The Secret to the Best Wedding Speeches


I was working recently with Allan, a father of the bride in New York. We were going over his speech together and he was carefully weighing each word. 

He wanted to be sure we were conveying exactly what he had always wanted to say to his daughter on her wedding day. And he wanted to make sure the words were in exactly the right tone, style and voice.  

I enjoy working with speakers like Allan because they recognize the power of exactly the right words in exactly the right order in a speech. 

Because that kind of focus and attention is what it takes to knock your speech out of the park.

I happened to hear a podcast walking the dog over the weekend that put this into perspective in a different way. Penn Jillette, the talking half of the legendary magic/comedy team Penn & Teller, was discussing the secret to their success: 

"The whole thing about magic is there's only one trick we do—and that trick is we're willing to work harder than you think we would work. We just put a trick in the show that runs 3 minutes that Teller and I worked on for 6 years solid. You would not work 6 years to do 3 minutes. We will.

"As with success in any field, it's always everything. The tricks have to be perfect. One of the big mistakes young magicians make is getting really excited about an idea or concept for a trick that really may be absolutely brilliant and they may absolutely love it. But then they think that the idea is so good they don't have to do it perfectly. 

Once you get the brilliant idea then you've got to do all the stupid shit. So we have an idea that's from our hearts, never been done before and is brilliant. Then we have to have someone sitting way over stage left, way over stage right and up in the balcony going, 'No, I can see your left hand, nope, nope, nope,' and it's really frustrating because you think you've got this great idea and then you have to do the dirt-dump stuff to present it right.

"The only useful thing I learned in high school was from one substitute teacher one day who said in front of my writing class, 'No one wants to read what you write—no one. So make it as easy for them as you can, because the first thing they bump into that gives them an excuse not to read, they will stop. The first thing that's a little hard to read, the first word that out of place or misspelled—people move right on. Every word has to perfectly chosen.'

"A brilliant idea is not enough. Bob Dylan is a good example. He has brilliant idea for a song or say, Blonde on Blonde, the most brilliant pop record ever done. These songs are so good that if you just pull out a guitar and recite the lyrics and play the chords, it would be impressive. But he knows that's not enough.

"So Bob then goes to Nashville and gets the best session cats and the best producers possible and gets those things played absolutely beautifully. Because he knows that if the snare drum is not well recorded, there are some people that are going to reject it and the brilliant idea won't carry you through. So the most important thing [in success] is everything."

Perfecting every note in a song, every trick in an act and every word in a speech makes a huge difference the finished product.

Listen to the full Penn Jillette interview here

And here in Allan's words is how his father of the bride speech went at his daughter's wedding at the New York Public Library in August.