Posted by David Oates 3 years, 11 months ago


Recently, I was given one of the greatest honors of my life when I officiated the wedding of my wife’s brother and his fiancee. After registering on in December and flying to Milwaukee two weeks ago, I found myself standing in front of the happy couple along with nearly 150 family members and close friends to conduct the ceremony that launched their new life.

Now not to brag, but I do fancy myself an above average public speaker. I’ve been asked to do so countless times in front of hundreds in a wide range of settings. It’s a skill I learned from my parents and grandparents, continue to refine with great enjoyment and often get hired to teach others. So to say I took the role of clergy seriously is an understatement. I carefully crafted the script to ensure every word had value to the special day. I went over it in detail with the bride and groom weeks in advance. I rehearsed my lines several times and practiced keeping an appropriate, celebratory-like cadence to the proceedings.

When the big day finally arrived, I - donned in my best suit and tie - was confident and ready. All systems go. And for the first few minutes, the wedding went off flawlessly. That was until I got to a part of the script that I prepared for the most.

It wasn’t a particularly long passage, but of great importance to me. It went like this:

“Please also be comforted in the unconditional love all of us here have for you two; that we will be there for you both to help celebrate the myriad of achievements you will accomplish together. Know that we will also be there during times of uncertainty and angst with steadfast devotion and commitment to you both as you go through life’s journey.”

Though I read these words aloud a dozen or so times before without a hiccup, I felt overcome by the magnitude of the moment as I looked into the eyes of the couple before me. I suddenly and surprisingly became very short of breath. My pulse quickened and hands shook…

…and my voice cracked. 

It got the attention of the bride and groom as well as a few of the family members sitting in the front rows. They, in turn, became emotional at the sight of me painfully working to force quivering words out of my mouth without use of air, as that resource had abandoned me. It was all I could do to regain my composure. I had two-thirds of the ceremony still to convey, and I needed to pull it together. I did, but barely. I’ve never been that close to losing it on a “stage” before.

At first, I treated this little episode as an unfortunate misstep; a flaw in an otherwise well presented program. My ability to execute didn’t turn out exactly as planned. I never expected to have such powerful feelings consume me. Yet folks came up to me afterwards praising the moment and sharing that they too were equally as taken aback by the scene unfolding before them. It turned out that my voice cracking made the ceremony a bit more genuine and slightly less formulaic. In fact, that brief moment very appropriately emphasized the key point I was trying to articulate throughout the ceremony; that the power of love is one - if not the - strongest force on the planet. My performance wasn't perfect, and - much to my surpirse - that's what made it all the better.

Here’s the takeaway point. Just because a speech didn't go "right," doesn't mean it didn't go well. Sincerity is the main tone to get across in any presentation. Be more cognizant of that as you prepare and deliver speeches, and you'll be on a solid path toward favorable reviews.


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