Sunday 6 July 2014

Dublin: A Wedding Speech

An uncle of the day
When I was invited for a wedding in Dublin, I thought it was great honour to be considered. From a friendship and moral support perspective, at best, I thought I’ll be an ordinary uncle amongst many of the day. That for me for significant enough.
However, you can only imagine my shock when I received an email that I had been selected as one of two to make a speech no longer than 5 minutes and without religious exhortation since it was a civic ceremony.
I write and rarely speak
Now, I write blogs, it is quite due to my presumed inadequacies that I rarely write for other forums, at least I have not done that for a well over a year. I am quite comfortable with my blog, what I write, in my own space and without having to voice it.
I probably can count the number of times I have spoken into a microphone and in all those times, my voice quavered as I hoped to finish what I had to say before I lost my voice to nervousness.
Yet, I have been called to give impromptu speeches or even stand in front of congregations to talk and as long it was just my voice, it carried loud enough to the hearing of those present, but has not been something I have so desired to do with much enthusiasm.
The madness of inspiration
Back to the speech, I could not think of what to write as each day passed with all sorts of quotes and stories appearing in my usual reading that derives from news stories, Twitter and other media.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday night, the ceremony being on Friday, I decided to go for the madness of inspiration angle. The one where I have a thought in mind and I just begin to tap at the keyboard. I have written before that when I type I can be like a person possessed, the thoughts almost un-thought, the words never before strung together like that to my reading, something materialises.
Long enough, short enough
The theme I chose was the strength of communication and need to work together at making a marriage work and after my first draft, what was needed was some refinement of parts to make it easy to understand in a speechmaking setting, something I have no particular experience of.
I read it first to my flatmate, it was just 2 minutes 45 seconds long, he timed it and he liked it, but as I read it, I made some corrections. I have found that reading a piece out loud is a good way of proofreading a write-up; if it does not flow or sound right, it needs to be edited.
The same principle applies, as I do with my blogs, it should wear like a good skirt; long enough to cover the detail and short enough to keep the interest.
Then I sent it to my best friend who thought the Shakespearean quotes I used were a bit Old English for my intended audience, though I thought otherwise. However, rather than modernising the language, I tried to explain the context better because I was playing with quotes and the names of the plays and to my mind I thought that was good.
The final edition and there were only three was sent to my colleague at work and that inadvertently caused him to suggest I might have to give a speech at his nuptials – surely, I am not that good. In any case, he liked it.
The speech was tested across three radically different cultural perspectives and the feedback suggested it was nice, that gave me some confidence.
Giving the speech
I have never fancied myself a poet, so I don’t attempt such theatrics, recitations are difficult because that means you have to commit the piece to memory, jokes were completely out of the question, I am enough of a clown that I could not afford to make a complete fool of myself, in front of strangers.
That did not leave me out of ideas, the speech just filled an A4 paper size but I decided to read it from a blown-up A3 paper size. The gag being as I talked about being asked to make a short speech, I would unfold the sheet until I had this unusually big sheet of paper in my hands and wait for a reaction.
The registrar was concerned that we did not have all day, but it was effective and though I stumbled through a few paragraphs, I seemed to come across well enough that some even remembered parts of my speech that were not particular quotes of others.
I do not think this is the advent of a speechwriting career, but for the occasion, I hope the words would matter to those to whom it mattered and that they helped to make a lovely day too.

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