Ideas for my best man/brother's wedding speech? PS He's severely hearing impaired.
May 10, 2010 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Ideas for my best man/brother's wedding speech? PS He's severely hearing impaired. I can't believe I didn't think to ask this here earlier. My brother/best man is having a tremendously hard time thinking of ways he can deliver his speech at my wedding (in 12 days!). I always say he doesn't have a very thick deaf accent. But I've been hearing it for 20 some years, so I'm a bit biased. In all honesty, people at the wedding would probably have a hard time understanding him. He's really nervous...for good reason. Any ideas?
posted by sredefer to Writing & Language (29 answers total)
If he's planning to write it and deliver it more or less word for word perhaps you can project the text for people to read at the same time? Would he be comfortable with that? Or, if the setting isn't conducive for projection perhaps printed text as part of whatever program you might have? and congratulations!
posted by leslies at 10:35 AM on May 10, 2010

If you're creating a printed "program" for your wedding, how about including a printed version of your brother's speech in it with a very brief explanation? (Maybe on a separate piece of paper that's inserted into the program.) Or... if your brother knows sign language, maybe he could sign his speech while someone else reads it?
posted by rhartong at 10:35 AM on May 10, 2010

Does he sign? How about hiring an interpreter?
posted by shew at 10:35 AM on May 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Where are you having the reception? Is there a way he can rig up a computer projector to use a PowerPoint? (I would never advocate this for a typical wedding, but I think this situation stands as a special case.) He could either just project the test of his speech while he talks or rely more on the slides to make his point. If you're in a hotel or banquet facility I suspect you'd be able to get access to a projector and screen readily enough; otherwise, talk to a techie friend and look for blank wall space.

Also, if he signs, could he work with an interpreter (the reverse of your usual spoken-to-sign interpretation)?
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:36 AM on May 10, 2010

"text" of his speech, not "test"

Also, looking back, I really like the program idea from rhartong. That might be the simplest and classiest way to deal with it.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:37 AM on May 10, 2010

Depending on the tone of the speech, he has an opportunity to have some creative fun with it. My first thought was for him to read it aloud (if he's comfortable doing so), but to hold up hand-printed (and/or cartooned) poster board "subtitles" at the same time. Best man speeches are often funny/irreverent... using visual aids for the audience, in this context, might serve to enhance the speech rather than draw attention to his hearing impairment. :-)
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:38 AM on May 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

My immediate thought went to video presentation and/or PowerPoint. (I hate powerpoint as a general rule, but can see it put to good use here).

Or, if he's really worried, could he write it out and have someone else read it? Possibly with gestures on his part? I can also see this working if YOU have to read it for him, if you haven't seen it before. Depends on your personalities, though.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:38 AM on May 10, 2010

I like the idea of printing it in the program, but if he is nervous about being heard by all those people, you could have him give his speech at the rehearsal dinner which should be smaller and only close friends and family who he might feel more comfortable speaking in front of.
posted by rmless at 10:40 AM on May 10, 2010

I was at a wedding this summer where the groom (my cousin) was deaf. When he spoke at the rehearsal dinner (he and his bride-to-be each gave a short speeches to each other) he just spoke slowly (which he always does) and kept it pretty short. As I've known him my whole life, I understood the whole thing, and really appreciate how beautiful his short speech was. My boyfriend, who has only met my cousin a few times, only caught a few words, but even so he was still moved by his speech.

In summary, I don't think you necessarily need to make any accommodations. The printed insert would be nice, but at the same time, I can understand how your brother might not appreciate having so much attention put on him and his disability. I think that the message he is trying to give will get across regardless of whether people can understand every single word.
posted by CharlieSue at 10:42 AM on May 10, 2010 [8 favorites]

If he were to go the route of having someone else read it - it might be funny to have someone quite different than him read it (the oldest female relative for example, or a little girl) - and hopefully the content of the speech will be such that having someone else read it with his voice (no changing of pronouns, etc.) will end up being pretty funny.
posted by backwards guitar at 10:43 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Any way to get an honest, unbiased opinion? You'll be among friends and family, so that's a big plus. You may want to take some extra time ensuring that the sound system is going to be good.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:44 AM on May 10, 2010

Response by poster: We're planning on having a projector available for another part of the reception. We've considered doing a ppt or something similar. I like julthumbscrew's idea of me doing a blind read of the speech. Could be funny. Our programs are going to be pretty small and probably won't make it from the ceremony to the reception, but good ideas. Thanks guys! keep em coming!
posted by sredefer at 10:44 AM on May 10, 2010

A while back I saw a cute video clip of either a reception speech or a wedding proposal done entirely on giant cue cards a la Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues. It was a really cool moment and went over really well with the audience. Unfortunately my Googlefu is weak today but maybe someone else will remember the video and find the link faster than I can.
posted by jamaro at 10:45 AM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Jamaro, I was thinking the exact same thing.

I think the video you were looking for is this one. Turns into a musical though, but the giant cue cards would be a good idea.
posted by MechEng at 10:55 AM on May 10, 2010

I like the PowerPoint idea (you might already have something up there to show pics of you and your blushing bride, for example), and he could have a lot of fun with that. See this for an unrelated example.

If he signs, he could also have a lot of fun with that, especially if you have a "discrepancy" between what he's signing and what an interpreter is saying out loud (kind of going along with what backwards guitar is saying above). Particularly if you are the interpreter for at least part of it. "My brother is the most fantastically handsome chap I have ever laid eyes on. Were I not his brother and heterosexual, I would steal him away for myself."

Whatever you do, if you're among family and friends this will be a big moment filled with emotions for everyone. He is clearly taking a risk and making a big effort for you, and that gives him a lot of points in my book. I'm sure that people will be willing to quiet down, give him space and make every effort to hear what he's saying. (And you're a great team of brothers for working together to do this for each other. If I were one of your parents, I'd be bursting with pride.)
posted by Madamina at 11:01 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ah, crap, borked the .ppt link. Here is a cached version.
posted by Madamina at 11:02 AM on May 10, 2010

I like the cue cards. Most people can read text while listening to someone speak, and read faster than people talk. This is why Powerpoint presentations are so boring when someone reads aloud all of the text on the screen. But with cue cards you could mess up the speech/text synchronicity. He could hold up an explanation about why he's using the cards, then add long expository tangents, followed by a long spoken passage accompanied by just a few words on the cards. If you and your bride can't see the cards, so much the better.

It'll take some panache to pull it off, and some people will be confused, but I could see this being really funny.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:04 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm severely hearing impaired and some people find me difficult to understand. Personally, I would not want undue attention drawn to that fact by having the speech printed verbatim in the program or on cue cards (geez that just makes me squirm). No one listens to every word anyway; they just need to get the gist of it. My inclination is to use a subtitled video that calls attention to key words and concepts and does not reproduce the speech word for word. The sound for the video would be soft music of some sort and the visuals would be a photo-montage of the type that are ubiquitous at weddings anyways.

Remind him that the real intended audience is YOU and your spouse-to-be, and you can understand him just fine. Everything else is gravy.
posted by desjardins at 11:14 AM on May 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Starting line?

"Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking"


Then a nice heartfelt speech. He'll have broken the ice, cued people into the fact that he's a bit nervous about it and worried about them hearing his speech properly, and also have delivered a kick-ass speech.
posted by djgh at 11:25 AM on May 10, 2010

I love the idea of the cue cards, or interpreter, or something that helps convey the meaning of the speech as well as him not being entirely comfortable about it. If he could rope someone into doing an interpretive dance while he is speaking that could be hilarious and sweet at the same time.
posted by 8dot3 at 12:04 PM on May 10, 2010

I'm imagining a scenario where he pulls in all different types of communication tools for his speech, and the main message of the speech is about communication; between the married couple, first and foremost, but also between brothers, family, friends, etc.

So maybe it starts off with a short video of him with cue cards, then switches to semaphore flags, then Morse code, then body language (old fashioned silent movie type acting would be hilarious), then a joke about wanting to do smoke signals, but fire code prevented it, [all of this with a voice over or subtitles & music] then sign language (with interpreter?), and ends with him making a very short verbal speech there in the room, congratulating his brother and his new wife.

Although this obviously highlights his own communication limitations, it also points to the fact that they exist for everyone. And communication is about the most important aspect of marriage, so it's totally apropos for a best man speech. Finally, it allows him to limit the amount he is actually speaking, leaving it for the end when it will have the most impact/be the most meaningful.
posted by wwartorff at 12:47 PM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding desjardins. No one but you and your spouse need to hear every last word. So long as people get the gist of it, that's good enough. Most of these suggestions shift the focus from what your brother will be saying to how he will be saying it. Were I in your shoes, I'd reassure you brother that so long as he speaks slowly (which is what anyone behind a microphone should do, hearing impaired or not) he doesn't have to do anything special to deliver his toast.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:09 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing the cue cards idea (hey i thought of it first really!) I cant find the link, but there was a site where you could type in a message, and it would write it on the cards as Dylan tossed them. If you want to get all laptoppy with it.

Maybe by way of cuteness, ice breaking etc , enlist the ring bearer and flower girl to do the cards as the chap signs, or just sort of mugs or whatever.

My guess, is 99.9 % of the folks will be incredibly touched, and remember it as one of the coolest things they have ever seen. There will be .1 of a relative with the whole "Well I NEVER" sort of attitude.

I really wish you the best on this, and hope that you will report back, even just a memail, to let us know how it went. Tell him the hive has his back.
posted by timsteil at 1:39 PM on May 10, 2010

just wanted to chime in that I think you reading his speech would be super sweet. though if it were me, there's not even the vaguest chance I wouldn't cry. he could stand up with you when you read it.

it's also a low-tech solution that makes less of a spectacle of the issue. in my humble opinion, wedding toasts are best short and sweet.
posted by mercredi at 1:41 PM on May 10, 2010

A toast by PowerPoint? Has it come to that? Come on, people!
If you're brother were to give a short speech/toast, even if it meant that I didn't get every word of it, I would be so much more happy than if someone else/a machine/cue cards gave it and I understood every word. I hope your brother can feel reassured that everyone there will on his side and thrilled for him to wish the bride and groom well on his own terms. He can speak and having someone else do it, makes it seem like he's mute. His speech may not be perfect but it's all him.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:28 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Frankly, most weddings have lots of older, hearing-impaired guests who can't understand a voice projected by a mic anyway, so I think any speaker could benefit from having their speech projected on a screen.

But if you do a powerpoint:

Have you ever seen the movie Love Actually, where the young man knocks on Kiera Knightley's door and shows her cue cards telling her that he loves her? And there are some funny pictures? I am thinking something like that, only your brother will be reading the text aloud rather than it being silent. But in addition to some or all of his words, the cue cards/powerpoint will also have pictures on them, something to make the speech kind of funny as well as touching. (Or a juxtaposition, like on Colbert Report's The Word). Then it wouldn't be like he has to have the words up there for comprehension, but rather that it is up there to show the pictures.
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:39 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

So this is what I'm thinking.

He signs to you, while you translate for everybody else. That way, it's a shared moment for the two of you, and everybody else is lucky enough to be there to share in it too.
posted by Sutekh at 7:27 AM on May 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions! We hired an interpreter for the ceremony and reception. My brother signed his speech and she translated for the guests. It was fantastic (I got all emotional). Thanks again, folks. Despite the whole hearing thing, he joined in (emphatically) on the rowdy karaoke at the end of the reception (there is a reason why "Don't Stop Believing" is a karaoke cliche).
posted by sredefer at 9:47 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

That sounds really wonderful. Congratulations!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:56 AM on June 10, 2010

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