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Meghan's bride's speech is nothing new, but may encourage more women to pick up the mic on their big day

As Meghan Markle plans to break with tradition and make a speech at the royal wedding, Kathy Donaghy looks at why women are increasingly picking up the mic

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CARDIFF, WALES - JANUARY 18:  Meghan Markle departs from a walkabout at Cardiff Castle on January 18, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

CARDIFF, WALES - JANUARY 18: Meghan Markle departs from a walkabout at Cardiff Castle on January 18, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Meghan Markle greets well-wishers during a visit to Cardiff Castle with her fiancee Britain's Prince Harry in Cardiff, Britain, January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Meghan Markle greets well-wishers during a visit to Cardiff Castle with her fiancee Britain's Prince Harry in Cardiff, Britain, January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

REUTERS

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CARDIFF, WALES - JANUARY 18: Meghan Markle departs from a walkabout at Cardiff Castle on January 18, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

With Meghan Markle reportedly set to make a speech at her wedding - breaking centuries of tradition for royal brides - she is bound to spark a new trend for women to speak on their big day.

It may be a departure from royal protocol, but more and more brides are taking the mic in hand at Irish weddings. While it's becoming increasingly common in this country, wedding planners say if Meghan does it at her big day on May 19 next, we can be sure more brides will follow suit.

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Talk of the town: Meghan Markle is set to make a speech at her wedding to Prince Harry. Photo: Getty Image

Talk of the town: Meghan Markle is set to make a speech at her wedding to Prince Harry. Photo: Getty Image

Alexi Lubomirski via Getty Image

Talk of the town: Meghan Markle is set to make a speech at her wedding to Prince Harry. Photo: Getty Image

It's understood that the former actress was inspired to step up after it emerged that her 73-year-old father is unlikely to make a speech at the wedding, although he will reportedly walk his daughter down the aisle.

Instead, the bride will deliver an "affectionate tribute" to her new husband Prince Harry, while also offering thanks to the Queen, her family and friends.

When I got married a shockingly long time ago - 18 years this September - I hadn't planned on making a speech. But on the day in front of a room full of family and friends, I couldn't let the opportunity to thank those who had led me to this point in my life slip past.

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Actress Meghan Markle at the One Young World Summit in 2014

Actress Meghan Markle at the One Young World Summit in 2014

Actress Meghan Markle at the One Young World Summit in 2014

Yes, I was nervous, but on one of the most joyful days of my life, I am glad I overcame those nerves to find my own voice and say a few words. It wasn't a long speech, but one I remember being greeted with loud applause.

While Meghan is no stranger to speaking publicly - she addressed the UN on gender equality on International Women's Day in 2015 - her breaking with tradition by way of a wedding speech signals her intention to do things her way from the beginning.

And wedding expert, Bláithin O'Reilly Murphy, says everything Meghan does in her wedding will be pored over by brides-to-be. "Whatever she does will set the trend. If she turned up in black, that would be the big trend for the next three years," says O'Reilly Murphy.

She adds that if Meghan speaks, then more brides, even those who might be nervous about talking publicly, will be influenced by her.

"It is becoming increasingly common for brides to make a speech at their weddings," she adds. "I wouldn't see it happening at every single wedding, but over the last five years, the wedding speech has become less traditional in terms of who is speaking and what the format is. Modern etiquette for weddings is evolving and being loosened. People are picking and choosing what appeals to them. You may have a groom who is petrified of speaking and the bride isn't, and she does the speech."

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Raise a glass: Laura wanted to speak for herself at her wedding to Barrie

Raise a glass: Laura wanted to speak for herself at her wedding to Barrie

Raise a glass: Laura wanted to speak for herself at her wedding to Barrie

And O'Reilly Murphy has noticed that where a couple has lived abroad and return home to Ireland to get married, they are both more likely to speak at their wedding. "They have done things a little less traditionally because of their careers and they've had the influence of living in another country," she says.

When Laura Greene, from Goatstown in Dublin, married Barrie McElhinney, from Carndonagh, Co Donegal, in Kildare last September, she couldn't believe how many "rules" there were when it came to planning and organising their special day.

The couple broke with tradition by not getting married in a church and having an inter-faith minister marry them. And Laura says when it came to the speech, she had always found it bizarre in attending weddings - where the influence of the bride was everywhere - that the bride didn't speak. On her own big day, Laura felt there were not going to be many times when all of her and Barrie's family and friends were going to be in the one room together and she wanted to say a few thank yous.

"I couldn't imagine sitting there and not thanking everyone," says Laura, who works as a TV producer in London.

She wasn't the only woman to make a speech on the day. Her two bridesmaids, sister Cara and friend Rachel Cooke both spoke. "Rachel did a speech where she talked about all of our years of friendship. My sister's was similar to a best man's speech. I didn't make a huge speech. I just wanted to say thank you to a few people. It felt a bit more balanced - I would have found it strange to have people speaking about me and not speaking myself," she says.

"I didn't go mad into the sentimentality or declare my undying love, but I wanted to say thanks to Barrie too. He did so much and made sure so many things were organised and ducks were in a row," says Laura.

For O'Reilly Murphy, there are a few key points to remember if you are making a speech. She says if people are planning to speak, they should decide who is thanking who so there isn't an overlap in the 'thank yous' and ensure nobody gets left out. She says if a bride is unsure about speaking, it's best not to leave it to the last minute to decide what to say. "You haven't eaten all day and you've had a couple of glasses of champagne - it might not be the best idea to speak. Having something prepared is best."

She believes a good rule of thumb is for speeches to last no longer than 20 minutes with a slot of five to seven minutes per speaker.

Wedding designer and host of Say Yes To The Dress, Peter Kelly (aka Franc), says he encourages the brides he works with to speak at their weddings.

"They are really involved in this day, more so than the groom, so I think it's funny when they don't speak. I say to them, 'it's your day, you should definitely be speaking'," he says.

But he advises against learning something off line-by-line or rehearsing in front of the mirror, and prefers a more natural, off-the-cuff approach.

"I don't encourage couples to rehearse their speech - more to have a few pointers. Sometimes they like to speak together, almost like a tag team thanking people.

"While brides speaking wouldn't be the norm, it's happening more and more. I hate the word 'etiquette' as it means there's a way things should be done. I think it's a case of doing things the way you want to do them.

"I anticipate that this royal wedding will break a few traditions and I think it's great they're putting their own stamp on things."

Kristine Hayes, a wedding designer who runs her own company, Lovebird Designs, says that in her experience, it's still a minority of brides who choose to speak.

"I wanted to say something at my own wedding in 2016 but I chickened out because my nerves kicked in. I really wanted to thank my husband's family. But maybe Meghan will be an encouragement to people," she says.

While Meghan will probably have more rules on her big day than most brides, she is already planning to start as she means to go on by doing things her way when it comes to the Royal Family.

Gallery: Meghan Markle's best Instagram pics

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Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle with her dogs Guy and Bogart. Picture: Instagram

Meghan Markle with her dogs Guy and Bogart. Picture: Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

Meghan Markle/Instagram

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Meghan Markle/Instagram

Irish Independent