It was Douglas Adams, creator of the ground-breaking 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', who observed: "I love deadlines - I love the whooshing sound they make when they fly by".
Publishers may well let an established author have an extension to the original suggested deadline for their latest bestseller but the date of the wedding - and your speech to follow it - cannot be changed. Furthermore, you will need to have it ready before then to allow for rehearsal time and perhaps even comparing your script with those of other speakers in order to avoid any duplication.
But what can a wedding speaker do to create original, touching and amusing ideas when faced with a blank screen or empty sheet of paper?
This guide offers a number of suggestions to help you create ideas, even when your Muse seems to have missed the minibus back from the stag night. We've also included some one-liners which are themselves about the search for inspiration for your wedding speech.PUNCHING IN FOR PUNCHLINES
Programme the need for ideas into your subconscious before you go to sleep (it's the same principle as bashing your head seven times on the pillow if you want to wake up at seven o'clock). Don't lie awake worrying about a lack of ideas; instead be confident that they will come to you over the following days.
"Every night for the past month, before going to sleep, I have tried to programme thoughts about Kevin into my subconscious mind. I'm not sure that it's been the best method for coming up with wedding speech ideas but it's certainly proved a very effective way to have nightmares without eating cheese".
Write down anything you can think of, however weak or corny it may seem; once you've got something on paper, further, stronger ideas will start appearing to keep it company (although sometimes that first thought will turn out to be useable anyway!)
"The starting point for preparing this speech, ladies and gentlemen, was for me to write down as much as I could remember about John. In fact, I haven't had to recall so much information about him since I provided that reference to support his application for admission to the Society For The Protection & Defense Of Tax Avoidance Schemes."
JUST FOR THE RECORD
Carry a notebook or Dictaphone with you at all times. Good script ideas are like buses - you wait for ages and then several come along all at once, often far too many for you to remember later, especially during days when you are 'on a roll'.
"These few words have been compiled from masses of information concerning Dave that I have scribbled down in notebooks, on backs on envelopes and even on my serviette. For example, here's one that says 'Note to self: choose friends more carefully'".
A routine for writing helps. Is there a particular place, such as a café, which is conducive to producing ideas? Familiarity often breeds content!
"I thought that if J K Rowling could write one of the biggest selling books in history while sitting in a coffee shop then perhaps I could try dragging myself off to the nearest greasy spoon and come up with 10 minutes' worth of insults about the groom - and it worked!"
PAPERING OVER THE (WISE) CRACKS
Try using plain paper instead of ruled, as this lets your mind roam more freely and doesn't 'box your ideas in'. If you must use lined paper, try an A4 yellow legal pad (well, if it was good enough for Steinbeck…)
"Incidentally, you will notice that my speech is set out on good quality stationery, quite unlike the small, perforated, quilted sheets that Roger used for preparing his".
THAT ONE'S A KEEPER
Don't throw anything away. Even some topical ideas can have a shelf life way beyond that of the news items which inspired them.
"I originally tried to write something based on every memory I have of spending time with Sam. Well, I call them memories. A trauma counsellor would probably refer to them as flashbacks".
EXPOSE YOURSELF (IN THE NICEST WAY…)
Exposure to good literature and comedy can be useful because this can spur us on to try and emulate them (have you ever noticed how people coming out of a funny film will often be cracking their own jokes?)
The books or movies you look at don't have to be humorous. Just choose examples where words are used to great effect.
"When I was struggling to come up with the most fitting words for this occasion I decided to dig out one of the groom's favourite works of literature, a volume which for decades has held great meaning for him. Sadly, the Teletubbies Annual 1997 doesn't say much about weddings…but it did inspire me to avoid wearing certain colours".
WORDSEARCH WHEN YOU SEARCH FOR WORDS
Completing puzzles and quizzes before writing can put you in a lateral-thinking frame of mind. A word of caution though: don't spend too long over that really tricky crossword clue if it's going to defeat the object by putting you in a frustrated frame of mind and costing you valuable speechwriting time.
"Whenever I got stuck for ideas writing this speech I'd break off and do a puzzle. The one I could never solve was the conundrum of how Richie managed to pull someone like Bethany".
AND…YOU'RE BACKING THE GROOM
You may find that either meditation or physical exercise can be useful aids to your speechwriting. It might seem that they could leave you too relaxed or tired but they are more likely to clear your head and focus your thinking.
"The opportunity for me to stand up here and say even a few words on this joyous occasion demanded that I prepare for it by employing a strict regime of physical activity combined with deep meditation. That's right: I borrowed John's mindfulness colouring book".
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Diet can actually play a part in creativity. Fruit (or fruit juice) on an empty stomach can give a sudden but long-term burst of energy and help you come up with ideas.
"Diet has played a big part in my preparation for this speech - mainly a diet of Roy Chubby Brown videos".
You might like to try listening to gentle music before writing. Some research in the 90s found that listeners to classical tunes enjoyed a short-term IQ boost whereas pounding heavy metal had the opposite effect!
"I thought the best way to reflect upon Scott's character was to try and get inside his cultural mind-set, so I wrote these words while listening to his favourite music, those beautiful melodies with intriguing foreign titles: 'Lambada'…'Macarena'…'Agadoo'".
You don't have to write the whole speech in one sitting! If you have the time, take a break and come back to it refreshed. Some people work best under pressure and it may be that you find it easier to come up with great ideas the nearer it gets to the wedding. Deadlines can certainly often produce results but don't leave it all to the last minute. It's one thing to cram revision of facts the night before an exam but quite another to come up with enough of your own unique ideas totally from scratch. A mix of well-honed, well-prepared thoughts and some last-minute inspiration might well be the best combination for a successful, original speech.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I went to great lengths to prepare this speech. For months I have been writing down any relevant thought that came to me, I have changed my diet, I have worked out, I have meditated, I have attempted to emulate the processes of the great writers but, most importantly, I have discovered a brilliant website with loads of material for wedding speeches, so let's get started, shall we?"