Your Ultimate Guide to Writing a Meaningful Wedding Speech

Bride and groom listening to groomsmen's speech at wedding

  • Lauren is a contributor for The Knot covering topics such as music, cakes, venues and speeches.
  • She has been published in a wide array of lifetsyle-oriented publications including SELF and Allure.
  • Lauren is a proud graduate of Syracuse University's SI Newhouse School of Public Communication.

Getting asked to speak at a wedding is exciting, but it can also be nerve-wracking, especially since you're not a professional speaker or speechwriter! So, if you're unsure how to write a wedding speech , know you're not alone. Whether you're a member of a wedding party or a parent or sibling of the soon-to-be-married couple, you may be wondering what to say in a wedding speech. However, that's where we come into the picture: Keep reading for a full rundown of wedding speech tips , insight and, last but not least, a fully written example that you can use as a guide. Happy speechwriting!

In this article:

How to Write a Wedding Speech

Wedding speech example, wedding speech tips.

Writing your wedding speech is no easy feat. To help ensure things go as smoothly as possible, we tapped into Renée Dalo, owner of Moxie Bright Events in Los Angeles, California. Below, she shares a step-by-step guide.

Brainstorm a great opening.

To captivate other guests' attention, Daloe recommends taking some time to brainstorm a great opening. For example, she says, "Try to resist saying, 'For those of you who don't know me, I'm Erica's sister, Michelle.'" Instead, skip this entirely in favor of something more fun and creative.

Start with a story.

…but be sure to make it a short one, says Dalo. "Make sure it's relevant to your friendship and/or the couple." When selecting what story to share, the wedding pro recommends sterling clear of any that involve ex-partners—and for that matter, anything negative about the newly married couple. "Even if you think it's funny , she says, "it's not." Instead, think of a special moment or fun memory you shared with the couple. What did it involve? What was so great about it? All of these things are worth considering as you jot down your wedding speech.

Share your well wishes.

After all, what would a wedding speech be if it didn't include some well wishes for the newlyweds? "Make sure to include both people in the couple in your remarks," advises Dalo.

End with a toast.

Cap off your speech on a fun and sentimental note by ending with an actual toast . Dalo recommends this foolproof example: "Please join me in raising a glass to the happy couple. Cheers to X and Y, and best wishes for a lifetime of laughter!" Afterward, go in for a hug with the couple, making for the perfect photo op !

Rehearse away.

After you write your speech down, spend a significant amount of time rehearsing it so that you feel confident and comfortable while giving the actual speech. "Don't try to wing it," says Dalo. "You're going to want to rehearse this [so that] you can be as calm and present as possible."

Still trying to figure out where to start? Don't fret: If you could use some additional assistance writing your wedding speech, consider Provenance , which helps users create personalized, meaningful wedding speeches using AI-powered tools along with real responses to personal questions.

Take the Provenance Toast Builder , for example. Couples can invite those who will be giving wedding speeches—including the father of the bride , mother of the bride , father of the groom , mother of the groom , maid of honor and best man —to use the Toast Builder. Upon being invited to use the platform, these individuals will "get alerted to how long their speech can be," as well as any other important information to mention—or steer clear of. "From there," says Provenance CEO Steven Greitzer, "you can see the status of the speech and the estimated length."

To help get those creative juices flowing, check out the below wedding speech example.

Hi! As Lisa's younger sister—and now maid of honor—I've had the unique privilege of growing up alongside her. Since we're just two years apart, we've been each other's built-in best friends from the start. Like most sisters, we bickered constantly throughout our childhood, hurling insults over clothing, makeup and missing pieces of jewelry: I'll finally admit it, Lisa, I was the one who lost your charm bracelet at summer camp! All kidding aside, I hope I've made it up to you with this epic speech.

When Lisa first met Jay on the train coming home from work (romantic, I know!), we lived together in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in the city, an experience that only brought us closer together. After their first date to their now-favorite pizza place, she came home all giddy—bubbly, smiling, and laughing. She told me that the two of them already planned their next date. I had never seen her so happy. The look in her eyes since that night has not faded, and if I know Jay—which I do!—he will make sure it never will.

Like Lisa, Jay is kind, patient, and compassionate, and this was evident from the first time we met, which was right before his and Lisa's second date. I ran to the door to catch a glimpse of the guy who was slowly but surely stealing my sister's heart. Upon meeting, Jay and I instantly hit it off. He greeted me by name, hugged me, and took the time to sit down and truly get to know me. Less than 10 minutes later, we were already cracking jokes. It was clear to me then that Jay was, without a doubt, my sister's perfect match.

Lisa and Jay, you've set the bar (very) high for all of your friends and family when it comes to relationship goals. The love and commitment you share with each other is inspiring and everlasting. I know Jay will spend the rest of his life making Lisa happy and supporting her through every endeavor—and I know she'll do the same, too.

So, Lisa and Jay, I wish you nothing but a lifetime of love and happiness together. And I'm so excited to have a front-row seat to all that's in store. Everyone, please join me in raising a glass to the newlyweds!

Keep it short and sweet.

According to Dalo, your wedding speech should be "no more than three minutes." She continues, telling The Knot, "Three minutes is a long time, and when you figure in getting up to the mic and then hugging afterward, it's about five minutes total which is ideal." If you go any longer, you run the risk of losing guests' attention and potentially boring them (a no-no in our book!).

Acknowledge both partners.

"A big speech taboo that we see way too often is when the person giving the speech only talks about the partner they're closest with, unintentionally making the other partner feel left out and unimportant," says Greitzer. If you need a helping hand, Greitzer recommends using the Provenance Toast Builder , which offers "thoughtful prompts to encourage you to share why they're both 1) good people and 2) a great match for each other."

Bride giving speech during wedding reception.

Do’s and Don’ts For Writing a Wedding Speech

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Wedding toasts are a wedding day highlight for many—just not always for the people who have to give them. If you’re considering giving a speech at the rehearsal dinner or reception and worried about what to say, relax. We’ve got all the do’s and don’ts you need to write the best, most unforgettable (in a good way!) wedding toast. 

From how to start, to selecting the best anecdotes, to sharing inside jokes (spoiler alert: skip them), here’s what to say when making a wedding toast. Because wedding speeches should be fun for everyone—even you.

Do pick a theme. 

When asking yourself what to put in a wedding speech, look at it as a short story. You’ll want a beginning that sucks everyone in, a plot that keeps them engaged, maybe some comedy thrown in, and then an ending that has everyone smiling, laughing, or even tearing up. To come up with your theme, brainstorm and write down your favorite memories with the bride/groom, how you first met them, what your initial thoughts were when you met their partner, how they are as a couple, and the qualities you admire in them—the more you write down, the more likely a common theme will emerge.

Once you have your theme, build your speech’s story around it. Chances are even more ideas centered around that theme will come to you. Find that common thread and stick to it.

Don’t mention everything.

If you did your homework around picking a theme, you probably have a lot of thoughts and memories about the couple written down. While you’ll definitely want to share the best bits, you don’t need to go into a full-on chronology of your decade-long friendship. Pick the anecdotes that best illustrate your theme and save the rest for happy hour reminiscing.

Speech writing

Do explain how you know the bride/groom. 

There are probably a lot of people in that room, and while you might be BFFs with half of them, the other half has no clue you’ve known the groom since puberty. Early on in your speech—maybe even as an easy opening—introduce yourself and explain your relationship to the couple. No matter how obvious your relationship, even if you’re the father of the bride, not everyone at the wedding will know who you are. Introduce yourself!

Don’t ignore half of the couple.

Even if you know every last detail about the bride—from her elementary school crush to her favorite Netflix series—and next to nothing about her partner, try to make your toast about both of them. After all, it’s both of their wedding day, not just your friend’s. If you truly don’t know the other partner that well, interview your friend. Ask why they love them so much, how they knew the other was “the one,” or even why they think you’ll love them once you get to know them. Incorporate both partners into your wedding speech for a toast that everyone can enjoy.

Listening to a speech

Do keep things positive.

Another easy opener is to simply congratulate the couple. Tell them how happy you are for them or how they inspire you. Maybe even throw in a favorite quote about love and matrimony. Keep the vibe positive at the beginning and throughout—this isn’t the time to recount heartbreak or make anyone uncomfortable.

Do tell a joke or funny anecdote. 

This one can be tricky. Humor is tough, and if it doesn’t come naturally to you, feel free to skip it altogether. But if you want to try your hand at a funny wedding toast, find one of the easiest, and best, sources of humor—real life. Maybe you and the groom had a hilarious run-in with the bride’s parents, or the couple met at a mechanical bull riding competition. The funniest things are usually true stories, so use yours to your advantage.

Need more comic inspiration? Go to the source. Watch stand-up specials for examples of jokes that work (and don’t). Be self-deprecating if that feels right, or bring a related prop, like a blown-up photo of the bride and groom on that mechanical bull. Whatever you decide, test the jokes on a neutral party to make sure what you think is funny is actually funny.

But don’t tell inside jokes. 

What may be hilarious to two people is totally nonsensical to everyone else. Try to stick to stories and anecdotes that could appeal to everyone. And don’t roast anyone too hard. You don’t want to embarrass anyone or make your audience uncomfortable. Maybe leave out the cringeworthy college frat party antics or overboard teasing. This is your friend or family member’s wedding day, not a Comedy Central special.

Do practice.

Unless you’re an improv all-star, a wedding speech is something you’ll definitely want to practice. If you can memorize what you want to say and how to say it, great! But if you can’t or you’re nervous that your mind will go blank, it’s ok to use notes. Just try not to read from them verbatim. 

Practicing will help you become super familiar with your speech, helping to alleviate jitters and ensure it goes smoothly. Record yourself so you can hear pacing issues or detect spots that just aren’t working. Practice in front of an audience, too, so you can see where they laugh or smile, and where you might need to pause. The more you practice, the more likely you are to rock that wedding day toast.

Giving a speech

But don’t go on forever.

Since you’ve already practiced your speech several times (right?!?), you should know exactly how long it takes. Make sure to talk to your bride and groom about how long they want your speech to be. For a wedding planner’s opinion and other toast etiquette you need to know, check our out blog “Your Wedding Toast Questions Answered.“ 

Don’t mention exes.

Just don’t.

Do close strong. 

Hopefully as you put together your theme and write your speech a closing will come naturally. Something sentimental that ties it all together and brings it back to where you started, perfectly wrapping your theme and ending on a high note. Still struggling? Don’t worry. No-fail ways to end a wedding speech include stating how happy you are for the couple, offering your best wishes, and asking everyone to raise their glasses. And trust us, no one’s going to be sad about taking a sip of champagne.

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You may be struggling to begin, write, or craft the perfect wedding speech. If this is you, then Allyson Reedy has you covered with 10 tips on crafting the perfect wedding speech. You may want to consider how much information you include in your wedding speech, how to introduce yourself, or the tone of your speech. Allyson covers all of these topics and more, which will surely leave you in the position to write a masterpiece of a wedding speech. The honor of being the one to give the wedding speech is important, so make sure that your speech is ready for the runway!

Check out Allyson’s other articles.

  • Do’s and Don’ts For Writing a Wedding Speech: Wed Mayhem
  • 6 wedding traditions to ditch…and 3 to keep: Wed Mayhem
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Being asked to be the best man multiple times is a big honor for me. But since I’m not the best at talking, it was hard for me to come up with a good speech. Thankfully, I found some amazing help from John Wilson and Belinda Hamilton, who wrote popular books on wedding speeches.

When I tried to write my own speech, it didn’t turn out so well. But when I saw a preview of their work, it was way better than what I could do. So, I realized that I don’t have to worry about it. Let the smart people handle it, and I just need to learn from them to avoid making funny mistakes.

I think I found what I needed here . These authors have the talent to write great speeches, and their books can teach you how to do it too. So, if you’re like me and not very good at writing speeches, I recommend checking out their resources. It’s a way to learn and make sure you don’t mess up the speech.

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How to Write—And Deliver—The Perfect Wedding Speech

By Shelby Wax

How to Write a Perfect Wedding Speech

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If one of your nearest and dearest is tying the knot, it’s possible you may be asked to give a speech during the wedding festivities. And while having an opportunity to share your love and memories at a major milestone event is an honor, there’s no denying that it’s a big ask—especially if public speaking isn’t your forté. A wedding speech presents a unique challenge: There’s no set formula for how the speech should play out, but it often requires sentimentality, a touch of humor, and the good sense to know when to wrap it up.

Are you a member of the wedding party that wants to (or has been asked to) give a toast at an upcoming celebration? Read ahead to learn how to write and prepare for your big moment.

Who Gives a Wedding Speech?

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First off, it’s important to make sure that the couple definitely wants you to give a toast at their celebrations. Traditionally, the maid of honor, best man, and parents of the couple will give a speech at the wedding. However, the couple should explicitly ask these guests well in advance to give a speech so they have plenty of time to prepare. They may also choose additional wedding party members to give toasts at the reception or pre-wedding parties; but if the couple has not asked you to give a speech, do not prepare one. Speeches are carefully placed into a wedding timeline so the day will stay on schedule, and an additional five minutes could cut into strategically timed moments of the celebration.

The to-be-weds also have the right to curate the day as they wish, and occasionally at a rehearsal dinner or welcome party, the couple may open the floor to additional toasts. But if this doesn’t happen, grabbing the mic unexpectedly for an off-the-cuff speech (especially after a few glasses of wine) will not be appreciated.

How to Write a Wedding Speech

How to Write a Perfect Wedding Speech

If you are asked to give a toast, it’s important that you don’t just wing it. “First, recognize that speechwriting is a creative process,” shares Allison Shapira, founder and CEO of Global Public Speaking . “Give yourself plenty of time to be creative (i.e. not the night before, when you already have so much to stress about). Wait for your most creative time of the day, and turn off any distractions. Spend some unrushed time thinking about your relationship to the couple, and what you’d like to say.”

While there’s no exact template to follow, there is a good basic formula to adhere to. “The framework I recommend for a wedding speech is: story, message, blessing,” she shares. “Tell a heartwarming story, share the message or value behind that story, and then offer a blessing or wish for the couple based on that message.”

“Typically, we advise our speakers to try to bring the audience on a journey where you initially try to make them laugh, then get to the real depth of the speech and earn some tears, then bring the whole speech full circle with a deep insight or story about the couple that ends with a funny final punch,” shares Steven Greitzer, CEO and founder of Provenance , an AI company that specializes in helping write personalized wedding vows, ceremonies, and toasts. “It’s important to have a good balance of humor and sentimentality because, if it’s a full roast, it can feel like you’re just doing a standup comedy show for your own benefit and it could lack substance. Or, if it’s too overly emotional, it can get heavy and perhaps a bit too somber for a wedding celebration.”

When choosing a story, Shapira recommends reading the room. “It should obviously be good-natured, without making anyone look bad. And, it all depends on the family dynamics,” she says. “What one family considers good-natured, another family could consider scathing. Choose someone in the audience whom you think could give you some helpful feedback, and practice the speech with them in advance.”

How to Write a Perfect Wedding Speech

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Greitzer adds that it's important that both members of the couple are highlighted in the speech. “Great anecdotes showcase who each person was before meeting, their synergy together, and their individual and collective growth,” he shares. If you don’t know one member of the couple very well, don’t be afraid to get creative. “One of the best speeches I’ve seen was from a bridesmaid who hadn’t really been able to spend too much time with her best friend’s fiance because of the pandemic,” Greitzer shares. “She creatively read texts she found in her phone that gave her a hilarious timeline of her friend falling in love.”

If you’re still not sure where to begin, consider giving an AI platform a try to help you form your toast. “The Provenance tools guide speakers to create unique, and personal ceremonies, vows, and toasts without the stress. It’s a partner in your brainstorming process; a way to help you verbalize what you were trying to say—but faster,” explains Greitzer. “Instead of being some outdated, mad-libs-style template, the expert-curated prompts inspire special stories and insights, ultimately weaving your responses together into a custom, editable first draft.”

A final writing tip from Shapira? “I definitely recommend creating an outline but do not recommend writing the speech out word for word. When we script the entire speech, it sounds too formal,” says the public speaking expert. “I recommend first brainstorming the content, rearranging it into a logical structure, then drafting a general outline which you can bring with you to the event. While it may look better to simply give the speech ‘from the heart,’ the stress involved in trying to memorize your speech is simply not worth it.”

How to Deliver a Wedding Speech

Writing a wedding speech is half the battle—next comes your performance. It’s important that your toast has a good flow, feels natural, and doesn’t drag on. Here’s where the idiom “practice makes perfect” rings true. Shapira advises giving yourself a few weeks of rehearsal to make your speech feel authentic and fluid. Her recommendations? “Read your speech out loud and make sure it stays within the time you have allotted. Read it to someone else and get their feedback. Record it and watch it back. We use a tool called AMPLIFY to get AI-based feedback.” She adds, “Don’t memorize the speech, but do read it out loud and make sure it sounds like your voice.”

The ideal length of a toast is between two to four minutes, which translates to around 500 to 1000 words on a page. Still, Greitzer notes, “The perfect length for the wedding toast complies with whatever length the couple wants it to be. Many guests don’t realize that long speeches can impact the whole evening’s timeline and affect the caterer, DJ, and so much more.”

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While it’s now common to see toasts being read off a phone, both experts agree that it’s much better to print out your speech. “Reading off of a phone comes with the risk of distractions from notifications, a weird backlight that can affect the color of your face in photos, finicky technical difficulties, and having that annoying sound interference with the mic,” says Greitzer. (You also should make sure your speech is legible with a large font and wide spacing so you can easily find your place.)

The final hurdle of giving a wedding toast is getting over your nerves. “Find a quiet place right beforehand to center yourself (perhaps the bathroom or a corner of the room), pause and breathe, and remind yourself why you care about the couple,” recommends Shapira. She also adds—perhaps unsurprisingly—that it’s best to hold back on alcohol consumption ahead of the toast. “No one expects a perfect or professional speech; they want a unique, authentic message. The speech isn’t about you—it’s about the couple. Once you reframe the fact that the center of attention isn’t on you, you can relax.”

How to Write a Perfect Wedding Speech

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  • Who Gives a Speech at a Wedding Reception? How to Write a Wedding Toast Tips for the Father of the Bride Speech How to Write a Best Man Toast Advice for the Maid of Honor Speech What to Know About a Newlywed Toast Public Speaking Experts' Wedding Speech Tips 60 Quotes to Use for Your Wedding Toast

Public Speaking Experts Share Their Top Tips for Giving an Amazing Wedding Speech

Check out their best examples and advice to learn how to knock it out of the park.

struggling to write a wedding speech

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In This Article

Most people would agree that public speaking isn't easy, and this is especially true when you're feeling the added pressure that comes along with giving a speech at a loved one's wedding. Not only do you have the attention of dozens (if not hundreds!) of guests you probably don't know, but you're also trying to appeal to a group of people in a wide range of ages from all different phases of the couple's lives. What's more, you want your speech to delight the couple of the hour and be as appealing to your group of friends as it to the newlyweds' grandparents. All in all, it's a tough task.

Before you panic, know that we're here to help. Ahead, we're sharing a comprehensive guide on what you should include in your speech , how to nail your delivery, and questions to consider to get the brainstorming process started—all from noteworthy speakers, well-established speechwriters, and wedding planners (who have seen it all).

Wedding Speech Template

Every great wedding speech has one thing in common: the right flow. Factor in these guidelines to help you find your own organic rhythm.

Open With a Statement or Question

Don't lead with a joke or a reference to how nervous you are. "The goal is to engage your audience, not make it a boring one-way message," says award-winning motivational speaker Jaime Pfeffer . "You'll lose them if you do this."

Introduce Yourself

After your opener, introduce yourself, says Fallon Carter , a wedding planner, even designer, and professional speaker. "A lot of times, people don't know who is speaking, and they don't know their relationship to the bride or the groom," she says. "It's really important to identify yourself, so make sure you've prepared something."

Address Your Audience

As speaker and life strategy coach Mark Black, CSP , points out, focusing on yourself only enhances nerves. "Instead, concentrate on your audience and how you want them to feel. This will help you to speak from the heart, allowing your speech to do what it's supposed to do: Make the couple feel special while also engaging the audience."

Focus on a Few Points

Seasoned speaker Susan Bender Phelps, CEO of Odyssey Mentoring & Leadership , says her top guideline is to select one to three aspects of the newlyweds that you love and appreciate, along with no more than three short stories to illustrate each of these points (or that one point). "The simple, succinct story or stories where the bride and groom are the hero will work best." This is an excellent way to structure your speech and keep your message focused.

How Long Wedding Speeches Should Be

The ideal length for a speech is three to five minutes, with five minutes being the absolute maximum you should speak for. That's it. "I’ve never been to a wedding where anyone said, 'That was a great wedding, but the best man speech was just too short and that  ruined  it,'" says David Litt , the speechwriter for former President Barack Obama and author of Thanks, Obama .

Carter agrees: "I always say anywhere between two and five minutes—and no more than five minutes," she says. "You want to keep things short and sweet." It's just as important to keep in mind when the speech will take place when determining length, since toasts are often timed with meal courses: "Be mindful of how long a course generally takes or how long it takes people to eat," Carter adds, noting that most courses last between 15 and 20 minutes and that several speeches have to fit inside each window. "If there are other people speaking, you want to be mindful and give them space."

Wedding Speech Tips

Now that you've established the right framework for your words, take note of these essential tips for acing the delivery from a few speaking pros.

Rehearse Regularly

The better prepared you are, the more confident you'll be and the better your speech will be, says author and professional speaker Barry Maher . A good rule of thumb is to practice the speech enough that you can remember the points you want to make and the order in which you want to make them. That way, you can look out to the crowd and make eye contact every so often.

Record Yourself Practicing

Use your phone to take a video of yourself practicing, suggests Kate Kenfield , speaker and sex educator. "It can be a little uncomfortable to watch yourself, but you'll be able to identify distracting mannerisms, such as the verbal pauses 'um,' 'uh,' and 'like'." It's also a good idea to practice your speech in front of someone else. "A second opinion can help you craft your piece and make it that much stronger," she says.

Don't forget body language! Rehearse the speech in front of a mirror and notice things like your facial expression, eye contact, and hand position.

Avoid Alcohol

Although it may be tempting to look for some liquid courage, alcohol definitely won't do you any favors, warns keynote speaker Amy Morin , author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do . "It may cause you to slur your speech and forget your lines, so wait until after your toast to celebrate," she advises. If you need a drink to loosen up the nerves or can't refrain from participating in a toast without being rude, stick to one glass of Champagne before you address the crowd.

Use Nerves to Your Advantage

A little nervousness can actually liven up your speech. "I get worried if I'm not a little nervous," says Maher. "I'll actually try to make myself a little tense to get my energy level up." The key is to harness that energy and communicate it in a positive, genuine way; tensing up to the point that you forget your words or panic won't make for a great presentation.

Be Yourself

Keep in mind that you're not putting on a show, only sharing your personal perspective. Trying too hard to force the funny can yield the opposite of the desired effect, cautions Matt Dalley, co-founder of Simply Eloped . "I've noticed that keeping it short and sweet, heartfelt and warm, and coming across as authentic and focused on the couple is something we are all capable of and generates some very wonderful moments," he says.

Never Embarrass the Newlyweds

It's a wedding toast, not a roast. While this should go without saying, keep the bachelor or bachelorette party jokes out of it, and remember that grandma and possibly a few colleagues are in the audience, notes Laurie Battaglia , a keynote speaker and workplace strategist. "It's okay to look back at childhood and refer to something funny, but ask yourself if you'd like 200-plus of your closest friends knowing that story about you."

Use Your Notes

Reading your speech straight from a piece of paper is a big no-no. However, having a couple of note cards handy is encouraged. "You're likely to be nervous, excited, and exhausted, which can make you forget your lines," explains Morin. "The audience won't care if you glance at your notes. In fact, there's a good chance they won't even notice."

Wedding Speech Brainstorm Ideas

Need some inspiration? Ask yourself these questions to get the brainstorming process going.

  • Who will speak before you? After you? How will this affect the content of your toast? (Perhaps you want to include a reference to their speech, thank them for an introduction, or introduce the next speaker).
  • Is there someone you should thank for making the event possible and inviting you to speak?
  • What would you want to hear in this speech if you were in the audience?
  • Is there a favorite story or memory that the couple would want you to share with their friends and family?

Wedding Speech Examples to Make Your Own

So, what does it look like when all these elements come together? Wedding vow and speechwriter Katelyn Peterson , owner and creator of Wedding Words , offered us three examples of successful toasts to inspire your own.

Maid of Honor Wedding Speech Example

"Hi, I’m Maya, the bride’s older sister . With Lucy being three years younger, we fell right into our respective roles as sister-rivals growing up. We constantly fought over stolen clothes, monopolizing the phone back when landlines were a thing, and what boy band to blare from the car speakers. I’m still Team Backstreet Boys while Lucy is forever indebted to NSYNC.

Looking back on those memories, I should have stepped up and granted Lucy permission to wear my favorite sweater for picture day, to hand her the phone once in a while, and to let her play, 'Bye Bye Bye.' Even I can admit that’s a good one. But despite Lucy being the younger sister, she has always been more patient, more accommodating, and more thoughtful than me. And that’s because when it comes to the people she loves, she’s all in.

She’s the one to prioritize their desires. She’s the one to compromise first. And, she’s the one to support their dreams as if they were her own. 

This is why it makes me so happy to know that Lucy has found a home in David. He matches her in compassion, thoughtfulness, and warmth. And I know he’ll spend his life prioritizing her desires, being ready to compromise, and supporting her dreams as his own.

Cheers to Lucy and David! May you always feel loved because you always put each other first."

Best Man Wedding Speech Example

"Hello, everyone. My name is Luke and I’m the best man . I met Robert eight years ago when I became his neighbor. His reputation preceded him as I had heard about the 'Block Party King' before my closing papers were inked. 

Rob has never been the guy to wear fancy clothes. In fact, I’m still in shock seeing him in that tux tonight. And he’s never been the guy to show off even though the work he’s put into his vintage Mustang could make Henry Ford himself envious.

But when it comes to cooking, he should receive an award. His pulled pork is a staple at our summer block parties and his homemade barbeque sauce has remained our neighborhood’s best-kept secret. But the most satisfying part about his delicious dishes is that there’s always plenty to go around. And Rob makes sure your plate is never empty. I have no idea how he pulls it off, but Rob has a covert ability to scoop seconds onto your plate without you ever seeing him do it. I hope you all came hungry tonight, folks. You’ve been warned! 

The first time I met Jasmine I could immediately tell she was an amazing person. She laughed at his jokes which I never thought anyone would get. She supported his career and the nonstop travel involved. But most importantly, whenever we’re all hanging out, Jasmine is the one always topping off Rob’s plate with more pasta, more chicken, more of everything. When she’s around, it’s never empty. 

And that’s when I saw what a perfect match they were for each other. I know they will always put each other first, make sure their needs are met, and will never allow the other to go hungry.

So let’s raise our glasses to toast the newlyweds! As you begin this next chapter together, may your plates and your hearts always remain full."

Father of the Bride Wedding Speech Example

"Good evening, family, and friends. I’m Daniel Lee, the father of the bride. I’d like to welcome you to this special occasion where we get to celebrate the love between my daughter Allison and her new wife, Kristin. 

Standing up here today, I’m reminded of all the moments that led to this significant one. The dance recitals that ended with standing ovations and the soccer games that concluded with winning scoreboards. 

But, while those were fun and rewarding times, those aren’t the moments I cherish most with Allison. The memories that make me smile the brightest are those in-between the big stuff moments. It’s the makeshift magic shows in our living room using a bedsheet that Allison confiscated from our linen closet to convert into a curtain. It’s the countless tea parties she hosted with exclusive invitations just for me and her beloved stuffed bear, Buttons. And it’s the way she’d beg to stay up for just five more minutes but was asleep on the couch by minute number two.

Those everyday, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them moments with Allison are the ones that gave color to my life and filled my heart with a happiness I never knew could exist.

So, my beautiful daughter, as you begin your life with Kristin today, I have one wish for you: May your warmest memories come from the ordinary moments throughout your marriage, and may those moments give you a reason to smile brighter every day. Cheers! I love you both." —Daniel

What Not to Say in a Wedding Speech

Your job when delivering a wedding speech is to keep things light—tell an anecdote, make an emotional connection, then wish the couple well before you close out. Anything that doesn't feel definitively positive should be avoided. "I would advocate against bringing up negative details, specifically past relationships or past spouses," says Carter. "Skip anything that you wouldn't want to be physically recorded and played over and over again—this is a rule of thumb."

Keep it light, delicate, and present- and future-focused, Carter adds. "If you're going to go into the past, make those stories really intentional," she says. "Bring those stories back to who they are now. Your mission is to create a great environment and vibe and to potentially give some information about one of the newlyweds, so that it's enlightening for all guests."

A Guide to Wedding Reception Toasts

Who Gives a Speech at a Wedding Reception?

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Tips for the Father of the Bride Speech

How to Write a Best Man Toast

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What to Know About a Newlywed Toast

Public Speaking Experts' Wedding Speech Tips

60 Quotes to Use for Your Wedding Toast

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How To Cut The Clichés And Write An Epic Wedding Speech

Today is National Thesaurus Day . Yes, it’s a thing, and the so-called tool is often used to think of creative or alternative language when you’re writing your speech, especially if you’re trying to avoid the cliches and write an epic wedding speech. If your wedding day is fast approaching and you’re still struggling to write your speech or you want to be super organised and nail it early we have some top tips from speech expert Heidi Ellert-McDermott, founder of Speechy and author of The Modern Couple’s Guide to Wedding Speeches …

How To Cut The Clichés And Write An Epic Wedding Speech

“At Speechy, the bespoke wedding speech service, our writers are banned from using about a dozen words. Words like ‘soulmate’ and ‘beautiful’ are so over-used they’re now the equivalent of white noise; meaningless and bland. When it comes to speeches (or actually any content) you want to use words that wake up an audience. ‘Newness’ makes people sit up and notice and it also helps retention of your message.”

“Admittedly, a thesaurus isn’t always great at coming up with less clichéd words. For ‘soulmate’ an online thesaurus suggests ‘true love’ and ‘friend’. It also suggests rather odd alternatives. Personally, I wouldn’t want to call my partner my ‘alter ego’ (unless I was Batgirl) or my ‘companion’ (unless I was picking up my pension). But a thesaurus does get the brain thinking… the suggestion of ‘partner’ makes me think ‘partner in crime’ and that seems a fitting moniker for a lot of newlyweds.”

How To Cut The Clichés And Write An Epic Wedding Speech

“The thesaurus alternatives for ‘beautiful’ does provide a few decent nuggets like ‘delightful’, ‘dazzling’, ‘exquisite’ and ‘foxy’ no less. Not all of them will suit every newlywed but a thesaurus stops you lazily using the same platitudes as so many other brides and grooms getting hitched. ‘Love’ is obviously another word that gets used a lot on a wedding day, and to be honest, we don’t have many great alternatives. Supposedly the Eskimos have over 50 different words for snow and I reckon we need a few more for one of our prime motivations in life. Words like ‘affection’, ‘desire’, and ‘fondness’ just don’t cut it.”

“Ironically, I sometimes find it more powerful to write about why someone ‘likes’ their partner as opposed to using the L-word. It somehow feels more refreshing to tell someone why you think they’re a certifiable good egg”

struggling to write a wedding speech

“Another great way to avoid the clichéd adjectives is to avoid them altogether. Instead of referring to your partner as ‘gorgeous’ or ‘stunning’, tell them they’re the perfect blend of Audrey Hepburn chic and Debbie Harry’s style. Tell them that they’re so damn cool they manage to make Crocs look sexy. Tell them that when you saw them walking down the aisle, you had to resist taking a picture and posting it on Instagram; hashtag-I-can’t-believe-she’s-marrying-me.”

How To Cut The Clichés And Write An Epic Wedding Speech

“Rather than saying ‘I love you’, say they’re the only person you could last four days in a tent with and still want to cuddle. Tell them they have the power to make waiting an hour in the rain for the AA to arrive a pleasurable experience. Tell them they’re the only person in the world who you’d share a Krispy Kreme doughnut with.”

“So my advice? Cut the clichés and add some personality to your sentiments. Start with a thesaurus and then get creative. Tell your partner and your guests something that’s worth remembering.”


How To Cut The Clichés And Write An Epic Wedding Speech

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How to Write a Great Wedding Speech


Being asked to deliver a wedding speech can feel equal parts humbling and terrifying! Not only is there the daunting thought of speaking in front of a crowd, there’s also the overwhelming task of writing a memorable speech that ticks all the right boxes, from humorous to heartfelt. No pressure, right?!

If you’re currently trying to prepare for your wedding speech duties but feeling stuck with writer’s block, we’re here to help. From etiquette tips to wording examples, keep reading for our top tips on writing an epic wedding speech that leaves a lasting impression.


How to Write a Great Wedding Speech: Etiquette Tips

Before you sit down to craft your speech, take a moment to think first about the bigger picture. Whether you’re a bridesmaid, best man or sibling, there are a few etiquette guidelines you should keep in mind to ensure your speech is memorable for all the right reasons. We’ve rounded up the most important “unspoken rules” for a wedding toast below:

  • A great wedding speech strikes the perfect balance between sentimental and light-hearted. If your speech is overly sentimental and gushy, it might feel uncomfortable amongst a large crowd. On the flipside, if it’s too light-hearted and silly, it might come across as disrespectful or insincere. A 50:50 ratio will ensure your speech hits the mark!
  • The sweet spot for any wedding speech is generally between 2-5 minutes. This is the perfect amount of time to deliver a meaningful speech without losing the interest of guests or impacting the reception timeline.
  • While funny anecdotes are a great way to personalise your speech, steer clear of any embarrassing stories (or mentions of ex-partners!) that could make anyone feel uncomfortable. Keep it clean!
  • On that note – some gentle teasing is completely fine if that suits your relationship with the couple, but don’t paint anyone in an unflattering light. Playful humour should only be used if you’re 150% sure it will be well-received! 
  • Don’t copy a speech you found online word-for-word. Templates are a helpful starting point for ideas and inspiration, but the best wedding speeches are always personalised to reflect your relationship with the couple. 
  • Make sure your speech is directed at both of the newlyweds. Even though you’ll probably have a closer relationship with one half of the couple, it’s important to address both parties instead of delivering a one-sided speech. This is their big day, after all!


Gather Your Material

Now that the etiquette guidelines have been set, it’s time to start crafting your speech! Staring at a blank page can be seriously intimidating, so we recommend taking the pressure off and using a brainstorming session to get those creative juices flowing instead.

Grab a notebook and pen and take a trip down memory lane with these helpful prompts below:

  • What are your favourite qualities and personality traits of the bride/groom?
  • What are some examples of those traits in action?
  • How did you meet both halves of the couple?
  • What was your first impression of them, and how has this evolved?
  • What are your favourite memories and experiences together?
  • What do you admire about their relationship?
  • What makes them such a great match?
  • What do you hope for them in the future?

You might find it helpful to look back on old photos or even chat amongst other close friends and family members for further inspiration. Brainstorming your way through these prompts will give you the bones of a memorable, fun and personal speech, with plenty of material to work with.


Structuring Your Speech

Now for the fun part – pulling your speech together! A great wedding speech will usually include the following key elements. You can use these elements as a simple outline to build your speech around:

  • Introduction

Words of thanks

Personal anecdotes

Praise for the relationship


Open your speech by introducing yourself and your relationship to the couple. Your opening line could be as simple as:

“Hi everybody! For those who don’t know me, I’m (name), and I’m (bride/groom name)’s (sister/best man/maid of honour/etc).”

If you’re going for a more humorous approach, you could follow your introduction by cracking a joke to break the ice, such as:

“Just a couple of rules before we begin. If you have a mobile phone – that’s fine, leave it switched on, entertain yourselves. And if anyone texts you any good jokes, could you send them my way?”

“When I first sat down and started reflecting on what I wanted to say here tonight, I kept thinking to myself, ‘I can’t believe (name) is getting married in less than an hour.”

Welcoming guests and sharing some words of appreciation is always a nice touch, especially if the couple isn’t planning on making their own speech. You might want to include a special thanks to guests who have travelled, or for those who have helped with the wedding planning. For example:

“I’d like to thank you all for being here today to celebrate the marriage of (name) to (name), especially for those who have travelled far and wide. I’d also like to thank everyone who has helped in the lead up to the wedding in whatever way possible, big or small – you’ve all played a part to make the day special.”

This is the heart and soul of your speech! Look back on your brainstorming session and pick out some of your favourite memories as you begin to address the couple more personally. You might want to kick things off by talking about your relationship with the person you’re closest to, before sharing a fun anecdote or highlighting their best qualities. For example:

“I’ve known (name) all my life – we’ve laughed together, cried together, and watched way too many episodes of Friends together. I’ll never forget the time we (insert a funny anecdote or favourite memory)”

“I’ve had the privilege of growing up with (name), and so I couldn’t go past this opportunity to share some of my favourite memories of them. We’ve certainly shared some interesting moments – from the time we (insert a funny anecdote), to the time we (insert a favourite memory)”

“For those who know (name) well, I think we can all agree that one of her best qualities is her spontaneous nature. This was definitely highlighted when we (insert a funny anecdote or two).”

Next, you’ll want to expand on your relationship with their partner. For example:

“When (name) introduced me to (name), I had a good feeling about him immediately. I couldn’t think of anyone better suited for my (sister/friend/etc) – he’s funny, kind, intelligent, and most importantly – shares our family’s love for bad jokes and boardgames”

“I remember when (name) returned from his first date with (name). I’m not joking when I say he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face for the next 3 days! And when I met (name) a few weeks later, it all made sense. (Name), you’re an absolute catch, and one of the sweetest people I know. Thank you for being such an amazing partner to my best mate”

“I’ve known (name) for a long time, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen him as happy as he’s been since knowing (name). (Name), you have such a big heart and you truly light up a room. You’ve fit so perfectly into our family and we couldn’t imagine our lives without you in it!”


Next, share some praise for the couple and what you admire about their relationship. This is where you’ll want to bring it back to what this day is all about! For example:

“I think everyone here will agree that you two are a perfect match. From the way (name) supports (name)’s online shopping addiction, to your shared love of dogs and the crazy adventures you take together, I’m so happy that you’ve each found your soulmate and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes you.”

“I’ve been lucky enough to watch your relationship grow from the very beginning, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen two people so in love. The way you support each other and experience life together is beautiful to witness, and I just know that your marriage will be filled with passion, happiness and adventure”

End your speech by asking guests to raise their glasses for a toast. This is a great time to include a meaningful quote, words of marriage advice, or wishes for the future. For example:

“So with that being said, I’d like to invite everyone to raise their glasses and toast the newlyweds as they embark on this exciting journey together. Here’s to the happy couple – we love you guys!”

“If everyone could please raise their glasses for the newlyweds – I’d like to wish you both a lifetime of love, happiness, romance and adventure together. Cheers!”

“As you embark on this new chapter together, I wanted to leave you with a quote: A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. Ladies and gents, please raise your glasses and join me in toasting the newlyweds – cheers!”


Nailing Your Wedding Speech

Once you’ve crafted your wedding speech, remember: practice makes perfect, so alleviate those public speaking nerves by rehearsing your speech until you feel confident and comfortable with the material. Notecards are a great resource to keep you on track, but try not to rely on them – it’s okay not to follow your script word for word. Instead, allow yourself to be swept up in the moment and enjoy the experience!

While it might seem scary, being asked to deliver a wedding speech is actually an honour and shows just how much the newlyweds value your relationship. Simply follow our pointers above, and you’ll be sure to bring down the house with a memorable speech written from the heart.

Looking for more wedding guest tips? Check out our guide on exactly what to write in a wedding card here !

struggling to write a wedding speech

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How To Write A Wedding Speech: The Ultimate Guide For Do’s, Don’ts, and Delivery PART 3/3: Delivery

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How To Write A Wedding Speech: The Ultimate Guide For Do’s, Don’ts, and Delivery PART 2/3: Don’ts

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how to write a wedding speech delivery

If you didn’t catch Part One and Part Two in our ultimate guide for how to write a wedding speech, read those on our blog ! And then continue here for Part Three, the final installment in this series, where we highlight some tips and tricks you can implement today to deliver your killer wedding speech like a pro.

If you’re wondering how to write a wedding speech, here are a few things to keep in mind so you can deliver it like a pro.

  • Try to memorize the speech; use notecards
  • Don’t forget body language – rehearse in front of a mirror
  • Record yourself while practicing
  • Focus on the audience and how you want them to feel
  • Avoid alcohol before the speech
  • Be yourself
  • End with a toast

1. Try to memorize the speech; use notecards

The first tip for how to write a wedding speech and deliver it like a pro is that a speech will always be presented best if memorized . Eye contact with the audience portrays confidence and helps provide more connection to the ideas being conveyed. 

If you intend to memorize your speech, this will also be a further incentive to keep it short, simple, and concise – as it should be. 

Feel free to use notecards to keep yourself on track, especially if you feel you might get a little nervous and forgetful. Notecards are an excellent way to keep you grounded in your speech, but also save you from just reading the whole thing with your head down and disconnecting yourself from the audience.

2. Rehearse

The most successful wedding speech will be delivered after lots and lots of practice! Especially if you feel you will get nervous , as most do, your best defense for knowing how to write a wedding speech and deliver it like a pro is knowing your speech in and out, and having performed it for others already. 

Grab a friend or family member and have them sit and listen to your speech. This will help to ensure that all of your points are getting across the way you intend, help you time and land any jokes, and get a feeling for if your speech is too long or too short. 

The feedback will help fine-tune your speech until you feel confident in what you have. And rehearsing it will help when you get the mic on the big day and begin to feel those public speaking jitters. 

3. Don’t forget body language – rehearse in front of a mirror

When practicing your speech, don’t forget the importance of body language ! 

Another tip for how to write a wedding speech and deliver it like a pro is that practicing in front of a mirror can be a big help. You can watch yourself as you give your speech, seeing if there are any weird facial expressions you make that you should work on changing. Or maybe you will recognize the need to do something different with your hands.

4. Record yourself while practicing

Another helpful trick to write a wedding speech and deliver it like a pro is to record yourself while practicing and then review the recording! 

Grab your cell phone, press record, take a few steps back, and go for it. When you watch it back, you can see for yourself how you will be perceived. 

Maybe your stance is a little awkward or you need to concentrate on correcting your posture. You can also listen to how it all sounds and whether you might be giving a flat delivery and need to add some inflection in your voice here and there. 

Make a note of all of this on your notecards and keep working on it until you feel confident.

5. Focus on the audience and how you want them to feel

If you tend to get jitters when speaking in public, the worst thing you can do is focus on yourself and how nervous you are. 

Focus instead on the audience and the newlyweds and how you want to make them feel. Taking the focus off of yourself will help relieve some of the pressure that is making you nervous.

6. Avoid alcohol before the speech

Another big no-no for how to write a wedding speech is delivering your speech drunk. It’s tacky, awkward for you and  the audience, and it never ends well. 

Even if you’re not all the way drunk, if you’re even under the influence of alcohol you might get confused and forgetful during your speech or slur your words in a way that you can’t really recover the integrity of what you’re trying to say. Alcohol can also make your throat feel dry making you trip over your words.

But if you think you absolutely cannot make it up there in front of everyone without a little liquid courage, strictly limit yourself to ONE drink or glass of champagne. Save the rest of the celebrating for after you’re done and have successfully delivered your speech. You deserve a drink after that anyway.

7. Be yourself

One of the most important reminders when you go to write your wedding speech and deliver it is don’t feel pressured to be anything but yourself . This speech is ultimately not about a performance by you, but a tribute to the newlyweds. So keep that in mind and do that in whatever way comes naturally to you. 

If you are sentimental, be sentimental. If you’re known for being humorous, ham it up. 

YOU were asked to give this speech, not some fake or forced version of you. So just be you.

8. End with a toast

Of course, the final piece of advice for how to write a wedding speech and deliver it like a pro is to end with a toast! 

A toast is like the last period on the final sentence of your speech, bringing it to a satisfying conclusion. Raise your glass and have everyone follow suit, wish the newlyweds well, and drink to their future. 

And then you can be super relieved that it’s all over.

Hopefully, you found this ultimate guide for how to write a wedding speech and deliver it like a pro helpful. Go get writing and practicing that wedding speech today!

Love this content and want more? Read more about weddings on our blog ! Involved in the wedding planning process and the bride is still looking for a venue ? Give us a call today and we’ll help you find the perfect place!

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How to write a great wedding speech

Bride & groom

They say weddings are stressful events to organise, but I think it is arguable that writing a wedding speech is one of the hardest and most daunting tasks of the big day. This wonderful yet unenviable task is often expected of the Best Man, the Father of the Bride, and sometimes the Maid of Honour or a bridesmaid. In fact, if someone close to you is getting married, you could be asked to do a speech, whatever your relationship with the happy couple; whilst the tradition of speeches is still going strong at weddings, the people delivering them is far more varied now than ever before.

Other wedding guests often anticipate the speeches with excitement, and people will probably expect to laugh, and maybe cry a little too. This expectation places a big pressure on the speech writers. Should you share that secret from your school days? Is that joke a step too far? Will anyone laugh at that anecdote, or is it boring? Take a look through our top tips below, and blow the wedding party away with your speech writing skills!

Write it down

The first tip is a simple one: DO write it down. Don’t try to wing it – you don’t know how much your nerves will affect you on the day. Don’t leave it until the last minute either – give yourself plenty of time to write it and rewrite it as needed. You will save yourself a lot of stress by starting your speech writing in plenty of time.

Take it seriously

It may be a bit daunting, and you may not be very keen on the idea of public speaking, but it is an honour to be asked to speak on someone’s wedding day. Approach it with a serious manner. A lot of trust is being placed on you, so you don’t want to let the happy couple down on the day by not having taken your role seriously.

Be accurate

Make sure you are accurate with details that matter, such as names and dates. Nobody wants to witness a Best Man mispronounce a late relative’s name. This is why writing it down is so important – if your notes say Judy, you are much less likely to read it and then say Sue by mistake!

Less is more

It is far better to deliver a short but brilliant speech than to deliver a 20 minute speech with 5 minutes of great content, and 15 minutes of waffle. Be concise. If you feel yourself drifting from the point you intended to make, take a look at your notes and get back on track.

Rehearse it

Long before the big day, run through your speech with a trusted and honest friend. Does it have flow? Is it offensive? Does it show the Bride & Groom in a positive light? Is it touching? Keep your audience in mind whilst you’re doing this.

Introduce yourself

Let your audience know who you are when you step up to the microphone. You may be close to the Bride or Groom, but the Bride’s Aunt, for example,  probably doesn’t have a clue who you are. Sharing your identity will help the audience relate to you and what you are saying.

Share a story about the Bride & Groom

Everybody loves to hear a nice story about the happy couple – whether it is about when they first met, a funny story from their time together, or a lovely moment you witnessed. Keep it about the Bride and Groom, and not about yourself – it is their day after all.

Share a personal experience

Share a bit about the personality of the Bride and Groom. Perhaps the Bride got you through a tough time in your life, or the Groom’s Mother passed away leading him to raise money for a related charity. Or it might be as simple as the Bride always having a smile on her face, or time for others. Keep it positive and focus on their good traits.

Use humour sensibly

Don’t be vulgar or inappropriate; always keep your audience in mind. It will no doubt be a very mixed crowd, so keep it light. A popular way to inject humour into a speech is to gently rib the Bride or Groom, in a loving manner. Do not use ‘in-jokes’ or take the opportunity to have a dig at someone!

Make them cry

Weddings are emotional days for many involved, and most people expect to shed a tear during the speeches. Pop a heart-warming story into your speech, and pay homage to those who couldn’t attend the wedding due to ill health or their having passed away. Remember to lighten the mood before the toast though.

Use a quote

If you’re struggling to put your own thoughts into words, why not pop a famous and meaningful quote into your speech? Many people do, with success – just make sure it’s relevant!

Praise & compliment

No wedding speech is complete without a big dose of praise. Weddings are stressful for everyone involved, so any thanks and compliments will be gratefully received. Don’t forget to thank parents if they paid or contributed to the wedding. And I’m sure the Bride and Bridesmaids won’t mind being told they look beautiful, even if they’ve already been told 7 times!

End with a toast

Propose a toast to the Bride and Groom at the end of your speech. Ask everyone to raise their glass, and wish the newlyweds well on their future together. Don’t forget to take a sip yourself.

struggling to write a wedding speech

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10 Steps to Writing the Perfect Wedding Speech

Writing the perfect wedding speech is difficult so we spoke to the experts to help you get pen to paper before the big day!

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Writing your wedding speech is an important part of the wedding planning process. But, no matter whether you’re giving the groom , best man , bride or father of the bride speech , it can be hard to know where to start!

If you’re struggling to think of something to say or simply need to know how to structure your speech, our experts can help.

We’ve rounded up some of the most useful advice which should help you start your wedding speech writing journey feeling confident!

Image: Kerry Ann Duffy Photography

1. Start Planning Early

We all know the old saying ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’ and that is certainly the case when it comes to your speech. As soon as you know you’re going to be giving a speech, start writing a few notes every time you think of something interesting.

Adam Cockering from Adaptable Speechwriting suggests: “Prepare your thoughts first. Split each area of the speech into sections and brainstorm each part. For example, if a father of the bride wants to describe an endearing feature of his daughter, start with the feature and think of everything you can say about it and jot it down.”

2. Introduce Yourself

It can be easy to forget to introduce yourself when you’re already nervous about giving a speech. Of course, if you’re the bride or groom, then no introduction is necessary.

But, if you don’t know every single guest, it’s likely that a few people will be wondering who you are. Start off by saying hello and let everyone know your name and how you know the couple.

Then, crack on to the fun, more interesting aspects of the speech as quickly as possible without having everyone wondering, “Who is this again?”

3. Consider Your Audience

Image: S2 Images 

Chris Dance is a professional speechwriter and says it’s really important to think about your audience.

“You might be the funniest person in the pub every night, but the things that make your mates roar may well send elderly relatives rushing to phone a taxi. It’s highly likely you won’t have met a lot of the guests before, so unless you’re being best man to Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown and the wedding guests are all from his fan club, try to steer clear of sensitive subjects. Smut, filth and politics should be avoided wherever possible. Particularly Brexit. Don’t mention Brexit.”

If in doubt, always leave it out or run it by someone else to see what they think. Make sure you ask someone trust-worthy. We’re thinking a sensible bridesmaid, rather than the guy from the stag do that lost his passport!

4. Include Original Jokes

Image:  Damian Burcher Photography

Whether it’s a father of bride sharing a funny tale about his daughter as a child or the best man telling embarrassing stories about the groom, everyone will be waiting for the jokes! You may find the old stories hilarious but how can you make sure that you get some laughs from the wedding guests?

Chris says jokes need to be original and honest: “Try to resist the temptation to scour the internet for jokes. That’s fine for a bit of inspiration, but if you lift a joke straight from Google, it’ll have been used thousands of times before and heard by millions – including half your audience. They’re much less likely to laugh if they heard all of your jokes at another wedding last month.”

It can be tempting to share private jokes but they don’t always go down well as Chris explains:

“Try to avoid in-jokes. While it may be part of your role to poke fun at a particular member of the wedding party, don’t do it in a way that alienates most of the room. If the groom’s parsnip phobia is really so crucial that it warrants a mention, tell everyone the story behind it; don’t just casually wave a parsnip about and leave a hundred people wondering why the blokes on the table at the front are wetting themselves.”

5. Consider Including Props or an Instrument

Image: Humpston and Bull

Are you a talented guitarist? Would you feel more comfortable singing your speech? Don’t be afraid to mix it up and think outside the box.

For one of our favourite real weddings , the maid of honour taught herself ukulele to serenade the bride with a song all about their relationship.

The bride said: “She sang so beautifully about how our relationship has transformed and summed us up perfectly.”

If you’re not someone who can sing, why not include props in your speech instead? Visual aids that are funny and relevant can result in a lot of laughter! Make sure you practise your timings in advance.

6. Make it Personal

Image: Heni Fourie Photography

Whilst it’s a good idea to pick up tips from the internet and take inspiration from other speeches you’ve heard, Adam believes you should ensure your speech is as honest as possible:

“Make it personal. Your guests have probably been to lots of weddings and may have heard your wedding jokes before. Be authentic. Practice it through after you’ve written it, does it come naturally to you? Would you engage with people that way outside of a wedding reception?”

7. Ask for Help

If you don’t feel confident in your speechwriting abilities, then look for inspiration and help online. We have an extensive collection of example wedding speeches which will give you plenty of ideas!

To get a sense of the sort of speeches you like and the style you may like to follow, spend some time exploring many of the weird and wonderful speeches on YouTube. Why not take inspiration from some of the most popular celebrity wedding speeches?

Consider enlisting some help in the form of a professional speechwriter. They can help put together a fantastic speech and fill you with confidence for the big day! We have some fantastic speechwriters in our suppliers directory .

8. Keep It Short and Sweet

Image: Katie Ingram Photography

By writing your speech in advance, you can ensure it’s funny, interesting and, most importantly, concise!

You may have a lot to say but Adam says you don’t want your audience to get restless: “The longest part is making it short! It can be the best speech in the word but if your message has lost engagement due to its length, you may as well have said nothing!”

9. Write Something You Can Easily Memorise

When delivering a speech, it’s important to look at your audience, get the timing of your jokes right, and appear confident!

This often means memorising your speech and having cue cards with helpful hints if you lose your place.

Avoid reading the entertaining aspects of your speech from a piece of paper. However, if you think you’ll forget to thank someone important, write their name down!

10. Raise a Toast!

Image: Nick +  Maria

It can be difficult to know how to end your wedding speech. Why not simply say thank you, and raise a toast to the newlyweds? This will make it clear that you’ve finished talking and get everyone in the mood for the next speech.

Once you’re armed with an amazing speech, make sure you can stay calm for the delivery with our article on how to overcome wedding speech nerves .

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struggling to write a wedding speech

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How to write a wedding speech: the ultimate guide.

wedding speech

If you ’ re looking to write a memorable wedding speech , having a plan and knowing what to do and what to avoid can help you achieve success . Here is the ultimate guide for how to write a wedding speech , focusing on dos and don ’ ts , as well as how to deliver it like a pro . Do :

1 . Start planning early : As soon as you know you are giving a speech at the wedding , begin j ot ting down notes , gathering ideas , and writing the speech . You ’ ll need time to edit , fine - t une it , and make it concise .

2 . Introdu ce yourself and how you know the bride and groom : Make sure you let the guests know who you are and how you are connected to the couple .

3 . Thank hosts , guests , and wedding party ; congratulate the couple : Take the opportunity to thank the hosts and guests for attending , and congratulate the couple .

4 . Make it personal : Share stories and anecdotes that illustrate how well you know the bride or groom .

5 . Think of 3 traits with 3 stories : If you ’ re struggling for ideas , choose three positive qualities of the bride or groom and share three stories that show those traits .

wedding speech

6 . Talk about the couple : Make sure to mention both the bride and groom , and talk about how good they are as a couple .

7 . Have a beginning , middle , and end : Give your speech a good structure and flow , with a beginning , a middle , and an end .

8 . Consider your audience : Be consider ate and use language everyone can relate to .

9 . Keep it short and sweet : Keep your speech between 2 - 5 minutes long .

10 . Add humor : If you ’ ve got some good original material , use it to make your speech funny and entertaining .

11 . It ’ s okay to be simple and meaningful : Don ’ t force it – just be yourself and speak from the heart .

By following these tips , you can write a heartfelt and meaningful wedding speech that will make the newly w eds and the guests feel special . Keep an eye out for part two of this guide for tips on what to avoid when writing a wedding speech .

At  Po etic  Wedding  Cre ations ,  we  understand  the  importance  of  a  groom ’ s  speech  and  are  here  to  help  make  sure  it ’ s  perfect .  With  our  years  of  experience  in  speech  writing  and  public  speaking ,  we  can  help  you  craft  an  eloqu ent  and  memorable  groom ’ s  speech  that  you ’ ll  be  proud  of .  Our  team  of  experts  will  work  with  you  to  understand  your  story  and  create  an  original  speech  that  is  tailored  to  your  personality  and  the  occasion .  We  understand  that  giving  a  groom ’ s  speech  is  a  daunting  task  and  are  here  to  ensure  that  the  process  is  enjoyable  and  stress - free .  Contact  us  today  to  find  out  how  we  can  help  you  create  an  unforgettable  speech  for  your  special  day .

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Wedding speech writing made easy.

Explore a wide range of wedding speech templates and examples. Whether you’re a natural public speaker or a first-time speaker, we’ve got you covered.

struggling to write a wedding speech

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Find a local wedding supplier, tips for writing the perfect wedding speech.

Modern Wedding Posted: December 8, 2020

Perfecting the art of writing a wedding speech takes a lot of practice and thought. Sometimes, just hearing the words "wedding speech" is enough to make a bridesmaids' heart stop or cause the best man to break out in a sweat. It doesn't have to be such a daunting task though! Here are our tips for writing the perfect wedding speech.

Wedding Speech Tips

Isabel And Robert's Wedding

Preparation Is Key...

Wedding speeches are no easy feat, and even the most confident public speakers get nervous when it comes to making a toast at a wedding reception. To make sure you're feeling as calm and in control about delivering your wedding speech as possible, it's important to take the honour of making a toast seriously and prepare well in advance. Give yourself plenty of time to plan what you're going to say so that you can have your speech well-rehearsed for the big day. That way, you won't feel panicked when the moment arrives!

Wedding Speech Tips

Start With A Bang...

Once you start delivering your wedding speech, you want to get people's attention immediately and hold their interest until the very end of your speech. So, start with a strong opening line and make sure you have a memorable closer! This could be a cute saying or a funny quote...anything that will have all the guests thinking "wow, what a great wedding speech!"

Wedding Speech Tips

Sarah And Liam's Wedding

Thank You...

When you're giving a wedding speech, it's traditional to thank certain members of the bride and groom's family and other special guests. For example, the best man will usually toast the bridesmaids, the maid of honour, the groomsmen and the bride. To make sure you're thanking all of the right people, ask the bride and groom who they want you to include in your speech ahead of the big day. This will ensure that everyone who needs recognition is toasted and there won't be any awkward moments of leaving someone's name off the list!

struggling to write a wedding speech

Deidre And Thomas' Wedding

Make It Personal...

Making your speech touching and personal is a sure-fire way to bring a tear to the newlyweds' eyes. Guests love to hear the beautiful connection that the newlyweds share with their nearest and dearest so tell some personal stories. For example, share your story of how you came to know the couple and why you think they're perfect for each other and every wedding guest is sure to be reaching for the tissues!

struggling to write a wedding speech

Keep It PG...

It's important to keep in mind that this toast is to be delivered in front of the bride and groom's family, and other special people in their lives. So, it's important to keep your speech clean and tasteful. Avoid saying anything inappropriate or telling any stories that could be interpreted as offensive. Wedding speeches are about celebrating the newlyweds and their love, so keep your toast family-friendly and don't say anything you wouldn't want the couple's parents or grandparents to hear.

struggling to write a wedding speech

Sam And Kim's Wedding

Short And Sweet...

If you're writing your wedding speech and you find yourself struggling to come up with the most hilarious anecdote, don't panic! It's okay for wedding speeches to be short and sweet. No one enjoys sitting through a toast when the speaker goes on and on and on, so it's much better to have a shorter speech than one that has the wedding guests falling asleep. Share a simple, heartwarming story about the couple or share a piece of advice you've learned about love and marriage that you want to share with the newlyweds, and you're all set to go!

Wedding Speech Tips

Sheila And Matthew's Wedding

Now that you've read these wedding speech tips, make sure you know all of the dos and don'ts of wedding speeches by clicking here .

struggling to write a wedding speech

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How to Write An Amazing Wedding Speech

Being asked to give a speech at a wedding is an amazing way to be a part of the special day the newlyweds will remember forever. Actually writing it is much harder. Before you sit down and list out all the embarrassing stories you know, consider these tips to help you write a perfect wedding speech:

Illustration wedding speech

Make it Personal

While you can look up a wedding speech template online, you were asked to speak for a reason! As weddings go, the general consensus is the more personal you can get, the better. This is the one time you actually want someone to cry while talking to you! Don’t be afraid to get emotional and corny, either. If there’s one place to do it, it’s at a wedding!

Pepper in some personal memories about the person getting married, and how they changed after they met their spouse. As you send the newlyweds off into their new marriage, reflect on how they improve each other and how happy they are together. Don’t forget to sign off of the speech with a warm and heartfelt well-wishes to the couple.

Write it Out Beforehand

Generally speaking, improvisation is never a good idea at a wedding. There’s a rehearsal dinner for a reason! Especially when giving a wedding speech, you may find yourself getting more choked up than you expect. Writing your speech down will help you remember it, and you can get feedback from others that way.

Aim to get a draft out of your speech at least a month before the wedding. (But if you want to start earlier than that, that’s not a bad idea either.) Remember that you’re going to have to rehearse it, and getting really comfortable with it may take longer than you expect.

Get Feedback

If you want the bride and groom to be surprised by it, ask the maid of honor or best man, or otherwise someone close to them, to look it over and give you their feedback. You don’t want to commit a faux pas! Consider asking the other people who will be presenting speeches at the wedding to take a peek at their own. At the very least, ask them what they’ll be talking about, so you don’t end up repeating the same version of somebody else’s speech.

Public speaking is in a lot of people’s top fears, so don’t worry if making a speech doesn’t come naturally to you. That’s why it’s important to practice, practice, practice! Start small - read your speech to yourself in the mirror. Once you’re comfortable with this, show it to a trusted friend who can give you some tips on how it actually sounds. Then open it up. Invite a group of two or three people who can also offer their opinions. Make sure you trust these people to know not only what you’re like as a public speaker, but what the happy couple will appreciate!

Use the Rehearsal Dinner

When it comes time for the rehearsal dinner, don’t bust out your speech just yet. But take the opportunity to get a feeling for what the wedding itself will be like. Practice standing up in front of people and making a toast. Most likely you’ll be surrounded by the wedding party itself, so get used to speaking in front of the faces you’ll see the next day. Prepare a small paragraph that offers congratulations and well-wishes, but keep the tears for the big day.

Don’t Be Afraid to Cry

Weddings are an emotional time for everyone. If the happy couple you’re addressing is bawling their eyes out by the time you’re finished with your speech, you’ve done a good job! And if you shed a few tears yourself, there’s no shame about that either. Let your love fully show as you make your speech. The more emotional, the better.

Victoria Hendersen

Wedding specialist

November 2019

Should You Use A Wedding Planner?

7 questions you should ask your partner before you get engaged.


A Complete Guide to Writing Wedding Speeches in 2020

struggling to write a wedding speech

I like building and growing simple yet powerful products for the world and the worldwide web.

Published Date : November 10, 2020

Reading Time :

Weddings are always such emotional and beautiful moments. From the proposal to the honeymoon farewell, everything is breathtakingly beautiful. I will be sharing a comprehensive guide on wedding speeches of different kinds. I will include how to make the speech , examples, dos and don’ts, helpful tips, videos, and more.

However, there is no denying that wedding speeches always take one’s hat off the most during wedding ceremonies. They can make you cry or laugh or wish you weren’t single. 

Because of their elite responsibility, presenting wedding speeches could be a rather daunting and may leave you at a loss for words and struggling. What do you do when you feel in over your head with your wedding speech order or need more tips for your speech presentation?

If you want to learn all these, continue reading as we discover them. However, if all these intricacies bother you or you only need some final helpful tips for a wedding speech presentation, you can skip to the subheading before the conclusion. 

The Traditional Wedding Speech Order: Who Can Give a Toast or Speech

wedding speeches

Like the actual occasion, the wedding speech order has evolved to include some things and eliminate other customs. Traditional wedding speeches usually follow the bride’s order, then the groom, best man, and other speech presenters.  

These days, brides and bridesmaids also give speeches per women’s empowerment; some even include a wedding officiant speech separate from the ceremony. So, now the wedding speech order will be:

  • Father of the bride
  • Maid of honor or bridesmaids
  • Any other speech
  • Best man speech (it is always the last speech )

Father of the Bride Speech

The bride’s father’s speech starts the wedding speech order. It is one of those traditionally important speeches that will usually:

  • Welcome and thank guests for coming to the occasion.
  • Compliment his daughter, share heartwarming stories about her, and include why you are proud of her.
  • Welcome the groom to your family and toast to absent family and friends 
  • Give the groom some praise and let him know that you are happy that he is a new family member.
  • Make a toast to the new couple.

Why the Father of the Bride Wedding Speeches are Traditionally Important 

The father of the bride’s wedding speeches draws their importance from the fact that the bride’s family traditionally hosts the wedding or pays for it. However, as wedding protocols keep evolving, the sponsors of the wedding change.

Some couples pay for their weddings, while others split the costs between their families. However, the father of the bride speech hasn’t changed position, and now, some couples include the father of the groom speech in the lineup, too.

The Father of the Bride Speech Template 

An essential feature of the father of the bride wedding speech order is gratitude, emotion, and moderate jokes. 

Despite being the father of a lovely bride, the possibility of fear of public speaking is not out of the question, so overcoming or finding ways to deal with your anxiety is an essential part of the presentation.

Fear aside, the bride’s father will usually talk first and most likely give the wedding welcome speech , so you must get started . Before I get to the template proper, let us look at the steps to create a killer speech .

The First Step is Research

Quality research will give you most of the details you need to create an excellent wedding speech template. Some questions that need to be on your research list are:

  • Who the other speakers are, and the order in which they will speak.
  • The position of your speech in the wedding schedule
  • Will they provide a sound system, or must you practice projection?
  • Will you introduce the other speakers, or is that someone else’s job?

Generate Ideas for Father of the Bride Wedding Speeches and Organize them in a Structure.

The first process is brainstorming and writing out general ideas and thoughts that could accompany your speech . Here, you can note stories you may want to tell, stories you want to share, or things you are grateful for having your daughter.

Next, you determine what your speech will look like: define your tone. Afterward, you will want to organize your thoughts around the structure you created to prepare for your initial draft.

Drafting and Revision

After organizing your wedding speech order, you are ready to start writing seriously. After putting down your draft, you must review it and make appropriate corrections, leading to my next point on the template.

The template is essential to give you a sense of structure and avoid straying too far from the subject matter. So what are the elements of the father of the bride wedding speech templates?

  • A proper introduction that lets them know who you are. You can throw in a joke since it will still be appropriate.
  • Welcome the wedding guests and give honorable mentions to the groom’s parents and the bride’s mother.
  • Share a heartwarming memory or a short story. Let your daughter know you are very proud of her on her big day.
  • Welcome the groom to your family 
  • You can share a word of advice or wisdom.
  • Don’t forget to make a toast to the new couple.

If your speech meets these criteria, you are good to go. All that is left is practice and let your natural charm work.

Watch this Father of the Bride speech for more clarity : 

Groom’s Speech

The groom’s wedding speech comes after the bride’s father’s toast and before the best man’s speech . We can easily nickname the groom’s toast as the wedding thank you speech since it is the perfect opportunity to:

  • Appreciate your guests.
  • Appreciate and flatter your new wife.
  • Thank your and the bride’s parents for their role in your life and the wedding.
  • Respond to your father-in-law.
  • Thank everyone who participated in making your wedding day successful.

wedding speeches

The Groom’s Wedding Speech Order

Like other wedding speeches, the groom’s speech requires proper preparation to pull it off. After preparing for your toast, you must respond to the address before yours, leading to our next point.

Start By Responding to the Bride’s Father

Since the groom’s wedding speech comes after the father of the bride’s toast, it is appropriate for the groom to respond to whatever he says. You shouldn’t forget to thank him, especially if he sponsored the wedding. Your starting tone will set the pace for the speech , so it must work well.

Appreciate your Guests

Most guests don’t pay for your wedding, but they go to great lengths to contribute to celebrating you. Some guests travel a long way to attend your wedding and spend money to purchase their outfits for the ceremony, so they deserve gratitude.

Express Gratitude to The Bride’s Family and Yours

Both families deserve gratitude for helping you and your bride become who you are today, and they also contributed their quota to helping your dream wedding become a reality. Although your gratitude doesn’t need to be extensive, you should give honor and credit to who it is due.

Thank your Best Man, Groomsmen, and the Bridesmaids

Since they all played an essential role in your wedding, thank them and remember to compliment them. Try to avoid inside jokes, especially when thanking your best man, since all the wedding guests will not understand your joke. 

You can use this medium to introduce your best man or the next presenter coming after you. You can also use this medium to thank others who helped make your wedding a reality.

Compliment your Wife and Make a Toast

This part lets you get cheesy and say all the sweet things you did not add to your vows. You can thank your bride for the effort she put into her appearance and let her know how you feel about getting married to her. 

You can end this section and your speech with a lovely quote or poem dedication to your bride and cue in your best man if there isn’t an MC to do so.

Check out this video as an example of an excellent groom’s speech : 

Best Man Wedding Speech

In a traditional wedding speech order, the best man speech is usually the final speech . Most of the time,  the best man’s speech would be the funniest one. 

Some elements to remember while preparing the best man’s wedding speech are:

  • Try to avoid inside jokes at all costs.
  • Avoid topics about exes.
  • Avoid criminal history or sexual topics.
  • Remember your opening one-liner as it sets the tone for your entire speech . 
  • Direct most of your jokes at the groom to avoid taking jabs at the bride.

Outlining the Best Man Wedding Speech Order: Creating a Template

When creating the best man’s wedding speech , here is a great template to use:

  • Introduce yourself and share how you know the couple with the audience
  • Appreciate the groom for choosing you as his best man. You could make jokes here, also.
  • Appreciate the couple for a fantastic event so far
  • Share stories and anecdotes from your friendship with the groom thus far. Remember that it is a family affair, so inappropriate topics aren’t welcome. Remember to avoid inside jokes.
  • Talk about how you think the couple are better together and compliment them.
  • Propose a toast to the couple. 

Learn more:

Bride’s Speech

wedding speeches

The bride’s speech isn’t part of the traditional wedding speech order . However, some couples replace the groom’s toast for the bride’s speech , and others accommodate both.

Writing the Bride’s Wedding Speeches 

The bride’s wedding speech order is similar to the groom’s. The template is as follows:

  • Welcoming and appreciating guests
  • Talk about your experience walking up the aisle or any other memorable event.
  • Compliment your husband and the groom’s men
  • Thank your bridesmaids and other friends for making your day special
  • Share a brief story about your spouse, how you met, got engaged, and more.
  • Commend your parents and your husband’s parents for raising both of you and for their role in making your wedding lovely.
  • Talk about anyone you would have loved to be present but isn’t (like a dead relative).
  • Talk to your new spouse and share your future hopes with them in minimal words.

Bridesmaids or Maid of Honor Speech

wedding speeches

Being the maid of honor comes with numerous responsibilities. You help the bride with wedding planning and shopping and keep her from becoming a bridezilla. The maid of honor also has to plan the bridal shower or bachelorette party, sign as a witness on the marriage registry, and more.

Sometimes, the wedding program includes a maid of honor speech , which adds more responsibility to your plate. Since females are excellent at multitasking, all these responsibilities are daunting but achievable.

Maids of honor must start planning their wedding speeches months before the event. As the wedding approaches, preparation becomes more time-consuming, especially if they are the bride’s sister.

Writing the Maid of Honour’s Wedding Speech 

Like any speech , having general ideas of what you want to say during your speech is normal. For a better-organized address, you can use this template.

Start with An Introduction

Help your audience know you by sharing your name and relationship with the bride. If you are best friends, you can tell them how long you have known each other.

Thank the Guests That Showed Up and Assisted in Making the Bride’s Day

You understand the stress of planning the wedding almost as much as the bride. Therefore, thank the guests who showed up to honor your friend or sister. Don’t undermine their efforts by comparing it to yours. Instead, they appreciate the sacrifices they made.

Determine the Path of Your Speech with a Story

The story you tell now can change the direction of your toast. You could go for a heartwarming tale, an embarrassing one, or a memory from planning the wedding together.

Input a Relevant Quote

You can use a quote to add depth to your speech , but it is unnecessary. You don’t need to spend hours brainstorming to find the perfect anecdote.

It is better to avoid the quote if it is irrelevant to your speech and the wedding.

Convey The Emotions You Feel

Let your speech come from your heart to your friend or sister. Women are usually sentimental, so you can cry without fear of judgment during your toast.

End Strong with a Toast

You can end even stronger than you began. Be creative with your end and propose a toast to the lovely couple.

Father of the Groom Speech

The father of the groom’s speech is quite similar to the bride’s father’s toast. However, it is not part of the traditional order of wedding speeches.

The Role of the Father of the Groom

Most people cannot clearly define the role of the groom’s father in the wedding process. Of those that can figure out their functions, many assume that they don’t do much work. 

However, here are some of the groom’s duties during their son’s wedding from pre-wedding till post-ceremony.

  • Advice your son and direct him on the right paths to take
  • Escort the groom’s mother to her seat
  • Host the engagement party
  • Lead the toast during rehearsal dinners
  • Reach out to relatives and inform them that your son is getting married.
  • Contribute to the cost of the wedding
  • Reassuring your son when he feels uneasy
  • Welcoming guests during the reception
  • Depending on the ceremony, you may lead your son down the aisle.
  • Present the rehearsal dinner speech , where you let your son know how proud you are of him and welcome your new daughter to the family.
  • Socializing with guests and mingling

Even after the wedding, your son may need you as a constant pillar of support during his marriage. 

The Father of the Groom Wedding Speech Template 

When you finish putting down thoughts and ideas for your father of the groom’s speech , it is time to organize your toast with an appropriate template.

The groom’s father’s wedding speech order is similar to that of the bride’s father. Here is a template you can use to organize your speech .

Introduce Yourself to the Guests

Not everyone knows you, so you can help them gain perspective by introducing yourself.

Welcome and Appreciate the Wedding Guests

I appreciate their effort to show up for your son and daughter-in-law. Also, thank the organizers and other people.

Talk about Your Son Briefly

You can share relevant stories about your son and some events that made you see how lucky you are to be his dad.

Share How You Feel about the Bride and the Couple

Pay attention to the bride and commend her for positively influencing your son. You can decide to talk about when you first officially met and more.

Talk about the couple as one and about how you feel about them, share memories, and more. If you want, you can share some advice.

End with a Toast

Finish with a toast to the couple’s future, gaining a new daughter, and more. You can end with a one-liner that summarizes most of your speech .

Learn more here:

The Timing For Wedding Speeches

Traditionally, people give all the wedding speeches during the wedding reception. The exact timing for each toast depends on the ceremony order. 

Some people prefer to give the toasts during the rehearsal dinner, especially if they want it to be more intimate or have no plans to hold a proper reception.

Writing a Remarkable Wedding Speech: Preparing the Perfect Wedding Speech Template

wedding speeches

Irrespective of the side you represent during the wedding, most speeches follow a similar template. If you have difficulty coming up with an order for your toast, I will share a template in the next subheading. 

However, if your problem is with public speaking , this video may help you:

Remember the wedding speech order and that the wedding welcome speech or address is by the bride’s father, and then everyone comes after.

You can organize your thoughts around this template if you have numerous ideas or none.

Begin With an Introduction 

Not everyone knows who you are, so a quick introduction before your wedding speech order will give your audience context. You can start with your name and discuss how you met the couple or your relationship with them. 

You can Tell a Story as long as it is Relevant. 

If you already took note of the stories you want to share during the wedding, now is the best time to pick one. Its better to choose a narrative that:

  • Has a point you can relate to at the end of the story
  • Reflects the qualities you love about the bride or groom
  • Is relevant, appropriate, and relatable
  • Doesn’t put the couple in a bad light
  • It doesn’t focus entirely on you

Share Their Love Story From Your Point of View

Every person who gives a speech will have different perspectives on the couple’s love story. Except you are joined to them by the hip, you won’t have the whole picture without a proper perspective. 

You can talk about the first day you met your spouse and when you realized they would marry each other.

Which Qualities Do You Love in Their Partner?

Depending on your wedding role, your speech may need to focus more on the bride or groom. However, the wedding day is about both of them, so you can share the qualities you love about them and say why you think they are perfect for each other.

Share Your Hopes For them and Well Wishes.

If you have any helpful advice or quotes, this is the perfect time to share them. If you are already married, advice would be more welcome, but unmarried people should best stick with wishing them a happy, fruitful future. 

This section should end on an optimistic, positive note in preparation for the coming toast.

Finish Off with a Toast to the Couple

Ending your speech could be as daunting as how you started, so the best way to end the address is with a toast. Request the audience to raise their glasses to the lovely couple.

Wedding Speeches Do’s and Don’ts

What do you avoid? What can you include? Let’s find out here.

Wedding Speech Tips For Everyone

Everyone needs tips for wedding speeches and all types of orations. So, in my next point, I have organized speech tips for everyone who could give a wedding toast.

Tips For the Maid of Honor and Best Man 

  • A few sips of alcohol for liquid courage is okay, but avoid being drunk so that you can vocalize adequately.
  • Talk about the couple as a unit and as individuals. It isn’t your wedding day; we will talk more about you then.
  • It’s okay to be funny, but avoid humiliating the couple.
  • Other people are presenting, so keep your speech simple and sweet.
  • Practice your speech . Avoid winging it.
  • Write your speech down so that you won’t have regrets about things you should have said later.

Tips For the Groom’s Father and the Bride’s Father

  • Try to be as concise as possible.
  • Don’t forget to thank people, even if the couple will thank their guests. One cannot overexpress gratitude.
  • Make the jokes minimal. You don’t need to turn your speech into a standup comedy.
  • Being too sentimental as a parent is impossible, so embrace your emotional side.
  • Welcome the bride or groom to your family.

Tips For the Bride and Groom

  • Express gratitude for all the sacrifices people made to make your day, as they don’t owe you.
  • Focus on your spouse. It’s their day, too.
  • You can share snippets from the best parts of your relationship. We all love a good love story.
  • Raise a glass and toast to your dreams and hopes for your future together.

7 Final Tips for All Wedding Speech Presenters

wedding speeches

As promised in the introduction, here are some comprehensive tips for everyone who will give wedding speeches.

Practice and Practice Some More 

Preparedness helps improve your confidence . Being nervous is completely normal, but being prepared can help with your fidgeting.

Record Yourself While Practicing or Use a Virtual Assistant like Orai 

Record yourself presenting and practice your speech . You can use orai to practice: 

Take note of your body language , mannerisms, and filler words , and try to avoid them .

Avoid Booze as Much as Possible 

It is always best to drink only a glass before your speech , especially if you get drunk quickly. If you do not need to drink, avoid alcohol until after your toast so that you don’t end up saying inappropriate things or forgetting your lines.

Don’t Try too Hard: Just Be Yourself 

It is always best to be yourself during your speech . If you are sentimental, let it flow. If you are funny, feel free to be funny. 

The main thing is being as authentic as possible. The couple will feel your authenticity a lot more.

Make Your Speech as Brief as Possible 

No one has ever complained that anyone gave a speech that was too short. It’s always best to keep your toast within three to five minutes. Going on for too long will make you lose your audience.

Avoid Embarrassing Stories Like the Plague 

You aren’t there to slander or roast the couple, so it would be best to avoid inappropriate stories. There is the chance that their work colleagues would be part of the audience, so keep the jokes about wilding out minimal. 

You can share some childhood memories, but it is best to avoid stories that do not speak well of you and either of the newlyweds.

Hold Unto Your Notes

I am entirely against reading your speech like it is the news, but some notes and pointers are helpful. You could get too excited, exhausted, or nervous and forget your speech .

Your audience may be too drunk to notice you looking at your notes, and they may not even see. If you practice your speech correctly, you will only need pointers to remind you of what to say next, and you can maintain eye contact with the audience.

How long should a typical wedding speech be?

A typical wedding speech should generally be concise and to the point, aiming for around 5 minutes. While you may be tempted to speak at length about the couple, it’s advisable to keep the speech brief to ensure a smooth event flow and avoid causing the audience to become fatigued or disinterested. A speech that is around 5 minutes long is usually more than enough to convey your heartfelt thoughts and well wishes to the couple without overstaying your welcome.

What should one avoid when giving a wedding speech?

When delivering a wedding speech , avoiding sharing embarrassing or negative stories about the couple is important. These anecdotes may cause discomfort or awkwardness for everyone present. Instead of focusing on teasing or humiliating the newlyweds, aim to highlight their positive qualities and express congratulations on their marriage. Keep the speech uplifting and celebratory, steering clear of anything that could cast a shadow on the joyous occasion.

What are some key tips for writing and giving a wedding speech?

Some key tips for writing and giving a memorable wedding speech include:- Avoid sharing embarrassing or negative anecdotes to maintain a positive vibe.- Practice your speech beforehand, ideally recording it to review and improve.- Keep the speech at an appropriate length to maintain the audience’s interest.- It’s okay to refer to a few notes to stay on track and ensure you cover all essential points.- Refrain from consuming alcohol before delivering your speech to maintain clarity and composure. Is it acceptable to use notes during a wedding speech ?

Ditch the robotic delivery – a few notes are your safety net, not a script. Though the audience won’t mind glances, practice makes perfect for maintaining eye contact. Embrace these pointers and deliver a speech cherished forever.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Wedding speeches taking a non-traditional route is the new normal. Some people even opt for an open mic where anyone can give a toast. 

We advise that you keep the wedding speech order and number of presenters to a maximum of five to avoid making your guests squirmish. Also, it’s best to evade an open mic situation for wedding speeches.

Practice always helps you nail your speech , so you can use the Orai app or watch some of our videos to help you properly present all types of toasts.

Lastly, remember that it is a wedding toast and not a roast.

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Heritage Center

The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Wedding Speech or Toast

Oct 7, 2021 | Weddings

wedding speech toast blog

If you’re preparing to give a toast or speech at an upcoming wedding, you’re in the right place. Below you’ll find expert wedding toast tips and advice to help you craft a speech that the couple and their guests will remember for years to come.

Here are our ultimate tips on writing a great wedding speech or toast:

Introduce Yourself

Have a thesis, add supporting stories, stick the landing.

The quickest way to undermine your awesome wedding speech? Forget to introduce yourself and leave people whispering “Who is this guy?”

Typically, the maid of honor, best man and/or the couple themselves will prepare a toast or speech to give during the wedding reception, though parents of the bride and groom or other significant people in their lives may also step up to the mic. No matter what role you play in the wedding itself or in the couple’s lives, it’s important to introduce yourself and your relationship to the newlyweds before launching into the body of your speech.

You may choose to introduce yourself in a straightforward way — “Good evening, everyone. I’m Kelly Johnson, and I’m the bride’s sister” — or take the opportunity to set the tone for your speech with humor: “I’m Kelly, who many of you will know as the star of my sister and I’s iconic rendition of ‘Spice Up Your Life’ at the 2001 Mount Rose Middle School talent show.”

Let’s throw it back to high school Comp 101: What is a thesis? Put simply, a thesis is a central idea considered throughout a speech or piece of writing. It’s the theme around which you’ll build your wedding speech or toast, and it should have something to do with the couple.

When choosing your wedding speech theme or thesis, think about what makes the couple unique. Perhaps you’ve always been struck by how the bride and groom inspire the best in one another, or maybe you feel called to talk about how their love seemed meant to be from the start. If you’re struggling to come up with a wedding speech topic, do a little brainstorming: What words leap to mind when you think about the couple? What stories about the couple do you love that supports those descriptors?

The thesis of your speech should largely celebrate the couple’s relationship with each other, not your relationship with the couple or one individual in that couple. For example, “Eve and Jeremy have the kind of love that keeps them smiling, even on the bad days,” is a much better and more appropriate thesis than “Jeremy is hilarious; have you heard these stories from our fraternity days?”

Once you’ve chosen a thesis around which to build your speech or toast, it’s time to pick a few key supporting stories to drive your point home. Select a few first-hand memories you have of the couple to weave into your speech, making sure that they act as evidence that your thesis is true.

For example: Talking about the time Ben brought Nora flowers in kindergarten is a great supporting story to a thesis of “Ben and Nora have a lifelong love story.” It is sweet, appropriate for the audience and setting, demonstrates your thesis well, and gives the audience a peek into a little-known corner of the couple’s lives.

Here are some quick dos and don’ts for choosing stories for your wedding speech or toast:

  • Do make it personal. No one wants to hear the same boring platitudes about love and relationships that they’ve heard a thousand times before. Choose real memories or stories about the bride and groom that you enjoy or feel best exemplifies who they are as a couple.
  • Do keep it heartfelt and upbeat. Don’t be a downer! While there are circumstances in which it might be appropriate to touch on more emotional topics — the absence of a passed-on parent, for example — it’s important to keep the tone of your toast or speech generally “up.”
  • Do add humor, if that’s your style. An earnest but entertaining wedding speech can be a highlight of any reception, but don’t force yourself to be a stand-up comedian, especially if that’s not in your wheelhouse. Add humor if it feels natural, always keeping the jokes PG-13.
  • Do time it out beforehand. Aim for five minutes or less — nobody likes a longwinded maid of honor!
  • Don’t include inside jokes or inappropriate stories. You don’t want to lose your audience, or worse, offend someone. Again, keep things appropriate, even if you’re choosing a more comedic style of speech.
  • Don’t rely on any gimmicks, costumes, prop comedy or “roast”-style jokes. When in doubt, keep it simple, personal and sweet.
  • Don’t start drinking before your speech. Even if you find yourself with a case of the jitters, you should have no more than a glass of Champagne before taking the mic. Trust us on this one.
  • Don’t be afraid to use notecards or your phone! You should run through your speech a few times in front of a mirror or friends before the big day to familiarize yourself with your delivery, but memorization is not necessary.
  • Don’t wing it. This is one scenario in which an off-the-cuff, no-prep-necessary style of presentation isn’t appropriate. Start planning your speech early, taking the time to edit it and polish your delivery well in advance of the wedding day. Otherwise, you run the risk of coming off underprepared at best and uncaring at worst. Yikes.

As you wrap up your wedding speech or toast, bring it all together by clarifying how the previously mentioned stories and memories led up to the present moment or support your thesis. Essentially, you’ll want to talk about how the people at the sweetheart’s table are better, happier, more fulfilled individuals because of each other, which should be thanks to the trait you focus on in your thesis.

Planning for your own big day?

If you’re reading this blog in preparation for your own wedding day, congratulations! The Heritage Center would love to be a part of making your wedding ceremony and reception truly extraordinary. Our event planning experts have seen and done it all when it comes to weddings, so whether you’re dreaming of a small, intimate ceremony or a block-party-sized blow-out, we can help make it happen ! Contact us today to connect with a wedding planner and start bringing your vision to life.

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How to Write a Wedding Speech to Your Husband

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Writing a wedding speech can be nerve-wracking, especially when it’s one of the most important days of your life. However, it’s also a unique opportunity to express your love and appreciation for your groom in front of your friends and family. Your speech should be a reflection of your relationship, and should showcase the love, joy, and gratitude you feel on this special day.

If you have enough time to do so, rather than trying to write a wedding speech in one sitting, make notes over a few weeks, each time you recognise the little things they do that you appreciate, or whenever you remember. If you’re using our wedding planner book , or couples journal , refer back through some of the notes you’ve made too.

Tips on Writing your Wedding Speech to your Groom / Future Husband

To help you write a heartfelt and meaningful wedding speech, here are some tips and advice to keep in mind:

  • Start with a heartfelt introduction

Your introduction should set the tone for your speech and should immediately capture the attention of your audience (perhaps a personal anecdote, a quote about love or marriage, or a compelling statement that grabs your guests’ attention – and perhaps even makes them laugh). You could then go on to thank your guests for coming, and then express your excitement and happiness at marrying your Groom. You could also start with a quote or anecdote that highlights your love for your groom and sets the tone for the rest of your speech.

  • Share personal stories and memories

The best speeches are those that are personal and heartfelt. Share some personal stories and memories that highlight your love for your groom. For example, you could talk about the moment you knew he was the one, or the first time you met him. You could also talk about some of the things that you love about him, such as his sense of humor or his kindness. When telling stories, include descriptive details, use dialogue to bring the story to life, and create a narrative arc that builds up to a meaningful conclusion (if possible).

When using humour, practise reading it to a couple of friends or family to check you’ve found the right balance – and that the audience will understand the references made. You can use funny anecdotes – just add context if necessary so that the ‘inside jokes’ can be appreciated and enjoyed by your guests.

  • Express your gratitude

Express your gratitude to your groom for everything he has done for you, and for being the person he is. You could talk about how he has supported you, made you laugh, or helped you through tough times. Be specific about the ways their partner has positively impacted their life, mention specific qualities or actions they admire, and share anecdotes that demonstrate their gratitude. Don’t be afraid to get emotional – this is a special moment, and it’s okay to show your feelings.

  • Offer words of encouragement and support

Your speech should be a celebration of your love and commitment to each other. Offer words of encouragement and support for the future, and talk about the adventures you hope to share together. You could also talk about the challenges you have overcome as a couple, and how you will face any future challenges together. Talk about your shared goals, aspirations, and how you plan to support each other through thick and thin.

  • End with a toast

If it is possible, see if you can bring to a conclusion some of the points, or anecdotes made earlier. Finally, end your speech with a toast to your groom, your families, and your future together. Raise your glass and express your love and excitement for the future.

In addition to these tips, here are some more specific things to keep in mind when writing your speech:

  • Keep it concise. Your speech should be no longer than five minutes, so make every word count.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Rehearse your speech several times before the wedding day, so you feel comfortable and confident.
  • Consider your audience. Your speech should be appropriate for all ages and backgrounds, so avoid inside jokes or anything too personal.
  • Don’t be afraid to be funny. Humor is a great way to break the ice and keep your audience engaged, but make sure it’s appropriate and not at the expense of anyone.
  • Use props or visual aids if necessary. If you have a funny or sentimental photo or item that relates to your speech, consider using it to add an extra touch of personalisation.
  • Speak from the heart. Your speech should be a reflection of your love and appreciation for your groom, so don’t be afraid to show your emotions.

Making your Wedding Speech Funny

If humour comes naturally to you, your speech is likely to be funny too, and your guests are the ones who know and love you best (so they’ll definitely laugh along with you). If you struggle to tell personal anecdotes, consider including some funny quotes or sweet sayings:

  • “The secret to a good marriage is to be a little deaf.”  —  Ruth Bader Ginsburg 
  • “If at first you don’t succeed…try doing it the way your wife told you.”  —  Unknown
  • “The secret to a happy marriage remains a secret.”  —  Henny Youngman
  • “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times—always with the same person.”  —  Mignon McLaughlin (this one’s in our ‘ I still do ‘ anniversary journal)
  • “To keep your marriage brimming with love in the loving cup, whenever you’re wrong, admit it; whenever you’re right, shut up.”  —  Ogden Nash

Wedding Speech Example [To My Husband]

Dear Husband (a word I can’t wait to get used to and I know I’m going to overuse for the next few weeks)

As your partner, your confidant, and your best friend, I want to take this opportunity to thank you, and in front of all the people most important to us, express my love and gratitude for you and all that you do for me. You are truly one of a kind, and I can’t imagine my life without you.

When I think about what I love most about you, it’s your kind heart, your unwavering support, and your infectious sense of humor. You make me feel loved and cherished every day… [An opportunity to be specific]

As we stand here today, surrounded by our loved ones, I am filled with joy and gratitude that we have found each other out of the billions of people in the world. I truly believe, you are my person. You have been my rock through the good times and the bad, and I know that with you by my side, we can conquer anything that comes our way [specific examples].

As I look forward to our future together, I am excited for all the adventures that lie ahead. I know that with you, life will be full of love, laughter, and endless possibilities. I hope that we [example]

So, my dear husband, I want to thank you for being my soulmate, my partner, and my best friend. I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in all that you do, and to cherish every moment that we have together.

Cheers to us, my love, and to a lifetime of happiness and love. To our forever.


Make it personal, make it real. Your speech should be a reflection of your relationship, and should showcase the love, joy, and gratitude you feel on this special day.

When considering your wedding speeches and looking to the future, don’t forget the best relationships, and the marriages that last the distance are the ones who put the work in. Make your marriage a priority, be each other’s cheerleader, grow together, communicate. Discover our  couple’s journals  including  I still do wedding anniversary journal , to encourage you to do so.

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From debuts to do-overs, what it means to start an artistic life — at any age

Letter From the Editor

A cover of T: The New York Times Style Magazine's April 21, 2024 Culture issue, with the heading "Beginners. From debuts to do-overs, what it means to start an artistic life — at any age." On the cover is Ice Spice, with orange hair, wearing a black ruched top with one shoulder strap and a crucifix necklace.

Clockwise from top left: Ice Spice, Sky Lakota-Lynch, Meg Stalter, Tyla, Sarah Pidgeon and Titus Kaphar.

T’s Culture issue looks at artistic beginnings in all their forms.

By Hanya Yanagihara

The First Stroke

A painting of a nude woman turning away from two men who are leaning over a balcony, with one whispering in the other's ear.

Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Susanna and the Elders” (1610).

Why, even as they progress in their practices, all artists remain perpetual beginners.

By Aatish Taseer

David Kershenbaum, wearing an open shirt and sunglasses, sits next to Tracy Chapman, wearing a jean jacket, in front of a control board in a recording studio.

Tracy Chapman (right).

Lester Cohen/Getty Images

Musicians, writers and others on the work that started it all for them — and on what, if anything, they’d change about it now.

Interviews by Lovia Gyarkye and Nicole Acheampong

When These Two First Worked Together

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Marc Jacobs and Cindy Sherman.

Love, spats, splits and enduring affinity: creative partnerships that have stood the test of time.

Interviews by Ella Riley-Adams, Nick Haramis, Nicole Acheampong, Julia Halperin and Coco Romack

Begin Again

Jordi Roca.

Video by Anna Bosch Miralpeix

What it’s like to make new art after many years or amid new challenges — or to change careers completely.

Interviews by Michael Snyder, M.H. Miller and Emily Lordi

When the Beginning Is Also the End

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Miguel Adrover.

Catarina Osório de Castro

People who found great creative success in one field — before life took them in a totally different direction.

By John Wogan and M.H. Miller

J u v e n i l i a

A sketch of a tiger head.

Do Ho Suh’s “Tiger Mask” (1971).

Courtesy of the artist © Do Ho Suh

What artists see when they look back at work they made in their youth.

Interviews by Julia Halperin, Kate Guadagnino and Juan A. Ramírez

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A first album, a first restaurant, a first time on Broadway: Ten debuts happening right now.

Interviews by Juan A. Ramírez and Emily Lordi

How It Begins

Jenny Holzer.

Photographs by Nicholas Calcott

The very first steps, whether you’re an actor getting into character or an artist presenting the survey of your life’s work.

Interviews by Laura May Todd

The Beginners’ Hall of Fame

A floral painting against a purple background.

Tabboo!’s “Lavender Garden” (2023).

Courtesy of the artist, Karma and Gordon Robichaux

Six people who found a new creative calling later in life — or for whom recognition was long overdue.

By Jason Chen

Advice on Beginning

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Kim Gordon.

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Ten creative minds on how to start, pivot and productively procrastinate.

Interviews by Kate Guadagnino

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Courtesy of Joseph Dirand Architecture

We asked 80 artists and other creative people to tell us what they’re starting right now or hope to start very soon.

T’s Culture Issue: Beginners.

An exploration of artistic beginnings in all their forms.

There’s a reason all of us — magazine editors in particular, perhaps, but not only us — love an artistic debut. It’s not just that those releasing their first album, book or movie, or having their first gallery exhibit or Broadway show, are usually young; it’s that they embody that most delicious and evanescent of qualities: promise. Any painter could be the next Rothko or Basquiat; any singer could be the next Joni or Aretha. There the new artist sits, poised between our expectations and their unwritten reality. Becoming emotionally invested in an untested creative life is like becoming financially invested in an exciting new company — should they (or it) work, the reward is not just theirs but ours. “See?” we tell ourselves. “We knew it all along.”

But the real test of being an artist isn’t the first album, book, movie or Broadway show, as significant as those accomplishments are. It’s what happens after. All artists know that living a true creative life means facing an endless series of beginnings: It’s starting over after setbacks; it’s pushing forward through doubt and despair; it’s trying again when someone tells you no; it’s slogging ahead when no one seems to like or care about what you make; it’s ignoring the voice inside you that tells you to stop; it’s striving and failing, again and again and again. There is no point of complete security, no award or recognition that bestows total confidence — a life in art means that, to some degree, you’re starting anew every day. As the novelist Andrew Holleran tells T, “Writing is basically unconscious, and you don’t get any smarter about it. Imagine a brain surgeon who didn’t learn from each operation? We’d be horrified. But when you sit down to write, you’re always wondering how to do it.”

On the covers, clockwise from top left: ICE SPICE wears a Burberry dress, $2,290, ; Graff necklace, price on request, ; and her own earrings and ring. Photographed by Shikeith. Styled by Ian Bradley. Makeup by Karina Milan at the Wall Group. SKY LAKOTA-LYNCH wears a Canali coat, $3,060, ; and a Bode jacket, $1,080, . Photographed by Shikeith. Styled by Delphine Danhier. Hair by Tsuki at Streeters. Makeup by Jamal Scott for YSL Beauty. MEG STALTER . Photographed by Shikeith. Styled by Delphine Danhier. Hair by Tiago Goya at Home Agency using Oribe. Makeup by Holly Silius at R3-MGMT. TYLA wears a Ferragamo top, $1,190, and earrings, $730, . Photographed by Shikeith. Styled by Sasha Kelly. Hair by Christina “Tina” Trammell. Makeup by Jamal Scott for YSL Beauty. SARAH PIDGEON wears a Gucci dress, $24,500, . Photographed by Shikeith. Styled by Delphine Danhier. Hair by Tsuki at Streeters. Makeup by Jamal Scott for YSL Beauty. TITUS KAPHAR wears a Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello coat, $4,900, . Photographed by Shikeith. Styled by Delphine Danhier. Hair by Tsuki at Streeters. Makeup by Jamal Scott for YSL Beauty.

In this issue, we look at what it means for an artist to begin, from actual debuts (such as Sky Lakota-Lynch, one of our cover stars, who’s appearing this spring in “The Outsiders,” his first original Broadway role) to do-overs (such as Jon Bon Jovi, about to embark on tour after throat surgery and a 40-year career, or the cabaret performer turned visual artist Justin Vivian Bond). And though the artists who appear in these pages are all different, they share a spirit of generosity: It’s no easy thing to give voice to your dreams and insecurities, much less to do so publicly. Their collective perseverance — a mix of dogged determination and wild hope — is a reminder for all of us that a creative life, that all life, takes nerve. It takes humility. It takes a kind of arrogance that sees you through the most barren periods.

And by the way: You don’t need to be young to lead a creative life. All you have to do is start. Start — and then never stop.

On March 12, as we were readying this issue to go to press, one of our colleagues, Carter Love, T’s senior photography editor, died. He was 41.

Being a good photo editor demands taste and a sense of coordination. For a fashion or celebrity shoot, they, along with the creative director and style director, assemble teams: the photographer, of course, but also the stylist, models, hair and makeup artists and set designers. For a travel story, the photo editor selects and hires the fixer, the photographer, the location scout, the translator and the transportation. Once on set, a photo editor stays until the very end of the shoot, even if the shoot goes all day. Carter worked on these — and many other — kinds of stories, often simultaneously; in this issue alone, he produced a dozen images, from the portrait of the longtime collaborators Cindy Sherman and Marc Jacobs to the picture of the fashion designer turned photographer Miguel Adrover.

Along with his native senses of taste and coordination, Carter was — crucially — able to laugh at the absurdities, the unexpected little (and not-so-little) disasters that inevitably arise during a shoot, no matter how thorough the planning: rain on a day when sun was predicted; equipment stuck in customs; a subject’s last-minute cancellation. He had a big laugh, resonant and full, which everyone in the office could hear; at work parties, he sometimes broke into song. In addition to his big laugh, he had a big voice. He was tall and wiry and quick moving, with magnificent red hair — I’d often look up from my desk and see his head and torso streaking across the top of the cubicle walls, hurrying off somewhere.

One of Carter’s most used phrases was “absolutely.” Could I see more options from this shoot? “Absolutely.” Could I have a list of the talent that had already confirmed? “Absolutely.” Thanks, Carter, for this new information. “Absolutely.”

Barely a week after his death, that word keeps beating in my head. Will we always ask ourselves why he had to die? Absolutely. Were we lucky to work with him? Absolutely. Will we miss him? Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Digital production and design: Danny DeBelius, Amy Fang, Chris Littlewood, Coco Romack, Carla Valdivia Nakatani and Jamie Sims.

ONE EVENING 17 years ago, V.S. Naipaul came to dinner at my flat in Delhi. The writer, who had become something of a mentor to me, was transfixed by a painting I had bought a few years before. It was a self-portrait, over 7 feet tall and 5 feet wide. “I find it hypnotic,” Naipaul said, filing away spoonfuls of yellow dal. Observing the beauty of the hand clasped (as if in horror) over the mouth, the thumb livid against the dark hollows of the eyes, he added of the artist, “This is someone who has really seen, who has gone back again and again to see.”

Listen to this article, read by Neil Shah

I was at the beginning of my writing career, using my first advances to collect a few works of art. It was thrilling to have someone with as discerning an eye as Naipaul’s — “the brilliant noticer,” in the words of the literary critic James Wood — approve of “How Did You Sleep?” (2002), but it also made me sad. Its creator, Zack, who’d been a close friend at Amherst College in Massachusetts in the late 1990s, had recently given up painting, and “How Did You Sleep?” had become a symbol to me of the precarity of what it means to get started as an artist.

A painting of a nude woman turning away from two men who are leaning over a balcony, with one whispering in the other's ear.

The Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi was 17 in 1610 when she painted “Susanna and the Elders” (above). She went on to be the 17th century’s most accomplished female painter.

Zack, now 43, was of a mixed-race background from Topeka, Kan. After struggling with feelings of inferiority in our first year related to his public school education, he taught himself to paint from scratch. I would visit him and watch as he, dressed in paint-stained khakis and New Balance sneakers, toiled away at the self-portraits that were his trademark. He was a model to me of artistic labor and discipline, even if those early paintings were painfully amateurish.

Then, in our last semester, having been abroad a while, I entered Fayerweather Hall for the art department’s end-of-year show and saw “How Did You Sleep?” I was dumbstruck. I’m not sure I would’ve even been able to recognize it as Zack’s work — so prodigious had been his development as a painter — if it hadn’t been a self-portrait. Painted in the wake of 9/11, it showed the artist in a blue shirt with an expression of prophetic terror, as if watching a disaster foretold. I remember wanting to own it because it was proof, like none I had ever had before, that there really did exist such a thing in the world as raw talent. I persuaded Zack to sell it to me. The painting followed me from Amherst to my first job in New York, and on to London and Delhi.

By the time Naipaul saw it, Zack was working in strategic and financial communications in New York and no longer painting — “Every notary bears within him the debris of a poet,” Gustave Flaubert tells us. “My new job is intense,” Zack had written to say. “It’ll be good for a few years, but it’s not a career.” But neither was art; and Zack, who works as a researcher at Google now, was my first fearful example of how that mythical thing we call talent is real, and how talent alone isn’t enough.

IT WASN’T MY intention to start an essay about artistic beginnings with a story of artistic death. I love those romantic tales of creative daring and breakthrough: the English travel writer and novelist Bruce Chatwin quitting his job at The Sunday Times of London’s magazine with a simple telegram that read, “Have gone to Patagonia”; or, more dramatically, Paul Gauguin abandoning his wife, kids and job as a salesman to pursue his dream of being a painter. I love the improbability of the lives that could not have been: Salman Rushdie, the adman; W. Somerset Maugham, the doctor; the director Kathryn Bigelow, renovating dilapidated apartments in New York with the then-obscure composer Philip Glass. I remember Arundhati Roy teaching my mother and aunt aerobics in the basement of the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi before going on to win the Booker Prize for her debut novel, “The God of Small Things” (1997). It’s exhilarating to see destiny pick those who could but only have been artists out of the mundanity of their lives and light the way to a life of vocation.

I’m especially moved by those first moments of validation by which an artist comes out to himself, as it were. Consider Joseph Conrad in his mid-30s, working aboard the ship Torrens, with the manuscript of his first novel, “Almayer’s Folly” (1895). It had acquired, he writes in “A Personal Record” (1912), “a faded look and an ancient, yellowish complexion.” At sea, Conrad met his first reader, Jacques, a “young Cambridge man.” “Well, what do you say?” Conrad, brimming with anxiety, asked his new friend. “Is it worth finishing?” “ ‘Distinctly,’ he answered, in his sedate, veiled voice,” Conrad recalls years later, “and then coughed a little.” With that one word, Jacques, who was soon to be carried away by a fatal cold, had given a seafaring Polish exile a vital nod of encouragement. “The purpose instilled into me by his simple and final ‘Distinctly,’” writes Conrad, one of literature’s late bloomers (he was 38 when he published his first novel), “remained dormant, yet alive to await its opportunity.”

This quiet admission to oneself, as sacred as the vows of priesthood, of wanting to undertake the creative life is a necessary step; but like talent, it’s not enough. To be an artist is not a private act but a public one. No artist is born into a vacuum, or later speaks into one. They are as much a product of the society they emerge from as a response to it. Nor is artistic expression all spirit, all feeling. As Naipaul has frequently noted, writers require a complex edifice of interlocking parts — an infrastructure, if you will — to thrive. More broadly speaking, all successful artists rely on a network of critics, journals and newspapers, a discerning audience, bookshops and concert halls and galleries — which is generations in the making, presupposing certain values, certain economic and political realities. The Ukrainian-born novelist Clarice Lispector came of age in the Brazil of the 1920s. At 13, she “consciously claimed the desire to write,” as her biographer Benjamin Moser quotes her in “Why This World” (2009), but no sooner had she claimed her destiny than she felt herself in a void. The idea of vocation had been instilled in her, but that didn’t mean she knew how to proceed. “Writing was always difficult for me,” Lispector once wrote, “even though I had begun with what is known as vocation. Vocation is different from talent. One can have vocation and not talent; one can be called and not know how to go.”

Lispector had both vocation and talent, but what makes any artist’s first steps so tentative is that the path forward is narrower than we imagine. We come into the world believing we can be a great many things (and for a great many this is true) but, for those destined to be artists, the creative choices they make are almost as limited as the choice of being an artist itself. Maugham wanted to demystify the impulse that had him give up medicine to answer his calling as a novelist. “I am a writer as I might have been a doctor or a lawyer,” he writes in “The Summing Up,” his 1938 literary memoir, but, soon after that, despite himself, Maugham stumbles on that aspect of the artistic life that eludes banalization, for it’s truly mysterious — namely, the bond between the artist and his subject. “Though the whole world,” writes Maugham, “with everyone in it and all its sights and events, is your material, you yourself can only deal with what corresponds to some secret spring in your own nature.” 

A painting of a skull next to an hourglass with flowers, butterflies and bubbles around it.

“Vanitas Still Life” (circa 1665-70) by Jan van Kessel the Elder, who was from a long line of celebrated Flemish painters — Pieter Bruegel the Elder was his great-grandfather — and was perhaps destined to be an artist.

It’s this, the inexorability of the correspondence between an artist and the world, that gives those first steps their magical quality. It represents a rebirth so profound that it can often entail the killing off of a former self. One of my literary heroes, the writer Rebecca West — the author of that magisterial work of travel, inquiry and sympathy “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia” (1940) — was abandoned (as I was) by her father as a child. In late Victorian England, it left her with an exaggerated regard for what were seen as male qualities, as well as the need to compensate for their absence. “Men, she felt,” writes J.R. Hammond in “H.G. Wells and Rebecca West” (1991), his biography of their romantic and literary relationship, “should be strong and dependable; deep inside herself she sensed they were not to be trusted.” These gendered dynamics were surely at work as West, first making her way in the world at age 20, sloughed off the softer given name of Cissie Fairfield to adopt, as a pseudonym, the name of the spirited protagonist of Henrik Ibsen’s play “Rosmersholm” (1886).

No artist is without this set of special circumstances. They are the ground from which the need for expression arises. The path forward comes upon the artist-in-waiting with the power of certain mathematical proofs, elegant, inevitable, at once simple and inscrutable. “Falling in love for the first time and getting started as a writer,” my friend the writer Karan Mahajan, 39, the author of the novels “Family Planning” (2008) and “The Association of Small Bombs” (2016), replied by email when I asked him what it had been like for him, “both things happened at once for me. Suddenly, I had my material, and it encompassed all aspects of my life: my childhood in Delhi; immigration to the United States as a student; a future decided by plane journeys. I could love myself as the other loved me.”

For the Pakistani-born American painter Salman Toor, 40, the moment when, he says, “something vital clicked into place” meant that he suddenly found himself in “a direct relationship” between the things he was thinking and talking about every day and the paintings he was at work on. “In 2016,” he says, “I did a few paintings out of a need to be completely honest with myself. I wanted to illustrate the stories I was bursting to tell. A lot of these stories were about coming out and showing the excitement, anxieties and challenges of belonging to multiple cultures and living a cute little life in the East Village.”

The date surprised me. I had been aware of Toor’s work for almost a decade before this moment. To me, he was the painter of a certain kind of South Asian disquiet. No one captured the massive cultural and economic disparities of my life in Delhi (and his in Lahore) like Toor. Upon scenes of revelry and privilege — a party, a picnic, a rich westernized couple frolicking out of doors with a glass of wine and an iPhone — he would, in the form of servants in the background looking on, introduce an element of unease that hinted at the fragility of the societies we lived in. But quite unbeknown to me, Toor’s life in New York had opened up a new vein of material. To put it another way, he had begun again. And this is what we tend to forget: In the careers of certain artists, those who make big, varied bodies of work in which different strands of their experience are subsumed, the business of beginning, and beginning again, never ceases. Each new beginning brings with it all the uncertainty and blankness of the first. Experience might protect such an artist from forcing what’s clearly not working, but that core anxiety of not knowing if one will create again always remains. “Do not worry,” Hemingway would console himself, “you have always written before and you will write now.”

WHAT CONSTITUTES A beginning? In the common conception, it’s the first book, the first album, the first show at a major gallery. Yet an artist has myriad private ways in which they mark moments of true breakthrough. My childhood friend the sitarist and composer Anoushka Shankar, 42, regards her fourth album as her first. She had grown up under the influence of her mighty father, Ravi Shankar, the man credited with having introduced Indian classical music to the West. Every artist struggles with what the literary critic Harold Bloom has called the anxiety of influence but, in Anoushka’s case, it was even more pronounced. As she told me, Ravi Shankar was “my guru, my teacher, my father.” It was he who had composed her first three albums.

Ravi, before he went on to become the greatest sitarist of his generation, had been part of a dance troupe led by his brother Uday, which caused a sensation in the Europe and America of the 1930s. “Hindu thought, alive, authentic, in flesh and bone, in sound, gesture and spirit,” is how the French mystic René Daumal describes the Shankar troupe in his book “Rasa” (1982), but Ravi was conflicted. He eventually broke with the troupe and dedicated himself entirely to the sitar. “He had a real directional shift that I didn’t have,” Anoushka says. Her beginnings, though she was six decades younger than her father, were in a sense more traditional. They entailed the surprise of finding newness within tradition. “I think my journey,” she says, “was more progressively finding how the thing that was in front of me — the sitar, namely — the thing that had been given to me, could be my outlet, could be my voice.” 

A coda to this intergenerational tale of artistic beginnings is the story of Anoushka’s half sister, Norah Jones, who spent years of her childhood estranged from her father and grew up in Texas with her American mother. At a time when both Anoushka and I were discovering our half siblings, I remember going to see Norah play at little-known clubs on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She was staking claim to what felt like a genetic destiny in music, though in a tradition entirely different from that of her father and sister. I don’t know if I’ve ever witnessed beginnings as meager and transformational as these for, not long after, Norah’s debut album, “Come Away With Me” (2002), was released; it went on to win five Grammys, sell 30 million copies and all but save the piracy-shattered music industry.

We live in a society that prizes the individual above all else but, in the art of premodern Europe and classical India, to begin as an artist didn’t necessarily entail breaking with tradition, nor was it given to every artist to be original. “Raphael was adept at this,” writes Rachel Cusk in her travel memoir “The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy” (2009), in which she describes the Italian Renaissance painter’s relationship to his first guru, Perugino. Raphael had become so good at imitating Perugino, Cusk tells us, that the copies of his master’s work were indistinguishable from the originals. The art of pastiche, of inhaling the influence of an older admired artist so completely that it enters your soul, exists today, too. The South African writer J.M. Coetzee’s early works owe a huge debt to Samuel Beckett, as Rushdie’s do to Gabriel García Márquez and Thomas Pynchon’s to James Joyce. The difference in the modern era is that influence is something we must shrug off in order to become our own people, yet not everyone can. Cusk deals very movingly with Raphael’s quest (and ultimate failure) to be his own man. In a field crowded with giants such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he “retreated behind the mask of humility, never to come out again.” But far from this being his downfall as an artist, it, too, was a kind of beginning. “In the end,” writes Cusk, “his borrowing of such greatness amounted to greatness itself. Not everyone who sees a Michelangelo can go off and paint a Michelangelo.”

THERE ARE SO many ways to begin. I said it wasn’t my intention to open with a story of artistic death, but I never explained why I did. The reason is that after six books, and 20 years after writing my first publishable sentences, stamina, endurance and the ability to stay the course have come to mean at least as much to me as that first raw efflorescence of talent. If Zack’s story acquired the force of parable for me, it was because it showed me the vanity of our preoccupation with talent. Many with fewer gifts who are yet more steadfast go on to have brilliant careers as artists. There’s an undeniable mystery in why some among us become artists, but there’s a greater mystery to me still in those who survive the vicissitudes of creative life, leaving behind bodies of work through which there runs an arc of growth as sublime as the vaulting of a Gothic cathedral.

A true artist always brings something new into the world. A new color, a new complexion, a new way of looking — a “new kind of beauty,” to use Marcel Proust’s phrase for the special distinctiveness he felt that Fyodor Dostoyevsky had brought to literature. We make the mistake of thinking of that newness as an externality, a scaffolding, a mere matter of style. But in fact, the originality we detect on the surface is an emanation from the birth of a new idea. It’s something far more radical, far more unnerving, than we are prepared to accept. Real artists bring about real rupture. We want to domesticate the discomfort that makes us feel but, deep down, we know the old rules no longer apply; and for one fleeting moment, our world, with us in it, is laid bare, transfigured by the imagination of someone who has dared to see it anew.

Read by Neil Shah. Narration produced by Emma Kehlbeck. Engineered by Quinton Kamara

Amy Tan , 72, writer, on “The Joy Luck Club” (1989)

Amy Tan holds Daisy Tan's right elbow with her left hand. They are walking down the a sidewalk and smiling.

Tan with her mother, Daisy Tan, in San Francisco in 1989. The author’s 11th book, “The Backyard Bird Chronicles,” a collection of illustrated essays, is out this month.

Robert Foothorap

I was a business writer [of marketing materials for companies and brochures for their employees] in the mid-1980s and, even though I was successful, I was unhappy. I wasn’t doing anything meaningful. Writing fiction allowed me, through subterfuge, to access emotional realms that I hadn’t explored before. When you write your first novel, you tend to include a lot of autobiographical elements. “The Joy Luck Club” [about the lives of four Chinese immigrant women and their American-born daughters] became deeply personal without my knowing it. I wasn’t consciously writing about racism or generational divides, even though that’s exactly what I was writing about. At that time [Tan was 37 when the book came out], I was just trying to find a story.

A cover of the book "The Joy Luck Club" with illustrations of dragons and a mirrored cloud-like pattern.

Courtesy of Putnam © 1989 Gretchen Schields. Photo by Joshua Scott

People got all kinds of things out of it. They said it saved their marriage or helped their relationships. I felt wonderful about that, but I couldn’t take credit. I didn’t intend to write a book that was going to improve people’s lives. That would’ve been a noble pursuit but, to do that, I’d have had to come up with a book that was very different — less spontaneous and honest. Without a doubt, what made me proudest was that my mother read it. She wasn’t proficient in English, but she understood it more than anybody else. — L.G.

Avril Lavigne , 39, musician, on “Let Go” (2002)

Avril Lavigne sits cross-legged on an office chair wearing headphones with a microphone in front of her face.

Lavigne at a recording studio in Cologne, Germany, in 2002. The musician’s new tour, “Avril Lavigne: The Greatest Hits,” begins next month.

Fryderyk Gabowicz/Picture Alliance/Getty Images

I remember going into the studio and people trying to tell me what to do or how my music should be, but I knew what I wanted to create. “Let Go” reflects how I felt as a young girl coming into the music industry. I was 15 when I got signed and 16 when I made that album. I had all this angst and rebellion, and I wanted to be expressive in that tone. But the adults around me kept delivering cheesy song ideas, and I wasn’t feeling the way people were playing the guitar. It was all too light and fluffy; that’s the stuff that made me run.

The cover for Avril Lavigne's Let Go album, with the text in a scratched font, and a blurred cover image of Lavigne, wearing all navy, with her arms crossed, standing on the street.

Courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment and Avril Lavigne

When I went to Los Angeles and connected with [the album’s co-writers Lauren Christy, Graham Edwards and Scott Spock of] the Matrix and Clif Magness, they were way cooler and more open-minded. Lauren and I spent a lot of time together. I sat with her in the backyard on a picnic blanket writing “Complicated”; we really connected. I was finally understood. The production was a little poppy for me. If I had to redo the album today, I’d tweak some things here and there production-wise and apply some of my experience from the past 20 years. Still, the important songs like “Sk8er Boi” and “Complicated” rocked enough — they had the live guitar and drums — and “I’m With You” wasn’t too polished. On songs like “Unwanted” and “Losing Grip,” we really went all the way — no holding back. — L.G.

Chloë Sevigny , 49, actress, on “Kids” (1995)

Chloë Sevigny turns to face the camera. Behind her are various theme park attractions, including a ferris wheel and a carousel.

Sevigny at the Jersey Shore in 1995. The actress, who has appeared in over 50 features, recently shot “Bonjour Tristesse,” an upcoming adaptation of the 1954 Françoise Sagan novel.

From left: Lila Lee-Morrison; © Shining Excalibur Pictures/courtesy of Everett Collection

A poster for the movie "Kids", showing the letters K-I-D-S overlaid over four portraits of actors in, respectively, red, blue, green and yellow.

© Shining Excalibur Pictures/Courtesy of Everett Collection

I still find the marketing around “Kids” [about a day in the life of some wayward New York City teenagers] a little outrageous: “The most shocking film of the year!” “A must-see!” But it worked. A lot of us making it thought of it as a cautionary tale, but so many kids have come up to me and said, “That’s why I moved to New York. I wanted to live that life.” I was an amateur [at 19, when I made the film]. I knew the cinematographer, Eric Alan Edwards. He’d shot [Gus Van Sant’s 1991 movie] “My Own Private Idaho,” and I thought the acting in that was impeccable. I trusted that if something [in my performance] was false, he’d say something. I don’t know why, but I just gave myself over to [Edwards and the director, Larry Clark]; I trusted that they wanted to get to the truth of things.

The hardest scene for me to shoot was when [my character, 15-year-old Jennie] is at the clinic receiving information that she’d contracted H.I.V. I thought, “How does one even begin to try to act that?” I was very tentative. If I were to approach that scene now, I think I’d have the confidence to try more things — one take crying, others doing this and that. At the time, I was trying to be as real as I thought I could be on camera with a crew around me.

I’m surprised that “Kids” is still making such an impact, but I’m also not. Afterward, I thought, “OK, this set a bar. These are the kinds of people I want to work with.” — N.A.

A photo of five people posing for a photograph. Stephen King wears a green shirt and a jacket and holds a baby who is drinking from a bottle.

King, the author of over 70 books, with his wife, Tabitha, and their children (from left) Joe, Owen and Naomi at their house in Orrington, Maine, in 1979. His next book, a short-story collection titled “You Like It Darker,” will be published in May.

James Leonard

Stephen King , 76, writer, on “Carrie” (1974)

One of my rules about writing is similar to a rule in [the card game] Hearts: If it’s laid, it’s played. I have a tendency not to go back and reread things, particularly with “Carrie” [a horror novel about a bullied high school student capable of telekinesis]. I’m afraid of how naïve it may be, how much it might be the work of a very young writer. It’s like when you’re a kid and you don’t know how to behave. You look back on certain things and say, “I shouldn’t have grabbed that,” or, “That wasn’t polite.” I don’t want to go back and see that my shirttail was untucked or my fly was unzipped.

The cover of a book, with the title "Carrie: a novel of a girl with a frightening power." The cover image shows half a portrait of a woman with an embroidered jacket and brown hair blowing in the air.

Courtesy of Doubleday. Photo by Joshua Scott

I’d change a lot. It would have a little more depth when it came to the characters. Remember, it started as a short story. I had this idea about a girl with paranormal powers who was going to get revenge on the girls who made fun of her. It was too long for the markets that I had in mind, and I didn’t know very much about girls anyway, particularly girls’ gym classes and locker rooms, so I threw the story away. My wife fished it out of the trash, uncrumpled the pages, looked at it and said, “This is pretty good. I’ll help you.” It’s a very short book, way under 300 pages. Also, there are pejoratives that were common then that I wouldn’t use now, even though they’re realistic and come out of the mouths of characters we don’t like. On the whole, I must’ve done a fairly good job because the book was published [when I was 26] and [in 1976] they made a movie out of it.

One of the things I think about a lot was that my mother got to read it. She had cancer at that point and died before any of my other books were published. Because of “Carrie,” I had a chance to take care of her and get her in a hospice. By then we had the money, otherwise we would’ve been out of luck. — L.G.

A man with a mustache and short brown hair stands amid brown reeds.

Holleran in Florida in the 1980s. Three of the author’s five novels, including “Dancer From the Dance,” were republished in paperback this past December.

From left: Lee Calvin Yeomans, courtesy of Andrew Holleran; Ian Dickson/Shutterstock

The cover of the book "Dancer From the Dance" with an illustration of a head with short ginger hair and an earring partially silhouetted in profile.

Ian Dickson/Shutterstock

Andrew Holleran , 79, writer, on “Dancer From the Dance” (1978)

“Dancer” has had a life of its own, which I could’ve never predicted. I wrote the book at my parents’ house in Florida one winter [when I was 33]. It was going to be the last book I ever wrote, because I’d been writing for 10 years after graduating from an M.F.A. program and had only had one story published in a magazine. I said to myself, “You have to stop now and go to law school.” Luckily, the book came out of me very quickly and, in retrospect, became a description of six years I’d spent in New York. It was very easy because I’d obviously touched something that mattered to me.

I’ve never reread “Dancer” [about gay life in 1970s New York] so, while I’m sure that if I did, I’d revise, revise, revise, I can’t imagine changing any of it. The campy style of the letters that frame the book is probably outdated, which is a shame since I love camp.

I’ve learned since then that writing is basically unconscious, and you don’t get any smarter about it. Imagine a brain surgeon who didn’t learn from each operation? We’d be horrified. But when you sit down to write, you’re always wondering how to do it. — L.G.

Debbie Harry and Chris Stein stand on a staircase with a curved bannister and portraits hanging on wooden walls.

Harry and Stein, of the rock band Blondie, in the U.K. in 1977. Stein’s memoir, “Under a Rock,” will be published in June.

From left: Jeff Gilbert/Alamy Stock Photo; CBW/Alamy Stock Photo

The cover of the album Blondie, with the title in capital letters and italicized. It shows five people dressed in black tops and jackets standing in front of each other.

CBW/Alamy Stock Photo

Debbie Harry , 78, and Chris Stein , 74, musicians, on “Blondie” (1976)

Debbie Harry: We recorded “Blondie” [when Harry was 30 and Stein was 25] in a studio used by jazz musicians, and there wasn’t a lot of fancy recording technique. It was a different era. I think the fact that the album wasn’t overproduced gives it a kind of timelessness. We still perform some of those songs. Every once in a while, we drag up “X Offender” and “Rip Her to Shreds.”

Our music wasn’t just about one style or sound; we had songs that expressed different feelings and attitudes in music. A lot of things, like “Man Overboard” [a danceable heartbreak track], we really didn’t pull off the way I think Chris wanted to, but it’s there.

Chris Stein: That song would’ve worked fantastic with a dembow beat [but I wasn’t introduced to reggaeton until years later]. If I were to change anything about the album, it’d have more to do with the production than what we were slapping on the tape. Generally, we’d just go in and do a bunch of takes, pick the best one, throw some stuff on it and that was pretty much it. There was hardly any overdubbing. We learned so much from the producer Mike Chapman a couple of years later — the difference between “Blondie” and our later albums was like night and day.

Still, I like “Blondie.” It represents how we felt at the time and what was happening to us. When I look back on it, I think of the whole downtown milieu and a period in New York that I don’t know if anyone thought we’d be talking about 50 years later. — L.G.

Zadie Smith, wearing a black top and glasses, with her hair parted in the center, sits and looks over her left shoulder towards the camera. The wall behind her is red.

Smith at her mother’s home in northwest London in 2000. The author’s sixth novel, “The Fraud,” was published last year.

Courtesy of William Morrow. Photo by Joshua Scott

Zadie Smith , 48, writer, on “White Teeth” (2000)

I love the joy in my novel “White Teeth” [a multigenerational story of race and identity among the residents of London’s Willesden neighborhood], even though I haven’t picked it up in 25 years. Back then [Smith was 24 when the book came out], I was trying to write about people; I was interested in the interpersonal above all else. The people in the neighborhood I came from were always described in a manner of pathology, and I was trying to explain that we weren’t pathological. I was always writing around this kind of elephant in the room, which is what you know people have already assumed about your characters. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to do less of that because I’ve got company. There are so many writers from so many countries, particularly in West Africa, [that] I wanted to see as a child.

The cover of the book "White Teeth" with a white background and the title of the book embossed silver.

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

I’ve become more interested in power lately. I’m very aware of being like the Ancient Mariner, that the structures I’m talking about that made life not always pathological have vanished. The conditions of the characters in “White Teeth” — their decent health care, their reasonable housing, their free university education — are gone. I’m still on the side of joy, but the question is, what kind of structures allow people to experience it. As I’ve gotten older, I write about them not out of nostalgia but out of political urgency. — L.G.

Two figures stand in front of a memorial with finely carved names and large dates on a black granite wall.

Left: a mock-up of Lin’s 493-foot Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Right: Lin with her parents, Julia Chang Lin and Henry Huan Lin, at her Yale graduation in 1981. The designer’s 44th sculpture, for the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, is scheduled to be completed next year.

Courtesy of Maya Lin (2)

A polaroid of three figures smiling, with their hands crossed, sitting on a low stone wall in formal attire.

Lin with her parents, Julia Chang Lin and Henry Huan Lin, at her Yale graduation in 1981. The designer’s 44th sculpture, for the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, is scheduled to be completed next year.

Courtesy of Maya Lin

Maya Lin , 64, sculptor, on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982) in Washington, D.C.

It was a battle to keep the Vietnam Veterans Memorial simple and spare. I was moved by World War I memorials built by the French and British. They offered a much more realistic and sobering look at the high price of war, which is human life. When I went to the site [of what would become the monument] on Thanksgiving break [in 1980, when I was 20 and in my junior year at Yale], I felt a need to cut the earth and open it up. The structure isn’t so much an object inserted into the earth; it’s the earth itself being polished like a geode. I considered everything, even the walkway, which was put in to intentionally separate the wall from the ground. If you put the granite sidewalk all the way up against the wall, it would no longer be a polished geode — it’d be a curb. I put grass there. But no one could have predicted how popular it would be, so people trampled the grass and it died.

A year or two after the memorial was built, unbeknown to me, the architects of record worked with [the National] Park Service to put in [Belgian blocks on either side of the granite path]. That needs to be rethought because it’s an ugly detail. They’re out of scale. It drives me crazy every time I see it. — L.G.

David Kershenbaum, wearing an open shirt and sunglasses, sits next to Tracy Chapman, wearing a jean jacket, in front of a control board in a recording studio.

Chapman with the producer David Kershenbaum at a Los Angeles recording studio in 1987. The musician’s debut album will be reissued on vinyl this summer to mark its 35th anniversary.

From left: Lester Cohen/Getty Images; courtesy of Elektra Records

A sepia-toned album cover, with the title "Tracy Chapman" rotated to the side, running vertically on the left side, and a portrait of Chapman looking down.

Courtesy of Elektra Records

Tracy Chapman , 60, musician, on “Tracy Chapman” (1988)

I had this notion when I first started writing songs that to respect the muse — or whatever source of inspiration brought me to put pen to paper — I shouldn’t do any editing. The first thing that came to me was meant to be. “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution,” which I wrote when I was 16, emerged from that mind-set. It was one of those songs that came out in one sitting. It’s a very forceful declaration.

A song like “Fast Car,” which I wrote when I was maybe 22, wasn’t a very long process, but it reflected a different strategy about songwriting. It was more about revelation, sharing a story about a person and the changes happening in their life. I made edits to “Fast Car.” I definitely changed words and lines. I’m too embarrassed to tell you exactly what, but it was the verse that starts “See, my old man’s got a problem.” Let’s just say that there was something else there.

In some ways, writing a song is about asking and answering questions: “Who is this character, why are they doing this and where is the story going?” When I was young, I thought all these questions could be answered with the first iteration of the song. I’m not as enamored with this idea that the very first thing that comes to mind is what I have to remain committed to. — L.G.

Jewel , 49, musician, on “Pieces of You” (1995)

Jewel, surrounded by people in a recording studio, wearing a white and orange striped shirt, looks back over her left shoulder.

Jewel at the musician Neil Young’s private studio in Northern California in 1994. An immersive exhibit of the singer-songwriter’s work will open at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., in May.

Courtesy of the Jewel Kilcher Archive and Bershaw Archival Management

What’s important to me about “Pieces of You” is that I made an honest album. I liked [the writers] Charles Bukowski and Anaïs Nin because they told the truth about themselves, and it wasn’t always pretty. With my work, my goal was to be just as honest. “Pieces of You” wasn’t more developed than I was — I didn’t know how to play with a band, and I didn’t choose a producer who’d make me sound slicker or lend their experience to make me sound more polished. I wanted it to be a snapshot of who I was [between 16 and 19]: inexperienced, emotionally charged and trying to figure life out.

An album cover, with the title "pieces of you" and text reading "what we call human nature in actuality is human habit." The cover image is Jewel, smiling with hair blowing in her face in a wing-shaped cutout.

Courtesy of Craft Recordings and Jewel

Writing was medicine for me. I had extreme anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia. I wrote songs to calm myself down and to help me fall asleep at night. I never wrote them thinking I’d have a career. There wasn’t really a craft — it was more about what comforted me, what suited me, what interested me to think and write about. I was an avid reader, and a lot of my writing took after Flannery O’Connor, [John] Steinbeck and [Anton] Chekhov, like short stories put to music.

I remember writing at that age that I didn’t want my music to be my best work of art — I wanted my life to be my best work of art. I take music seriously, but I take that promise to myself more seriously. — L.G.

These interviews have been edited and condensed.

JANE FONDA AND LILY TOMLIN, ACTRESSES Have co-starred in three films and a TV show, from “9 to 5” (1980) to “80 for Brady” (2023).

struggling to write a wedding speech

Video by Kurt Collins

struggling to write a wedding speech

JANE FONDA: It was 1978, and I heard that Lily Tomlin was performing in a [one-woman] show called “Appearing Nitely” in Los Angeles. I don’t know how many characters she played, but she embodied them all so fully. I was smitten. I went backstage to meet her. At the time, I was in the process of developing “9 to 5” [the 1980 comedy about a trio of female office workers who overthrow the company’s sexist boss] and, as I was driving home, I thought, “I don’t want to be in a movie about secretaries unless Lily Tomlin is in it.”

LILY TOMLIN: She swept in backstage with a big cape on. We couldn’t believe it — this was Jane Fonda! For a couple of years, I’d worn a hairdo from “Klute” [the 1971 thriller for which Fonda won an Oscar], but I didn’t have it when she showed up that day. I was like, “Why did I drop my ‘Klute’ hairdo at this propitious time?”

J.F.: It took a good year to convince Lily and Dolly [Parton, the film’s other lead] to do the movie. It’s not that they weren’t interested, but it was very difficult. Why was it so difficult, Lily?

L.T.: I think I was that way about everything.

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomnlinn pose for a portrait. Fonda has her arms crossed and Tomlin has her hands in her pockets

From left: Fonda, 86, and Tomlin, 84, photographed at Hubble Studio in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, on Jan. 29, 2024.

Kanya Iwana

J.F.: You are that way about everything: “I don’t know if I can do this. I’m not right for the part.” You do that every time. But it was your idea to get Colin Higgins to direct and to cast Dabney Coleman [as the boss]. You should’ve been the one producing it! My only decision was to make the movie, because one of my close friends, [the former director of the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau] Karen Nussbaum, would tell me stories about organizing women office workers and what they had to go through.

L.T.: I thought I had some lines that were hitting you over the head with the joke. Yet when the movie was released, those lines got the biggest response from the audience.

J.F.: Both of us got a kick out of Dolly’s innocence. When she showed up the first day, she’d memorized the entire script. And then the day that Dolly sang —

L.T.: Oh, that was a glorious moment.

J.F.: She used her long nails like a washboard and started to sing, “Working 9 to 5. …” Lily and I looked at each other and we knew: “This is it — we’ve got an anthem.” But I think my favorite shooting experiences were when we had the dead body in the back of the car. We went to the Apple Pan [a diner in Los Angeles] because Dolly wanted to get a cheeseburger, remember?

L.T.: Everybody would tell stories about their life, and we just fell in love with each other.

J.F.: Our worlds are so different. Our backgrounds are so different. Our senses of comedy — I mean, I don’t really have one.

L.T.: Jane was so earnest. She felt so passionate about every activist problem that she was trying to solve. It was inspiring and endearing.

J.F.: Since then, we’ve done seven seasons of [the Netflix TV series] “Grace and Frankie” [which ran from 2015 to 2022]. Ten days after we wrapped, we started a movie that we both like a lot called “Moving On.” When that came out [in 2023], I was interested in the reviews — almost every one of them talked about our chemistry. And it was like, “Well, maybe we should always work together.” — E.R.A.

Fonda: Hair: Jonathan Hanousek at Exclusive Artists Management. Makeup: David Deleon at Allyson Spiegelman Management. Tomlin: Hair: Darrell Redleaf Fielder at Aim Artists Agency. Makeup: Shelley Rucker at Aim Artists Agency. On-set producer: Joy Thomas. Photo assistant: Jeremy Eric Sinclair. Digital tech: Aron Norman

MARC JACOBS, FASHION DESIGNER, AND CINDY SHERMAN, ARTIST Have collaborated on multiple projects for the Marc Jacobs brand, from a 2005 photo book to the spring 2024 campaign.

Marc Jacobs and Cindy Sherman both stand in front of a gray background wearing black shirts and raising their right arms.

From left: Jacobs, 61, and Sherman, 70, photographed at Go Studios in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan, on March 5, 2024.

MARC JACOBS: In 2004, I reached out to ask if you’d [be in a Marc Jacobs campaign]. I knew your work very well, and I knew that you’d done an ad in 1984 for [the French fashion brand] Dorothée Bis. That made me think, “Maybe she’d do this with us.” I was a little intimidated about asking.

CINDY SHERMAN: I was so intimidated that you’d asked. I remember thinking, “I’m going to bring a bunch of wigs and makeup.” It was just me for a few shots, but then [the German photographer] Juergen [Teller] got playful and started putting himself in the pictures. He gradually shaved parts of his face and head. He’d started the shoot with a full head of hair and beard; by the end, he was completely bald with no facial hair at all.

M.J.: I wasn’t there, but I got calls from Juergen saying, “It’s [expletive] excellent, it’s [expletive] excellent.” He says that when he’s really excited. You created some hilarious characters. There was one where you were both older, sitting on a bench.

C.S.: Rifling through a big bag.

M.J.: That image became a billboard on Melrose [Avenue in Los Angeles]. It was great because fashion campaigns like that didn’t exist back then. Nobody would’ve ever said, “ That’s our ad,” because it wasn’t exactly selling clothes or bags. But it was exciting.

C.S.: What’s funny is that you’d asked me, a year or two ago during Covid, to do something — I don’t even remember what it was. I’d gained a bit of weight, so I was self-conscious and kept turning you down. [For the 2024 campaign I ended up doing] some of the outfits were a little tight. The people assisting me said, “We can fix that.” And I said, “No, no, it’s [perfect for] the character.” I guess I could’ve thought of someone who was trying to hide, but I decided, “No, she seems like she could just let it all hang out in her leather pants.” How do you feel when you see different types of women wearing your pieces or putting them together in unusual ways?

M.J.: It’s the ultimate validation. Of all the stuff that exists out there, they’re spending their money on something I’ve made. How about you with collectors?

C.S.: Sometimes it’s a little weird. I remember an early series of horizontal pictures that I called “The Centerfolds” (1981) — I thought they were kind of disturbing, but some collector said, “I have that one hanging over my bed because it’s so sexy.” And I’m thinking, “Ugh, I don’t want to know that.” But you can’t control what happens to a piece.

M.J.: Or what other people see in it. Feedback is part of the equation. It’s like, “I’m not just doing this for me. I need you.” — E.R.A.

Production: Prodn. Hair: Tsuki at Streeters. Makeup assistant: Nanase. Photo assistants: John Temones, Tony Jarum, Logan Khidekel

CARLOS NAZARIO, STYLIST, AND WILLY CHAVARRIA, FASHION DESIGNER Have worked together on three collections since 2022.

Willy Chavarria, wearing a black T-shirt and necklaces, stands and crosses his arms. Next to him sits Carlos Nazario, wearing a white T-shirt.

From left: Nazario, 36, and Chavarria, 56, photographed at Chavarria’s studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, on March 18, 2024.

Emiliano Granado

WILLY CHAVARRIA: Carlos and I would see each other at Calvin Klein [Nazario has styled for the brand; Chavarria was its senior vice president of design from 2021 until 2023], but our first formal meeting was lunch at the Odeon. Like Truman Capote’s swans, we had salads and talked about water and weight loss.

CARLOS NAZARIO: It wasn’t like we were meeting to discuss a project. That sort of evolved organically.

W.C.: I was terrified to ask you to work with me. I remember texting to [see] if you’d style my [fall 2023] show. Do you know what you said? “I thought you’d never ask.”

C.N.: Willy’s work spoke to me in such a profound way. There was such a similarity — if not in aesthetic, definitely in intention. A lot of brands lack depth and a soul. I’m Afro-Latino. I grew up in New York with a certain relationship to how one presents themselves to the world, what glamour means and looks like and how it’s communicated. I was always intrigued by how Willy’s designs encompassed all those things.

W.C.: [The way we collaborate] is so natural and unpretentious. We end up telling a story that we feel good about.

C.N.: Every relationship between a stylist and designer is unique. Some designers require a lot more — from research to manufacturing and the show. Others want you to come in right at the end and say, “Let’s put that on this model.” With Willy, our conversations prior to my first day were conceptual. We talked about what he wanted it to feel like, rather than what he wanted it to look like.

W.C.: For that first show together, we wanted the cast — all people of color, many of them queer and trans — to feel elevated and empowered. Marlon [Taylor-Wiles, the show’s movement director] was going to have the models look down at the guests.

C.N.: At the rehearsal, we were like, “Maybe it’s a bit creepy.” I wasn’t uncomfortable [giving my opinion] because Willy’s such an easy person to talk to. But anytime you’re coming into a space where everyone has clearly defined roles, you feel like a stepparent. You’re a bit like, “Do I discipline the daughter? Do I tell her the skirt’s too short?” I didn’t want to overstep, but I also wanted to make my presence worth it. As we got more comfortable [with each other], we got more comfortable trying things.

W.C.: The next season, we took more risks. We wanted it to feel refined and elegant, but we also wanted to inject a youthfulness.

C.N.: At a lot of [brands], it’s like, “This season, everything’s a miniskirt. If your thighs aren’t great, see you in the fall!” Willy’s casting allows for a very broad vision in terms of what the styling can do: You’ll have someone like me, who’s 5-foot-4 [Nazario walked in the fall 2024 show], and then you’ll have someone who’s 6-foot-4.

W.C.: You’ll have a woman in her late 50s and a 17-year-old boy.

C.N.: Everyone from twinks to daddies. If you tried to dress everyone the same, it’d be a disaster.

W.C.: I can suggest something that you don’t like, and you’ll say, “Let’s go with it. Let’s see.” And I’ll do the same. I’ve worked with stylists who will deliberate over the positioning of a hat for hours. The stress level is so intense, it kills the moment. Having the freedom [to experiment reflects] a levity we want the brand to have. You know, we address serious subjects, like human rights, inclusion …

C.N.: Self-identity. But if we’re stressed, everyone’s stressed. We try to keep it light, but we also understand the weight of the responsibility. It’s rare that you work with people who understand what you’re feeling and what you want to convey. And I think our trust lies in that. — N.H.

Photo assistants: Eamon Colbert, Jordan Zuppa

MINK STOLE, ACTRESS, AND JOHN WATERS, FILMMAKER Have worked together on almost every one of his movies since “Roman Candles” (1967), including “Pink Flamingos” (1972), “Hairspray” (1988) and “A Dirty Shame” (2004).

struggling to write a wedding speech

Video by Melody Melamed

struggling to write a wedding speech

MINK STOLE: John, I’ve just been told your conference line is charging me a penny a minute.

JOHN WATERS: Oh, c’mon. I’ve been using it for 20 years. It’s never said that.

M.S.: It’s fine. I can handle it.

T: How did you two first meet?

J.W.: Mink also grew up in Baltimore, although I was friends with her older sister Mary, who now goes by Sique. My memory’s that we met in Provincetown, Mass., right before doing my second movie [the 1967 short] “Roman Candles” [in which Stole plays a party guest who gets spanked]. She was looking to go bad and found the right crowd. Prescott Townsend, one of the first gay radicals, allowed us to live in a tree fort he’d made.

M.S.: That was the summer I got introduced to homosexuality.

J.W.: Did we take acid that summer?

M.S.: I kind of think we did, yeah.

J.W.: And then we took it again 50 years later. My mother always used to say, “Don’t tell young people to take drugs.” But I’m not — I’m telling old people to. Anyway, we shot “Roman Candles” partly at my parents’ house and, oddly enough, a decade later, you filmed a big scene at that same house, in my parents’ bedroom, when you played [the delusional housewife] Peggy Gravel in “Desperate Living” [1977].

Mink Stole and John Waters, both wearing white shirts and dark gray jackets pose against a light gray background.

From left: Stole, 76, and Waters, 77, photographed, respectively, at Edge Studios in Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, on Feb. 4, 2024, and at Waters’s home in Tuscany-Canterbury, Baltimore, on March 7, 2024.

Melody Melamed

M.S.: We threw a baseball through a window and kind of trashed the place. Your mom was a sport.

J.W.: So was yours. Mink and I were arrested [along with three other members of the crew] for conspiracy to commit indecent exposure while making [the 1969 film] “Mondo Trasho.” It was in the paper. They printed your poor mother’s address.

M.S.: We were acquitted.

J.W.: We’d been filming a scene at Johns Hopkins University with [the actor and drag performer] Divine, in full makeup and a gold lamé top with matching toreador pants, in a 1959 red Cadillac convertible with the top down in November. I never asked permission [to shoot]. The police came and we all ran. The fact that we got caught and Divine escaped didn’t say a lot for the Baltimore police. Mink played an escaped mental patient; she did a nude tap dance.

M.S.: I’d get upset when the press would call us unprofessional because, although it was true that not one of us had ever taken an acting lesson, we were incredibly professional. And none of it was ad-libbed. John wouldn’t have tolerated that. He knew every comma, every “and,” every “but.”

J.W.: What’s that French term for people who go crazy when they’re together?

M.S.: “Folie à something”?

J.W.: “Folie à famille.” Everybody chipped in, and we just went for it.

T: Mink, were there any scenes you refused to shoot?

M.S.: Before we started filming “Pink Flamingos” [1972, in which Stole plays the proprietor of a black-market baby ring], John very casually said, “Will you set your hair on fire?” And I said, “Yes, that’ll look great on film.” But then as the moment approached, I panicked.

J.W.: I was on pot when I thought of that.

M.S.: It would’ve been great, except that I’d be bald today. I think that’s the only thing I ever refused to do.

T: What’ve you learned from each other?

M.S.: In the early films, we all acted largely. We spoke in italics. In the later ones, when I’d start to behave that way, John would say, “Take it down.” I was shocked [the first time he said it].

J.W.: When we made those early movies, I was influenced by the theater of the ridiculous — by cruelty, shouting and craziness. It wasn’t them overacting, it was me telling them to overact.

M.S.: I have enormous respect for John, and John for me. Aside from the fact that I love him dearly, I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t met him.

J.W.: And we’ve never had the same boyfriend.

M.S.: Or wanted the same boyfriend.

J.W.: Mink and I have been through a lot together. We’ve fought, we’ve made up. I don’t trust people who don’t have old friends. For me, they outlast family. Mink and I are even going to be buried together in the same graveyard. We call it Disgraceland. — N.H.

Waters: Makeup: Cheryl Pickles Kinion. Photo assistants: Daniel Garton, Ashley Poole

COBY KENNEDY AND HANK WILLIS THOMAS, ARTISTS Have spent three decades collaborating on public art installations and community-focused projects, including 2023’s “Reach,” a more than 2,700-pound fiberglass-and-resin sculpture at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport of two hands nearly touching.

Coby Kennedy and Hank Willis Thomas pose in front of a gray background.

From left: Kennedy, 47, and Thomas, 48, photographed at Thomas’s studio in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Feb. 28, 2024.

D’Angelo Lovell Williams

COBY KENNEDY: We met on a collaboration, actually. It was the summer of 1992.

HANK WILLIS THOMAS: I’d been recruited to work with Coby to renovate the darkroom at Howard University [in Washington, D.C.], where his father [Winston Kennedy] was the chair of the art program. We were in high school. Building a darkroom when you don’t really know how — that’s kind of the way we’ve always worked. Back then, Coby was a street writer.

C.K.: A graffiti writer, in the parlance of our times. My graffiti and school crews melded into this conglomerate [called] the Earthbound Homies.

H.W.T.: This was [during the] peak ’90s hip-hop days. The group was [made up of] all these young, primarily Black artists. I wasn’t one of them, I was a documenter.

C.K.: Hank was in museum studies, while the rest of us were in visual arts. He was very quiet and observant. It felt like he was always regarding you.

H.W.T.: The core of our relationship has been fostering opportunities for others to interlace their practices. The Wide Awakes [their most recent art collective, named after a progressive group that supported Abraham Lincoln during the 1860 presidential election] took off in my old studio in December 2019.

C.K.: We were trying to plug into society and see how we could influence it. When 2020 happened — the pandemic, the lockdown, the insurrection — we really hit the accelerator with it.

H.W.T.: I’d call the Wide Awakes our first public collaboration. But then again, 2016 is when “Reach” [their sculpture at Chicago’s O’Hare airport] first started. We’re excited to have it be one of the largest public acknowledgments of something we’ve been doing for 30 years.

C.K.: In our collaborations, we kind of fill in each other’s gaps.

H.W.T.: As a conceptual artist, I have great ideas — a lot of them. Coby, who has a history as an industrial designer and animator, is the bridge between the proposal and how it happens. With virtually every one of my public sculptures, he’s done all the initial concepting. He’s always had this ability to see what others are thinking. We also have different tastes.

C.K.: And they’re sometimes at odds with each other, which is one of the best parts [of our working relationship], because I’d hate for both of us to be middle ground.

H.W.T.: Coby has a very clear, singular vision, while I create art through consensus. I want to make a statement [so I’m often asking others], “What do you think about it?” I envy Coby’s talent. But I also think not having his talent gives me a reliance on other people, which is helpful in the context of making public art.

C.K.: I know that he’ll tell me the truth about anything I come up with, and he knows that if I have to talk trash about one of his ideas, I’ll talk trash about it.

H.W.T.: As much as I’d like Coby to think like me, then he wouldn’t be him and I wouldn’t be me. We allow each other to be who we are. — N.A.

INGAR DRAGSET AND MICHAEL ELMGREEN, ARTISTS Have worked as the duo Elmgreen & Dragset on more than 90 solo shows and site-specific installations, including a 2005 replica of a Prada store near Marfa, Texas, since 1995.

A portrait of Dragset and Elmgreen smiling and standing in front of a gray background. Dragset wears a black T-shirt and Elmgreen wears a black hoodie.

From left: Dragset, 54, and Elmgreen, 62, photographed at their studio in Neukölln, Berlin, on Feb. 7, 2024.

Julia Sellmann

INGAR DRAGSET: We met at After Dark, the only gay club at the time in Copenhagen, in 1994. I was 24 and Michael was 32. I thought he looked amazing — he had this Dennis Rodman-style hair that was bleached with baroque black patterns on it. We both had big Dr. Martens boots and were much grungier than the rest of the crowd.

MICHAEL ELMGREEN: The club was a classic disco — a lot of blown-out hair and Gloria Gaynor. It wasn’t difficult to spot each other.

I.D.: We got more than a little tipsy. When we both started to walk home, we realized that we lived not only in the same neighborhood but in the same building. That was the beginning of our 10-year romantic relationship. The artistic collaboration started eight months later, a little bit by accident. I was doing theater at the time.

M.E.: I was writing poetry and experimenting with texts that would morph in front of people’s eyes on IBM computers. To my surprise, I was considered a visual artist.

I.D.: Michael got invited to do an exhibition in Stockholm. He had the idea of creating abstract pets that people could cuddle, but he didn’t know how to make them. And I said, “Well, I’m good at knitting.” So that’s how the collaboration started.

M.E.: The Swedes are, as we know, a bit stiff; they were terrified about interacting with the artwork. So we were sitting in [opposite] corners with these knitted pets, cuddling them, and people thought it was a performance.

I.D.: That accidental performance inspired us to do more. The next one was a piece where I was furiously knitting at one end of a very long white cloth while Michael was unraveling everything from the other end. That should tell you a bit about our partnership.

M.E.: When we were coupled, we were almost the same size in clothes, so we even shared socks, we shared bank accounts, all our friends.

I.D.: We had one email account, one cellphone.

M.E.: Starting a new chapter after we split up was like meeting again, workwise. We had separate lives for some hours of the day. Suddenly, you could bring in exciting things that the other hadn’t experienced.

I.D.: It was a very difficult time. We put most things on hold, but we had one exhibition that would’ve been hard to cancel: a solo show at Tate Modern [in London]. In a big room with a window overlooking the Thames, we added another windowpane and, in between the panes, we had an animatronic but very realistic-looking sparrow that seemed to be gasping for life and flapping its wings, and nobody could help it.

M.E.: I think the beauty of it all was that we dared to stop being boyfriends because we knew we wouldn’t lose each other. Today, it’d be impossible to say who came up with what idea. It’s not two half authorships. It’s like this imaginary third persona in between us that we feed — an invisible genius kid who’s much, much younger, brighter and more charming than either of us. He’s creating the artworks. — J.H.

BOBBI SALVÖR MENUEZ, ACTOR, AND MICHAEL BAILEY-GATES, ARTIST Have collaborated on dozens of performances and photography projects throughout their decade-long friendship.

A portrait of Bobbi Salvör Menuez and Michael Bailey-Gates against a gray background.

From left: Menuez, 30, and Bailey-Gates, 30, photographed at Smashbox Studios in Culver City, Calif., on Feb. 1, 2024.

BOBBI SALVÖR MENUEZ: I curated a 2014 show at [the Brooklyn exhibition space] Muddguts that was part of a series in which I invited people who didn’t always make performance work to create something in a performance context. We’d been in a group show together before and had mutual friends, and I was excited about the work I was seeing Michael make.

MICHAEL BAILEY-GATES: It was me, Bobbi and maybe two or three other people. I had this party trick of being able to talk really fast, like an auctioneer. When I said certain phrases, one of them would stand up, and another would scream at the top of their lungs or throw an object at someone.

B.S.M.: It felt like the beginning of us making things together on the fly. We both had this down-to-get-into-it energy that was well matched.

M.B.G.: We shared an urgency to make work come to life. Sometimes it’s as simple as being a body for another person. I’ve been the lead in Bobbi’s performances, and I’ve been in the background, lying on a floor covered in red paint. Performance art in New York at the time was about executing an idea without a lot of money. These days, I don’t go into a shoot thinking we’re performing, but it’s very much that: The camera is the audience looking back at us.

B.S.M.: Michael has this ability to see the kaleidoscopic possibility of someone’s self- expression. Around 2018, I was out as nonbinary to my close friends and finding my new name. I took a break from auditions and started working part-time as a substitute teacher. When a film I’d shot the year before got into [the 2019] Sundance [Film Festival], it was an invitation to step back into the spotlight. I’d shaved my head and was nervous about that formal, public coming- out moment. It just felt so cringe. I went to Los Angeles before going to Sundance and made some pictures with Michael that were only for us. Those were the first images of Bobbi that entered the world.

M.B.G.: I never want to make a picture of somebody that’s not reflective of them. I’ve chosen in my practice to always focus on a small group of friends, and those collaborations are the grounding force of my work. Without them, what would my pictures be? They’d be something less precious. — C.R.

Makeup: Zenia Jaeger at Streeters using Submission Beauty. Hair assistant: Drew Martin. Production: Resin Projects. Photo assistants: Michael Preman, Jack Buster

Humberto Leon, restaurateur and creative director

Humberto Leon rests his cheek on his hand and leans his elbow on a countertop. He is wearing a black jacket with white stripes and a white shirt.

Leon, 48, photographed at his restaurant Chifa in Los Angeles on Dec. 14, 2023.

Ryan James Caruthers

Then: The co-founder, with Carol Lim, of Opening Ceremony, the influential New York clothing store established in 2002; the co-creative director of the French fashion house Kenzo between 2011 and 2019.

Now: Co-runs three restaurants in Los Angeles — Chifa, Monarch and Arroz & Fun.

In 1975, the year I was born, my mom opened a restaurant in Lima — my mom’s from Hong Kong, my dad from Peru — and so I’ve always thought of a meal as a way to learn and to meet new people. In 2020, I’d recently quit Kenzo and sold Opening Ceremony. My sisters and brother-in-law were in the midst of changes of their own, and we’d always wanted to tell my mom’s story. So we decided to open a restaurant together in Eagle Rock, the Los Angeles neighborhood where my family first lived when we immigrated to the United States in the late ’70s. We named it Chifa, after my mom’s place in Lima, and based the menu on a similar mix of classic Peruvian dishes like lomo saltado (beef stir fry) and anticucho (meat skewers) and Chinese home cooking — though my brother-in-law, the chef John Liu, has added some of his Taiwanese family’s culinary staples, too.

Starting anything new is scary, and I didn’t have the confidence to do so until the pandemic, which gave me time to try new ideas. (I also wrote a screenplay and a script for a TV show.) I tried to channel the intuition [I’d brought to Opening Ceremony] into other fields. I realized that what I’d done with the store was ultimately about the fond memories people had of the place rather than any specific product. Food does something similar: It creates conversations and memories.

I had the same feeling when I opened the store: “Will anyone show up?” We’d built Opening Ceremony from the ground up — no ads, only word of mouth — and that experience lent itself to launching Chifa, as well as Monarch and Arroz & Fun [our second and third restaurants, which opened last year in the Arcadia and Lincoln Heights neighborhoods, respectively]. In many ways, I’m bringing the same sensibility to the restaurants that I brought to Opening Ceremony: They’re places where you can discover new things. We aren’t aiming for formality or perfection. If anything, part of the experience is dropping your fork and noticing the cool terrazzo floor or really looking at the flatware, which we made with the designer Izabel Lam. As a person who shops and eats a lot, I want to be excited, to feel that nervousness of trying something new. — M.S.

Nick Cave, musician, writer and artist

Nick Cave, wearing a shirt, tie and white jacket and sitting in a pink room in front of a tall mirror, holds a paint brush above a porcelain figure. In front of him, on the table, are paint palates, a bowl of fruit and various sculptures.

Cave, 66, photographed at his studio near his home in Brighton, England, on Jan. 29, 2024.

Then: Rose to prominence with his post-punk band the Bad Seeds, formed in Melbourne, Australia, in 1983; became one of rock’s most celebrated lyricists and performers.

Now: Makes ceramics at a studio close to his home on the south coast of England, and his first major solo show, “ The Devil — A Life ,” is on view now through May 11 at Xavier Hufkens gallery in Brussels. Will release a new record with the Bad Seeds later this year.

I learned early on that the grand designs you have in life don’t always pan out. Starting in secondary school, I wanted to be a painter. I went to art school [for university in 1976] and, to my horror, failed my second year. At the same time, my first band [the Boys Next Door, which eventually became the Birthday Party] was starting to do well in the underground scene in Melbourne. I was much more interested in painting — I did figurative work that often referenced myself — but I’d failed, so I carried on with the band.

I started making ceramics during the pandemic. I collect Victorian Staffordshire-style figurines, the sort of thing an English grandmother might have on her mantelpiece, and one day I thought, “I could make these.” I found I was really swept up by clay. I struggle hugely with writing songs — not the music, but the lyrics. They never feel good enough. Mostly it’s all doubt and despair. But I don’t think I’ve felt more pleasure than I have when pulling a piece out of the kiln and looking at something I’ve made with my hands.

At some point, I had an idea to make a devil, mostly because I wanted to paint a figure in a fiery red glaze. I made one devil and then others, and eventually they began to tell a story. In the beginning, there’s a sort of lightheartedness about this wicked little guy: In his youth, he’s embedded in the world and in love with it. But then he kills his child, and [the figures] get dark and desperate. Later, he becomes remorseful and dies a terrible death. And in the end he’s forgiven by his child.

The death of a child is obviously very important to me because two of my own children have died. [Cave’s son Arthur died in 2015 at age 15. His oldest son, Jethro, died in 2022 at age 31.] And the works were saying something very powerful to me about my unfolding situation in life, something that my songs didn’t really talk about. I found that I could look at this poor devil in a pool of tears, with his lost child extending his hand to him, as a kind of meditation on my own place in the world and find a way that I — or we or whoever — may live a life. — M.H.M.

Jordi Roca, pastry chef

In an ice cream shop with blue walls and pipes painted red and white, Jordi Roca leans on a glass countertop covering various tubs of ice cream and toppings.

Roca, 45, photographed at Rocambolesc Gelateria in Girona, Spain, on March 13, 2024.

Anna Bosch Miralpeix

Then: Joined the restaurant El Celler de Can Roca — founded in 1986 by his brothers, Joan and Josep, in Girona, Spain — in 1997, becoming head pastry chef in 2000.

Now: After starting his own gelateria chain, Rocambolesc, in Girona with his wife, Alejandra Rivas, in 2012, and being diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder four years later, opened an outpost of the gelateria in Houston in 2022 with a neurodiverse team.

When I first started to lose my voice, it didn’t have much of an effect on my creative process in the kitchen. I had to learn to interact more through gesture, but I could still speak during quieter moments. That was around 2016, when I was giving a lot of interviews. It was a period in my career when I needed to speak but, instead, was a time of introspection. Once I got the diagnosis — I have an unusual expression of spasmodic dysphonia [a neurological disorder that causes spasms in the voice box] — it meant I could finally move forward. Now I think of this as just part of who I am.

The idea to open a U.S. branch of Rocambolesc, the gelateria, which has five locations in Spain, came a year or so before this. In 2015, when we were [hosting] cooking events around the world for Celler de Can Roca, we met our business partner Ignacio Torres in Houston. He has family members with autism, and having a place that would hire people with autism and Down syndrome was part of his idea from the beginning. By the time we opened Rocambolesc in Houston in 2022, we’d already had experiences in Celler de Can Roca with team members who had neurological differences. But staffing a project with a neurodiverse team was a huge personal gamble taken by Ignacio and his wife, Isabel, to transform the stigmas around neurodivergence in the United States. The project’s really been embraced in Houston. We have staff who’ve been with us right from the beginning. Of course, my own difficulties have given me a deeper empathy with people who can’t always express themselves in the way they might like. But what I’ve learned — especially through this project — is that we all live in the same world. There’re just many ways to see it. — M.S.

Cassi Namoda, painter

Cassi Namoda leans back on a step ladder with one arm over a large painting of a woman with green outlines on an orange background. Around her, in a large space with a brick roof and plenty of pillars, various paintings are displayed.

Namoda, 35, photographed with paintings in progress at her studio in Biella, Italy, on Feb. 25, 2024.

Claudia Gori

Then: A visual artist known for her spare yet color-rich depictions of contemporary African people and landscapes who was last based in the Berkshires region of Massachusetts.

Now: Living in Biella, in the Piedmont region of northern Italy, where she’s working in a new studio and preparing to become a mother.

Biella has a beautiful, fantastical landscape — you have a backdrop of the snowcapped Alps, but there are also palm trees, beeches, pines and cypresses. It’s an easier flight to my family in Mozambique [than from the United States]. And we’re a 10-minute drive away from my husband’s family.

I found an incredible studio where I can visualize having my child and making magnificent work. The commercial art world is a masculine environment. But this is my own world. There’s a large kitchen with big windows and an amazing chef’s oven, so there can be lunches. I’ll put in a daybed because I know I need naps. There’ll be a baby corner, with a crib and maybe some safe paints. I’m really into self-preservation and embracing femininity.

My life before was very utilitarian. Some days, I’d get to the studio early and be there until 3 or 4 a.m., eating popcorn and puffing on a cigarette. The child has already forced me to have a healthier balance with work. But I have these dreams about me before [there was] this new spirit in me. It’s not a somber or sad thing, like, “Oh, I wish I was Cassi in Tambacounda, Senegal, plein-air painting in the field.” But I’m remembering that person.

I finally got into the Italian health care system, which has been a nightmare. It’s not superfriendly to foreigners. Meanwhile, I’m preparing for a solo exhibition in September and a museum show opening in December. In my head I’m like, “The baby’s coming really soon, I don’t really have a doctor, I’m still setting up my studio and I have a 53-foot-long cargo container with all of my belongings arriving on Monday!”

There are large works to start but, with this heavy belly, I can’t balance on a ladder. I might bring the canvases down to the floor and rest them on bricks. I’m visiting a softer, more romantic side. The world’s in a dark place; why not make something beautiful? I’m seeing flamingo pink and yellow and sandy tones. It’s soft and rosy. I don’t think it’s because I’m having a girl — the sex of the baby is a surprise — but that’s how I’m feeling right now. — E.L.

Jon Bon Jovi, musician and singer-songwriter

Bon Jovi, with gray hair pushed to one side, wears a leather jacket and leans his elbows on a wooden table and looks into the camera.

Bon Jovi, 62, photographed at his restaurant JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, N.J., on March 1, 2024.

Sebastian Sabal-Bruce

Then: Co-founded the rock band Bon Jovi in Sayreville, N.J., in 1983. Began experiencing vocal difficulties in 2014.

Now: Is recovering from throat surgery, a process depicted, among other things, in the docuseries “Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story,” out this month. Will release a new album, “Forever,” with the band in June.

My problems started about a decade ago. In 2013, we had the number one tour in the world, and I was great for 100-plus shows. But in 2014, I wasn’t really making any music, which was hard psychologically. Then some of the recordings and shows we did, especially after 2017, were challenging — my range seemed to have narrowed and it was becoming difficult to sing consistently. But none of the professionals I saw could figure it out.

In March 2022, a doctor in Philadelphia explained that one of my vocal cords was atrophying. I thought I could get my voice back in shape if I just did enough shows, so I went back on the road. But it was a struggle. Finally, that June, I had an implant put [inside the cartilage of my larynx] to bring my [vocal folds] together. There was no singing at all for the first six weeks. Then I started speech therapy. I have rehab four times a week. But I’m still not sure what to expect. Yesterday when I was rehearsing with the band, I had a rough go with the song “Limitless” from the album “2020” [released by the group that same year]. I said, “Guys, I only ever sang this song when I was broken. I don’t know how to sing it not broken.” If I had the word “lay,” I’d put an “E” on the end of it to try to push it up to pitch: “layeee.” But right after that, I popped the high notes on [our 1986 hit] “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

This new album’s much more of a collaborative record than the ones I’ve made in the past. It’s a celebration of my accepting any and all input and acts of kindness. It’s not been a good decade. It’s not been easy to not be the best guy in the band; it’s not easy to be the worst. It’s humbling but I don’t mind the humility. I just want my tools back. Yesterday, I pressed the point-of-no-return button and said yes, in theory, to a handful of possible shows abroad for the summer, the first ones since the spring of 2022. I’m not an applause junkie. I do it because I love to write a song and play it for people. If I have all my tools, it’ll be a joy. — E.L.

Grooming: Loraine Abeles

Titus Kaphar, artist

Titus Kaphar sits on an office chair in a gallery space with three large paintings of the exteriors of houses hanging on the walls.

Kaphar, 47, photographed at his studio in New Haven, Conn., on Feb. 22, 2024.

Artwork, from left: Titus Kaphar, “I Knew,” 2023 © Titus Kaphar; Titus Kaphar, “Do You Want It Back?” 2023 © Titus Kaphar; Titus Kaphar, “Some Things Can’t Be Worked Out on Canvas,” 2023 © Titus Kaphar

Then: An artist whose works, which often confront family history and the experience of being Black in America, are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, among other institutions.

Now: Wrote and directed his first feature-length film, “Exhibiting Forgiveness,” which premiered at Sundance in January. Paintings Kaphar made for the film (pictured above) will be shown at Gagosian in Beverly Hills in September.

“Exhibiting Forgiveness” started as a series of paintings — in particular, with one of a burning lawn mower. It didn’t take long to realize that what I was doing wasn’t best processed with paintings alone. [The film focuses on a successful artist, Tarrell, played by André Holland, who struggles to deal with the reappearance of his estranged, abusive father, La’Ron, played by John Earl Jelks, who’d force Tarrell to perform grueling manual labor as a child.] The power of painting’s often the absences: what’s not there, what’s implicit. You don’t know what happened before and you don’t know what will happen after. In film, you have an opportunity for elaboration.

I’ve tried hard not to read reviews of the film, though a friend sent me one. It was positive but what [the critic] wrote at the end, I’ll never forget. He said, “But I can’t say this film is entertaining.” [ Laughs. ] With film, some of us expect entertainment, to have a great time. And that response does frame the way we distinguish film from painting. As a painter, I don’t stand in front of [Pablo Picasso’s] “Guernica” and go, “This isn’t entertaining!” I didn’t approach filmmaking as anything different from painting. I wanted the film to be a painting in motion. The way I make decisions in the studio, about how to follow my intuition or instincts, or how to lay out a composition, was the same process I used on set. The difference is I had an extraordinary cinematographer and cast of actors to help me realize the paintings in my head.

At its essence, “Exhibiting Forgiveness” is about generational healing. I took on this project because I wanted to have a conversation with my children about the world I grew up in, which is so different from the world they’ve grown up in. And I think making the film helped resolve something within me. The revelation I had is that I can’t make my father out as the villain in my mind. He’s a victim of violence himself. And even though [he] created challenges for me, I’ve never wondered whether or not he loved me. — M.H.M.

Bárbara Sánchez-Kane, artist

Bárbara Sánchez-Kane wearing a double-breasted black jacket stands in a doorway.

Sánchez-Kane, 36, photographed at his studio (the artist uses she/her and he/him pronouns interchangeably) in Mexico City on Jan. 22, 2024.

Ana Topoleanu. Artwork, clockwise from left: Bárbara Sánchez-Kane, “La Diegada,” 2016, courtesy of the artist and Estudio Sánchez-Kane; Bárbara Sánchez-Kane, “Tragic Stages,” 2023, courtesy of the artist and Estudio Sánchez-Kane; Bárbara Sánchez-Kane, “Moctezuma’s Revenge,” 2017, performance by Sierva M, courtesy of the artist and Estudio Sánchez-Kane, photo: Karla Ximena

Then: The designer of Sánchez-Kane, the genderless clothing brand she founded in Mérida, Mexico, in 2016.

Now: An artist working with painting, sculpture and performance — while still running the label.

One of my first shows in a museum was at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2017. The curators invited me to present a collection from my fashion line that I’d shown in New York, and I said, “No, but maybe I can do a performance.” There’s a kind of freedom in making wearable sculptures because, in the end, clothing has to be ergonomic: The jacket I made with boxing gloves has an opening for your hands so you can eat a burger. But for the ICA show, I created a pair of transparent plastic pants with a metal frame that made them almost impossible to walk in. And last year, for my first New York solo exhibition, at Kurimanzutto gallery, I made a piece from 1,170 black plastic belts that was so big and heavy, I had to break it into parts to show it. I remember reading an article by the queer theorist Jack Halberstam on the work of the artist Gordon Matta-Clark, who would [create] windows in structures where they shouldn’t be. For me, the work is like that: opening windows that give you a different way of seeing what’s in front of you.

I started as an industrial engineer first and then became a fashion designer, but I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter what you’ve studied or haven’t. When I feel like the worst sculptor, I think, “Well, at least I’m a good designer.” And when I feel like a great sculptor, I might look at [the clothes in my studio] and think, “Those terrible [expletive] trousers!” Expanding into other fields is a way to embrace yourself. All we have is our imagination, which allows us to create things: objects, garments, skins that we wear when we go out into the world. I’m not saying they’ll save us, but maybe they can help us navigate the transition to another universe. — M.S.

Miguel Adrover, 58, Calonge, Majorca

A black-and-white portrait of Miguel Adrover with a feather in his hair wearing a black suit jacket.

The former fashion designer Miguel Adrover, now a full-time photographer, photographed at home on Majorca, Spain, on Jan. 8, 2024.

The provocative Spanish fashion designer, who had a New York-based clothing line, put a sheep on the runway and made a coat out of the ticking from the gay icon Quentin Crisp’s discarded mattress. He left the industry over a decade ago.

I started my own line in 1999 in New York, where I had been living in the East Village since 1991, and shut it down in 2005 and left the city. In 2012, I [returned] to present one runway show, which I called Out of My Mind. It was made up of personal garments I’d repurposed. I was 46. 

I’d been trying to find a way out of this unsustainable industry, this imaginary fantasy that fashion creates. My collections dealt with social justice, environmental consciousness and diversity before those topics became mainstream, and some seasons I didn’t sell anything. I never had a sugar daddy, and I invested everything I made back into the company. 

I miss New York a lot. I’m homesick for it, but it isn’t the same city, and fashion is very different, too — it feels inauthentic and disconnected from reality. When I was doing consulting and research for Alexander McQueen [in the mid-90s], we had no money. But the energy was amazing. When you don’t have money, that’s when you’re most creative. Now all of these big companies have so much money that it feels like a different world. [Still] I’d love to have the chance to put on one last presentation, one last show to express how I feel today and how I see the world right now. 

When I left New York, I decided to come to Majorca, where my parents have a farm. I started doing photography accidentally; I had no knowledge of cameras, every day was a process of me learning something totally on my own. There was a 300-year-old well on the property with no water inside, and I realized it could be my studio. It’s kind of like a basement; light comes from a little window high above. It reminds me of my apartment in New York. It’s where I develop my [projects]. I use things that surround me: tulips and rose bushes, fruit trees, a tropical garden, chickens. 

When I got here, I didn’t have a team [as I did in fashion], and one of the challenges was being surrounded by people who don’t care about what I did or what I’m doing. Photography was the ideal thing to do because I don’t need anybody, I can do it on my own. I don’t have any models; I started working with mannequins and, for many years, I collected them on eBay or from secondhand stores on the island. [I decided] I’d rather not use models — when you photograph human beings, they’re pretending or acting, and I was running away from that.

It’s been nine years since I found photography, and I’m really happy. I have a monograph coming out later this year. The photographs are like my biography. I’ve developed my style in photography and I have a creative language. Fashion was the platform I once used, but the soul inside me is the same. — interview by J.W.

Ralph Ellison, writer, circa 1913-94

Ralph Ellison sits in front of an a typewriter under an awning writing.

Ralph Ellison, the author of the 1952 novel “Invisible Man,” in June 1957 during his fellowship at the American Academy in Rome.

James Whitmore/The Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Ralph Ellison spent seven years writing his only completed novel, “Invisible Man,” and its publication in 1952, when he was in his late 30s, not only catapulted him to literary fame but made him nothing less than a spokesperson for postwar America. His contemporary Norman Mailer would write of him that at his best, “He writes so perfectly that one can never forget the experience of reading him.” “Invisible Man,” a surreal picaresque that follows an unnamed Black protagonist — “a man of substance, of flesh and bone,” Ellison writes — as he travels through a country full of people who “refuse to see me,” is a book of such remarkable confidence that Ellison’s career, in later years, became mired in questions of what next? Ellison, a prolific writer of essays, reviews and criticism, worked for years on a follow-up, suffering one setback when a 1967 house fire destroyed portions of his manuscript. When he died in 1994, he left behind thousands of pages of drafts, fragments and unfinished tangents. Ellison’s literary executor and longtime friend, John F. Callahan, tried to edit the material down into a “single, coherent narrative,” as he put it, and published the result, called “Juneteenth,” in 1999; the New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani called it “disappointingly provisional and incomplete.” Ellison often struggled with writing. He once likened his second novel to a “bad case of constipation” and, in a 1958 letter to his friend the author Saul Bellow, Ellison wrote, “I’ve got a natural writer’s block as big as the Ritz and as stubborn as a grease spot on a gabardine suit.” — M.H.M.

Charles Laughton, actor and director, 1899-1962

Charles Laughton sits in a director's chair wearing a straw hat with a girl looking through a viewfinder in his lap.

The actor turned director Charles Laughton with the actress Sally Jane Bruce on the set of “The Night of the Hunter” (1955).

Everett Collection

Born in the last year of the 19th century, Charles Laughton left his family’s successful hotel business at the age of 26 to study acting at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. What he lacked in movie star looks — the critic J. Hoberman described him as “coarse-featured, overweight and slovenly” — he made up for in talent. Following a successful stage career in London’s West End, he turned to film, making a name for himself as a versatile character actor in the 1930s and ’40s. In 1955, at the age of 55, he made his most indelible contribution to his craft, directing “The Night of the Hunter,” a film noir so dark it easily passes today as horror. (William Friedkin, the director of 1973’s “The Exorcist,” described it as “one of the scariest films ever made.”) Robert Mitchum plays a terrifying ex-convict posing as a preacher and stalking the children of his former cellmate in order to find a hidden fortune. While casting Lillian Gish in the role of the children’s caretaker, Laughton told the actress about his disappointment in audiences’ lack of attention for movies, how they “slump down with their heads back, or eat candy and popcorn. I want them to sit up straight again,” he said. Though now often ranked among the greatest American movies, “The Night of the Hunter” — released just a few years before Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) made the psychological thriller into a marketable genre — was a commercial flop. Reviews were mixed; The New York Times’s Bosley Crowther called it “a weird and intriguing endeavor.” Years later, Terry Sanders, a second-unit director of the film, wrote that “the rejection by critics and the indifference of audiences hit [Laughton] hard and crushed his spirit. It wasn’t just disappointment he felt, it was utter and deeply debilitating devastation.” He never directed a second movie. — M.H.M.

Willis Alan Ramsey, 73, Loveland, Colo.

Willis Alan Ramsey stands with his hands behind his back wearing a cowboy hat.

The singer-songwriter Willis Alan Ramsey, photographed at Sam’s Town Point bar in Austin, Texas, on March 14, 2024.

Caleb Santiago Alvarado

The singer-songwriter Willis Alan Ramsey, originally from Alabama, released his self-titled debut album in 1972, becoming a forebear of the alt-country genre. Jimmy Buffett and Lyle Lovett became devoted fans. More than 50 years later, Ramsey still hasn’t completed his second album.

I started trying to write songs around 1968. My first song was just awful, but I got better over time. I dropped out of college twice, the second time in 1970, from the University of Texas [at Austin], after discovering a folk club where I became an opening act for $5 a night. Those were golden, halcyon days in Austin filled with sunshine and margaritas and very little traffic. That fall, I left to begin performing at colleges around the country. I was briefly back in Austin to play at U.T. and, somehow, during two days there, I’d managed to play for Gregg Allman and Leon Russell, two of the most influential musicians of that decade. They both gave me their cards and said to look them up if I ever made it their way. [I went to Los Angeles] and recorded a demo at Skyhill, Leon’s personal home studio, and he basically offered me the moon to sign with his new label, Shelter Records [which folded in 1981]. I’d just turned 20. Over the next year, I recorded my first and only album to ever be released [“Willis Alan Ramsey,” often known as the Green Album for its green cover].

I finished the record when I was 21. I was just a kid. Leon gave me my career, to the extent that I’ve had one [but the reason I never released another record was also] Leon’s fault. He told me that if I signed with Shelter, he’d show me the studio and how it worked, and he did. I immediately wanted to learn everything I could about the recording process. I used seven studios and three rhythm sections [to make the record]. I was given carte blanche. The budget was 85 grand. I could do it for 200 grand [now], but I can’t do it any cheaper. I’d need to rehearse every musician. And my songs are all over the place. I get bored doing one particular style.

I’m the most frustrated recording artist you’ve probably ever met in your life. But I still feel I’ll figure something out. I’ve always been optimistic. I’ve got at least three more records of material. I’m pretty tough on myself in terms of writing, and I’m very attached to what I’ve written. I just haven’t been able to get a deal that’d work for me. I mean, the world works, you know? I think the key is just to work with the world. — interview by M.H.M.

Photo assistant: Sergio Flores

Harper Lee, writer, 1926-2016

A portrait of Harper Lee sitting on a rocking chair on a porch smoking a cigarette.

The writer Harper Lee in her hometown, Monroeville, Ala., in 1961, the same year that her debut novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” won the Pulitzer Prize.

Donald Uhrbrock/Getty Images

“I sort of hoped someone would like it well enough to give me encouragement,” Harper Lee said in a 1964 radio interview, describing her low expectations for her 1960 debut, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Instead, her novel, about a lawyer in the fictional town of Maycomb, Ala. (a stand-in for the writer’s hometown, Monroeville), who defends a Black man from a false accusation of rape by a white woman, became one of the biggest literary sensations of its era. Lee, who worked as an airline reservations agent in New York for a few years before quitting (with friends’ financial support) to work on her writing, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961; two years later, a film adaptation starring Gregory Peck won three Academy Awards. “To Kill a Mockingbird” would go on to sell tens of millions of copies and become a fixture of high school English classes.

Lee had a hard time with her sudden fame. After that radio interview in 1964, she mostly avoided the press and, as the years and decades passed without a second novel, Lee continued to guard her privacy, albeit regularly attending the Methodist Church in Monroeville and occasionally visiting the local high school during lessons about her work. The year before she died at age 89 in 2016, a previously unknown novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” which had been written before “To Kill a Mockingbird,” appeared to tepid reviews and claims that Lee, by then largely deaf and blind following a stroke, had been manipulated into releasing subpar work. Controversy aside, even just the announcement of a lost novel reignited interest in Lee’s lone masterpiece; at that point, sales of “To Kill a Mockingbird” in trade paperback nearly tripled. — M.H.M.

Luc Tuymans, 65, visual artist

A drawing of a van driving down the street as two people in aprons collect trash cans.

Luc Tuymans, “Mijn Grote Vakantie” (1967).

Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner. Photo: Alex Salinas

When I was 7 or 8, we had to make drawings for school about our summer holidays. I was completely intrigued by the people gathering the garbage outside of our house in Antwerp [Belgium] — their truck, their dress code. During a summer day, I took out my colored pencils. I wrote underneath the drawing, “My Big Vacation.”

It came across as fairly cynical: My big vacation was garbage. It wasn’t meant that way. I really was intrigued by this operation. [Looking at it now] I’m amazed that there’s this perspective already in it. The teacher didn’t believe I made the drawing and took me by the ear to the blackboard to do it again in front of the class.

I’d been bullied a lot as a kid. I was extremely shy. Drawing was a way out, in a sense. I’d draw people who came to visit my parents and, at the end of the year, when exams were done, I’d make drawings for the whole class — whatever they wanted. I always had a ballpoint pen and a piece of paper with me, and people would gather around me while I was drawing, sometimes 20 to 30 of them. The kids were happy to have a drawing, but it didn’t really change the bullying pattern.

I saved most of my [childhood] drawings and gave them to my nephew. Unluckily, he lost them. This is virtually the only one that survived, and I gave it to my wife as a present.

It’s quite interesting to see the size of things — the difference between the houses and the people — and most of all, the idea of space that was already in the drawing. [If I were to redraw this today] it’d be a bit more meticulous, more worked out. But it’s an indication of things that would come later. My skepticism is embedded in this drawing without my doing that consciously — this quite specific, sardonic sense of humor. When I found it again, I had to laugh very, very hard. — J.H.

Do Ho Suh, 62, visual artist

struggling to write a wedding speech

Do Ho Suh, “Tiger Mask” (1971).

This drawing is based on a Japanese anime character, Tiger Mask, that was really popular in the ’70s. Back in those days, Korean TV broadcast Japanese anime in black and white. Everybody at school watched. The character is a pro wrestler who puts on a tiger mask to disguise his identity. I drew the mask directly from the anime. I was probably 9.

Once my friends saw it, they all wanted one. Demand for tiger masks became much greater than supply. Some of the rich kids wanted to trade their Japanese pencils — which had graphics or custom characters on the surface — and colorful erasers for a drawing. My parents couldn’t afford those things, and they weren’t available in Korea. The kids’ parents must have traveled to Japan, which was quite rare back then, and brought them back. [Eventually] I had a box full of those pencils, but I didn’t have the guts to actually use them. The pencils are untouched; the erasers are dried out. For some reason, my mom kept them all these years. — J.H.

Niki Nakayama, 49, chef and Restaurant owner

Tonkatsu is a Japanese home-style staple. It’s a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet — “ton” means “pork” and “katsu” is a sort of translation of “cutlet” — and it was my absolute favorite food when I was a kid. When my mom made tonkatsu, she’d have my sister and me do the breading, and we really bonded over that. It helped me understand family. We’d set up in the dining room and dredge the cutlets in flour, dip them into the egg wash, cover them with dried breadcrumbs and stack them high on paper plates that we’d bring in to my mother to fry up. Our kitchen had high countertops, and I can remember her standing at the stove in these three-inch platform clogs she’d wear to be a little taller. 

I loved seeing how something became something else — it felt like unraveling magic. One day when I was about 9, I came home from school and got the brilliant idea to make my own [but with chicken]. I grabbed some drumsticks from the freezer, did the breading and, while standing on a stool, dipped them in hot oil. (I never admitted this to my mom.) When they turned the color they were supposed to, I was so proud. I bit into one and it was still frozen. That was my first shock of “I can’t believe I didn’t make [this thing] the way I imagined it would be.”

Anytime I was in Japan, especially in my 20s, my friends there would ask what subarashii gochiso, or “the best thing one could possibly eat,” was for me. I’d say tonkatsu, and they’d be like, “What?!,” because it’s such a simple dish — it was like asking for a sandwich. It isn’t the sort of thing I specialize in at my restaurant [N/Naka in Los Angeles], and I don’t have it often anymore because, as I age, I’m trying to eat lighter, but I still associate it with deliciousness and with happiness. Ever since childhood, I’ve thought of food as being about coming together and cooking as an expression of care and love. Having been on the receiving end of that, I do the work that I do to try to make people happy. — K.G.

Marina Abramović, 77, performance artist

A painting of two vehicles crashing into each other.

Marina Abramović, “Truck Accident (I)” (1963).

© Marina Abramović/Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives/ARS, 2024

When I was a teenager in Communist Yugoslavia, there were these ugly green trucks that weighed so much, they often fell over. I started taking photographs of them and trying to paint them at home. But that wasn’t enough for me, so I bought some toy cars and left them on the highway to see if the real trucks would smash them; they were always untouched. I was fascinated by car crashes. Then when I was 17 or 18 years old, I painted the big car smashed and the little car protected — the idea that innocence survives everything.

My mother studied art history, and I was always going to museums. When I was a baby, my first words weren’t “mama” or “papa”; they were “El Greco.” I had my first exhibition at a youth center when I was 14. They mostly had group shows, but I made so much work that I had my own show. I always say I was jealous of Mozart because he started at 5.

I didn’t know then that painting wasn’t my ultimate goal. It takes a long time to realize who you are. I remember the incredible joy of going into my studio — an extra space in my family’s apartment — with my little cup of Turkish coffee. I would be so much in the dream of painting that I’d accidentally drink turpentine instead of the coffee.

Though I wasn’t aware of it [until recently], this crash represents the energy that I’d create in my early performances: two bodies running toward each other, crashing into each other and making this blurry image. My research today is about the body and how to create a field in which you aren’t afraid of pain, of dying, of limits. When you’re young, you don’t see the straight line but, [looking back] it all seems so logical. — J.H.

Deborah Roberts, 61, visual artist

A drawing of a boy resting his chin on his knee.

Deborah Roberts, “James” (1982).

Courtesy of the artist

I used to do a lot of drawings of people at church or kids in the neighborhood. I made this when I was 19, of this boy who came by to play with my brothers. My mother threw most of my drawings away. She had eight children; she couldn’t have all that stuff piling up.

[With that many siblings] you only get attention when you’re sick. But I got a lot of attention for drawing. I was the best artist in my school. The teacher would ask me, “What grade would you want?” I’d say, “I want an A+.” I had a big head. Then I went to the gifted and talented program with high school art students from all over Austin, Texas. I wasn’t the best anymore, but it just made me work harder. That’s where I was first introduced to the work of Henry Ossawa Tanner [one of the first African American painters to achieve international fame, in the early 20th century]. I didn’t even know there were Black artists. We didn’t have the internet or access to museums. We were poor.

I’d ride a small yellow bus to a community college to meet in a special room for the three-hour art class. Eventually, I became the best student in that class, at least in my head. They didn’t ask me what grade I wanted, but I still got an A.

If I were doing it now, I’d blend that hair into the wood better. I wouldn’t have light sources coming from two different areas. But if you look at my collages today, my whole idea’s about seeing people as humans, as children, as vulnerable. I think this is a very vulnerable piece. — J.H.

David Henry Hwang, 66, playwright

The opening page of a manuscript.

David Henry Hwang, manuscript of “Only Three Generations” (1968).

Courtesy of David Henry Hwang. Photo: Lance Brewer

I was about 10 years old, and my maternal grandmother got sick and it looked like she might be close to the end. I remember feeling that that’d be quite tragic — not only would I lose my grandmother but she also happened to be the family historian. I was one of those kids who, for whatever reason, was always really interested in hearing about family history. 

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but my mom grew up in the Philippines, where my maternal grandparents still lived, so I asked my parents if I could spend a summer there. I went and collected what we’d now call oral histories from my grandmother on cassette tapes, then came back and compiled them into a 60-page family history, “Only Three Generations,” which was [photocopied] and distributed to my family members. Then in the early aughts, someone — my uncle, I think — went and printed two or three dozen copies as a bound version.

I wasn’t someone who felt [that] writing was my calling. I didn’t do another major writing project until I got to college and started writing plays, so I find it interesting that the one time I took on [something] like this was to contextualize myself in a historical framework. That’s consistent with what I’ve done as an adult: sometimes being at sea about who I am and looking at history to gain a sense of self.

The [history] starts with my great-great-grandfather, then the second [part]’s about my great-grandfather and then the third section’s about my grandmother’s generation. I [used] their real names. I think I was trying to be fairly accurate, as opposed to when it later became the basis of my [1996] play “Golden Child.” There’s a lot more liberty taken there. When we did the play on Broadway, my grandmother was still alive and came to see the show. She was supportive of it, but I feel like she liked this version better. — J.A.R.

Ice Spice, wearing a black dress and heels, leans back in a beanbag chair.

Ice Spice wears a Balenciaga jacket, $2,150,; Norma Kamali dress, $350,; Graff cross necklace, $14,000,; Alexander McQueen shoes, $1,150,; stylist’s own tights; and her own jewelry. Photographed at a private home in Los Angeles on Feb. 6, 2024.

Photograph by Shikeith. Styled by Ian Bradley

Name: Ice Spice Profession: Rapper Age: 24

Debuting in: Her first full-length album, “Y2K,” titled after her birth date — Jan. 1, 2000 — which comes out this year.

What she’s excited about: “Going on tour. I can’t wait to see my fans up close and personal and really interact with them — interacting with fans online can be a little overwhelming. All their profile pictures are of me. It feels like a bunch of me’s talking back: It’s weird. Especially when it’s pictures I’ve never seen or don’t remember.”

What she’s nervous about: “I don’t even want to put out that energy. People don’t need to know what I’m nervous about.”

How she works in the studio: “If I was already dressed up and cute, that’d produce a different vibe — but for the most part I like to be really comfortable. I need inspiration around me, too, so I’ll have stacks of money sitting next to the mic. Or I have a bunch of stickers of, like, boobs and butts, stuff like that. They’re drawings, though — I don’t just have porn in my studio.”

How it’s gotten easier since making her EP: “When I was working on [2023’s] ‘Like ..?,’ I was stressed out because I had no idea how the next song was going to come out. Each time, I was like, ‘How am I going to make another song that’s good?’ But then it happened, and then it happened again and again so, after that, I was like, ‘OK, making music is really fun.’ As long as I’m having fun, it’s going to sound fun — and I’m going to be happy with it.” — J.A.R.

Production: Resin Projects. Makeup: Karina Milan at the Wall Group

Mia Katigbak leans forward with her left leg in the air holding a railing with both hands.

Katigbak, photographed at Lincoln Center Theater in Manhattan on Feb. 2, 2024.

Jennifer Livingston

Name: Mia Katigbak Profession: Actress and co-founder of NAATCO Age: 69

Debuting in: Lincoln Center Theater’s revival of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” (1899), opening this month.

What she’s excited about: “My character, Marina [the central family’s maid], infantilizes everyone. Everything is falling apart around her, but she’s like, ‘Aren’t the old ways better?’ There are a lot of possibilities in that — without getting too metaphorical about the state of Russia, politically and socially.” 

What she’s nervous about: “There’s always going to be that common nervousness of ‘I’m going to mess up,’ but somebody brought to my attention that NAATCO [the National Asian American Theatre Company, which was founded in 1989] has done quite a lot of Chekhov; I didn’t even realize it, and I chose all of them. What I find fabulous about Chekhov is that there are sad situations but also human comedy. You have to find the funny if you’re in dire straits, otherwise you’ll slit your wrists.”

How she feels about having her Broadway debut after five decades on the New York stage: “You live long enough, [expletive] happens. I’d kind of figured, ‘Maybe I’m not Broadway material.’ Usually, when Asians get cast, it’s a musical, and I’m not a singer-dancer, so it was never necessarily going to be a goal. I’m a little bit more realistic: I recently got a text [with a photo of the ‘Uncle Vanya’ ad] from a colleague who said, ‘Look at Miss Fancy Pants,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m just a working stiff.’”

How she reinterprets classics: “From the get-go, the point of NAATCO was to ask people to open their vistas in terms of ‘how, what, by whom, for whom’ in theater. We tackled the Western classics first — William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (1600) and Thornton Wilder’s ‘Our Town’ (1938) — and my only caveat was not to change them to Asian settings. I remember the first couple of years, maybe decades, people always used to ask, ‘Oh, you’re doing Shakespeare! Are you going to set it in Japan?’ Which isn’t bad, but it’s not the only way to do it. Reception was mixed; there was criticism from both Asian and non-Asian audiences. When we started to do new work — with Michael Golamco’s ‘Cowboy Versus Samurai’ in 2005 — it became a redefinition of what immigrant stories were. Most of the time, the work’s thought of as only one thing, so that was something to figure out. But you can say that about all good theater: It’s asking you to receive something in a different way.” — J.A.R.

Arielle Smith stands with her hands behind her back in the corner of a dance studio.

Smith, photographed at Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in the London suburb of Twickenham on Feb. 14, 2024.

Andrea Urbez

Name: Arielle Smith Profession: Choreographer Age: 27

Debuting in: A reimagined “Carmen,” based on the French writer Prosper Mérimée’s 1845 novella about a Roma woman in southern Spain, which Smith has set instead in Cuba for the version (of the same name) she’s choreographing that premieres at San Francisco Ballet this month.

What she’s excited about: “As a performer, I trained in classical ballet but then went into contemporary dance — the reason I fell out of love with ballet was that the female roles didn’t feel empowering. Not that I needed to be empowered all the time, but every story was dictated by the relationship a woman has to a man. So when Tamara [Rojo, the company’s artistic director] approached me, my first thought was, ‘How could we justify another “Carmen”?’ I wondered how the story would change if one of her lovers was a woman. Musically it’s also not the same — we’ve got a new score from the Mexican Cuban composer Arturo O’Farrill [departing from the French composer Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera], so it’s quite a leap from where it was birthed.”

What she’s nervous about: “I don’t see the point in telling a story again the same way, so that’s one element I’m not nervous about ... but I’m about everything else. The challenge is trying to tell an intimate story in a big space. To make this piece well, it has to move people in some way, and that’s what I’m anxious to get across — for people to feel something.”

How she’s translating the Spanish-set story to Cuba: “Bizet wasn’t Spanish, [so] I thought it’d be more interesting to mainly hear Cuban sounds. I’m Cuban; Tamara’s Spanish; and [the Uruguayan fashion designer] Gabriela Hearst is our costume designer. It’s a full Latinx team, but we’re all different. And this is a universal story that’s not driven by geography. It’s not set on a certain road in Havana but in the soul of these people. I’m not trying to overly examine Cuba. It’s about who I am, as a person who happens to be Cuban, and what my voice contributes.” — J.A.R.

Photo assistant: Callum Su

struggling to write a wedding speech

Pidgeon, photographed at Playwrights Horizons in Manhattan on March 10, 2024.

Sean Donnola

Name: Sarah Pidgeon Profession: Actor Age: 27

Debuting in: “Stereophonic,” a new play by David Adjmi with music by Will Butler (formerly of the indie-rock band Arcade Fire), which transfers to Broadway this month following a run at Playwrights Horizons, where it premiered last fall — that production was Pidgeon’s New York stage debut.

What she’s excited about: “This story [about a fictional band’s interpersonal struggles while recording an album in the 1970s] talks about relationships and what one has to sacrifice to make art. New York’s full of artists, and I’m excited to hear what types of conversations people have after seeing the show.”

What she’s nervous about: “The transition to the Golden Theatre. Singing’s so vulnerable. It’s one thing to mess up in front of 200 people, another to mess up in front of four times that many. Off Broadway, we’d have instruments [accidentally] break down halfway through a scene, and we’d have to figure out how to make it feel authentic.”

How she created her character, Diana, one of the band’s lead singers: “Diana’s not looking to other people to give her an example — she’s not following some blueprint. Her band’s waiting for her to make that next great song, and she gets commodified really fast. I can’t say the same for myself, but I’m [also not dealing with being] a woman in [rock in] the 1970s.”

How she settled into the three-hour play’s slowed-down, naturalistic rhythms: “Our director, Daniel Aukin, kept talking about a documentary feel. I think the design of the play — of hearing overlapping conversations — is [very] fly-on-the-wall. Because of its realism, it can evoke the feeling of a film. There’s this sense that it’s not necessarily a performance when we’re doing these shows; it’s not showy. It’s this thrill of being able to keep things private while also recognizing there’re people in the audience two feet away from you. As an actor, you really feel the tension.” — J.A.R.

Hair: Tsuki at Streeters. Makeup: Monica Alvarez at See Management

Olujobi (third from left), at the Public Theater in Manhattan on March 9, 2024, along with (from left) the “Jordans” actor Naomi Lorrain, the director Whitney White and the actors Brontë England-Nelson, Kate Walsh, Ryan Spahn, Toby Onwumere, Meg Steedle, Matthew Russell and Brian Muller.

Video by David Chow

Name: Ife Olujobi Profession: Playwright Age: 29

Debuting in: “Jordans,” her first fully staged production, opening this month at New York’s Public Theater under the direction of Whitney White. The play is about a 20-something woman named Jordan (Naomi Lorrain), the only Black employee at a creative studio, whose office life is upended when her boss hires another Jordan (Toby Onwumere), who’s also Black, to be the company’s director of culture. 

What she’s excited about: “For a while, this was that play everybody thought was great but nobody wanted to produce. I thought it’d just be a thing that ends up on the page: It’s such a crazy, visual play that lives in this imaginative space, with a lot of production elements. I’m excited to bring that to life — and have it be people’s introduction to me.”

What she’s nervous about: “Making a play that feels current — in the sense that I started writing it in 2018, did the first reading in 2019 and now we’re in 2024. The play addresses the idea of bringing people of color into a [professional] situation as a trend, not out of any genuine interest in them. It has to do with quote-unquote diversity in the workplace, and it feels like we’ve gone through three different cycles of that conversation since I started writing it. I’m trying to synthesize everything that we’ve been through in the past six years but not feel like I’m shaping the play to respond to these fluctuations.”

How she found her way to playwriting: “I was in the Public’s Emerging Writers Group in 2018, which was my introduction to theater. I was never a theater kid; film was my first love — I’d worked at the Criterion Collection during school and done my thesis in screenwriting. When I graduated [from New York University], I [only] wrote a play to get into the [playwriting] group. I had this experience of being fired three times in a row [after] graduation and felt like I had to express something about being the only Black person entering professional spaces.”

How the play’s surrealist tone came to be: “The main character gets coffee poured on her face in the first scene. For me, that was a big breaking open of the play: ‘This is the kind of world that she’s living in. What else can happen in this world?’ It has what we might call surreal elements, but I don’t always think about it that way because, within this play, everything is real. It’s not a dream.” — J.A.R.

Photo assistant: Serena Nappa. Digital tech: Zachary Smith. Production: Shay Johnson Studio

struggling to write a wedding speech

Kim, photographed at his restaurant, Noksu, in Manhattan on Jan. 15, 2024.

Daniel Terna

Name: Dae Kim Profession: Chef Age: 28

Debuting in: Noksu, the 14-seat tasting counter he’s run since last October below ground in Manhattan’s Herald Square, where he serves Korean-inflected dishes, including grilled mackerel with brown butter and squab with gochujang agrodolce.

What he’s excited about: “I had a feeling, during the pandemic, that something might change — like everyone had to start [again] from zero. Even three-star sous-chefs changed careers: They’ve stopped working in restaurants; they’re selling truffles or doing kitchen shows or TikToks. There was a gap, and I thought if I played up my Asian heritage and my French cooking background, someone would be looking for that. Then I met [the restaurant’s] owners, and they offered me this space in a Koreatown subway station.”

What he’s nervous about: “With restaurants, you prove yourself every day. There’s no tomorrow, no next week. I knew I had to have a tasting menu: I have a personal goal — I’m not telling anyone what it is — and, to reach that level, I think it can only be a tasting menu. I’m not enjoying cooking that much; it’s not a passion. This is my career. I don’t cook at home but, if I think about that goal, it makes me come to the restaurant.”

What he took from working at the New York restaurants Per Se and Silver Apricot: “I really thought, ‘What kind of person am I? What kind of cook? What’s my individualism?’ Working in fine dining is such an honor, but it’s their food. It’s not me. I started focusing on food that would represent who I was.”

How he’s handling everyone’s dietary restrictions: “Right now, we don’t accommodate, because we’re a small kitchen. But sometimes they can push you: If a guest can’t eat dairy, how do you make that sauce creamy without using milk? It requires more work, more thought, more team effort. It’s happened a couple of times, and we just freestyle.” — J.A.R.

struggling to write a wedding speech

Tyla wears an Alexander McQueen jacket $5,990, and shorts, $1,690,; and Prada shoes, $1,120, Photographed at Issue Studio in Los Angeles on March 16, 2024.

Photograph by Shikeith. Styled by Sasha Kelly

Name: Tyla Profession: Singer-songwriter Age: 22

Debuting in: Her first full-length album, “Tyla,” released last month. It’s the product of more than two years of collaboration with writers and producers from around the world — and her first time traveling outside of South Africa (she grew up in Johannesburg). Together, they refined her sound, which she describes as “music that people can dance to: Afrobeats, pop, R&B and amapiano,” the last of which is syncopated electronic music that originated in South Africa in the 2010s.

What she’s excited about: “My first tour. My creative director, Thato Nzimande, and I have been speaking about this forever. I have Coachella coming up and, after sitting for so long with this music and all these ideas, I’m excited to see people’s reactions.”

What she’s nervous about: “I used to be very nervous about performing because all of this is very new and, once something’s on the internet, it’s saved forever. I don’t want to look at it years from now and be cringing . I’m a perfectionist but, as an artist, you’re never going to be happy with everything all the time. That’s something I had to learn — how to let go.”

How she synthesizes South African and American influences: “I love the sound of amapiano production, with the log drum and the shakers and the drops. But I’ve also always wanted to be a chart-topper like Michael Jackson and Britney Spears and now SZA, except I wanted to do it with my sound [her first hit, “Water,” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 in October]. Obviously, people believe, ‘Oh, I have to make just pop.’ But that’s boring to me. I want to sell what I know and love.”

Why South African music has global appeal: “People say they can feel it, and that’s cool because we feel it. It’s very spiritual to us; it’s a genre we feel in our bodies. All these amapiano dance moves that everyone does, it’s not even dancers that come up with these moves — it’s just random people, drunk uncles in the corners of clubs. It’s organic, and I think people are looking for that genuine vibe.” — E.L.

Production: Shay Johnson Studio. Hair: Christina “Tina” Trammell. Makeup: Jamal Scott for YSL Beauty

Peck (near center, in a black shirt), photographed at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan on Feb. 27, 2024, along with (top row, from left) the “Illinoise” musicians Kathy Halvorson and Jessica Tsang, the dancer Craig Salstein, the musician Brett Parnell, the dancers Byron Tittle and Christine Flores, the musician Kyra Sims, the dancer Robbie Fairchild, the musician Daniel Freedman, the vocalist Shara Nova, the music arranger and orchestrator Timo Andres and the music director Nathan Koci; (middle row, from left) the vocalist Elijah Lyons, the dancer Ahmad Simmons, the vocalist Tasha Viets-VanLear, the dancers Ricky Ubeda and Kara Chan, the writer Jackie Sibblies Drury and the associate music director Sean Peter Forte; (bottom row, from left) the musician Domenica Fossati and the dancers Jeanette Delgado, Ben Cook, Alejandro Vargas and Rachel Lockhart.

Video by Jason Schmidt

Name: Justin Peck Profession: Director and choreographer Age: 36

Debuting in: “Illinoise,” the first stage musical he’s directing, which opens this month on Broadway after a run last month at the Park Avenue Armory. Based on the singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens’s 2005 indie-folk album, “Illinois,” the show was also conceived and choreographed by Peck, who collaborated on its narrative with the playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury.

What he’s excited about: “The ‘Illinois’ song cycle [in which every track relates to the Midwestern state] is one of the great albums of the last 20 years: [Sufjan] didn’t have a recording studio; he’d find a musician up in [New York’s] Washington Heights and record a violin part without realizing what it was going to be part of — he’d run all over, assembling [bits]. I’ve had a long collaboration with him [Peck has based six ballets on Stevens’s music, beginning with “Year of the Rabbit” for New York City Ballet in 2012], so it feels full circle, having discovered that album as a teenager.”

What he’s nervous about: “It’s not a conventional musical; it lives between genres. It’s framed as a gathering around a campfire, being intoxicated by the heat … a campfire beckons storytelling. We enter into the worlds of these people sharing stories on an evening in the wilderness. That’s a difficult thing for managing audience expectations. One of the most challenging parts is trying to tell a full story without words. There are lyrics, but even the lyrics have a sense of poetry to them. They’re not literal.”

How he brought on board his collaborator Jackie Sibblies Drury: “Sufjan was involved early in developing the musical arrangements but has been relatively hands-off [since being diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder, last year] and wasn’t in a place where he wanted to go back to that time in his life. I needed a storytelling partner. Jackie told me how much she loved the album; when she moved to Chicago, she and her then boyfriend listened to it on the road there. A lot of these songs resonated with both of us at a coming-of-age time in our lives, and that’s part of our approach: intimate and personal.” — J.A.R.

Production: Shay Johnson Studio. Photo assistants: Shinobu Mochizuki, Tom Rauner. Digital tech: Kyle Knodell

struggling to write a wedding speech

Stella, photographed at Percy Priest Lake Park in Nashville on March 7, 2024.

Stacy Kranitz

Name: Maisy Stella Profession: Actress and singer Age: 20

Debuting in: “My Old Ass,” a coming-of-age comedy in which her character, Elliott, a young woman leaving her small Canadian hometown for college, meets her 39-year-old self, played by Aubrey Plaza, while tripping on mushrooms. In theaters this August, it’s Stella’s first movie — and her first acting project since spending much of the past decade on the TV series “Nashville” (2012-18), in which she played a country star’s singer daughter.

What she’s excited about: “Being reintroduced in a way that feels true to me. I was a baby when ‘Nashville’ started; it’s hard to have people see you as a character for so many years. You have to be careful with the next thing you do, especially after you take a break [to finish high school], and I wanted to be represented in a way that felt genuine and pushed me in the direction I wanted to go. I thought a project like this would come 10 years down the line, if ever.”

What she’s nervous about: “I think I confuse anticipation with anxiety. I just feel general anticipation all the time, whether it’s about a date this weekend or this movie coming out; it’s that feeling that something’s about to happen. In my body, I might confuse it with nerves, but there are happy and cozy feelings, as well, so it levels out.”

How she collaborated with the writer-director Megan Park on her dialogue: “I watch a lot of young adult shows and think, ‘Oh my God, we sound so dumb. We don’t talk like that.’ Not everything’s abbreviated and slang. Megan [who’s 37] knows how to write for Gen Z because she includes us in her process. She doesn’t have an ego and molds her characters to who’s playing them. We’d do scripted takes and then ‘fun runs,’ where we got to improv, and she’d add lines in the moment.”

What was it like creating the template for Plaza’s character: “You’d think Aubrey would’ve come first, but I was the first one attached to the film. In any other situation, it’d be me matching her, but I feel like Elliott is very similar to me so, when Aubrey and I met, I could feel her filming me with her eyes, trying to get a scope.” — J.A.R.

Hair and makeup: Laura Godwin

A group portrait.

Lakota-Lynch (bottom row, in a white T-shirt), photographed at Open Jar Studios in Manhattan on Feb. 26, 2024, along with (top row, from left) the “Outsiders” composer Zach Chance, the choreographers Rick and Jeff Kuperman and the writer and composer Justin Levine; (middle row, from left) the actors Brent Comer, Jason Schmidt, Joshua Boone, Kevin William Paul and Dan Berry; (bottom row, from left) the actors Emma Pittman and Brody Grant, the director Danya Taymor, the writer Adam Rapp and the actor Daryl Tofa.

Justin French

Name: Sky Lakota-Lynch Profession: Actor Age: 32

Debuting in: “The Outsiders,” a new musical that opened this month and is based on S.E. Hinton’s 1967 novel about rival teen gangs. Lakota-Lynch plays Johnny Cade, a shy 16-year-old from an abusive home. He appeared in “Dear Evan Hansen” in 2018, but this is his first time originating a role on Broadway.

What he’s excited about: “I’ve been with the show for six years, and it finally feels fully baked. People are going to be expecting us to come out tap-dancing, but you have [the writer] Adam Rapp and [the director] Danya Taymor, and those people have never done a musical. It’s the ultimate place for an actor-singer. It’s truly a play with music [by Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay of the folk duo Jamestown Revival, and the songwriter Justin Levine], and I think it’s going to shock people.”

What he’s nervous about: “It’s going to be sad to eventually let Johnny go. I’m doing this on Broadway, but it’s like the period at the end of the sentence.”

The actor sings a snippet of James Taylor’s 1970 song “Fire and Rain.”

Video by Jordan Taylor Fuller

How he’s approaching playing a beloved character: “Johnny doesn’t have a lot of lines: He’s like an Edward Scissorhands [type] — I have to fill the space with energy. The cool thing about playing the character is that I got to imbue him with myself. I’m Native American and Black, and the story is set in Tulsa, Okla., where that’s [not uncommon]. My costume has Native American embroidery; my version of Johnny feels fully fleshed out. Of course, I stole things from Ralph [Macchio, who played the role in the 1983 Francis Ford Coppola film] and from the novel — it’s that fine line between tough and tender, but it’s tailored to me.” — J.A.R.

Production: Shay Johnson Studio. Photo assistant: Shen Williams-Cohen

Becoming a Character

The comedian and actress Meg Stalter, photographed at Smashbox Studios in Los Angeles on Jan. 24, 2024, tests a few moods in front of the camera.

Photographs by Shikeith. Styled by Delphine Danhier

The comedian and actress Meg Stalter, 33, started gaining attention on social media during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdowns when she posted absurd short-form videos playing different personae, like a Disney World team leader conducting an employee orientation. The following year, she had her TV debut on HBO’s “Hacks” as Kayla, a less than helpful assistant to a talent agent. Now she’s filming her first lead role on the new Netflix series “Too Much,” written and directed by Lena Dunham (and loosely based on Dunham’s life), in which she plays the workaholic Jessica, who responds to a breakup by moving to London.

I took so many improv classes when I first [was] doing comedy. It’s the starting point for me when I develop characters. During the pandemic, I’d do improv on Instagram Live every night. The theme would be “We’re going to Paris” or “We’re doing a women’s exercise class.” It was just me doing improv online by myself for hours. When I take on a role, I study the script and imagine if I had to improv a scene. “What would I add or take away? How’s this person different from me? What could I give to the character of my own personality?”

When I read the part of Kayla, I’d already met Paul [W. Downs, a co-creator of “Hacks”] at a stand-up show. [I found out later that] he had me in mind when he wrote the script. That was almost more nerve-racking: It was strange to think, “What if I lose this part to someone else but they were thinking of me in the first place?”

Kayla started as the assistant who comes in and says a crazy line. But in the third season of “Hacks,” she has more emotional scenes, which add another layer: When a character experiences a range of emotions, it makes the crazy stuff even funnier.

The comedian and actress tells a knock-knock joke.

At first when you get a script, you picture yourself in it and think, “Oh, well, she probably looks like me.” That changes the more you get to know the character. Lena [Dunham]’s been so open to talking through Jessica. She’ll say, “Tell me what you think about the hair,” and, “Tell me if there’re any outfits you don’t like.” She even made a playlist Jessica would listen to. There’s Avril Lavigne, Girlpool, Sabrina Carpenter. When I’m studying the script, I’ll play that in the background. Jessica’s into the dreamy side of London and Jane Austen. She’s a little girlie and wears a lot of pink. She wears [nightgowns] as actual dresses and things that’re a little bit too cute for work. I sent [the costume designer] Arielle [Cooper-Lethem] some dresses from Fashion Brand Company. They look like [they could be in an Austen adaptation] but modern and sexier. Like shirts with ribbons all over or matching sets made of lace. Everything’s kind of funny but also hot. It’s stuff I would’ve worn when I thought I was straight. I feel like Jessica’s the straight version of me.

It’s interesting to be playing a version of someone whose work I’ve admired for so long. I’ve rewatched [Dunham’s 2012-17 HBO series] “Girls” so many times. To have everything she’s written in my head but be told, “Just do it the way that you would do,” or, “This is all yours now,” it feels freeing. There’re some directors and writers who want you to say exactly what’s on paper.

When you’re in character in front of a camera, there’re certain things you can’t prepare for. I can research so much for a part — create memories for the character, talk through costume — but if it comes out differently [than what I imagined], that’s OK. It’s important to be able to let go and let the scene be what it is. Some people torture themselves after performing. They’re like, “I should’ve said this or that.” I really don’t do that. Once it’s out there, that’s what it’s supposed to be.

Stalter wears, from start: Versace dress, $1,990, ; and Alexander McQueen ring, $690, . Versace dress and headband, $325. Wray shirt, $185, ; Dolce & Gabbana dress, $2,095, ; and Sophie Buhai earrings, $395, .

Production: Resin Projects. Hair: Tiago Goya. Makeup: Holly Silius. Manicure: Pilar Lafargue

Making a Painting

The artist Roberto Gil de Montes, photographed at his studio in La Peñita, Mexico, on Feb. 13, 2024, painting “Man With Lizard Mask.”

Photographs by Nuria Lagarde

Since 2005, the painter Roberto Gil de Montes, 73, has lived and worked in the fishing village of La Peñita de Jaltemba north of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast of Mexico. He was born in Guadalajara but moved as a teenager to Los Angeles, where he was active in the Chicano art movement. It wasn’t until he took part in the 2020 show “Siembra” at the gallery Kurimanzutto in Mexico City, though, that the art world took notice of his dreamlike Surrealist works. Next year, Gil de Montes will be the subject of a career survey at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

I live in a place where there’re no museums or galleries. I’m inspired by my surroundings — by the jungle, by the ocean. I often say there’s no better background than the ocean for painting. I have two studios: one at home, where I work on paper, and a painting studio in town near the ocean. Usually, I start at home on paper. I either sketch or use watercolor wash. If I’m going to do an oil painting, I go to the studio in town. Before I work, I might just sit around and look at books — I like [monographs about Henri] Matisse, [Paul] Cezanne, [Edouard] Manet. It’s sort of a meditation. A lot of times, an idea surges when I’m working on something already; other times, it might be a memory. Or a dream. The other day, I had a dream that I was taking a photo with my phone of a house on fire — but I was conscious that the house was a drawing. [When I woke up] I thought, “Well, I should do a painting of that.”

I’m very intrigued by how memory works and how the memory of something can trigger [a new idea]. [While putting together the career survey] I’ve revisited all of these old works of mine. Some I remember painting. Others I don’t remember at all. I’m 73 years old. I forget things, and then I start thinking, “Wow, this is interesting because if I’m working from memory and forgetting things, how’s that going to affect the work that I do? How can I explore that?” For instance, somebody sent me a painting they said was mine. I said, “No, I didn’t do that painting. I’m sorry,” only to find out that I’d signed the back. A lot of the ideas I’ve been working on come from the past. In the [2022] Venice Biennale, I had a painting [“Up,” 2021] of somebody hanging upside down or falling through the sky. That came [about] when I walked into the studio and noticed I had inadvertently put a painting upside down. I said, “Actually, that’ll make a good painting upside down.” I don’t know how other artists work. I’m very open to ideas.

Reimagining a Retrospective

The conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, photographed at her studio in upstate New York on Feb. 6, 2024, with LED text from her series “Survival” (1983-85), which will be on view at her exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from May through September.

In 1989, the conceptual artist Jenny Holzer installed an LED scroll of aphorisms — “Abuse of power comes as no surprise” is among the most famous — on three of the six internal ramps of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. It was part of her retrospective “Untitled (Selections From Truisms, Inflammatory Essays, the Living Series, the Survival Series, Under a Rock, Laments and Child Text).” Next month, Holzer, 73, will restage the work there as part of her show “Jenny Holzer: Light Line” (which will also include other pieces from her 50-plus-year career). But this time, the LED installation — which will display the original “Truisms” and other text series — will go all the way to the top.

I’m a self-loathing, slow study so [ahead of the 1989 retrospective at the Guggenheim] I had to walk and walk around and around and around the museum. It finally occurred to me, “Oh, around and around is the answer [to how the piece should be displayed].” I’m relieved I attended to what Frank Lloyd Wright did: The building is magnificently, utterly self-sufficient. It doesn’t necessarily need art, and it’s inclined to shrug it off at times.

As I was developing the new exhibition, I started walking the museum again — and not just the ramps. I went up and down the stairs a few thousand times. I went in the elevator, in assorted bathrooms, in nooks and crannies. And in those places, I put everything from the first diagrams I made in the ’70s on up to icky paintings made by A.I.

The conceptual artist discusses a sculpture by the artist Louise Bourgeois.

Video by Joshua Charow

If I have a specialty, and I’m not certain that I do, it’s installation. I like hunting and seeing. The first step is to go blank, with no preconceptions. And then, since it is visual art, using my eyes to see. Then that mysterious thing happens: Ideas come — when you’re lucky. Otherwise, you try again.

When I’m just trying to make a new artwork for anywhere, it’s adequate to lie on the couch with my eyes closed and wait for that pizza to arrive — the “art” pizza. But when I’m [fortunate enough] to be in a building like Wright’s Guggenheim, it’s — surprise, surprise — necessary for the body to be in the space. Alert, alive, all tentacles reaching out, all senses going. And on some level, being hopeful.

Photo assistant: Ece Yavuz

Adapting an Ibsen Play

For the second time, the playwright Amy Herzog, 45, has adapted a work by Henrik Ibsen. The first was “A Doll’s House” (1879), starring Jessica Chastain. Herzog’s latest staging, “An Enemy of the People” (1882), stars Jeremy Strong as Dr. Thomas Stockmann, a physician who is shunned for warning his town that its lucrative public baths are contaminated. Michael Imperioli plays his brother, Peter Stockmann, the mayor, who seeks to suppress Thomas’s findings.

When I begin an adaptation, I first read a few different translations of the play. Then I try to get those out of my head. For “A Doll’s House” and now “An Enemy of the People,” I’ve worked with a translator named Charlotte Barslund. She does a literal translation in English, which stays as close to the feeling and meaning of the original Norwegian as possible. I go through that line by line, translating it into my own words without making any big decisions. Once I have my first version, I start the bigger work of cutting. For “An Enemy of the People,” we cut three characters. I decided to cut the character of Katherine, Thomas Stockmann’s wife, after a lot of conversations with Sam [Gold, the play’s director and Herzog’s husband]. Her sections weren’t working; they were feeling really turgid. There’re sections that his daughter, Petra [played by Victoria Pedretti], could pick up if Katherine was gone.

What was remarkable about cutting Katherine was realizing how little had to change. The fact that you didn’t have to do major surgery on the play was one tell that cutting Katherine was a good idea. It gives Stockmann this recent terrible grief. It’s a particular grief when you’re a doctor, I think, to lose a spouse — to be the doctor who can’t save your loved ones. That spring loads the play as it begins: He’s reaching a place where he can have happiness again — [only] to be completely betrayed by his community and to lose everything he’s finally gained.

Ibsen wrote domestic psychological plays and social plays. “A Doll’s House” is the former and “An Enemy of the People” the latter. [When adapting “A Doll’s House”] I learned some pretty basic things about the mechanics of making it feel leaner and more modern. But other than that, it was shockingly different to translate them and humbling that he had plays that were so totally different inside of him. This play is bigger and rangier and even more relevant than “A Doll’s House.” It’s very timely — there’re a few headlines it brings up. One is climate change. I was reading a lot about scientists who weren’t listened to when they tried to sound the alarm years ago. I was also reading Naomi Klein’s [2023 memoir] “Doppelganger” and thinking about the way the body politic becomes sick. I try to do a lot of research before writing — I read a fair amount of Ibsen biographies — so there’s no single influence that’s too loud while I’m working. When I’m really doing the translation, I need quiet and cloistering. So there’d be gaps in my communication with [Jeremy] and everyone else. Then there’d be the moments, after reading a draft, when it was time to talk and become porous again.

Jeremy was the reason for the production. From the moment I began to work on “An Enemy of the People,” I knew who was playing Thomas Stockmann. I’ve known Jeremy since 1997, and I’ve seen a ton of his work, so his voice was influencing the way I adapted that character.

[Jeremy and Dr. Stockmann] are similar in that they both have a total commitment to what they believe in. Having someone in my life with that kind of devotion to his craft and to his storytelling means that I’m coming to [the character] with the texture of a real, contemporary person. Every few days, he sends me a poem or an article or something that’s meant something to him related to the play. He sent me the William Butler Yeats poem “A Coat.” The first three lines are “I made my song a coat / Covered with embroideries / Out of old mythologies.” There’s this incidental line in Ibsen’s original [script] that people often cut — but I didn’t, I love it — when Captain Horster [Dr. Stockmann’s loyal friend] makes his first entrance before you even see Dr. Stockmann, who says, “Hang your coat on that peg. Oh, you don’t wear an overcoat?” Captain Horster is this character who has no pretense and is an uncorrupted type of human. And Ibsen has him coatless at the beginning. So the idea of a coat and what it is to cover yourself has become an interesting thematic touch point for us.

Putting Up a Gallery Show

Since graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1999, the visual artist Joe Bradley, 49, has made a habit of reinvention. His style continuously shifts, from mixed-media sculptures to line drawings to highly saturated large-scale canvases. His most recent exhibition of paintings opens this month at David Zwirner gallery in New York.

I tend to arrive at my studio [in Long Island City, Queens] around nine, turn the lights on, make a pot of coffee. Then, depending on what sort of stage the paintings are at, I’ll just start working. If it’s early on [in the piece], I’m much more active. When the paintings [begin] to come together, it’s a lot more about just looking and making little decisions to resolve things. I don’t have a real ritual. I don’t even have to be in any particular state of mind. If I’m distracted or depressed or happy or whatever, I just come in and see what happens.

I do begin with some practical decisions. I know how big the painting is going to be and what sort of surface I’m going to be working on. I know what the contour of [a show] will look like. I don’t make any sort of preparatory sketches — the paintings reveal themselves to me through the process of working on them. But the deadline [for the show] ends up being this organizing force. It’s the day your entire year revolves around, the time [by which] you know the paintings will have to be presentable and cohesive. It’s helpful to have that because, otherwise, you could keep things up in the air indefinitely.

When I paint today, I might be responding to a mark on the canvas that I made six weeks or six months ago. What I’m doing early in the process isn’t going to be available visually by the end — most of it’ll be painted out or it’ll disappear in the process. I lay traps or create little problems for myself to encounter. It’s almost like the uglier it gets in the early stages, the better the painting will be.

Building an Installation

Suzanne Jackson sits on a bucket assembling a sculptural work involving paper or plastic and wire mesh.

The artist Suzanne Jackson, photographed at her Savannah, Ga., studio on Feb. 1, 2024, works on a piece that will eventually be installed on a terrace at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Kendrick Brinson

The Savannah, Ga.-based artist Suzanne Jackson, 80, has worked as a dancer, a set and costume designer, a professor and a poet — but most notably as a painter. Jackson describes her ethereal compositions as “anti-canvases,” which she creates by building up layers of acrylic paint and at times found materials, including netting and produce bags. In 2025, she’ll display a selection of work from her six-decade career, along with a new site-specific installation, as part of a retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

I’m working on a commission for the fourth-floor terrace of [SFMoMA]. It’s an installation that’ll climb the walls of the terrace and partially fill the open space. My approach is quite different than if I were working on a painting in my studio: I have to think of it in an architectural or sculptural sense. There’re technical aspects, so I’ve been doing a lot of research in airports and from airplane windows, looking at large-scale structures that don’t fall down — things on the rooftops of buildings like windsocks or poles. This piece will be built from the ground up, unlike my other work that hangs from the walls or ceiling.

I don’t go looking for ideas. I just go into the studio and start painting. Now that I’m older and not teaching, I don’t have to do anything except paint. In the morning, I roam around the house. I do the laundry. I feed the cats. I look out the window and stare at nature. I have a big window at the end of my kitchen and can see tall trees and birds and animals and insects. I go through the studio to get to the kitchen from my bedroom, so sometimes I end up stopping and looking at work I’ve already done. There’s a lot of sitting and thinking and looking. Sometimes, I’ll turn on music — Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy or Yo-Yo Ma. On Mondays and Fridays, it’s [the Savannah radio D.J. and jazz historian] Ike Carter’s show “Impressions.”

As the music flows, so does the paint — that’s a spiritual environment to be in. Other times, I’ll work in absolute silence. At the beginning, I explore. I’m never quite sure what’s going to happen. Usually, it comes spontaneously. One brushstroke leads to the next, and then it becomes another idea. I might think I have one idea when I start, but it often changes along the way to be something completely opposite. I’m just having a good time being a painter. That’s how I started, and it’s how I’m going to end.

Photo assistant: Dayna Anderson

Lorraine O’Grady,

89, new york city.

The multidisciplinary artist and critic, whose solo show at Mariane Ibrahim gallery in Chicago opens this month.

A suit of armor with a spiky helmet and a raised sword.

Lorraine O’Grady’s “Announcement Card 2 (Spike With Sword, Fighting)” (2020).

© Lorraine O’Grady/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, courtesy of Mariane Ibrahim, Chicago, Paris, Mexico City

I thought I was going to be a writer. My family tells me that I made my first poem when I was a year and a half old: “I like mice because they’re nice.” [In my early 30s, after working for five years] as an intelligence analyst, I went to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop for fiction. I hadn’t really been reading fiction, though, so I wasn’t very good at writing it. I spent most of my second year there translating short stories written by my instructor [the Chilean novelist] José Donoso.

Growing up, I had all these exposures to beauty. I’d gone to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston as a child and seen [Paul] Gauguin’s “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?,” a painting that continues to influence me. And my mother was a dress designer. She redid our house every six months. By the time I was 10, I basically had everything that I’m now working with in place, but I didn’t have the language. I didn’t get that language until the early 1970s, when I read [the critic and curator] Lucy Lippard’s “Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object From 1966 to 1972.” [Then] I was ready. The ideas for my visual art already existed within my experience. I just hadn’t known they were art before.

A few years later, when I was in my early 40s, I had to have a biopsy of my breast. After — thank God, it was negative for cancer — I was thinking about what I could give my doctor as a thank-you present. Reading my copy of the Sunday New York Times, I saw a line in the sports pages about Julius Erving that said, “The doctor is operating again.” I said, “OK, this could be the start of something,” and I made a really good poem for my doctor [out of words clipped from the newspaper]. But when I finished the poem, I said, “This is too good to give to him.” Then I immediately started making newspaper poems for a project called “Cutting Out The New York Times.” I made one every week for 26 weeks. When I finished, I realized that I’d become a visual artist — or revealed that I was a visual artist. — interview by J.C.

Toni Morrison,

The author of 11 novels, including “Beloved,” “Sula” and “Song of Solomon.”

By the time Toni Morrison wrote “Beloved” (1987), her best-known novel, she’d worked for nearly two decades as a book editor. Her debut, “The Bluest Eye” (1970), was published when she was 39 and, while not a commercial success, was critically praised. She published three more books between 1973 and 1981 — including “Song of Solomon” — while still at her editing job.

Prior to going into publishing, Morrison — who had a master’s degree in American literature from Cornell University — spent nearly a decade teaching college English. After her divorce, she worked for a textbook division of Random House before joining Random House proper as its first Black female editor; there, she championed and published Black authors such as Angela Davis, June Jordan, Gayl Jones and Toni Cade Bambara. “I didn’t go to anything. I didn’t join anything,” she once said about the civil rights movement. “But I could make sure there was a published record of those who did march and did put themselves on the line.” All the while, Morrison was waking by dawn to write before heading into the office. She’d later describe those sessions as a form of liberation: “The writing was the real freedom because nobody told me what to do there. That was my world and my imagination. And all my life it’s been that way.”

For many years, Morrison considered her day job essential to her art. “I thrive on the urgency that doing more than one thing provides,” she once said. But the industry had its difficulties — the overwhelming whiteness, the increasing commercial demands — and she left her position in 1983. Four years later, at age 56, she published “Beloved.” In a preface to the 2004 edition of the book, she looks back on the rush of feelings she experienced following her last day at the job. “I was happy, free in a way I had never been, ever. It was the oddest sensation. Not ecstasy, not satisfaction, not a surfeit of pleasure or accomplishment. It was a purer delight, a rogue anticipation with certainty. Enter ‘Beloved.’”

65, New York City

The multidisciplinary artist and former drag performer, whose paintings are currently on view at the Dallas Contemporary art space and the MassArt Art Museum in Boston.

A floral painting with a purple background.

A 2023 acrylic on canvas by Tabboo! titled “Lavender Garden.”

My mother put me into an art class when I was 15 at the Worcester Art Museum, and then I went on to art school [at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design], where I majored in painting and fine art. I remember my first sale, to my aunt Julie. She wanted me to copy [Jean-François] Millet’s “The Gleaners.” I didn’t want to copy someone else’s stuff — I think one of the reasons I’m popular is that I’m very original — but I still did the painting, of course. It was a commission and I was being paid!

I started performing drag in nightclubs when I moved to New York in 1982, but I’ve always been painting, too. This isn’t something I just came up with, like, “Oh, I can’t get on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ I better start painting.” I had one-man shows and gallery exhibitions right after graduating from art school. Elton John and Gianni Versace bought my paintings. I don’t want anyone to have the impression — which certain people seem to — that I took up painting just because I stopped doing drag. I might be getting a bit more attention for it now, but I’ve always been doing it.

I usually get up at four in the morning. I feed my cat and then start painting. A lot of my paintings are sunrises. And I do sunsets and cityscapes. Or if it rains in a weird way, I’ll do a rain painting. It’s a very spiritual, meditative, private thing. There isn’t a day that goes by that I haven’t done something, and so my work gets better and better and better. And I must say, I’m a master of my craft now.

Sometimes a collector will ask, “Can we come over to the studio and watch you paint?” I tell them no. I usually do it naked. — interview by J.C.

Justin Vivian Bond,

60, new york city and the hudson valley, n.y..

The performer and multidisciplinary artist, whose work has been exhibited at Participant Inc. and the New Museum in New York City, and will be on view at Bill Arning Exhibitions in Kinderhook, N.Y., in May.

A watercolor of an eye.

Justin Vivian Bond’s watercolor “Witch Eyes, by Viv, to Protect You From Evil Chodes: Lois” (2024).

When I was in high school, I was interested in visual art as well as music and acting, but I decided to major in theater in college because I thought it was a career that could get me out of Maryland and allow me to move to New York. I became a performer, and I’ve been doing cabaret for many years. In 2008, when I broke up my cabaret act Kiki and Herb, my rent was so cheap that I didn’t have to work as much. I started painting again, and it flows very naturally for me.

My watercolors are primarily portraits of people I know. I’ll ask them to pose for a photograph and then paint from that. I also make pseudo fan art, like my “Witch Eyes” series, which is based on iconic photographs of celebrities’ eyes. The wonderful thing about painting is that you have total control over it, if you’re lucky. Onstage, there’re so many variables. And with painting, you don’t have to be there [when people see your work]. I love being in front of an audience, but I don’t really love being among people. The pleasure for me is singing but, when the show’s over, I have to talk to a lot of people. I like all of them, but there’re too many, so it can be a little overwhelming. You don’t ever get to connect on a deeper level. The most satisfying times in my life have been when my shows have been installed and it’s the night before the opening. All of it’s exactly how I want it — the room, the lighting — and I just sit there and look and have this sense of utter satisfaction. — interview by J.C.

Wallace Stevens,

The poet, whose best known works include “The Emperor of Ice-Cream,” “The Snow Man” and “Anecdote of the Jar.”

Wallace Stevens never quit his day job. Though he had literary ambitions as a young man, serving as the editor of the Harvard Advocate as an undergraduate, he earned his degree from New York Law School and in 1916 joined the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, where he remained, specializing in surety and fidelity claims, until his death, in 1955. Yet he was writing all the time: on his daily walk to work, at home in the evenings and sometimes in the office.

It wasn’t until 1914, when Stevens was 34, that his first post-college poems appeared in literary journals. He went on to publish seven volumes of poetry over the course of his lifetime. The first, “Harmonium,” released in 1923, sold fewer than 100 copies; the last, 1954’s “The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens,” won the Pulitzer Prize.

The themes of Stevens’s work — the affirming power of art and beauty, the sublime contained within the mundane — suggest one reason why he stuck with insurance law even as his artistic acclaim grew. His steady paycheck would have allowed writing to remain a purely creative act. In his essay “Surety and Fidelity Claims,” Stevens says of his insurance work, “You sign a lot of drafts. You see surprisingly few people. ... You don’t even see the country; you see law offices and hotel rooms.” Poetry, on the other hand — as he characterizes it in 1923’s “Of Modern Poetry” — “must be the finding of a satisfaction.” It was his livelihood, in the most artistic sense of the word.

Theaster Gates,

50, chicago.

The University of Chicago professor and multidisciplinary artist, whose solo shows at the Gagosian gallery in Le Bourget, France, and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo open this month.

A sculpture resembling a piano covered with white metal.

Theaster Gates’s sculptural work “Sweet Sanctuary, Your Embrace” (2023).

© Theaster Gates. Photo: © White Cube

In 2000, I took a job as the arts planner at the Chicago Transit Authority. There was so much new construction happening there, and my role was to appeal to the Federal Transit Administration for a portion of the transit money to be set aside for public art. In a way, it was like an M.B.A.: I managed $26 million over four or five years. My negotiating skills went through the roof.

I’d graduated from Iowa State [in 1995] with a degree in community and regional planning and then did a [post-baccalaureate] in religious studies and fine art at the University of Cape Town. After that, I spent time in Japan studying ceramics. So when I came to the C.T.A., my background incorporated both art and community and, every day, I was leaving there and going to my ceramics studio.

In 2005, I left the C.T.A. because I outgrew the position, and I stopped making pots because I couldn’t afford my studio. I started using more recycled materials in my work [such as wood pallets]. It was during this period that I was starting to combine my knowledge of minimalism and conceptual practices with my background in building and working with my dad, who was a roofer. Now buildings have kind of become my primary monuments, and the project management and team building that I learned at the C.T.A. are really evident in the way that I create.

I did a project at the New Museum [that opened in late 2022 and] was essentially an exhibition about mourning and loss. My father had died six months prior to the opening, and I didn’t have time to mourn his death or the deaths of dear friends like [the fashion designer] Virgil Abloh, my mentor [the Nigerian curator and art critic] Okwui Enwezor, [the author] bell hooks and [the film scholar] Robert Bird. The show grew out of a desire to grapple with my feelings and honor these people. The museum didn’t necessarily have the budget to do all of the things that I wanted to, so I had to figure out, “Are there poetic ways to articulate loss that don’t require substantial build-out, or big, fancy gestures or expensive audio equipment?”

Ultimately, I included Bird’s 9,500-volume library, and Virgil Abloh’s widow loaned me his yellow diamond-studded necklace. Those were moments when limitations built new friendships and more nuanced opportunities, and I feel like having been a planner’s what made me willing to pick up the phone and say, “Hey, would you be willing to collaborate with me?” — interview by J.C.

Remember That You’re Never Truly Equipped to Start Anything

As actors, we feel like we have to be ready, but I’d say you’re never ready. You’re not prepared for something you’ve never done before, so let go of that. This past year I did some symphony gigs for the first time, and it was incredible. It was better than being ready, because I just had to be new. — Ali Stroker, 36, actress and singer

Myha'la stands outside under a dim sky wearing a hoodie.

Myha’la in season one of “Industry,” 2020.

Amanda Searle/HBO

Embrace Fear — but Come Prepared

I have the curse of perfectionism, and there’ve been so many projects where I’ve said, “I’m not right for that, so I’m not going to audition.” But that’s kind of lazy, so I’ve rewired my thinking: If something’s targeting some insecurity in me, why not take the opportunity to work on that thing? I used to avoid anything with an accent but now, if I got the call for “Bridgerton,” I’d feel confident enough to go for it. Definitely do your homework, though. With almost every trading scene in “Industry,” I’ve thought, “Nope, I’m not going to be able to get the words out.” I don’t sleep the night before, and I’m wrecked the next morning. Then everything pours out because I’ve come in prepared. Filming the first season of “Industry” in 2019 was the first time I’d been on a job longer than five days, the first time I’d worked out of the country, the first everything, and I was so nervous. Go toward things that scare you. — Myha’la, 28, actor  

Make Yourself Start

Deciding what’s a good idea is an ongoing battle. But you can only think about something for so long before you just have to try it. Someone once told me that when he makes a painting he likes, he’ll make another one with the same idea to see if it holds up and then another, which I thought was pretty good advice. Sometimes I force myself to go to my studio and start painting [Gordon initially set out to be a visual artist and started focusing more on her art practice about 25 years ago], even if I don’t have an idea. I like conceptual thinking, but I also like the physicality of painting. Usually that leads me to something and, even if it doesn’t — what am I going to do, sit around and watch movies all day? — Kim Gordon, 70, musician and visual artist

Put Yourself in Your Body — and Your Past

Sometimes painting can feel like this dream I have where I’m in the back of a moving car and I’m reaching over to the front seat to try to get control. That’s a nervous system in panic. There’s a grounding exercise I like to do where I jump and really feel my feet smack the floor — trying to get yourself back into your body’s part of the trick. And then I go, “Well, who’s dreaming?” If you can get there, you’re lucid in the dream, and that’s a good place to be. Still, feelings will come up that you don’t want. When I was working on this satyr painting, suddenly the satyr was my old friend Chris, who betrayed me when I was 18 to a group of guys who beat me up. I thought, “Why am I painting Chris? I don’t want to paint Chris.” I was in flow for a while but, when I hit this painting, I experienced self-doubt and thought, “People are going to think these paintings are awful.” Then I went on Instagram and liked one of his pictures. It felt like a weird, brave task. And he wrote to me and asked if he could call me, 26 years after ghosting me, and he apologized for 20 minutes. I cried and I think he probably cried, and I felt it all melt away. And then I went back to the painting. — TM Davy, 43, artist

Kim Gordon, wearing a floral jumpsuit, poses in front of a red background and extends her left hand.

Kim Gordon in 1990.

Laura Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

Psych Yourself Out

If things are too hard, something’s wrong, but you also have to embrace the awkward feelings. See if you can fool yourself — I used to get self-conscious about drawing when I was a teenager in an art class with a model, and the teacher said, “Don’t think of it as drawing. Think of it as designing the page.” That really loosened things up for me. It’s amazing what you can do if you pretend. — Kim Gordon

When people say they’re self-taught, it means they asked somebody else how they did it. When I began in folk music, I went to the clubs and I begged and borrowed and asked. [More recently, having taken up painting acrylics a little over a decade ago,] I was painting [Anthony] Fauci and couldn’t figure out how to do his glasses. I called an artist friend and she had all these tricks — “Don’t try to copy the photograph,” she told me, “just use dabs of paint here and there to give the impression of glass.” It didn’t take more than 45 minutes to learn how to put glasses on Fauci. Without her, I would’ve struggled for weeks trying to get it right. — Joan Baez, 83, singer-songwriter, activist, painter and author

Don’t Sweat the End — and Work on More Than One Thing at Once

Remember that the maker almost never knows exactly what they’re making in advance. The great works often appear when we’re aiming toward something completely different. Start as soon as you see a way in. I [also] find it helpful to work on multiple things at the same time. Not in the same moment but during the same general time period. The beauty is that different projects are at different stages, so you can avoid getting burned out on any one [thing]. We can step away, work on something else and come back with new eyes, as if we’re seeing it for the first time. Tunnel vision’s easy to fall into when working on a single project for a long period. We can end up getting lost in details nobody else will ever notice, while losing touch with the grand gesture of the work. — Rick Rubin, 61, music producer and author of “The Creative Act: A Way of Being”

struggling to write a wedding speech

Murray Hill in 1996.

Catherine McGann/Getty Images

Treat Procrastination as Productivity

There were certain things I couldn’t do during the [SAG-AFTRA] strike, but I did get a book deal. It’s called “Showbiz! My Unexpected Life as a Middle-Aged Man,” and I’ve got to get that done — by June 1st! I’m used to being onstage. When I’m sitting at my desk in my studio apartment, I procrastinate quite a bit, and I’m always asking myself, “Is this part of the creative process for me, or am I just making my life harder?” But I also procrastinate in productive ways. I go for a walk — in rehab, they taught us, “Move a muscle, change a thought.” Then I come back and put on jazz music. Doing that removes the blocks, probably because jazz is so much about improvisation and I’m at my core an improviser. Another thing I’ll do to light the match is turn to others’ work. I’ll watch Dean Martin videos or a documentary or old game shows. For this memoir, I’ve been reading memoirs by other people — Gary Gulman, Viola Davis, Maria Bamford, Leslie Jones, Aparna Nancherla — and not only does that awaken my creative senses, it triggers memories. — Murray Hill, 52, comedian, actor and writer

Be Comfortable With Discomfort

There was a time when [my] body was always ready, and when I had so many axes to grind and windmills to chase [that] something would come out. Now I can’t just depend on my body being there — that I’m going to bust a move and seduce — so I have to be a little more strategic: “What’s the idea? Does it serve anyone other than you?” I’m trying to reaffirm for myself that what I have left in me to say is worth saying. Doubt is always with us, and it burns like fire. But if I refuse to give up the mantle of being a creative artist, I’ve got to do something. [You might say] “Well, why don’t you just love a child? Why don’t you go work at a soup kitchen down the street?” Because I’m a self-involved son of a bitch. Procrastination says, “I don’t dare,” but can you live with yourself if you don’t? So how do you start? Terror. Guilt. Fear. All negatives to this generation of young people who don’t ever want to be uncomfortable, but the generation that formed me and my own generation had that feeling that you’re being pushed against and you’ve got to push back, because you’re not like them. As Martha Graham said to Agnes de Mille, “There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” I’ve got to believe that about myself, and the evidence is what I dare to do. — Bill T. Jones, 72, choreographer, director and dancer

If Your Work Goes Up in Flames, Don’t Fetishize the Ashes

One thing that eases the prospect of getting started is remembering that not everything you make needs to be for consumption or even to count as art. I recently spent nine months quietly making these works — mineral paint on cement slabs — and ended up throwing them all away because I decided they were too conventional. You’re not married to your old self, either. In 2013, there was an electrical fire at the studio I’d just moved into, and the building burned to the ground. I lost cartons of negatives and proof sheets that were over six feet tall, as well as photographs — stuff I’d made five, seven, 10, 15 years prior. Of course, it was traumatic and terrifying, but it was also freeing. Eventually I realized it was an opportunity for me to draw a line and stop making a certain kind of work. As artists, we think, “I got known for this type of thing,” or, “This is what everybody seems to like of mine.” A part of me felt, “I have to rebuild this person,” and then I thought, “Well, I don’t,” and I started something else. It was actually one of the most fruitful periods of my creative life. — Anthony Pearson, 55, painter, sculptor and photographer

Joan Baez holds a guitar and sings into a microphone.

Joan Baez in 1974.

David Redfern/Redferns via Getty Images

Practice Some Denial

When I was working on “Diamonds & Rust” (1975), I was at a low point of my career and I made a decision that I was going to concentrate on music and quit globe-trotting for different issues. I realized that the music needed my time and attention if it was going to be any good. Learning to live with the state of the world’s a daily practice. Everything we do, we do against the backdrop of global warming and fascism. I never dreamed I’d live in a world this chaotic and discouraging, and I’m overwhelmed but I’m also a great believer in denial — I think that’s where you have to be in order to create, or have fun or dance — providing that we set aside a certain amount of time to come out of denial and actually do something to help. — Joan Baez

Reject Fear. And Put Your Ego to Bed.

Last year, I went through what medical professionals would call a flop era. I’d had three years of the kind of lovely, psychotic busyness that has you hopping from job to job, just following green lights, but then everything went poof — the show I was working on got canceled; the financing for the film adaptation of my novel fell through. I’d been working on such personal things regarding sex and disability and, when those things ended or weren’t [well] received, I began to doubt myself. But then, you’re combating panic, and I started thinking really awful thoughts like, “Do I need to write a pilot where there’s a dead body?” Fear is the most poisonous thing to creativity. You can’t force it, and you have to listen to the work — it’ll tell you what it needs to be. Look at me getting all woo-woo, but it’s true. When you make a living off of writing, not every single project’s going to be from the depths of your soul, but I think there should always be some level of enjoyment. Starting over is really humbling, by the way. Knowing when to stop and when to start over requires giving your ego an Ambien. Real failure is letting your ego drive the bus of your life right off the cliff. — Ryan O’Connell, 37, writer and actor

Alice McDermott, 70, writer

There are three kinds of novels I’ve never taken to heart: science fiction, murder mysteries and novels about novelists. So I’ve decided to try my hand at each. If I fail, they’re probably not books I’d want to read anyway.

Thurston Moore, 65, musician and author

I’m putting the final touches on a new album, “Flow Critical Lucidity.” But after my memoir, “Sonic Life” (2023), came out, I realized my next mission was a novella, the working title of which is “Boomerang and Parsnip.” It concerns two madly in love youths in the wilds of Lower Manhattan circa 1981, and it’s wholly irreal, bordering on fantasy.

A painting of a bearded man with long white hair flipping through a book with a large die inside. Stacks of books are on shelves behind him. A sheathed knife hangs on the wall. On the table in front, a goblet and a baguette.

Courtesy of Samuel Delany

Samuel R. Delany, 82, writer

I’m writing a guidebook for a set of tarot cards I designed with the artist Lissanne Lake.

Susan Cianciolo, 54, visual artist

I’m preparing a solo exhibition that will open at Bridget Donahue gallery next month, so I’m making new works and curating older ones. It’ll definitely feature a book of my watercolor tree paintings, “Tell Me When You Hear My Heart Stop.”

Jenny Offill, 55, writer

I’m planning to start a band called Spacecrone. (I’ve stolen the name from a book of Ursula K. Le Guin essays.) It’ll be all female and 55-plus. Our faces will be made up like Ziggy Stardust, but we’ll wear sensible clothes and shoes. What’s kept me from starting it is that I can’t sing or play any instruments.

Alex Eagle, 40, creative director

We’re finessing our bag collection, which we’re trying to make as luxurious, but also as practical, as possible. And I’m planning to write a cookbook with my son Jack.

Earl Sweatshirt, with his hair in long dreadlocks, wearing a gray T-shirt and a wristband, holds up a microphone.

Jim Bennett/Wire Image, via Getty Images

Earl Sweatshirt, 30, rapper and producer

Making more music — it’s the one thing I always find myself coming back to, though every time I do, I have to overcome intense feelings of self-doubt. I also want to try stand-up, but I’m scared because there’s no music to hide behind. I don’t want dogs-playing-poker laughs, either. You know the [paintings] of dogs playing cards? Like, “Oh, it’s a rapper doing stand-up.”

Alex Da Corte, 43, visual artist

I’ve been writing an opera for some years now based on Marisol Escobar’s [assemblage] “The Party” (1965-66). It’s set at a time when the sun only shines for one day a year, and the players at the party are all wondering how to move forward while holding on to their pasts.

Danny Kaplan, 40, designer

While clay has been my faithful medium for years, I’ve lately been fueled to broaden the scope of my craft by embracing — and learning how to push the boundaries of — new materials like wood, metal and glass.

Kengo Kuma, 69, architect

Getting out of [Tokyo]. I’m doing my best to reduce the burden on big cities — I think humankind has reached a limit when it comes to congestion — and I’ve recently opened five satellite offices in places like Hokkaido and Okinawa.

Raul Lopez, 39, fashion designer, Luar

The thing I’m always meaning to restart is my video blog “Rags to Riches: Dining With the Fabbest Bitches,” an exploration of how food, fashion, music and art all connect.

Charles Burnett, 80, filmmaker

Right now I’m involved in the development of two films. The first, “Edwin’s Wedding,” is the story of two cousins, separated by the Namibian armed struggle with South Africa, who are both planning their weddings. The second, “Dark City,” also set in Namibia, is more of an emotional roller coaster about betrayal and vengeance told in the Hitchcockian mold.

Ludovic Nkoth, 29, visual artist

I’m looking to experiment outside the confines of the canvas — sculpture and video have always been lingering in the back of my head.

Elena Velez, 29, fashion designer

I want to start a series of salons to bring together great minds across multiple disciplines, while feeding the subculture that my work draws from.

Daniel Clowes, 63, cartoonist

I’ve always had the desire to do fakes of artworks I admire — to figure out how they were done, and so I could have otherwise unaffordable artwork hanging in my living room. Painting [with oil] is as frustrating and exhilarating as I remember it being when I was in art school 43 years ago, and my paintings look alarmingly not unlike the ones I did at 19.

Piero Lissoni, 67, architect and designer

I’ve started the design for several new buildings that will become government offices in Budapest. I’d like to start designing chairs, lights, skyscrapers, spacecraft. In truth, I’d like to start doing everything again.

A painting of tangled bodies fighting with a man raising a baby into the air.

Peter Paul Rubens’s “The Massacre of the Innocents” (circa 1610), Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

Robert Longo, 71, visual artist

I’ve been struggling to figure out how best to make sense of the overwhelming images in the news, so I’m turning to the past. I’m working on two monumental charcoal drawings based on paintings [about war]: Peter Paul Rubens’s “The Massacre of the Innocents” (circa 1610) and Francisco de Goya’s “The Third of May 1808” (1814).

Gabriel Hendifar, 42, designer

I’m moving into a new apartment by myself after a series of long relationships. I’m excited to challenge my own ideas about how I want to live and to see how that affects the work of my design studio [Apparatus] as we begin our next collection.

Donna Huanca, 43, visual artist

I’m working on two solo exhibitions. One will be in a late 15th-century palazzo with underground vaulted rooms in Florence, Italy; the other in a modern white cube in Riga, Latvia. For years, I’ve tailored works to the architecture of their exhibition spaces, so I’m enjoying working within this duality.

Satoshi Kuwata, 40, fashion designer, Setchu

We’re about to start offering shoes. I’ve thought of the design. Now I just have to go to the factory and see them in real life.

Aaron Aujla, 38, and Ben Bloomstein, 36, designers, Green River Project

We’re starting a new collection of furniture based on offcuts from the studio that are finished with a modified piano lacquer. Hopefully, a suite of these pieces will be ready for exhibition by fall. We also have a commission we’re excited to start — a large sculptural fireplace made from three unique logs of rare wood.

Adrianne Lenker, 32, musician, Big Thief

I want to start learning how to paint. The few times I’ve tried it, I loved it but also felt daunted by all I needed to learn. I often think of my songs in terms of paintings. My grandmother Diane Lee’s an amazing watercolorist. Recently she gave me a lesson all about gray.

A textile artwork with patterns of green and purple bars and three circular patterns with a spider in the center.

Melissa Cody’s “Power Up” (2023), courtesy of the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York

Melissa Cody, 41, textile artist

I’m starting to create wall tapestries that incorporate my pre-existing designs, which were handwoven on a traditional Navajo/Diné loom, but these new works are highly detailed sampler compositions made on a digital Jacquard loom.

Josh Kline, 44, multidisciplinary artist

I’m working toward shooting my first feature film — a movie, not a project for the art world.

Sally Breer, 36, interior decorator

My husband and I have started building some structures on a property we own in upstate New York — he has a construction company in Los Angeles. We’re using locally sourced wood and are 80 percent done with a studio-guesthouse, a simple 14-by-18-foot box set on foundation screws, tucked into a pine forest. This is the first time we’re really working together as a design-build team. He’s started referring to it as our “art project.”

Eddie Martinez, 47, visual artist

I’m restarting a group of large-scale paintings for an exhibition at the Parrish Art Museum [in Water Mill, N.Y.] this summer. They’re each 12 feet tall and based on a drawing of a butterfly. The series is called “Bufly” since that’s how my son, Arthur, mispronounced “butterfly” when he was younger. I’d put the paintings aside while I finished my work for the Venice Biennale. Now I’m locked in the studio, painting like a nut!

Karin Dreijer, a.k.a. Fever Ray, 49, singer-songwriter

I’ve been thinking about learning to play the drums. They’ve always felt like a bit of a mystery to me.

Eric N. Mack, 36, visual artist

I’m starting to recharge in order to begin my next body of work. I journal, read, explore the Criterion Channel and get deep-tissue massages. I keep wishing I’d organize the fabrics in my studio.

Jenni Kayne, 41, fashion designer

We’re starting the next iteration of the Jenni Kayne Ranch [the brand’s former property in Santa Ynez, Calif., where she’d invite guests for yoga, dining and spa experiences], only this time we’re heading to upstate New York. We’re calling it the Jenni Kayne Farmhouse, and it’ll include a self-care sanctuary where slow living is a genuine ritual.

Christine Sun Kim, 43, multidisciplinary artist

I have a bit of an adverse reaction to people doing American Sign Language interpretations of popular songs on social media — they’re usually based entirely on the lyrics in English, when rhyming works differently in ASL. So I’ve been wanting to make a fully native ASL “music” video. One day.

Ellia Park, 40, restaurateur

I’ve started collaborating with the in-house designer at Atomix, one of the restaurants I run with my husband, Junghyun Park, on custom welcome cards for the guests that feature bespoke artwork.

Awol Erizku, 35, visual artist

A portrait of Pharrell Williams in profile with a shaved head in front of an orange background.

Awol Erizku’s “Pharrell, SSENSE” (2021), from "Awol Erizku: Mystic Parallax" (Aperture, 2023), courtesy of the artist

I’m focused on my exhibition “Mystic Parallax,” opening in May in Bentonville, Ark. [which will include concerts and portraits of such people as Solange and Pharrell Williams]. What I never seem to get around to is archiving all of my negatives in the studio.

Jeremiah Brent, 39, interior designer

As I navigate the [effect of the] ever-so-saturated interior design algorithm, I’m challenging our team to expand the language we speak, diversifying design references by looking to the unexpected: playwrights, films, historians and science.

Vincent Van Duysen, 61, architect

I’m focusing on the 90th anniversary of [the Italian furniture company] Molteni & C. I’m also excited about our recent addition to the family — a black-and-tan dachshund called Vesta after the virgin goddess of the hearth and home.

Kwame Onwuachi, 34, chef

I’m working on launching a sparkling-water line — the proceeds of which will help bring clean water wells to African countries — and starting to write my third cookbook. I start everything I think of.

Larissa FastHorse, 52, playwright and choreographer

I’m adapting a beloved American musical — I can’t say which — into a TV series. Which is scary because, even though I just adapted “Peter Pan” for the stage, the TV process is the opposite: Instead of cutting down a three-hour musical, I have to add hours and hours of content. So it feels like beginning over and over again.

Peter Halley, 70, visual artist

I’ve started to paint watercolors. Now that I’ve reached 70, I thought it was about time. The images are arranged in a grid like on a comic book page, but the narrative’s asynchronous. They’re based on images of one of my cells exploding, an obsession I’ve had going all the way back to the ’80s.

Darren Bader, 46, conceptual artist

I want to start an art gallery called Post-Artist that regularly shows art but refuses to name who made it. No social media presence. I also want to do what Harmony Korine is doing, except with none of that content.

Jeff Tweedy, 56, musician, Wilco

I’m about to record an album of new music with my solo band, which isn’t really solo at all. I’m bringing my sons and the close friends and quasi family who’ve been playing with me live for the past 10 years or so into the studio. I’ve written songs that feel like they can be a vessel for all of our voices together: a miniature choir. There’s really no experience that compares to singing with other people. I think it tells us something about how to be in the world.

Charles Yu, 48, writer

I’m about to start promoting the “Interior Chinatown” series [based on Yu’s 2020 novel]. I’d like to get into music and service. My son’s a drummer, and he’s awakened some latent impulse in me. And my daughter and wife have been volunteering. I’m not exactly sure what’s been keeping me from either. I could say work, but I suspect the actual answer is nothing.

Elyanna, 22, singer-songwriter

I’d love to improve my Spanish. I visit my family in Chile at least once a year and, every time I fly back to L.A., I realize that I need to keep practicing.

Boots Riley, 53, filmmaker and musician

I’m getting ready to start filming a feature I wrote about a group of professional female shoplifters who find a device called a situational accelerator that heightens the conflict of anything they shoot it at. I also have a sci-fi adventure: a janky, lo-fi epic space funk opera. My dream is to use the same crew and shoot the two movies back to back in Oakland, Calif. [where I live]. That’s one thing about being 53 — I want to be able to spend more time with my kids.

Boots Riley, wearing a brown jumpsuit, sunglasses, and with low sideburns, a mustache and a soul patch sits on a swing set in a park.

Damien Maloney/The New York Times

Sable Elyse Smith, 37, visual artist

I’ve recently embarked on an operatic project. Yikes! MoMA invited me to make a sound piece that’ll open in July, and it’ll be a kind of prelude to a larger version. It’s titled “If You Unfolded Us.” It’s a queer love story and a coming-of-age story about two Black women.

Satoshi Kondo, 39, fashion designer, Issey Miyake

My latest experiment with washi , or traditional Japanese paper, is blending fibers extracted from the remaining fabrics of past clothing collections with the pulp mixture from which washi is made. It’s a way of playing with color and texture.

Laila Gohar, 35, chef and artist

Almost all of my work has used food as a medium and has therefore been ephemeral. Making work that isn’t — namely, sculptures — is an idea I’ve been toying with for a while, but I haven’t been able to jump into it yet. I once read something an artist said about how she thought male artists are more concerned with legacy than female artists, and that female artists are more comfortable creating ephemeral work. This rang true for me, but now I feel slightly more confident about making things that might outlive me.

Patricia Urquiola, 62, architect and designer

I was nominated [last year] as a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid, so now I’m writing the acceptance thesis, or discurso de ingreso . It’s an occasion to reflect on ideas — for example, I reread the philosopher Bruno Latour, who argues that design “is never a process that begins from scratch: To design is always to redesign.”

Luke Meier, 48, and Lucie Meier, 42, fashion designers, Jil Sander

We’ve started making some objects — glass and ceramics. We aren’t at all experienced in these fields, so it’s invigorating to play again.

Two women wearing baseball caps sit and talk. One, center, is holding a binder of papers with the label "The Salt Path Draft" on the front.

Kevin Baker/Courtesy of Number 9 Films.

Marianne Elliott, 57, director

I’ve always wanted to do a film, but it requires so much time and theater is a hungry beast, so it’s eluded me until now: “The Salt Path,” starring Gillian Anderson, is based on a true story about a remarkable English couple [who embark on a 630-mile hike].

Samuel D. Hunter, 42, playwright

Last year, I was approached by Joe Mantello and Laurie Metcalf, who wanted someone to write a play for Joe to direct and Laurie to star in. I’d never met either of them but, if I had to pick one actor on earth to write a role for, it would be Laurie. “Little Bear Ridge Road,” a dark comedy about an estranged aunt and nephew who are forcibly reunited after the passing of a troubled family member, will go into rehearsals in May.

Thebe Magugu, 30, fashion designer

When I was 16, I began writing a novel, taking place between the small South African towns of Kimberley and Kuruman, that I’ve contributed to every year since. It currently sits as a huge slab of a book — around 80,000 words — and I’ve been meaning to rewrite and polish the earlier chapters. I’ve given myself the next 10 years [to finish the project]. It’ll be a gift I give to myself when I turn 40.

Misha Kahn, 34, designer and sculptor

I have an idea for this toothpaste project called Zaaams that’s expanded, of its own volition, into an entire cinematic universe. Sometimes an idea can grow so big that it’s unmanageable and nearly unstartable. Sometimes I’ll really start working on it, but I get overwhelmed by the seismic rift in society it would cause and feel dizzy. Crest, if you’re reading this, call me.

Nell Irvin Painter, 81, visual artist and writer

I’m way too old to be a beginner. I’m 81 and have already written and published a million (OK, 10) books. But a very different kind of project’s been tugging at me: something like an autobiographical Photoshop document with layers from different phases of my life in the 1960s and ’70s — spent in France, Ghana, the American South. I’d have to be myself at different ages.

A black-and-white self-portrait of a smiling woman taken in a mirror.

Courtesy of Nell Irvin Painter

Sharon Van Etten, 43, singer-songwriter

In 2020, I became familiar with the work of Susan Burton, the founder of A New Way of Life, which provides formerly incarcerated women with the care and community they need to get their lives back on track, and was so moved by her story I asked my record label if it was OK to use money from my music video budget to produce a minidocumentary on the organization, “Home to Me.” I still have a lot to learn about filmmaking, but I think it’s the beginning of something beautiful.

Piet Oudolf, 79, garden designer

I’m starting the planting design for Calder Gardens, a new center dedicated to the work of the artist Alexander Calder in Philadelphia. I’m working on it with Herzog & de Meuron architects, and it’ll include a four-season garden that will evolve with the months. Early in the year, it’s about ephemerals (bulbs). Spring is when woodland flowers are important. Summer will be the high point of the prairie-inspired areas, and in fall and winter there’ll be seed heads and skeletons. I think a good, harmonious garden is like a piece of living art.

Rafael de Cárdenas, 49, designer

As a consummate shopper, I’ve always thought the best way to bring my interests together would be with a store — a lab for testing things out and creating a connoisseurship in the process. I’m thinking Over Our Heads (the second iteration of Edna’s Edibles in [the 1979-88 sitcom] “The Facts of Life”) meets Think Big! (a now-closed shop in SoHo) meets [the London gallery] Anthony d’Offay meets [the defunct clothing store] Charivari meets [the old nightclub] Palladium.

Gaetano Pesce, 84, architect and designer

I’m working on a possible collaboration with a jewelry company from Italy. I can’t say the name yet, but the pieces stand to be very innovative. Also, another collaboration with the perfume company Amouage inspired by time I spent in Oman’s Wadi Dawkah and the beautiful frankincense trees there.

John Cale, 82, musician and composer

Ever since I played viola in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, I’ve been hypnotized by the thought of the discipline needed to conduct. My attention soon wandered — from John Cage to rock music. Now, 60 years on, it’s finally time.

Nona Hendryx, 79, interdisciplinary artist and musician

I’m working on the Dream Machine Experience, a magical 3-D environment that’ll be filled with music, sound, images and gamelike features. It’ll premiere at Lincoln Center this June. [My idea was] to create an imaginative world inspired by Afro-Futurism that encourages a wide, multigenerational audience to share.

Faye Toogood, 47, designer and visual artist

I’d like to develop a jewelry collection, but I haven’t. Is it because no one’s asked — no phone call from Tiffany! — or because I’m struggling to understand how adornment fits into our current world?

Freddie Ross Jr., a.k.a. Big Freedia, 46, musician

I’m recording a kids’ album and publishing a picture book for early readers. Much of my art is about language and the unique colloquialisms that we have in bounce culture. Children respond to its snappy rhymes and phrases.

Danzy Senna, 53, writer

Every time I write a novel, I think, “This is the most masochistic experience I’ve ever had — I’m going to quit this racket.” But I feel incomplete without this depressive object to feel beholden to. I just finished editing one book [“Colored Television”] and have the sinking feeling I’m about to start another.

Jackie Sibblies Drury, 42, playwright

I’m starting, hopefully in earnest, to write a play in collaboration with the director Sarah Benson inspired by action movies. We were intrigued by the problem of trying to put chase scenes or action sequences onstage, where it’s difficult to build momentum or suspense because in theater we have less control over the viewer’s eye, among other things. But hopefully the play will be about what it means to see ourselves in these macho cis men who often get hurt pretending to almost die for our entertainment — or something like that?

Lindsey Adelman, 55, designer

I’m putting together a digital archive of my work and ephemera — about 30 years’ worth — revisiting everything from the sculpture I made as a student at RISD to the paper lights David Weeks and I sold for $25 to datebooks where I scribbled notes about things I wished would come true and then did. I hope it’ll encourage others to start something. I want them to understand, “Oh, this was the first step … this beautiful, finished thing was inspired by a piece of garbage dangling from a streetlamp.”

Elizabeth Diller, 69, architect, Diller Scofidio + Renfro

A shadowy image of a blurred figure in an illuminated doorway at the top of some stairs.

David Wall/Getty Images

Since 2012, when my studio was doing research for a contemporary staging of Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera of Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw,” I’ve been meaning to start a book about ghosts. While ghosts are a well-trod literary device, their visual representation on stage and screen also has a rich history that can be told through the lens of an architect. Despite the fact that ghosts transcend the laws of physics, they’re stubbornly site-specific — they live in walls, closets, attics and other marginal domestic settings, and they rarely stray from home.

David Oyelowo, 48, actor

Something that three friends and I are in the process of building and developing is a streaming platform that we launched last year called Mansa. The idea — born out of growing frustration with making things that I love and then having to use some kind of distribution mechanism where the decision makers are almost always people who don’t share my demographic — is Black culture for a global audience. Essentially, we started a tech company that intersects with our love of story and our need to create [pipelines] for people of color and beyond to be seen.

Franklin Sirmans, 55, museum director, Pérez Art Museum Miami

There’s a recurring exhibition that I’ve worked on with [the curator] Trevor Schoonmaker since 2006 called “The Beautiful Game” that consists of art about soccer. We do it every four years because of the World Cup, and I’m starting to get into the 2026 iteration. I’ve also been trying to finish a book of poems since I graduated college more than 30 years ago. But it’s happening. It’s not like you don’t write a good sentence every now and then.

Jamie Nares, 70, multidisciplinary artist

I’ve always loved this line of poetry [from the Irish poet John Anster’s loose translation of Goethe’s “Faust”] that goes, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” One thing I’ve begun recently is a revisiting of my 1977 performance “Desirium Probe,” for which I hooked myself up to a TV that the audience couldn’t see, and relayed what was happening onscreen through re-enactment. Now I’m going to do it with YouTube videos chosen at random from the wealth of rubbish and interesting stuff on there. And as a video, because I’m not as agile as I once was.

Joseph Dirand, 50, architect and designer

A rendering of the interior of a hot air balloon, with a tufted carpet, a circular table and a curved upholstered bench. An oval window looks onto the top of clouds.

My firm has just started developing, with a French company called Zephalto, a prototype of the interiors for a hot-air balloon that will take travelers to the stratosphere, and the carbon footprint of the journey will be equivalent to that of the production of a pair of blue jeans. The balloon is transparent, so it’ll be almost as if you’re going up in a bubble of air — riders will see the curve of the earth. We’re designing three private cabins: sexy, organic cocoons that reference the ’60s and the dream of space, but are otherwise pretty minimal. The landscape is the star of the show.

Amaarae, 29, singer-songwriter

I’m working on the deluxe version of my 2023 album, “Fountain Baby.” The approach for the original album was very maximalist — I organized these camps all over the world and had a bunch of people come through to work on the music. Afterward, I felt underwhelmed — not by the project but by how I felt at the end of it all. [So] I stripped back everything so it’s just me and my home setup, trying ideas. Before, I was really lofty, but now my feet are touching grass a little bit.

Jennifer Egan, 61, writer

I’m starting a novel set in late 19th-century New York City. As always with my fiction, I have little idea of what will happen, which lends an element of peril to every project! Time and place are my portal into story, and I’m interested in a time when urban America was crowded and full of buildings we occupy today, yet the landscape beyond seemed almost infinite.

Carla Sozzani, 76, gallerist and retailer

Just as my partner, Kris Ruhs, and I revamped the then-unknown Corso Como area of Milan, we’re now putting our energy into the construction of a new studio for him, as well as the expansion of the Fondazione Sozzani [cultural center], both of which are in Bovisa, another old industrial neighborhood. I wanted to be an architect when I was young, but my father said, “No!”

Stephanie Goto, 47, architect

If my clients allow me to peel one eye away from their commissions, I’d like to dive deeper into the renovation of my own property in Connecticut, which includes the circa 1770 former home of Marilyn Monroe and a tobacco-and-milk barn that will house my studio.

Amalia Ulman, 35, visual artist and filmmaker

I’m beginning to write the script for my third feature film — probably my favorite part of the process, when I just need to close my eyes and see the film in my head. It’s the closest to a holiday because it feels like daydreaming.

Wim Wenders, 78, filmmaker

Several years ago, I started a project about the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, who, along with others, designed the new Los Angeles County Museum of Art that’s being built now. The working title of the film is “The Secret of Places,” and it’s done in 3-D. My dream is to make a comedy one day. [ Laughs .] Seriously. [ Laughs again .] I’m working on it.

A painting of a pattern of triangular shapes in red, blue and orange.

Wendy Red Star’s “Beaver That Stretches” (2023), © Wendy Red Star, courtesy of the artist and Sargents Daughters

Wendy Red Star, 43, visual artist

I’ve started highlighting Crow and Plateau women’s art history by making painted studies of parfleches, these 19th-century rawhide suitcases embellished with geometric designs. I’m learning so much about these women just by their mark making, but have only come across a few that have the name of the person who made it, so I’m titling my works by pulling women’s and girls’ names from the census records for the Crow tribe between 1885 and 1940.

Nick Ozemba, 32, and Felicia Hung, 33, designers, In Common With

Next month, we’re opening Quarters, a concept store and gathering space in TriBeCa that will feature our first furniture collection.

Bobbi Jene Smith, 40, dancer, choreographer and actress

My husband, Or Schraiber, and I are creating a work composed of solos for each dancer of L.A. Dance Project, where we’ve been residents for the past year and a half. We’ve had the unique opportunity to connect deeply with some of the dancers, and this — a gratitude poem for each of them — will be our culminating project. They’ll each be a few minutes long and characterized by physicality set against silence.

Editor’s note: The architect and designer Gaetano Pesce, whose comments are included in this piece, died on April 4 at age 84.

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    Keep It Short, and Speak Up. Longer doesn't equal better. Most speech-writing experts suggest three to five minutes, tops. "No one ever gets upset if a speech is too short," Ms. Keller said ...

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    End with a toast. Cap off your speech on a fun and sentimental note by ending with an actual toast. Dalo recommends this foolproof example: "Please join me in raising a glass to the happy couple. Cheers to X and Y, and best wishes for a lifetime of laughter!" Afterward, go in for a hug with the couple, making for the perfect photo op!

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    She adds, "Don't memorize the speech, but do read it out loud and make sure it sounds like your voice.". The ideal length of a toast is between two to four minutes, which translates to ...

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  6. A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Wedding Speech

    Step 1: Plan and Prepare. First and foremost, you do not want to bore the guests! Remember, brevity is key, so aim for a speech that lasts around five minutes. The first step in writing a wedding speech is to plan and prepare. Start by gathering your thoughts and considering the tone and theme of the speech. Then you decide on the main message ...

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    Tip #2: Brainstorm Ideas for Your Speech. Next, complete the "pen to paper" exercise. Keep your pen to paper for 20-minutes while you brainstorm ideas for the speech. Write down any memory or feeling you have about the bride, groom, and upcoming wedding. This is not the time to self-critique, over-analyze, or edit.

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    Another tip for how to write a wedding speech and deliver it like a pro is that practicing in front of a mirror can be a big help. You can watch yourself as you give your speech, seeing if there are any weird facial expressions you make that you should work on changing. Or maybe you will recognize the need to do something different with your hands.

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  16. How To Write A Wedding Speech: The Ultimate Guide

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