Wedding speeches have always perplexed me. Not the fact that they exist “ they’re often a very heartwarming part of the day “ but because traditionally, they’re only given by men.
I think it’s fair to say that for the majority of heterosexual couples, the task of wedding planning falls onto the woman’s lap. Much of the time, she’s the one buying the wedding magazines, scrolling through blogs and creating Pinterest boards.
Men have a say, of course, but it’s the brides-to-be doing the legwork, presenting their partners with options after doing the somewhat tedious graft of researching and whittling wedding suppliers down. So isn’t it a bit weird for the big day to come only for the bride to remain silent while her husband dutifully doles out the thank-yous?
I was totally cheered when I read the news that Meghan Markle might break with tradition by giving a wedding speech when she marries Prince Harry in May. If her previous speeches are anything to go by (you need to listen to her speaking at a UN Women conference a few years ago), it’s going to be a cracker. More importantly, her act of taking to the mic could inspire countless women around the world to follow suit “ and that can only be a good thing.
I know what you’re thinking. “So I need to plan this wedding and then sweat bullets for the full wedding day while I anxiously await my turn to give a speech? Nah, no thanks mate.”
I get it. Public speaking is scary. I have to do it a lot for my job, and even after all these years my legs tremble when addressing a crowd. I was invited to BBC Radio Scotland yesterday to chat on The Kaye Adams Programme about women giving speeches at weddings and though I hopefully sounded composed, my cup of water was practically slipping out of my sweaty palms.
Here’s the thing though: every time I do something like that, I feel amazing afterwards. Partly because there’s a thrill in making it to the other side of something you were previously borderline-terrified about, but also because it’s nice to be heard in a world so dominated by men’s voices and opinions.
I’m not suggesting for one minute that you tell your dad, groom and best man to shut up and sit down because you’re declaring war on the patriarchy. However, I do think that every couple should assess every wedding tradition they encounter and ask themselves if it actually sits well with them. Does it feel right for no women to give any speeches at your wedding?
If the answer to that is no, you’ve got the power to change it. You are under no obligation to stick with tradition. You and your other half could make a joint speech (there’s no better way to dispel the nerves than getting up to speak with your best pal). Perhaps the best man loathes public speaking but your chief bridesmaid is known for her hilarious banter? In that case, let the best woman win.
Image: John Hendry Photography
On the radio show I was on, a woman called Tonya chatted about how she had given a speech at both of her weddings because she’s always the one to stand up and talk at a family gathering. She made the point that at a wedding, you’re surrounded by loved ones. It’s one of the rare times in life that your audience is on your side, rooting for you. It’s why even the dullest wedding speeches will always be met with a cheer and the most Dadly of jokes will elicit a chuckle.
“Women make up more than half of the world’s population and potential, so it is neither just nor practical for their voices, for our voices, to go unheard,” said Meghan Markle in that UN speech.
Ok, she was saying that in relation to the poor representation of women in parliament around the world, but her point stands on a much broader scale. If we want to achieve equality, let’s not forget about the seemingly small things we can do to show that women’s voices matter. Like speaking at our own bloody weddings.