Have you ever been to a wedding where the maid of honor got up and spent ten minutes convincing the audience that she was the bride's bestest best friend only to spend two minutes on honoring the bride herself? I have. Several weddings, in fact.
Yes, she chose you. Yes, you're the maid of honor, AKA: Best Friend. Yay... *scattered applause* you won. Congratulations. (Can you hear how monotone I sound?) But, let's get one thing clear at the start: this day is not about you. It's about that girl you're so proud to be the best friend of.
Whoa! you may be thinking. Chill! You don't even know me! You're right, you're right, I don't know you. Maybe this is your sister (so of course you won the MOH contest), and you're just looking for helpful hints on the speech you're obligated to give.
Maybe you're the only bridesmaid and all the responsibilities have fallen on you, including this speech.
Maybe you're nervous. Or maybe you're excited... enthusiastic... anxious. Maybe you want to throw up every time you think about it.
Whatever your heart is behind this speech, I want us all to be on the same page that this 2-5 minute speech is to celebrate, esteem, encourage, and uplift that girl in the white dress. So, let's do this thing!
Don't start with, "Hi, my name is *insert your name* and I'm the maid of honor." Your speech is going to be different because the first words out of your mouth are going to be a hook.
The hook's job is to catch your audience's attention. They stop looking in their purse, stop talking to the person next to them, stop eating because listening to you has become more important. The hook could be a quote. It could be a fact about marriage. It could be a story about the bride herself.
"They say that you become an expert in something after you've diligently practiced for 10,000 hours. Well, I've been diligently practicing marriage for over 70,000 hours, so let's just say my advice is gold."
"Even though Lily is my best friend, we weren’t always this close. In fact, there was a time I hated Lily. Yeah, no big deal, she just tried to steal by boyfriend from me.”
There will be some people at the wedding who have no idea who you are, and it's important for you to explain that to them. I would spend no more than three sentences explaining who you are (unless the way you met is something you want to explain in the speech. If that's the case, jump right into at the beginning of the speech and let that be your hook).
"I've known Sarah since college. We met in Spanish 101 and have been best friends since the moment I realized she couldn't roll her r's either."
"Lily and I were neighbors when we were little and I spent every day of every summer at her house."
Here's where you get to honor this woman. You are vouching in front of everyone in the room that this woman is worth celebrating. Share stories that showcase her work ethic, kindness, loyalty, ambition, humor, generosity. You don't spend every day telling the bride what she means to you and when she changed your life, so do it today.
However, make sure the anecdotes are about her and her qualities, not you and yours. Again, we get that you're best friends, so the stories you share don't have to only be about your friendship. The people who spent money on plane tickets, Airbnbs, new clothes and wedding gifts didn't come to celebrate you—so showcase the bride.
Also, this isn't a time for you to roast this poor girl. Don't talk about ex-boyfriends, drunk nights, stupid mistakes, embarrassing moments. All of her family and friends are here: don't shame her in front of them just to get a laugh.
Pick stories where she acted heroically, spoke up bravely, stood by loyally, sang out beautifully, protected motherly. Let her be filled with the depth of your words on this day that she will remember for the rest of her life.
The Guy in the Tux
I guess we need to address the guy in the room. It's his wedding day too, I suppose.
Maybe talk about a time that he was there for the bride and you realized he was the one for her. Maybe talk about the first time you met him and you just knew that he was worth your best friend's time. Maybe talk about their relationship and what about it inspires you.
"What I love about you, Mitch, is that you bring out Sarah's best qualities. There's no part of her personality that she has to hide or hinder. She is her truest self around you, Mitch, and I'm so grateful she found someone who sees her and loves her for all she is."
"Blase, the first time I ever met you, I had my doubts about you. But now, looking back, I see that I just didn't know you yet. Matilda's baby shower changed everything for me. You were so kind to Lily's family and you stayed until the last person left helping clean up and playing with the kids... It was then that I saw you as Lily did: a man who loves hard and works hard equally."
Your Golden Advice
This is your moment to share any advice you have for the bride and groom. If you're married, share the biggest thing you've learned in marriage so far. If you're divorced, share something that you wish someone had shared with you. If you're not married, share your hopes and dreams for the couple.
Even if you don't have any therapist-level advice, just share one simple thing that you've learned about love, even if it's not from your personal experience.
"If I could offer you one bit of advice it would be this: offer the grace you want to be offered. When Sarah messes up, Mitch, treat her the way you want her to treat you when you mess up. When Mitch doesn't respond the way he should, Lily, respond in a better way. React in the way you wish he had. Always think the best of each other and give all the grace."
"I'm not married yet, but when I am, I want my marriage to be filled with the same fun your relationship has now. So make sure that you guys are going on adventurous date nights like you are now. Blase, keep doing those scavenger hunts fro Lily, and Lily, always make him those silly Valentine's cards you've been making him every year. Never stop having fun. Never stop enjoying each other."
Tie in Intro
This is the moment when you bring your speech full circle by tying your intro into your closing. Maybe it's a quote that goes with your opening statement, maybe it's on last piece of advice for a question you raised in your opening— but leave your audience with a complete experience.
(Pro note: Whenever someone ends a speech and you think, "Whoa... that was an AWESOME speech," it's usually because the speaker tied their beginning into their ending. You feel like you've come full circle and that complete feeling causes the audience to ooh and ah.)
"Ten thousand hours from now, when you two are marriage experts, I hope that your golden advice is the same as mine: endure lovingly and your marriage will continue to grow deeper."
"Lily and I have had our up and downs in friendship (I had to forgive her for trying to steal Trevor at some point!), and your marriage will be filled with even more. But if I know something about friendship, it's that you never give up. You never stop forgiving, and you never let hurts go unresolved. I wish these for your marriage."
And that's it, folks!
You got this! I'm so excited for your upcoming speech. Follow these seven steps and you're going to be so proud of your speech. I wish you all the success and applause in the world.
If you're still feeling uneasy and would love someone to just WRITE this for you... Call me. Email me. I would love to work one on one with you and discover the speech for you.