Everyone loves a wedding. With great speeches, fantastic outfits and not so close relatives trying to drink their own bodyweight in table wine, you’d have to be made of wood not to get stuck into the revelry and start dancing with strangers like you’re putting up wallpaper…with your tie around your head Rambo style. But amongst all the fun and games there’s usually always a twinge of sadness or two as you reflect on who’s not there, and it normally falls upon the speakers and the speeches to tackle the tricky issue of loss.
As a wedding speech writer I’m called upon to write about sadly departed friends and relatives just as much as I am the living. Most people tend to get married a lot later in life which means that nearly every couple I write for is having to go through their special day without an important person they grew up with. This brings about a really tough situation: how do you deal with talking about a person who has died without the speech and indeed the day becoming swamped in sadness?
You have to be brutally pragmatic about it otherwise there’s a real danger of rendering the speech a mini eulogy and that’s not what the day is supposed to be about. A wedding should be a joyful, uplifting celebration and that’s exactly what it needs to focus on and that feeling is marshalled directly by the speeches and the speakers. It’s part of their remit, whether they like it or not, to grab that feel good spirit and provide the perfect transition between the food and the dancing. If the mood is brought crashing down it’s pretty much impossible to get it going again, and nothing will do that more effectively that majoring on death.
Parents, grandparents and friends who have died all have their place in the speech but it should be kept really light, focusing on a positive and never more than a couple of sentences. A great way to combine these people and a wedding speech is of course a joke, and if you think I’m being overly frivolous, then you’re very mistaken. It’s paramount to keep things upbeat and the chances are the deceased also had a sense of humour, so why not do that justice and maybe take a lighthearted look at what they might have thought of today’s celebrations?
Trust me: avoid the urge to make everyone sob uncontrollably and instead go for the tried and tested route of fun, with respect. It’s a wedding, it’s meant to be great fun, so let everyone enjoy it.