Giving an anniversary or wedding speech? Do this to make it memorable
If you’re the one chosen to deliver an unforgettable anniversary or wedding speech in front of family and friends, don’t let the special occasion rattle you. Instead, follow this simple advice.
Last weekend I had the honor of delivering a speech and offering a toast during a small family gathering to celebrate my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary.
My No. 1 goal?
To make the speech and the toast memorable.
You may be facing the same challenge if you’ve been asked to write and deliver a personalized anniversary or wedding speech – either at an intimate gathering among family or at a reception with several hundred guests in attendance.
Creating just the right anniversary or wedding speech can seem intimidating at first.
You begin to visualize the event and realize that all eyes will be on you the moment you stand up to speak.
The stakes are high: The happy couple and every guest in the room will expect to hear a speech that’s entertaining, uplifting and memorable.
How can you make it so?
To write and deliver an anniversary or wedding speech that everyone remembers, start by deciding on a single message.
One point that you want everyone to take with them long after the evening is over.
Here’s the speech I delivered last weekend, crafted around a single message.
# # #
Good evening, everyone.
I’d like to take a minute to personally thank each and every one of you for being here tonight to celebrate Mom and Dad’s 60th wedding anniversary.
In a few moments, we’re going to enjoy a champagne toast and some anniversary cake.
Before we do, I’d like to share a reflection with all of you.
If you’ve ever wandered around inside a Hallmark store, you might have seen a display that tells you all the traditional themes for wedding anniversary gifts.
For a couple’s first anniversary, the traditional theme is paper.
Think of it as a blank slate for a young couple to write their own story.
A gentle reminder that a yearlong marriage has not yet stood the test of time.
Year five is traditionally celebrated with a gift made out of wood.
So Dad – quick – think back:
On June 25, 1965, did you make something for Mom out of walnut wood, I wonder?
As the years go on, the themes for wedding anniversary gifts get a little more interesting, and the traditional gifts a bit more valuable:
- There’s tin or aluminum to mark year 10 …
- Crystal for year 15 …
- And china for year 20.
The 25th is remembered with silver.
And the 50th with precious gold.
But the diamond – the diamond! – is reserved exclusively for couples that have made their love last for 60 years.
Like Mom and Dad.
In case you didn’t know, that’s
- 720 months …
- 3,120 weeks …
- 21,900 days …
More than half a million hours of togetherness.
A rare feat.
Indeed, the diamond itself is rare.
If there was a geologist among us tonight, he or she might regale us with stories about the physical properties of a diamond.
Diamonds are amazing.
Because of their bright luster, they twinkle and sparkle.
They disperse white light into reds, greens and blues.
They are chemically resistant – and a perfect conductor of heat.
They are the ultimate mineral – the hardest substance in nature! – for one simple reason.
Their bonds are strong.
Really, really strong.
I’m no geologist, but I know this:
That diamonds are made of carbon.
Each carbon atom in a diamond is surrounded by – and powerfully connected to – four other carbon atoms.
There’s nothing else in nature like it!
These carbon-atom connections are the strongest type of chemical bonds.
Each tightly bound arrangement repeats itself in three dimensions, over and over again, like billions of spools connected to billions of rods in a Tinkertoy set – only much, much tinier.
This molecular structure makes diamonds hard – durable! everlasting! – because their bonds are strong.
Really, really strong.
And that’s exactly what we’re celebrating tonight with Mom and Dad on their diamond wedding anniversary.
The strongest bonds take YEARS to develop.
In the case of a diamond?
It takes millions of years!
In the case of Mom and Dad?
Their bonds began to form when Dad saw Mom for the first time around 1945, when they were about 13 years old in Indiana.
Dad remembers it.
Because HIS dad had something that MOM’s dad really needed:
A new part for their broken washing machine.
It was a part that couldn’t be found anywhere else since World War II was still going on, and many things you needed were hard to come by.
So all because of a broken washing machine, the Armbruster family of Lawrenceburg and the Bachus family of Oldenburg got to know each other.
Years later, when Mom was a high school senior, she ran into Dad at her high school prom.
She thought Dad was a good-looking guy!
But there was just one problem:
He was dating Mom’s best friend Betty.
In 1952 when Dad went into the Army, Betty was still in the picture off and on.
But it wasn’t serious.
So when a country boy got sweet on Betty, and told Jerry he ought to move along, Dad saw opportunity!
And took it as a sign.
He made a new decision.
From his barracks in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Dad started writing letters to Mom back in Oldenburg.
He wanted to take a chance on Eileen: a nice girl who was nice looking. Quiet. Not loud-mouthed or wild.
Mom wrote back.
By then, she was working as a medical secretary for Dr. Daly’s office right next door to the red brick house she grew up in.
Whenever Dad came home on leave, they saw each other here and there.
She thought Jerry was pretty neat!
Cool. Polite. Respectful.
And still VERY good looking.
In 1954, after Dad got out of the Army, he did odd jobs for a couple of years, rolling whiskey barrels at Seagram’s Distillery in Lawrenceburg … doing carpentry work for a local builder … and training as a safety inspector at the Fernald nuclear plant outside Cincinnati.
But by then?
Dad had gotten just a little “too cool.”
At least by Mom’s standards.
They tried to keep dating.
But it was Mom who broke it off.
In 1955, Dad left for Purdue University to study civil engineering, and Mom went about her business at the doctor’s office, going on blind dates every once in a while.
They didn’t correspond.
And they didn’t see each other anymore.
But then – some four years later, on a Sunday afternoon in the summer of ’59, straight out of the blue! – Dad drove to Oldenburg in his black-and-white ’55 Bel Air and wandered into the backyard of Mom’s red brick house in Oldenburg.
He stopped in for a minute.
Just to say hi.
Mom was stunned.
Her first thought?
Dad was MORE handsome.
But more importantly?
He’d grown up.
Mom could tell.
This is it! she thought.
So they started dating again.
Only a few months later – in December of 1959 – after a romantic evening of dancing at the Coonhunters Lodge in Batesville, Indiana, Dad pulled off on the side of the road and presented Mom with a diamond ring.
There weren’t any words.
And she knew.
Dad put it like this:
I always cared for her.
If I was going out with another girl, I was always comparing that girl to Eileen.
She never got out of my mind.
Really, really strong.
The wedding was six months later, on a gorgeous summer Saturday, June 25, 1960.
At 9 o’clock in the morning at Holy Family Catholic Church in Oldenburg, Jerry and Eileen made their sacred promises to each other.
Their guests – mostly family – were treated to a sit-down dinner at Hillcrest Country Club in Batesville.
And on Monday morning, Mom and Dad took off for a weeklong honeymoon in Escanaba and Mackinaw Island, Michigan.
Everyone here tonight knows the rest of the story.
For all of us are part of it.
And – as the story goes – they lived happily ever after.
Which brings us to today.
And to our toast.
To Mom and Dad … Grandma and Grandpa … Jerry and Eileen:
Love that is true never grows old.
Wishing you God’s abundant blessings, continued good health and profound happiness on your diamond anniversary.
Cheers to 60 years!
# # #
If you have the honor of delivering an anniversary or wedding speech this year, you may spend a lot of time early on fretting about what you want to say.
But there’s no need to fret if you follow this simple advice:
Decide on a single message – and craft your entire speech around that message.
If you have a story that has nothing to do with your message, it doesn’t belong in your anniversary or wedding speech. By sticking with one theme – one point – you will find it much easier to decide what to leave in and what to cut out.
In my experience, once you land on that all-important single message, everything else will fall into place.
You will definitely feel less overwhelmed and much more inspired.
And before you know it?
Your speech will begin to write itself.
(Don’t believe me? Just try it!)
You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.