What excitement, how delicious! You’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid! Or, swankier yet, the Maid of Honour! But as the petals of romance and enthusiasm begin to fall and wilt at your feet, are you starting to feel a little nervous at the prospect of standing up in front of the 30/50/80/200 guests and delivering your speech? No wonder, for the pressure is upon you. After all, the tradition of delivering a bridesmaid speech goes back to the Book of Genesis, so most of the original material has been pretty well covered.
So how can you be charming, unique, memorable and moving? How can you get your beloved bride weeping happily and laughing into her monogrammed napkin, while the guests roar with approval and the groom faints with bliss? How can you write the perfect Maid of Honour speech? It’s not an easy task, but don’t worry; I have the answer.
I have been lucky enough to be a bridesmaid/Maid of Honour several times in my life. And I have the secret. And the secret is….poetry. That’s right. And none of your, ‘Roses are red, and violets are blue,’ crap. Real, meaningful, soulful, poetry.
‘Pah!’ you might say. ‘Don’t be so contrite! We’ve all had it up to the eyeballs with Shakespeare and Keats this wedding season, and none of us can stomach any more of it!’
But I’m not talking about Shakespeare or Keats. I’m talking about your poetry.
Now. You need neither a poet nor a writer be to pull this off. Because essentially, poetry just comes down to rhythm and story. And anyone can do it if you have the formula. And luckily for you, I’m going to share it.
And it goes like this…
da DA da DA da DA
da DA da DA da DA
Confused? Fine. Let’s put it into context;
kir-STY she US-ed to BE
a RAt-her WI-ld la-DY
Kirsty she used to be,
A rather wild lady.
Say it out loud to yourself. Feel how the stress goes on every second syllable.
Kirs-TY is MY dear FRIE-nd
I’ll LOVE her TILL the END
Kirsty is my dear friend,
I’ll love her till the end.
Hey, check you out – you just got the rhythm! Get it, girl! Ok, so how, so can we apply this to your wedding speech?
Essentially, you want your poem to follow a fairly simple narrative arc. Allowing for four lines, and therefore two rhyming couplets (as seen above) per subject. Here we go.
- Bride personality/characteristics – (looks, character, quirks, why you love her, charms)
- Groom personality/characteristics – (looks, character, quirks, why you love him, charms)
- How/where did they meet (this verse can be swapped in order with Groom’s personality if needed)
- Relationship (beginning, middle, now)
- What you wish for them
If you follow the formula above, that will give you twenty lines of poetry. Pretty easy right?
Ok, don’t stress, let’s break it down a bit more.
Four lines for your bride. Ok. So tell, me, what is she like? Write down ten words that you think best describe her. Is she funny, sweet, smart, pretty, kind, warm, giving, sharp, quirky, curious, sensitive, bad-ass, strong, independent, adventurous, spiritual, maternal, generous, perceptive? She is? Damn, you’ve got a good bride, right there. So let’s take a few of those and see what we can do. Kirsty, was it?
Kirsty, my darling treat,
You are so kind and sweet.
Your spirit knows no bounds,
In you a friend I’ve found.
Feel like that rhyming pattern limits you a bit? Fine, add a few extra syllables, but remember to match the pace. A good trick is to write down the lines and add a dash above the stress of each word. Then, make sure that your stanzas (or verses) have the same pattern:
Kirsty you darling, wicked girl,
With whom I can always dance and whirl,
And speak my mind and feel at home,
With you I never feel alone.
Kirsty my dear, you are a treat,
Your cuddles warm, your nature sweet,
You lift us up when we are down,
Life is good with you around.
Good. So now you’ve got the rhyming pattern. Let’s go onto the narrative arc. Yes, it sounds fancy, but it’s dead simple.
Four lines for the bride. Four lines for the groom. I really encourage you to ask the wedding party for stories at this point. Email them a few months before the wedding to give you plenty of time to put it all together.
The Narrative Arc. How did these two mega babes get it together? Find the name of the bar/street/city/friend’s house where they met, and write down a list of the keywords that represent their experience. Once you have the words that are the most significant, you can pick some rhyming ones. Use an online Thesaurus or a rhyming website if you need to. No shame.
So how many verses should you write? I’d personally aim for 5-8, which allows you to cover the basics, ie, the bullet points covered above, and a few more if you’re feeling creative.
Remember, you have an audience! Don’t forget, the goal is not to write the next Kubla Kahn, it’s to make the wedding guests feel engaged, sentimental, and to enjoy the speech. The most important thing is for it to contain love and to feel relatable to the couple, not that it’s high-brow or perfectly rhyming.
Be cheeky, you want it to be fun. While sentiment is all well and good, wedding guests can tend to get a little bored if every speech is kind of the same, and a bit gushy. Make your poem emotional, but try to make people laugh too, it will make the speech all the more memorable and enjoyable. Worried you’re not particularly funny? That’s fine, just ask a friend who always makes you howl to lend a hand and tweak some of the lines.
And if you’re feeling extra creative? One of my favourite bridesmaid’s poems I based around Robert Burns’s ‘Address To A Haggis,‘ as our bride was Scottish (first verse quoted below with the original). If you have a poet/poem that you all already admire, why not give it a banging homage and nick the rhyming pattern and theme, but put your own spin on it. That way the guests will (hopefully) recognise it, and appreciate your salty take on the verse.
(Address to our Mairi)
Fair fa’ your honest, bonnie face,
Great lassie o’ the Wiegie-race!
Aboon us a’ ye tak your place,
Where love is thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang ‘s my arm.
(Original by Robert Burns)
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang ‘s my arm.
(If you’re not Scottish you will not understand this, but you get my point)
Who should read them? Well, honey, that’s up to you. From my experience, the speech is the most fun if it has been distributed amongst the bridesmaids, as everyone reading it feels involved, and the bride gets to hear how each of her chosen ladies love her. At my wedding this year each of my bridesmaids read a verse each, which absolutely melted my heart. And, when I’ve written them for friend’s weddings in the past, we’ve always followed this format. This structure is also great for those of you who feel a bit nervous about public speaking. You can opt for the first verse (get it out of the way), or the last (finish with a bang), but no matter what you do, you will be left with a couple with tears in their eyes and a smile on their lips.
If any of you want to try writing a heartfelt and humorous poem for the friend that you love, and are a bit uncertain as to how to go about it, please feel free to either post it here or send it to me directly. It would be my pleasure to give you a tip or two if you’d like.
Photographer was Patrick Phillips, based in Scotland.
If you’re looking for a cheeky wedding present for the couple, you can check out my Etsy page Into Ophelia’s Garden. I make naked (or clothed) couple portrait cake toppers, we had a set on our wedding cake this year too.
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Love to you all x