Ah, the joy of watching beautiful young people getting married is sublime, especially when they do so in a garlanded clearing in Yosemite. My husband and I were recently there for just this reason. The weather on this particular day was perfect, there was icy lemonade to be had while we waited in the woods, and everyone was remarking on the natural splendor.
Then the ceremony began, and almost immediately I got the sinking feeling that the groom’s father had been waiting a long time for his moment in the spotlight…and he was going to milk it for all it was worth. I was right. After years of writing and watching speeches, I knew the type immediately. This was going to be about him.
In vain, I tried squinting at his script to see how many pages he had, but couldn’t make it out. Turns out he had five, so it’s just as well that I couldn’t see. He was long-winded, boring, and off point, so all I could do was stare at the pine trees and try to think of … anything else. I came up with a quote of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, who said of her father Teddy Roosevelt “He wants to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral!”
It was finally the mother of the bride’s moment, and in an instant we were transported. Her message was a blend of sage advice, good wishes, and lunar-watching tips. She then stopped the ceremony for a full 90 seconds, telling everyone to “put your cameras and phones down, close your eyes and be present.” I’ll never forget it.
Here is my best tip, to keep firmly in mind when you’re next scheduled (or tempted) to speak at a function:
It’s not about you, it’s about your message. If you find yourself saying “I” a lot, and frequently referring to yourself, then your focus isn’t where it should be. What are you there to say, and it one sentence it would be _____________________?
Whenever a speaker is too involved in the story line, it can become tedious for the audience. In the case of the wedding, we were there for the couple getting married and wanted to witness that, not listen to a 12 minute monologue by a parent. Fortunately the other parent picked up the pace and landed it all on a high note!