My sister is getting married and I am officiating. That means I’m responsible for directing us all through the ceremony, giving a speech, leading the vows, and just holding the floor during most of the ceremony.
I was excited to do this and a bit intimidated by challenge of weaving together a speech, some readings, and the vows into a cohesive, personalized ceremony. My sister sent me a reading by Frederick Buechner, and I knew I wanted to work in Kahlil Gibran’s essay, “On Marriage,” somehow. After visiting the Wikipedia page on love, I had an idea for a theme that included the biological and spiritual advantages of the physiological basis for love. Knowing my sister and her fiancé, I thought they would enjoy having those factoids weaved in.
The resulting speech, with readings and vows, was four pages. It took me about thirteen minutes to read. It began with some reflections on the bride and groom, included all of the elements mentioned above, plus quotes from a National Geographic article on Chemistry.com researcher Helen Fisher’s work and an aphorism by Sa’di that’s on display at the U.N. building.
I read it to my boyfriend and he said, “Well, it’s a great write-up. I mean—it’s very good. But as an essay, maybe.”
“Where would you cut it down?” I asked.
“Can you lop off some stuff in the middle with all the science? And put in more about how great they are together?” I felt suspicious, knowing his general lack of enthusiasm for math and science.
“I have plenty of that right here. See these three paragraphs? And the science is my favorite part.”
“I know it is, sweetie. It’s very good.”
I did something that I think is pretty common for projects where the format and deliverables are conventional or otherwise established—I underestimated the scope of audience analysis that was required. At this stage, having realized that, I have the task of retrofitting my content according to some more in-depth consideration of my audience.
Wedding Guests: A Tough Crowd?
Before I return to the speech to make another draft, I need to think more about my audience, their environment, and their needs. A wedding is for the bride and groom, and it’s about their families and close friends. After that, it’s about the guests.
- Bride – Primary Audience. Months of planning paying off, nervous about everything going smoothly. Needs to feel inspired and fulfilled, needs to not worry about the comfort of her guests. Needs the official and legal requirements to be met and for things to go in the right order.
- Groom – Primary Audience. Needs to feel inspired and fulfilled without being sufficatingly flowery. Needs the official and legal requirements to be met.
- Family – Primary Audience. Helping fund the event, and sending off their beloved children, and so have expectations about a quality ceremony. Needs the ceremony to not be overly long. Needs to understand what is happening when. Would be nice to have help feeling comfortable with guests they don’t know well and to enjoy anecdotes about the couple and hear an inspiring reading or speech.
- Wedding Party – Secondary Audience. Needs to know what is happening when, where to stand, and what is required of them. Would be nice to enjoy anecdotes about the couple and hear an inspiring reading or speech.
- Other guests – Secondary Audience. Needs to know what is happening when. Would be nice to enjoy anecdotes about the couple and hear an inspiring reading or speech. Needs the ceremony to not be overly long.
Our environment will be outdoors, in the Spring, at a Colorado ski resort in the mountains. This will be spring weather quite different than most of the guests are used to—most of us will be flying in from Florida. The men will be in suits, but the women will be in formal gowns and cocktail dresses with light wraps or coats. The last thing I want is for the audience to be shivering and counting the minutes until they can run in and warm up while I’m trying to deliver an inspiring talk. The shorter, the better.
So, this week I’ll be tackling the rewrite. Wish me (and my sister) luck.