I’ve been helping a Swedish friend of mine write a wedding speech in English for an international wedding she’s attending this month. She’s keen to polish up her grammar to perfection in front of the native-speaking guests.
The bride is American, the groom Swedish. My friend is a one-time colleague of the happy couple. Yes, former co-workers make speeches at Swedish weddings.
Speeches are indeed an integral part of the big day. Newlywed Prince Daniel will tell you. His touching address to his new wife Crown Princess Victoria, heads of state, family, friends and, as it’s now on YouTube, let’s make that the world, had an endearing effect.
His seamless switching between English and Swedish, without stutters, without notes yet with humor and warmth has captured the hearts of the nation and has helped to rocket his reputation within Royal circles.
Having attended my fair share of Swedish weddings, I’d saying the speeches are far more anticipated than the church ceremony itself, by what is usually a secular congregation anyway.
I once counted 27. Over a three-course dinner. That’s almost a speech for every mouthful. Now, if you’re well acquainted with the bridal couple, the wedding speech marathon makes for a moving insight into their lives past and present.
If not, and you’re attendance is that of a dutiful partner, I’d recommend the following.
Ensure you eat beforehand – dinner is going to be a long, drawn out affair. Be prepared to smile at internal jokes you don’t really get and laugh at a selection of childhood stories that were funny 25 years ago. And try to refrain from sighing come midnight when the groom’s twice-removed cousin repeats everything everyone else has said and then repeats herself, three times.
Back home in England, wedding speeches are a rather more subtle affair. The father of the bride tells his daughter how beautiful she looks, welcomes her new husband into the family and warns him to look after his precious princess.
The best man mocks the groom over an anecdote or two, toasts the bridesmaids and with a raise of the glass it’s all over. Everyone can get back to enjoying their sumptuous starters in peace.
To that I say a big celebratory cheers and draw a close to my sermon on the suffering that comes with Swedish wedding speeches. For now. Until it’s my turn to enjoy them perhaps.