For many people, just thinking about having to give a speech at a wedding can be a nauseating experience. What if I make a fool of myself? What if no one thinks I’m funny? Calm down. Chances are it’s not going to be quite the disaster you’re thinking it up to be in your head. In reality, the wedding speech really isn’t all that difficult as long as you keep a few things in mind:

1.) Don’t procrastinate. Leaving your speech-writing tasks until the last minute is only going to add to the pressure of giving the speech in the first place. Set aside a time months before the wedding and write down a rough draft of the speech, then come back to it every couple weeks to make any adjustments. Sound a little ridiculous? Maybe, but already knowing exactly what you’re going to say is a huge part of settling your unsteady nerves.

2.) Keep it short. No one wants to sit through a 40 minute speech, no matter how beautiful or moving you may think it is. People are hungry, they want to dance, and there is most likely going to be children there that are going to be using all their “good behavior” capabilities to try and sit still through the first three minutes. Don’t torture people. Try to keep the speech around five minutes long and you shouldn’t get any eye-rolls or “move it along” gestures from audience members. Get up, give the speech, and let the wedding move on.

3.) Keep it appropriate. Humor is always a great way of putting people at ease, but if it’s not appropriate it could just end up making everyone feel awkward. If you’ve got a story you want to share run it by the bride and groom beforehand, but if there’s any chance of giving Grandma Ethel a heart attack, leave it for some other time.

4.) Be kind. Someone is, as a matter of fact, getting married, and that means the entire mood of the speech really needs to be congratulatory. This isn’t a time to get carried away with embarrassing stories, it’s a time to let the newlyweds know that you are happy for them and you wish them a fantastic future together.

5.) Practice, practice, practice. Just as anything else that makes you nervous, practice! Practice giving your speech in front of the mirror, making sure to pause at the right spots and gesture to the right people. Within just a couple run-throughs, you’re bound to feel more relaxed. Now practice raising your glass….