Planning: Say it with love

From ‘I love you’ to ‘I do’, words mark special moments throughout a wedding. They can add depth and personality to your celebration so it pays to plan your prose as carefully as your table arrangements

  • Story by Photo Jody Lidstone & Words Briar Douglas

From ‘I love you’ to ‘I do’, words mark special moments throughout a wedding. They can add depth and personality to your celebration so it pays to plan your prose as carefully as your table arrangements.

‘Say as you think and speak it from your souls’

William Shakespeare
Your vows are both a public and personal declaration of your love and promises to each other, and their exchange is likely to be one of the most significant parts of your special day – after all, it is these words that officially take you from fiancé to wife.
Wedding planner Gayle Garmaz recommends personalising your vows by including accounts of special moments that are meaningful to both of you.
For your vows to meet the legal requirements, they must include an explicit promise to take your man to be your husband, or words to that effect, says celebrant Allan Spence. ‘This leaves plenty of room to personalise what you say, so get creative and write something that reflects your personalities and the feel of the day. If you and your fiancé are the joking type, humour can be a wonderful way to make your vows unique and memorable.’
But there is one caveat, Gayle points out: Carefully consider what you are promising. ‘Saying he’ll always put the toilet seat down might sound cute, but do you really want your wedding vows to be broken that easily?’ Instead, look for amusing qualities about yourselves or recount a funny story that illustrates the best parts about your relationship and how good you are together.
If you want to recite your vows while looking into your man’s eyes, start memorising your lines at least one month before the wedding. Alternatively, have your celebrant read them out line by line for you to repeat. If you’re nervous about speaking in public, Toastmaster Mike Diggins says it helps to remember that your guests won’t recall exactly what you say or necessarily notice if you miss a word or two. What they will remember is the tone of the vows, so focus on expressing your true feelings for each other rather than being word perfect.

Master of Ceremonies
‘Good words are worth much, and cost little.’
George Herbert
Whether you hire a professional or ask a friend to step in, designate someone to make announcements and direct guests. Keep in mind that a pro will follow your guidelines, be comfortable with crowds and won’t get distracted, so may be well worth considering – particularly at larger weddings where it can be difficult to get everyone’s attention. Master of Ceremonies David Seel recommends meeting your MC before the day to ensure you’re comfortable with their style. ‘A good MC is your spokesperson and will be guided by your vision. Look for someone who asks questions about what you want, from the tone of the day to the order of events.’ Above all, it’s a celebration of your union, so the MC should keep talking to a minimum and keep the spotlight on you and your man.

‘Be sincere, be brief, be seated’
Abraham Lincoln

Of all your wedding moments, the speeches are likely to be among the most meaningful, especially if you take time to set the stage. Where you slot speeches into your day is up to you, but if members of the bridal party are likely to be nervous or tempted to have a few too many glasses of liquid courage, Mike recommends having speeches earlier in the day.
Assigning a speaking order can also help calm nerves, as speakers will have a better idea of what to expect. Traditionally, the father of the bride speaks first to welcome his new son-in-law, followed by the groom and then the best man, but these days the father of the groom, the mothers of the couple, the bridesmaids and the bride herself also often choose to speak. As well as the planned speeches, leaving some flexibility to allow for impromptu words is a good idea – they can be among the most memorable. To ensure speeches run smoothly, give your ‘toast masters’ some guidelines before the big day, especially when it comes to timing. Gayle suggests setting a time limit of three minutes to keep festivities moving along: ‘While people will happily listen to fun or emotive speeches, those that drag on can bore them.’
The best man’s speech is often the most anticipated as it tends to be fun, but if he’s the unpredictable type and you’re worried that he’ll embarrass you or your husband, have your man ask him to to steer clear of inside jokes that will alienate you, your family and guests. Finally, relax and enjoy your loved ones’ stories and well wishes – you and your beloved will treasure their words forever.

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