Whoa, you may say, is this going to turn into preaching? Of course not. I don’t “preach” at weddings. Two keys for wedding speeches (both in the ceremony and at the reception): keep them short! Keep everything centered on the wedding couple. Love and commitment, yes, but specifically they, are the focus of this day.
So what sort of speech-making fits weddings? Celebration! Congratulations! Respect! And, sometimes, tender remembrances – if these are directed by the wedding couple.
Deeply personal stories (“Michael and I have been best buds since we played on the football team…”) may be OK for the reception but don’t belong in the wedding. Private, revealing things certainly don’t belong either. Neither do things that may distract or divide the guests. Or jokes about Las Vegas chapels with Reverend Elvis officiating. And clichés are like greeting cards: they may capture the moment perfectly – or ruin it entirely. Wedding speeches must be fitted to the wedding couple, not the speaker.
And because I’m a minister, a pastor, let me say that the sort of “preaching” most people resent is better be referred to as “screeching” – plain old judgmentalism, fault-finding by another name. I resent “holier-than-thou” screeches as much as you do.
Two other types of “preaching” are typically heard in church but don’t belong in a wedding ceremony: instruction and exhortation. The first, whether in the form of explanation or guidance (similar to the self-help section in bookstores), is designed to equip us. People may utilize, modify, or ignore such preaching but seldom resent being informed. I imagine you try to be open-minded enough to constantly be considering diverse, informative “news”. Exhortation (urging) is another form of preaching. It tries to turn information into action. It’s certainly appropriate in church (and at home, on the job, in politics, and just about everywhere) but not at a wedding. Celebrants shouldn’t “preach” at weddings.