Last weekend, I went to a friend's wedding. It was fabulously offbeat: the bride wore a fuchsia dress, the reception was in the village hall, and the wedding breakfast was curry. To top it off, the bride gave a knockout speech that had us all falling off our chairs one moment, then reaching for the tissues the next.
Giving a speech will add a fun, unexpected touch to your day - and it won't cost a thing! Like the idea of saying a few words at your wedding, but filled with dread at the thought of standing up in front of all your guests? I asked Caroline Goyder, author of The Star Qualities (available from Sidgwick and Jackson; £12.99), for her top tips from A-list actresses:
1. Be yourself and act confident
'If you're in a place of terror it's useful to drop the voice consciously and keep the shoulders low and open. When the voice is low it's easier to listen to.' - Helen Mirren
Caroline says: 'Confidence is as much physical as psychological. The main thing is to stay physically relaxed and present, and the best way to do that is to take Helen's advice to relax shoulders. Send your breath low, into your tummy and speak from there. When you relax, your audience relaxes and it starts to be fun.'
2. Keep it simple
'Trust that who you are and what you're doing is more than enough. Don't be desperate, don't be aggrandising. Do what you've got to do fully and completely and then it's done.' - Laura Linney
Caroline says: 'The day is all about you, so as long as you are gracious, and bright, and true to yourself, your audience will love what you have to say. Passion and compassion are charismatic and if all you do is say thank you, and tell a single story, simply and from the heart, you will move people. Keep it simple, short and heartfelt and you will shine.'
3. Be passionate
'If I have to talk to an audience and I'm really nervous, and it's not too formal an occasion, I tell them this means a great deal to me. Then they are aware of where you are, and they become receptive.' ¬ Jenny Agutter
Caroline says: 'Showing the audience how much it means to you will make the speech more poignant and make them feel more connected to you. As you start your speech, breathe deeply, and gather all the butterflies in your stomach to fly in formation. Then you're ready start your speech - the star of the show.'