Ever have those moments when you throw your hands in the air and ask, “How did I get myself into this mess?”
Welcome to my life.
However, in one of the more recent instances, I knew exactly whom to blame for the mess—my roommate. She suggested to our friend, a bride-to-be, that I officiate her wedding.
“It only takes a couple of minutes online,” she said. “Can you imagine? What a hoot that’d be!"
Well, dear readers, we needn’t imagine any longer.
About a month later, the bride-to-be requested I brush up on my biblical references, don my best white collar, and officially join the holy ranks as a man of the cloth.
Wait—is it too late to suggest being the 25-year-old ring bearer? Flower man, even?
bull-by-the-horns kind of friend I am, I agreed. And while it wouldn’t be my first crack at public speaking, it would be my first presiding over a wedding. So what did I take away following the big nuptials?
(SPOILER ALERT: It wasn’t the garter. Thank God.)
Instead, I left the ceremony with some tips that will help any reluctant public speaking virgin who
got thrown under a bus
was eager to give it the old college try.
1. Find your courage, liquid or otherwise.
If you’re speaking at a wedding, you can often find said courage at the bar (just don’t find too much of it), but when you’re speaking in front of your work colleagues, it’s probably best to not smell of scotch. So, remember this: If you’re going to be funny, be funny. If you’re going to be sincere, be sincere. And if you’re going to make a joke about having the kinks worked out in your script in time for the bride and groom’s third or fourth marriages, you better be able to sell the sh** out of it.
2. Lighten the mood.
You want your audience to look like they’re celebrating a wedding, not attending a funeral. So, kick things off with a little humor—at least something light-hearted. Don’t just jump into the meat of the speech (or the vows). In my case, the bride was from Illinois, the groom from Wisconsin. That meant the aisle was a demilitarized zone between Bears country and its neighbor to the north—the land of beer and cheese. For that reason, I promised to take it slow for the Packers fans. Zing!
3. Project. As in your voice.
The minister at a wedding often invokes the voice of God. Though I wouldn’t say the higher calling of my message from the Universal Life Church
went quite that far, I did make sure my righteous words were heard loud and clear. No matter the venue or the occasion, audiences will quickly lose interest in a speaker who’s mumbling through a speech.
4. Avoid sartorial setbacks.
Despite my role in the wedding, I didn’t wear a white collar. I’m blue-collar at best and about as godly as Casey Anthony is innocent. But I rock a skinny tie like nobody’s business. Moral of the story: Don’t be a total schlub. You don’t have to don a tuxedo, but do make sure you look your best—whatever that means. If you can’t be bothered to fix yourself up for your audience, then why should they listen to what you have to say?
5. Look ’em in the eye.
If you’re nervously glancing at your notecards the whole time, then you’re not looking your audience in the eye. Don’t make them think you’re lying. This will require practice. If you can, go up there without notes (and that includes the kind written on your hand). If you’re not perfectly confidant, then bring them along. Glance down when you need a prompt. It’s better than a string of “Um …” Just make sure you don’t read straight from the card. It’s almost as bad as mumbling. Almost.
6. Celebrate … when you’re finished.
Congratulations, you’re done. You did a great job (I hope). But even if you didn’t, the speech is over. You got through it—an experience that many people find more terrifying than death. (I mean public speaking, not marriage.) If you’re at a wedding, look on the bright side: open bar. If it’s not a wedding, then head to a bar that’s open—and while you’re knocking back a few, consider where you excelled and where you fell short. There’s always the second or third wedding.
(Yes, I’m available for multi-denominational matrimonial bliss.)