If there were ever any doubt that Hugh Grant’s charm is indestructible, his character’s best man speech in “Four Weddings and a Funeral” should serve as the final proof. There are only a few rules to follow when giving a wedding speech, like to avoid the word divorce and to withhold family secrets, and Grant breaks them all. Though he does so while wearing dopey glasses and sweetly stuttering, so we forgive him. Similarly, in the movie “Old School,” a drunk Luke Wilson gives a successful speech only because Vince Vaughn swoops in and saves him with Shakespeare. So, what can we, mere mortals of the real wedding world, take from all these outlandish, unrealistic Hollywood examples? Here are five tips from on-screen weddings to make your own speech Oscar-worthy:
Believe in the Fairy Tale
While preparing a wedding speech, it’s helpful to think about the reception audience. Whether it’s a group of 30 or 300, they will all eventually be staring and listening to you, awaiting insight and entertainment. “They’re here because they want to be in the presence of true love,” Owen Wilson tells Rachel McAdams before her speech in Wedding Crashers. “That’s why people come to weddings – because people want to believe in true love.” It’s possible that people come to weddings for the open bar, and perhaps your speech is the only thing standing between the them and the free self-serve tacos. But these are not the thoughts of a romance writer. Weddings can be sappy, but they can also be sincere. Try thinking about the couple’s relationship in cinematic terms – the meet cute, the uncertainty, the happily ever after – and hopefully the speech will write itself.
Give ‘Em A Line
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is a treasure of marriage advice. It warned brides everywhere to avoid blue taffeta gowns and to “put some Windex on it!” The movie’s biggest lesson, though, is that true love can endure any obstacle, whether it be in the form of an erratic aunt or a mountain of cultural differences. This is a heavy lesson, one that is summed up sweetly and simply by Gus Portokalos in his wedding speech. “So, okay, here tonight, we have apple and orange. We’re all different, but in the end, we all fruit.” When preparing your speech, think about the biggest lesson you have personally learned from the couple, and try to sum it up in one, good line – Hollywood loves a good line.
Rave, don’t roast.
There is a tendency for wedding speeches to lean on the side of roasting. Poking fun at the bride or groom is a good way to get the audience engaged and laughing, and it can lighten up a segment of the reception that can melt into awkward weepiness. When employing such a tactic, always remember the words of (again) Owen Wilson, “The whole ‘funny but it’s true bit,’ only works when the truth is a small thing.” Make fun of the hosts’ small and familiar habits. Avoid deep, internalized insecurities. Try to counter a critique with a compliment, like Bill Nighy does in “About Time”. “Later on I may tell you about [the groom’s] many failings as a man and as a table tennis player,” he begins his speech. It’s more important, though, that he first states the obvious - he loves his son and he is proud of him.