We are lucky enough to have the world-renowned author and etiquette expert Patsy Rowe answer your questions relating to wedding etiquette and public speaking. Patsy has extraordinary expertise in these areas and has written a number of books on these subjects including "The Little Book of Etiquette" and "Public Speaking" (shown below).
Every month, Patsy is going to answer questions sent in by you, our readers. If you would like to ask Patsy a question, just go here and fill in the form. Patsy will try to answer all the questions sent to her, so keep a look out for the answers!
Here are this month's questions:
- How long is the best length for speeches at the reception? I'm the bridegroom and I want to give the speakers an idea of how long to base their speech.
- What is the appropriate length of time between the wedding and the reception? Is the speech in weddings be spontaneous or it can be written and read when it's time to have speech?
- Is it considered rude to instead of asking for gifts if we asked for money? How do you go about asking people to give money as a gift? My Partner and I have been living together for 3 years now and feel we have everything for our house that we need and the stuff we would like is to expensive for us to buy so we don't expect other people to get them
- My mother is determined to speak at my wedding. She and my dad are divorced and I'm really worried that she is going to say something nasty about him leaving us when we were young, and marrying his wife who will be with him at the wedding too. What can I do?
- My sister is determined that I have her twins as page boys. They are thoroughly spoiled and badly behaved. How can I get out of it?
and here are the answers...
This can depend on two factors: how many people have you invited to speak (in which case each will speak for a shorter time) and secondly, how good are the speakers. If you have invited the best man, the bride's father, (and you as the bridegroom) intend to speak, then I would say 4 minutes each is ample. This works out to be about 100 spoken words a minute so the written speech would be 400-500 words, depending on the pace of the speaker. IF one of them, say your best man, was reluctant, but your father in law was 'champing at the bit' to speak, I would give your best man a minute, just enough to thank appropriate people, and give your father in law say 7-8 minutes. Even for a good speaker this is enough. People get bored easily unless a speaker is really entertaining..
This should be as little as possible. When people leave the wedding, they often like to mix and mingle a bit outside the church or celebrant's office to chat, but then its important for them to get to the reception within say, one hour. If there is a long gap of say 2-3 hours while photographs are taken, (and this is very inconsiderate) guests may get very bored wondering how to fill in the time, and if they get to the reception and the bridal party isn't there, they might well fill in the time by drinking. Not only could that be a problem if they're well on the way when the bridal party arrives, but it will make a big difference to the grog bill. So from every angle, best to keep this interval to a minimum.
While I understand your predicament, this can be very awkward as when someone gives a wedding gift, the bridal couple don't know what has been spent on it.. perhaps it was even something given to them for their wedding or engagement that they have passed on. Or something they bought at a sale but are thrilled to have found a bargain which will please you, but when you ask for money people are often embarrassed as to how much to give. $50 might be a lot of money to one person and very little to another, an elderly relative on a pension or fixed income might not have money to give away at all. So it really is very tricky from every aspect. I think the safest way not to cause offence is to write a short note to go with the invitation which says that since you and your fiancÚ have been sharing a home together for three years and are very lucky to be well set up with everything you need, you are however saving for a sauna? Swimming pool? Extension? New carpet? whatever and would really appreciate a contribution towards that. This won't prevent them feeling offended unfortunately, (some will!) but the word 'contribution' may soften the blow as they will see you don't expect them to buy it for you!
It's really such a shame that this is worrying you. But I fully understand and sometimes people's emotions can take over at time like this, (especially when they're given a platform to express them on!) and of course a couple of glasses of bubbly can add a lot of courage. There are three courses open to you: You can either speak to your mother and say that you want to keep the speeches to a minimum as you've been to so many wedding where people just drone on, so you and your fiancÚ are only inviting x and x to speak; or, if you think she will see through this, you can be more upfront and say you would really like her to speak but you feel you have to ask her not to get mention your father, the divorce or anything not directly connected to the wedding; the third option is to abandon the speeches altogether. This is not as big a deal as you might think as really, unless the speeches are good, most people are bored out of their minds at weddings and would be delighted if there were to be no speeches.
You don't say if you're having other attendants. If you're having bridesmaids or a matron of honour, I would just say that the expense involved with their outfits, hair, make-up etc has been much more than you expected (keep your fingers crossed if this is a white lie) and you can't afford to have more attendants. If you think she will offer to pay (how keen is she?) then it would be better to be honest and say that you think the twins are too young and frisky for such an important role and rather than risk drama on the day you'd prefer not to ask them. I would find another role for them however. why not get them helping the ushers to seat the guests in the church? They can't go wrong doing this and they can take one side of the church each and feel very important. They can even have special matching outfits to wear so they have all the elements of being in the bridal party without actually being an important part of it.
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