If your brother has asked you to speak at his wedding, you know it’s a big honor. You love your brother and his fiance and would do anything for them. But you might also be terrified? What should you say? Should you be funny, serious? If you don’t love public speaking, how are you supposed to keep your nerves down? Have no fear. We’ve asked expert Heidi Ellert-McDermott to help us create a guide full of speechwriting tips, guidelines, and ideas for your big moment.
Meet the Expert
Heidi Ellert-McDermott is the founder of Speechy, a group of seasoned writers who help people with their wedding speeches.
We should start by saying the sister of the groom speech is a sweet moment at the wedding. It’s part of the traditional wedding speeches when family members toast the happy couple. The speech should include anecdotes and compliments to your brother and his new partner. It will also be given during the wedding reception (hopefully on the earlier side so you can let loose and enjoy the rest of the festivities.)
Sister of the Groom Speech Template
Sisters of the groom have more leeway than other family members when writing their speech. They can be funny, teasing, sweet, or even sassy (in a good way!). They can also be personal, demonstrating the relationship between brother and sister. Discuss the ideal length of your speech with your brother. If you’re standing in for the best man, you can have a little longer. If more than three people are giving speeches, keep it short, between 700 and 1,200 words. "Unless you're opting to deliver a poetic speech, I'd recommend aiming for a speech that's about five to six minutes long, or about 800 to 900 words," says Ellert-McDermott. "If you're providing the 'entertaining' speech then I'd advise you limit your speech to less than eight minutes or 1,200 words."
While everyone’s speech will be different, we put together an outline to get you started on yours.
- Greet the guests. If you are the first one giving a speech greet your guests and welcome them to the wedding. If you aren’t, skip this step and jump straight into the good stuff.
- Get in a laugh early. Ellert-McDermott suggests making a joke early, within the first 20 seconds of the speech: “It will immediately relax you and your audience. Think about your brother’s individual quirks, eccentricities, and habits.”
- Share anecdotes. Tell stories about your brother either from the early days or more recently. These should show what type of person he is to you. “Resist the cliches about your brother always being there for you when you needed him,” says Ellert-McDermott. “Instead tell the anecdotes that prove his great qualities and bring his specific, unique characteristics to life.”
- Don’t forget your brother’s new spouse. No matter how many nice things you say about your brother, the way to truly make him happy is to talk about his new partner. “Again, avoid platitudes,” cautions Ellert-McDermott. “Think about the reasons you’ve bonded with your new sister (or brother) in law and why you think they’re so right for your brother.”
- Honor your parents. “Your speech is not only an opportunity to tease your brother; you can also make fun of your parents and the way they brought you both up,” says Ellert-McDermott. “Remember how they wouldn’t let you eat sugar after 4 p.m.? ‘Well, mom, there’s a magnum of Champagne over there that definitely contains a few grams of sugar and I’m certainly sampling it!’”
- Wrap up with a toast. "The toast can be emotional, humorous, or a bit of both," she continues. "It's great (and seems really clever) if you can echo a thought from earlier in the speech or it somehow wraps up the theme of your speech (for example, marriage advice)."
If your parents have passed away, your speech is a good time to honor their absence as well. “Think of how you can honor any absent loved ones by bringing a smile to everyone’s face, rather than a tear,” she said.
Sister of the Groom Speech Tips
Here are Heidi Ellert-McDermott’s best tips for writing and delivering your sister-of-the-groom speech.
- Crowdsource ideas. If you are the only sibling giving a speech, get ideas, and anecdotes from your other siblings. “Arrange a family get together or just email them with a few questions with a tight deadline for contribution,” she says.
- Write early and practice. Ellert-McDermott suggests writing your speech at least one month before the wedding to allow time to edit it and rehearse. If you feel stuck just write whatever comes to your mind. It doesn't have to be perfect the first time around, and once it’s on paper, you can edit it. She also says to rehearse multiple times, so you’ll feel confident on the big day.
- Edit your material. “A lot of people make the mistake of trying to include everything in their speech, and considering you have a lifetime of material to get through, this isn’t a great plan,” she says. “Speeches are better when they are punchy.”
- Keep anecdotes and jokes to 30 seconds. “If a story takes longer to explain, maybe it’s better reserved for the bar later,” says Ellert-McDermott.
- Keep it light. “Another mistake a lot of sisters make is getting overly sappy and emotional,” she continues. “Aim for 75% comedy, 25% heartfelt sentiment.”
- Carefully consider jokes. "Telling a bad joke is worse than no joke," notes Ellert-McDermott who advises staying away from politics, contentious issues, religion, cultural differences, exes, and anything that would require your brother to apologize to his new spouse. "It's not worth the risk, some punchlines ain’t worth the punch."
- Use only original content. “Do not make the mistake of including any googled gags in your speech,” she says. “Nothing cliched, wedding-y, or generic. Just no.”
- Focus on a theme. “The trick to crafting a great speech, one people will be complimenting till 1 am, is to find a theme that connects all the random insights and anecdotes into one narrative,” she says. “You want to think of your speech like a good, old-fashioned story with a beginning, middle, and almighty climax.”
- Add quotes. “If you’ve written your speech but still feel it’s lacking something, look at using a couple of quotes in your speech. Wittier, wiser people may have already articulated what you’re trying to say and, as long as you credit them, it’s not plagiarism,” she explains. “Think of the writers, bands, films, that mean something to you and your brother. Yoda does a fine line in wise words, for example.”
- Save the sappy stuff for later. "At Speechy, we believe that it's always good to start a speech with some humor," she adds. "The emotional, sentimental content should be in the final third of the speech."
Sister of the Groom Speech Examples
Ellert-McDermott shared sample lines (these are on the funnier side!) to use in your own speech.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, what a pleasure it is to see you all here today. For those I’ve yet to meet, I’m [Name], and I’m giving the lesser-known sister of the groom speech. It’s kind of like the father of the bride speech—a tribute to their personality and character—but just significantly more abusive."
Talking About Your Parents
“A special thanks to our fantastic parents who have done an amazing job hosting such a special occasion tonight. All the effort, all the hard work; anyone would think [Name] was actually their favorite child! On a serious note, [Name] and I wouldn't be who we are today if it wasn't for you two. No heckling from either of our partners please—they did their best with us!”
Talking About Your Brother’s Partner
“Yes, [Name], you look absolutely stunning today and it’s a privilege to have you as my sibling-in-law. I’m so excited that not only have you officially joined the [Name] family but that you’ve also taken on responsibility for my brother. Yes, those calls at 2 am when he’s forgotten where he lives are now your problem. Really (Name), you should have read the small print."
Finish With a Toast
"So, my final piece of utterly unqualified advice to you both is simple: Enjoy your life together. (Brother’s name), you’re so lucky to have found your soulmate, and (Partner’s name), you’re lucky to have found someone who will make you laugh every day. Usually unintentionally. And often in the bedroom. Ladies and gentlemen, a toast to my brother and my favorite new brother/sister. Cheers!"