05/08/2012 11:28 am ET Updated Jul 07, 2012

Speak Now, Or...

"My biggest regret is that I didn't spend more time planning a personal touch to my reception," my friend Michelle told me recently. She got married in Minneapolis almost 10 years ago, when she was 25. Her wedding was lovely, and she did a great job of involving lots of good friends in the ceremony and the reception. But in retrospect, she wishes she and her husband had addressed their guests themselves and shared parts of their story. "My groom was not one to give speeches, but I could have done it." Or, she thought, she might have put together a slideshow of the progression of their courtship or childhood pictures of each of them.

I have been to many weddings where the couple asked their friends to toast and roast them, but never took the microphone themselves. I always leave those weddings feeling like something was missing.

Guests enjoy hearing from the very people they've come to honor. Your guests will like hearing your best friend's toast. But they will also love hearing from you.

Some people at your wedding may be fully caught up on your life. But there may be many who haven't seen you in years, even though they're important enough to you to have been invited. Some of your close high school friends might not know all that much about the person you're marrying. Aunts, uncles and even coworkers might not know how you met, why you fell in love, or how this person has shaped who you've become. Your wedding officiant and your friends might have told stories about you, but everybody likes to hear the story from the source. And of course, this is also an opportunity to personally thank your guests.

You don't have to be funny, you don't have to speak at length, you don't have to follow any particular rules. You just have to be yourself. Everyone appreciates a heartfelt message.

If public speaking isn't your thing, there are ways to prepare yourself ahead of time. Write out what you want to say, without censoring yourself. Once it's on paper, go back and edit. Work on it together with your fiancée. Read it out loud to hear how it sounds. Read it to a friend and ask for feedback. Do this ahead of time, so you have time to think it over, and to let your ideas percolate. You may even want to practice with a speaking coach. After all, you might be taking lessons so you can dance in front of your guests, so why not get help to sharpen your speaking skills? And a spoken message isn't the only option. There are many ways to express yourself and show your gratitude; use photos, writing, or music.

In the same way that you hope your guests will remember all the special touches you planned into your wedding, you also hope they will remember what you said. Even if they don't, they will remember how they felt at your reception: appreciated and included in your story.