Tips For The Best Man Speech For An Upcoming Wedding
Congratulations, your best friend has given you the highest honour a buddy can bestow, you’re the best man at his upcoming wedding. Certainly, celebrations, whiskey and cigars are in order but don’t forget what this title means. More than considering you a trustworthy line of defence when things go awry at his upcoming nuptials, your friend expects you to speak at the wedding. And if the wedding is as big as weddings, I’ve spoken in the past few years, delivering a speech will be no easy feat.
But don’t stress. You don’t have to be a professional public speaker to totally nail your best man speech. All you need are a few weeks to prepare (best not to wait till the last minute) and our simple guide. We promise you’ll be well-equipped to deliver a heartfelt and memorable best man speech, leaving the entire wedding party laughing and crying — but, you know, in a good way.
But first, why listen to me? A good question. Over the past few years, I’ve been to more weddings than I can count, and most recently, I was charged with delivering two different speeches. It’s an honour to be given the title of best man, but it’s also super intimidating. Both weddings I spoke at had around 200 friends, relatives and plus-ones present, and I’m far from a public speaking expert. And yet, with the help of some friends and this handy outline I whipped up while working through my own process, I delivered meaningful speeches that I’m really proud of.
With the right preparation, I think you can write a great speech, too. To prepare my speeches, I followed a three-step process, and I’m going to walk you through it step by step. I’ll also help you avoid some common traps that can derail your speech.
How to Research Your Best Man Speech
So your friend has just given you the news that you are the best man at his upcoming wedding. You know there are a million and one things to do for the guy (including but not limited to organizing a bachelor party and keeping him cool on the day of the event). But your biggest task is delivering the speech. But where do you start? Research.
A good best man speech should float somewhere around the three to the four-minute mark. That’s not to say you can’t go over or under, only you will truly know where the line is, but let’s make something as clear as the diamond on the bride’s hand, the crowd isn’t there to hear you speak. It’s a tradition for the best man to speak, so you should speak, but this is not about you. Nobody wants to hear you drone on and on about how your friend changes your life. People came to the wedding to witness true love and have fun. So if you go past five minutes, have a good reason.
To begin the research part, start brainstorming a handful of stories from your time together as friends. Don’t get too crazy with these anecdotes. These stories should range from the mundane to the epic, and you’re looking for three types of memories:
- Stories about you and your buddy
- Stories about you and your buddy and his future spouse
- Stories about you, your buddy and your group of friends.
At this point, don’t be too quick to dismiss any particular anecdote, just get the stories listed on paper so you can see what you’re working with. Give each story a title so you’ll get the reference and move on (no need to write the full story out yet, you’re just brainstorming).
10 Tips for Writing your Best Man Speech
It is, however, very easy to get right and it all hinges on the quality of what you’re saying. There’s no replacement for a well written and adequately rehearsed speech. Once that’s in the bag you’ll be presenting it to the easiest crowd you’ll ever come across: usually a little merry, always up for fun and in a blissfully happy mood.
The cardinal sin here is to talk for too long. Everybody is eagerly expecting your take on the groom and his life to date, but nobody loves him that much they want to hear a full twenty minutes on the subject. A good length is about 7 minutes or around 1200 words. Any less than this and the guests will be wondering why he gave you the gig.
In my experience, there is no place for constructed jokes in a wedding speech. No matter how dull you think his life may have been there will always be a funny way of painting the picture, sometimes it just takes a bit of thinking about. Delivering a joke you found on the internet will almost certainly corrupt the delivery and unless you’re a part-time stand-up comedian saying it with conviction is about as tricky as it gets.
Many Best Men forget that unless they’ve managed to make a spectacle of themselves at the church, quite a few of the guests won’t know who they are, or how they know the Groom. So, at the start of the speakers give a brief outline of who you are and what your connection is.
Start at the beginning. It may sound obvious, but I’ve heard a lot of Best Man speeches where the speaker delivers a complete jumble of anecdotes from various points in the Groom’s life. A speech that’s easy to follow will have the crowd on your side and waiting for the next nugget. Confuse them, and you’ll be wondering why there is a sea of expressionless faces in front of you.
There is never, ever any place for profanity in any wedding speech. No matter how salty you think the guests’ language might be, no matter how progressive their sense of humour appears, swearing or any kind of inappropriate rudeness will never work. Wedding crowds are always an eclectic mix, and you’ve got to pitch it so that the Grandparents and kids won’t be offended. Look at this way: there are plenty of stand-ups who never swear, and they make money from being funny.
Don’t go mad. One or two anecdotes is fine, they help jog things along and give an insight into who the Groom really is but it shouldn’t be an anecdote-fest. Endless tales of escapades can wear thin pretty quickly, so mix one or two up with observational comments on his career, dating and passions in life, to make it much more easily digestible.
Start gently and then work into a crescendo. Nobody is expecting you to be the next big comedian, but everyone has the capacity to be funny if they really try, and this is why if you’re not used to comedy writing, you’ll need time to think about things. You’ll always have a really funny bit to say so leave that to just before the end, as this is the part most guests will remember. In the introduction, you can have a gentle snipe at how or where you met and then build a few more of those as you go along. As with many speeches, the humour is also found in the delivery.
Writing words to be read and words to be spoken are very different things, so make sure you get it right. Always print out a copy of your speech and read it out loud – any word repetition or jarring phrases will instantly fall out, and then you can go back and correct. If you read from the screen, you will always miss things.
Your Own Voice
Never set out to write a speech in the style of anyone but yourself. If you’ve cut and pasted things from the internet, they’re going to stick out, so if you’re intent on borrowing stuff, think of the way you’d say those things. Remember: he’s asked you to give the speech, not Google.
This is the bit when the joking stops, and you say something fittingly moving about the guy who’s just got married. There’s one thing that’s key: be honest. Think of a time when he’s really helped you out or been there for you and think what qualities does that mean he has? Why do you have him as a friend? Keep it to the point and not too slushy, and you’re on to a winner.
Top 5 Mistakes To Avoid!
Getting the tone completely wrong
You need to get the tone of humour exactly right – you want to make your best pal laugh his socks off while taking care not to offend his family. Words which you may not consider rude will still have the power to make old folks swallow their dentures. To be on the safe side, avoid even mild swears like crap or bloody and avoid lewd references.
Offending the bride or her folks!
Don’t pick a story that’s going to take five minutes to set the scene – quick gags are what you’re after.
And remember not to offend the bride or her parents! They won’t want to hear endless tales about the groom’s failed conquests or how his ex-partners were much better looking. You do want to come across as cheeky with just a few digs – but not a catalogue of flaws!
Detailing the fateful stag weekend
Whatever happened during that awesome stag do stay between those that were there unless it is suitable for every guest! The worst best man will be so proud of the almighty booze fest that he concocted, that he will be tempted to describe it in tremendous detail, including the stripper that turned out to be bloke – but all the while will remain oblivious to the audience reaction and will plough on regardless.
Getting obliterated before you give your speech
It’s tempting to have a couple of drinks for courage but don’t embarrass yourself! Adrenaline can increase the effect of alcohol, and the evidence on photos will haunt you for life. Chances are you’ll also slur your words or include all those lewd jokes you so carefully took out when refining your lines. Save the drinking for your big toast!
15 Dos and Don’ts for Writing a Wedding Speech
- Be Yourself. It’s either your wedding or you’ve been asked by the nearlyweds to speak about them; they wouldn’t have asked you if they didn’t deeply value your friendship and trust you, so here’s an opportunity to shine for them — as yourself.
- Talk About the Couple. Use your specific, personal experiences to your benefit and incorporate unique, unexpected or quirky details, but avoid too many inside jokes or “you-had-to-be-there” references. The assembled want to hear about what you have to say about the newlyweds.
- Start With a Bang. Start with a catchy opener or joke, if you can tell a joke — and have an appropriate one. Otherwise, leave the jokes of questionable taste for the bachelor or bachelorette party (or the bathroom). For example, as I was writing my first wedding speech as an officiant, I came up with the “best” joke with which to open. In my most sonorous of voices, I would intone, “Dearly beloved… and Adam,” which would have gotten some rolling laughter from those who were not fond of Adam, the bride’s stepfather. But given that he was footing the bill for this extravagant affair and the joke was truly in poor taste, that one wound up on the cutting-room floor.
- Tell a Story. The best speech is a story with a beginning, middle, and ending that focuses on the couple. For example, my favourite opening line from a speech I gave 20 years ago as a best man was this: “When Fred and I jumped on a motorcycle and travelled from his mother’s house to his new apartment in Melbourne, we both knew he had gone west to seek his fortune. Neither of us could ever have imagined that fortune would be Lizzy.”
- Thank Participant. Give thanks to those who should be singled out for their contributions and participation. This should include family, dear friends, those who have travelled far or with difficulty. Don’t forget those who couldn’t make it due to health reasons, travel restrictions, or other serious or family concerns.
- Say it in Five Minutes. Short and sweet is best, as less truly is more in this scenario. Leave the crowd wanting more. Five minutes is ideal.
- Practice with a Mirror. Practice the speech in front of a mirror, as well as for a close enough friend who will be honest with you. In the case of the officiant’s speech, I strongly recommend rehearsing the speech for the actual couple. On a special day, you don’t want anything that is going to come out of your mouth to stick in their craw. Also, they probably won’t hear much of what you’re saying during the actual ceremony other than when addressed directly, as in, “Do you?”
- Print it or Put it on Index Cards. Remember, don’t try to memorize your speech unless you’re an actor. Write it. Print it. Give a second copy to that trusted friend who won’t misplace it. Better still, try this: I write my speeches out on index cards in a spiral notebook. If you have ever watched a wedding on a sitcom, you know what can happen with a stack of cards. With the cards on that spiral, you can’t lose one, you can’t disarrange them and, if you’re speaking from a podium, you can see two at a time. Attached together like that, there’s less flipping — and less chance of losing your place. Another reason I like the smaller, stockier index cards is that, if you’re nervous and your hands are shaking, it will be far less noticeable with the cards in your hand than with a big piece of paper quaking like a flag flapping in the breeze.
- Toast the Couple. Always remember to toast the bride and groom at the conclusion of your speech.
- Use Gimmicks. They have all been used before. If there is a quote from a poem or from a religious text that enhances what you’re already trying to say and it’s wedding-appropriate, that’s fine. But don’t just sprinkle in lovey adages and flowery quotes without a specific, personalized reason.
- Curse. The “something blue” should not be your speech. Don’t curse or be crass — even if you’re known for it.
- Google it. Never Google your speech. It won’t be in a search engine. But, if you are at a loss for words or want your speech to sound more polished than you think you could do on your own, do hire a writer to assist you. Memorize it. Write your speech out and practice it, but don’t try to memorize it unless that is truly your forte. You’ll risk sounding stiff, insincere and lifeless.
- Get Drunk. Or even tipsy before your speechifying. One drink prior is acceptable and perhaps even beneficial for your nerves. Take that second drink with you for which to toast the newlyweds. It will be a great reward at the conclusion of your speech for a job well done.
- Wing it. Finally, a word to the wise on “speaking from the heart” (aka “winging it” ): Don’t. You just read this piece, and perhaps it all makes sense to you, and yet, you’re probably going to stand up there this June with little more ammunition than a glass of champagne. I know who you are. I was once you. Even a speech written in haste on a train, on the back of an envelope, can be fantastic. A speech written in champagne bubbles cannot. Without something written out to keep you on point, you may go on, and on, and on… well past the five minutes you should spend as the centre of attention.