10 Tips for Making a Wedding Speech When You Can’t Stand One of the Couple
Your friend, sibling or child announces their engagement and, of course, you’re absolutely thrilled for them! They couldn’t have chosen a better person to spend the rest of their life with! It’s a match made in heaven! Except… if it’s not.
Despite having shown excellent taste by having you as a friend or a relative, your loved one has gone and chosen a partner who, in your opinion, is Mr. or Ms. Wrong. Maybe it’s someone who, for perfectly good reasons, you don’t get along with. Maybe those reasons aren’t so good – you just don’t like them. Maybe their betrothed is perfectly nice, but you don’t believe they’re “the one” for your loved one. Worst of all, maybe you feel like you should be the one up there at the altar with one of the partners.
And now you’re stuck with the unsavory task of making a speech at your loved one’s wedding, because you play a significant role in their life. How are you going to manage that without coming across as either rude or a hypocrite?
Take a deep breath and relax. You can do this. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll survive the experience with your integrity intact, and your fellow guests will be none the wiser. And best of all, you won’t spoil your loved one’s special day.
- Remember: it’s an honor to be giving this speech. Set your grudges and misgivings aside. It may be tempting to pepper your speech with jabs aimed at the offending spouse, or to use this platform to air your grievances. But, in the immortal words of Elsa, “Let it go.” The couple is now married; their life together is just beginning. This is your chance for a fresh start as well. It may not be too late to discover the qualities that make the partner so special to someone whose happiness you value.
- Don’t make the speech all about your loved one while ignoring their partner. This isn’t a birthday or graduation party. It’s a wedding – the union of two people – not just your favorite one. Speaking about one party while barely mentioning the other is sure to be noticed by your audience, and will only hurt and embarrass the person you are there to support.
- Can’t think of anything nice to say? Concentrate on the offending partner’s accomplishments. Everyone has something they’re proud of. Are they a top sales manager? Did they complete a triathlon? Are they unbeatable at chess? Do they have a wealth of Harry Potter trivia? Express admiration for their skills and talk about how the commitment it took to develop that expertise will be valuable in married life.
- No matter how much you dislike the partner, they have at least one positive personality trait. No, seriously. They do. Are they patient? Do they love animals? Or maybe they have a trait you find annoying, such as talking too much, but you can reframe it as friendliness. Even the worst person isn’t all bad. Dig deep. Remember, your loved one believes they have many wonderful traits.
- Ask your loved one what they love or admire about their partner, then ask permission to mention some of those things in your speech. If your loved one knows you don’t approve of their partner, tread carefully. Make it clear that this is a fact-finding mission for your speech, not a last-ditch effort to break them up. And mean it. If you can have an amicable conversation, you will not only collect material, you may gain a whole new perspective on the partner you dislike. It could be that they’re a very different person when they’re alone with your loved one.
- Recall good times that you spent with the couple, even if those times would have been more fun without the offending partner. Remember that night you went out together and danced till dawn? Or that road trip along Route 66? Maybe what you remember most about it was the offending partner hogging your loved one’s attention all evening. Or having to listen to the offending partner’s heavy-metal playlist for three hundred miles. But if you set your mind to it, you can most likely find a humorous memory or a bonding moment to focus on. Maybe it was when the couple was making out all night on the dance floor that you realized it was true love. And that thought made you gag. But you won’t add that detail into your speech.
- Express your wishes for time spent with the couple in the future. If all else fails and you truly can’t dredge up a happy memory or a good quality or accomplishment – or if you barely know the partner, but it was hate at first sight – this tip will save your speech. Talk about things you would like to do with the couple. You and the newlyweds may have discussed getting together for some occasion in the future, or you may be forced to come up with a hypothetical future event. Either way, express your wish to spend quality time with them and to get to know the partner better.
- If you feel uncomfortable making eye contact with the partner during the speech, use a focal point close to their eyes instead. Maybe you have such antipathy for the offending partner that you can’t stand the sight of their face, or maybe they know you dislike them, and you don’t want to see them sneering at you when you’re trying your best to put a positive spin on your words. Look at your loved one, look at a focal point close to the offending partner’s eyes (such as the eyebrows or bridge of the nose), and let your eyes roam over the assembled guests the rest of the time.
- Test your speech on a trusted friend or relative who knows your feelings for the partner. You may think there’s no trace or animosity or insincerity in what you’ve written, but someone who knows you well will be able to spot a well-hidden jab or a backhanded compliment. Take their advice and expunge the offensive material.
- End with a toast to the happy couple. You may not be happy, but hopefully they are. And if you truly love one party, you’ll want them both to be content. Who knows? Maybe the offending partner will be so impressed with your positive words that you’ll be able to build bridges with the most important person in your loved one’s life.
Set aside your grudges and get to work. With a little ingenuity, you can make a speech that is upbeat, thoughtful and kind without saying a single word that isn’t true. Your loved one will thank you for it. Perhaps the offending partner will breathe a sigh of relief. Best of all, you can party the rest of the night away safe in the knowledge that you helped make the day memorable for all the right reasons.