The optimal length of your speech

We've all been through it.  The wedding where the speeches that went on and on.

Most weddings will have speeches that run for about 30 minutes.  But every now and again you hear horror stories of the speeches running for well over an hour. 

You do not want to be the guy stopping people from having a good time!

Why does it happen so often?

I think that many speakers fall into this trap for a number of different reasons:

  • thinking you have to fit in an entire life story into the speech 
  • not properly timing the speeches in advance 
  • not considering how many other speeches there will be on the night

So what is the optimal length of a speech?

Richard Branson recently wrote:

When will people realise that a short speech is so much better than a long speech? Most of what anybody has to say of great note can fit on one side of paper.

And the research backs this up.  People tend to lose concentration after about 10 minutes of  any speech.  Therefore, you should consider 10 minutes to be the absolute maximum length.

My recommendation to clients is the use the following time ranges:

  • Best Man Speech: 5 to 7 minutes
  • Groom: 3 to 5 minutes
  • Father of the Bride: 3 to 5 minutes

How to put it into practice

There are two very simple things you can do to avoid falling into the trap of going long.  

1. Count the words: the easiest way to estimate how long your speech will run for is to simply count how many words are in your speech.  Most speeches are spoken at a speed of about 130 words per minute.  Therefore if you are aiming for a five minute speech, your target is to write about 750 words.

Whenever I write a speech, I have a word count display permanently showing in the bottom corner of the screen.  As I write I am always aware the my speech is within the 5 to 7 minute range. 

2. Rehearse:  Once your speech is written then it's time to rehearse.  And this means rehearsing properly!

It means finding an empty room and saying the speech out loud.  Don't just read out the speech, say it at the same volume and tempo as you intend to do at the wedding.    

Just using


Posted on March 14, 2014 .