The tradition of wedding speeches by the father of the bride, groom and best man are something you might think only happens at Western weddings. However, wedding speeches ae are fast growing trend at Asian weddings.
In the past, couples might simply have thanked those who made the day possible, but now the speeches are a highlight of the day. And since you might be speaking to a room of 800+ guests, it's really important that you nail your speech! A good wedding speech should include humour, heartfelt moments and genuine gratitude for the loved ones who are there to celebrate with you.
If you're thinking of having speeches at your South Asian wedding, there's a few things to consider, from how risqué the best man speech can be to who is delivering the speeches.
We spoke to Shai Hussain from Speechy, a crack team of comedy writers who can help you create an unforgettable wedding speech, to discover more about Asian wedding speeches.
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Are Speeches Customary at an Asian Wedding?
"They're done at most Asian weddings now, especially in the Asian diaspora (UK, US, Canada, Australia, NZ) and urban cities in South Asia," says Shai.
"Maybe not so much the rural parts, but many engaged couples have taken a huge cue from South Asian Cinema, which took its own cue from Hollywood. Weddings are getting bigger and fatter around South Asia, where creating a lasting impression is becoming increasingly desired."
Just think of films like Bridesmaids, Wedding Crashers and About Time where the speeches are huge moments in the movie. It's no surprise that more Asian couples are bringing those sincere and special moments into their wedding - just make sure you have a videographer on hand to catch them!
Who Gives a Speech at an Asian Wedding?
At a Western wedding, the traditional order of speeches goes father of the bride, groom and best man (although this has changed in recent years), but Shai says it depends on the family at South Asian weddings.
"It often goes like this in order of popularity: best man, maid of honour, groom, father of the bride, father of the groom, bride, mother of the bride, mother of the groom. The maid of honour is very often a sister. Close aunts and uncles have often taken a moment to share their sentiments too.
"In the more conservative families, it's often only the men who make the speeches. In the UK, lately I've found brides are third in line after best man and maid of honour. Because of the stigma of South Asian men generally being in control and needing to be reserved and respectful, the fun speeches are often left to the bride, whilst I've found the men are often stuck with simply saying thanks to everyone for coming."
Family not big fans of giving speeches? You only really need three speeches - the couple and one person representing each side of the family - and any more than that is your choice. The format can be super short and simple: tell one great story about the couple, share a piece of advice and end with your best wishes for their future.
To reduce the pressure on nervous family members, set a limit for how long each person can speak, and don't be afraid to have them say just a few kind words if they'd prefer that.
Truthfully, who speaks really does depend on what works for your wedding and your family then. There's no strict rules about who must give a speech. You should remember that the more speeches, the longer it will take. Your guests will be hungry and want to dance!
What Is Key to a Good Speech at a South Asian Wedding?
You could be speaking to a room of 800 people so the most important thing to do is break the ice and grab their attention. Something warm and witty that gets the room on your side is the best way to start and you can even include props or visuals, like a slideshow of funny childhood photos. It can be quite hard to get 800 people to all start listening at the same time, so kick off with something that will keep all eyes on the speechmakers.
Each speech is unique in what it needs to contain, for example, the father of the bride or groom should pay tribute to their child and welcome their new spouse into the family. The groom should offer thank yous to everyone who helped and praise his new husband or wife and their future together. The bride can add a big burst of humour to the day.
The key thing to bear in mind is to not ramble on too long. A short and sweet speech can be perfect and kick off the festivities of the evening. We'd actually recommend splitting the speeches across the evening if you're planning lots; your guests will appreciate it!
Are Risqué Best Man Speeches a Big No-No?
We've all been to a wedding where the best man gave a speech that was too on the nose. A best man speech should absolutely include humour and gentle ribbing of the groom but it must also be appropriate to the setting and the audience. The audience at an Asian wedding will range from little children to elderly relatives, and you don't want the newlyweds to be regretting giving you such a prestigious role.
Shai says to take what you know about the family as your starting cue.
"There was a wedding I was at where the best man was outrageous and upset the bride because it was a bit too extreme for her parents, but the mates of the couple were bawling their eyes out with laughter.
The audience for Asian weddings is seriously varied with a sensitive older group, and increasingly liberal younger groups. Risqué can be okay, but I'd recommend that the person making the speech thinks hard about what's appropriate and check with the couple if unsure."
If you have some bawdy stories you'd like to share, perhaps save it for a pre-wedding event when elderly ears aren't about. If you're having a stag and hen party, this is the ideal time, or even a mehndi or sangeet party if it's mainly friends of the couple.
South Asian Weddings Can Have a Huge Guest List - How Do I Calm My Nerves?
"HUUUUUGGGEE guest list," says Shai. We're talking anywhere from 300 people to 800+ people. The majority of speech-givers on the day will never have spoken in such a large audience so it's important to get comfortable with what you're going to say and bring energy to your speech.
"For calming nerves, preparation is key. Riffing on the spot may work for a tiny number of people born with a talent for improv, but nothing keeps nerves at bay more than knowing what you want to say and how you want to deliver it.
"To get the room on your side, humour is a must. Break the ice as soon as possible, so either start the speech cracking a joke about something that happened earlier in the wedding, or commenting on a memorable part of the speech you're following. Try not to fill your speech with overused marriage jokes from Google that people have heard too many times.
"Tell them a story - personal, humorous, a beginning/middle/end (most importantly a glorious end), and maintain eye contact with the room as you tell it to them. So humour, warmth, intrigue, insight and emotion," recommends Shai.
Practice really is so important. Run through your speech a few times with a trusted person, get honest feedback, and then repeat it yourself so you know where you're going next. And please don't rely on Dutch courage - you won't want that caught on camera forever, we promise!
What to Include in Asian Wedding Speeches
The general format isn't going to differ much from a Western wedding, except there may be many more people to thank and gifts to give out. Your basic outline is: 1) welcome guests/thank speaker before you, 2) talk about the couple, 3) tell a funny story, 4) end with best wishes or a toast to the couple and their future.
We'd recommend you check out our guide to each of the wedding speeches below and then adapt using Shai's advice.
What Else Should We Remember?
- The two families should come up separately to give their speeches. And even if only your dad or your mum are speaking, both should come up and stand together. The same goes for all your siblings coming up even if only the maid of honour is speaking.
- In a large room, you're going to be speaking into a microphone so everyone can hear you. Hold the microphone straight in front of you, facing towards your mouth. Remember to move it with your head as you turn and not have it too close or you'll get lots of popping and feedback noise.
- If someone like a neighbour or third cousin once removed wants to make a speech, politely say no. They can leave you a lovely note in the guest book or send you a card after the day, but you really have to stay strong in not letting it turn into a free-for-all with the microphone.
- If in doubt about whether guests will be offended by your speech, keep it clean. And, as always, never mention the couple's ex partners!
Good luck and make sure to practice, practice, practice. And make sure to follow our top 10 tips for writing a wedding speech!