Singaporebrides | The Groom Room

October 2013

How I Survived The Groom’s Speech

It’s known to render grooms sleepless, witless, and speechless. Fu Jinming tackled the all-important wedding speech, and lived to tell the tale.

Public speaking terrifies me. The very thought of going up on stage to face an audience, no matter how small, never fails to induce a childish fear in me. The kind that sets my pulse on Formula One mode, and hastens last night’s dinner up my throat.

That is, if I don’t blank out and forget my own name first.

It happened when I was nine; my teacher had somehow thought it a good idea to enter me for the school’s annual Chinese storytelling competition. I turned it into a Greek tragedy.

Then there was the time I was asked to give a talk to the entire lecture hall back in engineering school. My friends had to cajole me out of a toilet cubicle – in another building.

And as luck would have it, I ended up with a job in advertising, which meant presentations on a regularly painful basis. I suspect our clients were entertained more by my sudden bout of stammering, than the campaigns I was selling them.

So while everyone was counting down the weeks to my wedding day, I was counting down to the day I die of a deadly affliction – the wedding speech.

It didn’t make any sense. I’m not afraid of face-to-face conversations. Not often anyways. I had even won a speechwriting competition once as a student (I did it for the prize money. And I delivered the speech drunk.)

Besides, this was the most important day of my life. All our relatives and friends would be there; people who would love and support me no matter what. Everybody would be rooting for me. Nobody would be judging me.

Right?

Tell that to the wreck in my mirror.

I kept imagining myself behind the podium, saying something I thought was funny but hearing silence in return, like something just died – my confidence, for one.

Or worse, I’d get up there, panic, and say nothing at all.

Rather than let it eat at me, I decided to face my fear the only way I knew how – by over-preparing.

First I had to actually write the speech. So five days before the big day, I sat down, shut the door, and started with the basics:

Good evening. Thank you very much for joining J and I on our very special day.

That wasn’t too hard. Speechwriting books would suggest that I launch into a funny anecdote at this point. Instead, I decided on brevity and went for a short two-liner that drew on an insight, one that other couples would relate to:

Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, you are about to witness a momentous occasion – for the first time ever, J’s letting me speak first.

How I Survived The Groom Speech

I imagined the laughter this turn-of-phrase would bring. I imagined my relief upon hearing it, and the rest of the speech started to flow, like a stream rushing unto a river.

I guided its meandering with a list of people to thank – colleagues, close friends, and family. I housed them into a paragraph each, and peppered them with a jokey line or two. Nothing fancy, just a few observations about my relationship with each party, bent here and there to invite a few laughs.

Like how grateful I was that my groomsmen took the trouble to look less handsome than me for once. How my folks weren’t convinced I could wear t-shirts and jeans every day and still be gainfully employed. And how I was eternally indebted to my dad – and his wallet.

I then tied it up nice and tight with a segment addressing J’s parents, thanking them for giving me their daughter’s hand in barely passable Mandarin. That should conclude in more laughter, I thought.

Then came the hard part.

Having a well-written speech was the battle half-won. The other half was where I typically become a babbling idiot. I couldn’t afford to be that babbling idiot on my wedding day. That meant rehearsing till I could read my speech in my sleep.

Not that I was going to memorise the speech. I have trouble even remembering where I park the car at the mall, let alone 1,300 words.

What I tried to commit to memory, rather, was the sequence of my speech – so I always knew which part was coming up as I read it – and the manner in which I’d hoped to deliver it. That meant remembering the emotions I was trying to convey in each part, as well as the sentences to pause at for effect.

The goal here was to know my speech well enough to make my read as natural as I possibly could. For reference, I watched YouTube clips of how stand-up comedians delivered their punch lines.

Then I practised, practised, practised. Every moment alone became an opportunity to rehearse. At the bus stop, in the showers, inside the toilet stall at work.

I would’ve asked J to be my test audience, but I wanted to keep my speech a surprise. Somehow, it felt less like a chore and more like a game that way, which kept me interested.

On the day of the wedding, I saw the stage in the banquet hall and felt a familiar fear brewing. The butterflies in my stomach chewed up what little appetite I had as the dinner wore on. So I tried to drown them with a glass of red wine while waiting to be summoned to the podium. That helped.

I was deathly nervous. Yet this time, it felt different. I wasn’t hyperventilating at the thought of my impending humiliation. Nor was I scanning the room for the quickest way out. All I did was hold J’s hand. She squeezed my hand, and I knew I was going to be ok. We were going to be ok.

The emcee said something that I missed. The guests started clapping and I realised it was time. We walked up the stage and stood behind the podium together. I unfolded my speech, tapped on the microphone, and began: “Good evening. Thank you very much for joining J and I on our very special day.”

I arrived at the end of my first paragraph, paused at my first punch line, and waited. The audience laughed, and I heaved a mental sigh of relief. The rest was a bullet-train blur, but the applause, the laughter, and the standing ovation told me I had survived it all.

When it was all over the only thing I remembered, besides the smile on my face, was the one on hers. It was the one that mattered.

Click here to read the very funny and touching speech the writer wrote for his wedding.


Credits

Images from The Peeping Thom