2. How to write a birthday speech

Free birthday speech tips

By: Susan Dugdale 

How to write good birthday speeches

Birthdays are a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the joy of living, family, and friends while focusing on that one special person whose  happy "day" it is.

After singing "Happy Birthday", blowing the candles out, making a wish and eating the cake, it's time for the speeches to begin.

And that's what you're here for - to grab a few tips to write a birthday speech!

Image: silhouette of woman presenting a  birthday cake with lit candles to 2 children. Text: How write a good birthday speech

Use these suggestions to tailor your talk

1. Gather your background information

Before you write the speech get the background information you need.
This will determine what you'll put in, and the tone of the language you'll use.
It will also help you make sure that your speech is a success! 

Get your friends and family to help you

You'll want the answers to these questions.

  1. Is the planned birthday celebration formal or informal?

  2. Who is invited? Is it strictly family? Family and friends? Work colleagues?

  3. Are you the only speaker? If so, what theme would the family/friends/work colleagues like you to focus on?
  4. What tone would they like you to use?
    Generally, the tone is light, humorous, sincere and positive. Yes, you may tease the birthday person a little, but within the boundaries set by the occasion. Too much roasting, use of language too spicy or smutty, or delving into sensitive subject areas could change the event from a happy to an unhappy birthday. Be really careful!

  5. If you're not the only speaker: who are the others and what are they likely to cover? Also find out where on the speaking order you come.

  6. How long are you expected to speak for?

2. Inspiration from quotations

Graphic: cartoon retro woman smiling. Text: It is scientifically proven that people who have more birthdays live longer.

If the birthday is a special one marking a significant milestone celebrate it by picking an appropriate quotation or two to use in your speech.

Click the link to find a large selection of birthday quotations.

I've arranged them under the headings "Wisdom", "Wit" and "Milestones" so can find what you need quickly.

3. Read these sample birthday speeches

Collage - 3 birthday speech images: 40th, 50th, & 18th

Reading example speeches will help you get an overview of the end result - the goal of going through this process! 

I've got three birthday speeches you can look at.

One is a 50th birthday speech for a man. It is written as if from a close male friend. 

The second is a 40 birthday speech for a daughter and the speech is written as if it comes from her mother.

And the third is an 18th birthday speech of thanks. The speaker is thanking his/her family and friends for coming along to his/her 18th birthday celebration.

You are welcome to use them as a template for the speech you need to write.

4. Other content suggestions

What personal milestones (other than age) have been reached?

Has a special goal been attained?

What endearing characteristics or traits does the person have?

What does the future hold? What special (personal or career) goals are they aiming for?

Winnie Dowie, Aged 11 - 1935 - Titania, Midsummer's Night Dream, Shakespeare.Winnie Dowie, aged 11, 1935 as Titania from Midsummer's Night Dream, Shakespeare.

If the birthday is for an older or elderly person, as the song says: "accentuate the positive". Life is for living regardless of age or circumstance.

For instance, when we celebrated my mother-in-law Winnie's eighty-fifth birthday the speeches remembered the past: her life-long vibrant energy and passion for teaching speech and drama but they also spoke of her ongoing work. 

The grandchildren of her first pupils were coming to her for lessons!

One of her goals was to keep right on teaching. And she did until her eyesight failed. Those young people gave her so much joy.

What hobbies does the birthday girl/boy have?

Is there a specific song or saying that could be their signature theme?

What core values does the person have and how are they shown in their life?

What did the person say they wanted to be when they were young and how has it turned out?

What special relationships does the person have? How have they added to their life?

5. Perhaps you'd like to place the birthday in an historical context?

Try these suggestions. Use a search engine for the first two, and family members in the know for the others.

  1. What other significant events happened on this day in history?

  2. What popular songs were being sung at that time?

  3. Where was the family living?

  4. Were there any extraordinary circumstances around the birth itself?

Once your notes are done you are ready to  write

Write like a sandwich!

Use the standard  3 part "sandwich" speech writing format:

  1. an introduction (one slice of bread)
  2. the middle (the filling where you expand on your theme)
  3. and a conclusion, (another slice of bread).

Your opening and ending hold the middle in place.

Get more info on writing

Image: How to write a speech banner

If you'd like more information about speech structure and the writing process, read my "how to write a speech" page.

You'll find detailed instructions as well as a quick "see-at-a-glance" overview of the process for those of you just needing a refresher.

And the last tips are:

  • Remember to include a thank-you for the opportunity to prepare and give a speech. It could be either at the beginning or end, or in both places!
  • After your closing summary invite everyone to raise a toast to the birthday person.
  • If you're new to making speeches and a little nervous, write your speech notes up on cue cards to avoid the possibility of embarrassment through stumbling or temporary memory loss.

Graphic - How to make cue cards for speeches.
  • (If you need help to prepare cue cards or don't know what they are go to my  how to make and use cue cards page. You'll find full explanations there. A good set of cue cards will help you deliver your speech with confidence.)
  • Run through your speech several times out loud before delivery. (And better still, rehearse thoroughly. See my notes below.)

Make time to rehearse

Graphic: Young man standing on a stage.
Text: About rehearsing a speech

Do read my page on how to rehearse.   

Rehearsing makes a huge difference. Try it and see for yourself. You'll find out if your speech is too long, too short, not funny enough, phrased awkwardly ... 

Rehearsing exposes any glitches and allows you to fix them, privately.

Think of the speech as a gift

It may be difficult to prepare. However giving the birthday toast can be the ultimate enduring gift.

Words live on in the minds of those who hear them long after the bouquets of flowers drop their petals and the last of the chocolates has been eaten.

A birthday speech given from the heart with love, wit and wisdom can last a lifetime. That makes it well worth your effort!

If it's your birthday and you're delivering a speech to welcome and thank everyone for coming to celebrate it with you, apply these suggestions to yourself. And, yes, you can toast yourself!