’t turn it into a thank you list –Yes, be thoughtful and make everyone feel genuinely appreciated but don’t individually name check everyone who’s travelled far and certainly don’t bother thanking people you’ve paid.

If the venue or the wedding planner has gone above and beyond the call of duty, offer to leave them a glowing review (they will appreciate it more).

Make any ‘thank yous’ you do deliver (to both sets of parents and your bride squad) genuinely personal rather than simply platitudes. Thank your mother-in-law for making the best Yorkshire puddings in Cheshire and your father for not telling your mum it was you who split the red wine on the carpet.

Add humour – You’re not expected to be a stand-up comedian but humour isn’t just the best man’s responsibility. Every speech deserves some funny lines. Get humour in early, within the first 20 seconds if you can. You and your guests will instantly relax and enjoy the speech more.

Resist the urge to google wedding gags, and instead, work with the reality of your relationship. What do you regularly ‘debate’? How are you different? What are your annoying habits that your partner will now have to put up with? Remember the adage, it’s funny because it’s true.

Nail the romance - You can be romantic, insightful and poignant without being boring, cheesy, or becoming target practice for your mates who suddenly want to chuck olives from the mezze table at you.

It’s just about thinking differently. Instead of going big, look at the small, everyday details of your relationship. Concentrate on what makes your partner unique and hunt down the things that make your partner ‘them’.

Are they a tech-fiend, a gym bunny, a library lover, or the world’s oldest Haribo addict? Rather than portraying them as some sort of idealistic love-god, relish who they actually are.

Keep it snappy – No more than 1,300 max but 800 can suffice. You need to deliver your speech within ten minutes, allowing for pauses and laughter.

Write your first draft and edit it down by 50%. Punchy is always better. Remember, no one ever listened to a speech and thought, ‘If only it were longer’.

Heidi Ellert-McDermott is the founder of Speechy and the author of The Modern Couple's Guide to Wedding Speeches (Publishing on 10 March)

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