How do I fight back these tears?
October 5, 2009 3:59 PM   Subscribe

I need some techniques to help me get through a relatively heartfelt wedding speech without crying like a big ol' baby...

I shall soon be acting as Best Man at a close friend's wedding. I've written my speech and it is awesome. It's hilarious and, I think, pretty touching too. This is my problem. When I've been practicing the damn thing I can't help but choke up when it comes to the more moving sections and I really do not want to do this on the day. I want everybody else to be in tears, not me.

I've got no problem with public speaking; I've done it many many times for work and even on occasion been a cabaret compere. However, I've never been in a position where the speech I was making was quite so personal or emotional.

Does anybody have any tips to help me keep it together?
posted by Del Chimney to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Practice alone and practice in front of people you trust. Get used to the material.

That said, nothing endears you to the couple and the guests as much as heartfelt emotion during a toast.
posted by xingcat at 4:01 PM on October 5, 2009

Repeat it ad infinitum until the moving bits become a little more... routine... for you. But don't overdo it. Part of it will just be willing yourself not to choke up as well, and maybe a little show of emotion won't be such a bad thing. If those parts are truly so moving as you say, it'll seem a bit strange if you remain unmoved by those parts.
posted by axiom at 4:03 PM on October 5, 2009

I heard that holding your tongue to the roof of your mouth physically prevents actual crying from happening. I have yet to try it out, but let me know if it works! This would help show the perfect amount of emotion - you'll look like you're touched by the speech because you are, you'll end up pausing an appropriate amount of time while you're holding your tongue up and can't talk, but you won't totally lose it in front of everyone. Theoretically. Good luck!!
posted by KateHasQuestions at 4:17 PM on October 5, 2009

When I get emotional while giving a speech or eulogy or toast or whathaveyou, I just pause and take a deep breath, smile at everyone, and then continue when I am able. Your crowd will be infinitely patient as you muddle your way through. Don't overthink it. Let it be what it is.
posted by ColdChef at 4:25 PM on October 5, 2009

Wiggle your toes. It makes you focus on another physical act than crying. The tongue-on-roof-of-mouth suggestion sounds good.

My dentist suggested wiggling my fingers and toes during uncomfortable procedures, and it helps. I now do it in other medical settings, somewhat startling the practitioners.
posted by jgirl at 4:31 PM on October 5, 2009

Why not cry? It's a wedding. People expect, welcome, and--particularly in the case of the bride and groom (or bride and bride, whatever)--cherish the outpouring of emotion. Let the tears fly--show your friends how much they mean to you and how happy you are for them.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:56 PM on October 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Avoid drinking too much (alcohol) before the speech...
posted by bluefrog at 5:15 PM on October 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Make sure you are rested, not stressed out and joyful. Don't linger on your words, move along joyfully. These techniques have helped me a lot. I used to get all teary during academic lectures ; it was really embarrassing.
posted by effluvia at 6:21 PM on October 5, 2009

I wanted to avoid the same thing when I spoke at my brother's wedding. I practiced and practiced and practiced, saying it out loud over and over again, until I was bored with it and could get through it several time without crying (and without looking at my notes too much). The day of the wedding, I made sure not to drink too much, got on stage, took a deep breath, cracked a joke, and got started.

I was teary throughout most of it; I even choked up completely at one point. It was a wonderful feeling.

Practice what you want to say, don't drink too much, definitely keep the jokes woven throughout the speech, and if it's not too late to rethink order, I think it helped that I addressed my brother first and then my sister-in-law separately. Since his section was the one that got me so emotional, I was able to collect myself and make it through the rest without almost bawling again. But like everyone is saying: sharing those tears can really be the best part.

P.S. I kind of got a kick out of the fact that I made most of my audience cry, too.
posted by juliplease at 6:38 PM on October 5, 2009

I'm with dirtynumbangelboy and juliplease: the speeches that I remember most are the heart-felt ones, where the the speech-giver couldn't quite control their emotions. I'm sure all the suggestions provided are great, but really, these are people you love. A few tears are required for a truly great wedding speech.
posted by freem at 8:32 PM on October 5, 2009

I find it a bit mortifying to cry or show emotion in public, but on the other hand I think it's quite sweet when other people do it.

When I choked up during my bridesmaid speech to my very dear friend and her new husband, I did much as ColdChef recommends: pause, smile at audience, collect oneself, and keep going. It's OK. People will be touched and you will not be embarrassed. It's a wedding, you're happy for the couple, and it is a very emotional time!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:29 PM on October 5, 2009

Taking deep breaths can help to stop you crying. I agree with the others that showing some emotion will be natural, but doing the deep breathing thing might help you avoid collapsing in sobs.
posted by different at 4:31 AM on October 6, 2009

Rescue Remedy? Worked like a charm for a lot of people I know who choke up at weddings. My father-in-law cries like a baby, and Rescue Remedy got him through our wedding a-ok.
posted by jasondigitized at 8:50 AM on October 6, 2009

I just read in Women's Health magazine that clearing your throat physically prevents you from crying. The professional who provided the "cure" said it helped many a bride walk down the aisle. I haven't had the opportunity yet to test it myself, but it's certainly worth a try.
posted by bozichsl at 9:45 AM on October 6, 2009

For whatever it's worth, I've officiated over a hundred weddings, and I completely agree with the posters above who say to let the tears flow. That's what these events are for, ideally -- to use ritual, theater, spirit and love to get to somewhere real with one another. As one of the appointed speakers you have an important function in the overall ritual, and your general attitude will influence the tenor of the event, and help people understand how to act themselves in this exceptional circumstance. You say you want everyone else to be in tears, but not you -- it doesn't work that way. You set the tone. I love that you have hilarity and moving parts both in your speech, all the great ones do. Let the moving parts move you too.

That said, performatively, if you're too overcome then people won't be able to understand anything you're saying, and that's no good. I also second the tips above about going slow, remembering to breath, and thinking about the meaning of the words you're using as you use them. If you do cry, and forgive me if I say that hopefully you will, don't react to the tears, particularly, don't do a big embarrassed thing -- this is not about you, though your role is important -- it's about the couple, and the community of friends and family gathered there.

Another thing that can help from getting too overcome is to allow your presence to express true gravity when you get to the essential bits. Don't be afraid to be genuinely serious. Believe the things you say. And project as if you were talking to the back of the room. :)

Good luck, and I have no doubt that you'll do an awesome job, because the love you have for your friends is clear from your post and in the end that's really all it takes.
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 9:37 PM on October 6, 2009

Okay. So I'll be avoiding the booze, taking deep breaths, wiggling my toes, and then just accepting the fact that I'm going to get a little teary anyway. Got it.

Thanks for everybody's suggestions.

(And, apropos of the above answer, I just love the idea that hundreds of couples out there had their weddings officiated by somebody named Slappy Pinchbottom...)
posted by Del Chimney at 4:46 AM on October 7, 2009

Literally looking upward physically prevents tear ducts from overflowing.

I use it as a trick when I'm getting overwhelmed at my therapist's office and it's always worked for me.
posted by saveyoursanity at 6:28 PM on October 7, 2009

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