Tips on Writing the Perfect Best Man Speech
Let me guess: if you’ve made it here, you’re a best man (or a best woman), and you’re nervous. First off, congrats on this special role of honor! You’re gonna do great. But if you’re freaking out about pulling off all of your groomsmen duties, especially having to write and deliver a best man speech on the wedding day, we understand. There is an art to the perfect best man speech. Too far in any direction, and a bad speech can negatively alter the mood of a wedding in a snap.
But before we make you even more nervous, take a cleansing breath and lower your heart rate: you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to guide through the process of writing and giving a stellar best man speech from start to finish, including a list of dos and don’ts, tips on subject matters, and a sample best man speech outline to focus your efforts. Follow our advice, and you’re sure to walk away with praise, admiration, and an awesome groomsmen gift.
Best Man Speech Template
Getting all your thoughts and feelings down on paper can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not used to sharing those sentiments with the guys. Here is a guideline for helping you find your flow.
Find a theme.
You’re not going to just write a speech from scratch. Start by brainstorming stories. Most importantly, what you’re looking for is the theme that comes out of those anecdotes. So, what’s the one unifying idea that ties everything together? Generally speaking, the best way to think about your theme is: Afterward, if people only remember one thing, what’s that one thing? Once you have that, the rest of it flows a little better,” says Litt.
Build a framework.
The best way to organize your thoughts is to create a blueprint of the key points you want to hit first, sort of like a toast skeleton. After you’ve established the roadmap, you can fill it in with pertinent details and memories while still ensuring that you’re staying on point. Also, think about it in terms of ideas. You can get in one or two short anecdotes, maybe three, and one big idea. If those are good, you don’t need more.
Focus on the newlyweds.
Remember the relationship that you’re celebrating is the one between the two people getting married. You’re giving the speech because you can shine some unique light on that relationship. If the relationship that you’re really giving the speech about is the one between you and the groom, you’re there; things are awkward.
Share your feelings.
Generally speaking, men think of the best man speech as a funny speech to give because we’re very uncomfortable sharing how we actually feel. But, what makes a good best man speech is the part where somebody shares how they feel. Humour is just the icing on the cake. Try to make sure that you’re delivering something more meaningful than just joke after joke. The newlyweds chose you to speak because you have something notable to add to their big day, embrace your personal insight into their bond and don’t try to dilute it by just being funny.
Tips for writing and delivering your Best Man’s Speech
Consider your audience. You can’t nail a speech if you have no idea who to tailor the content to. Feel free to ask beforehand. But the nice thing about giving a best man speech is that, ideally, it’s both specific to you and universal to the couple.
I would say almost never start with talking about how nervous you are. I’d also say just relax. That’s a hard thing to tell someone to do, but to put it differently: Remember, you’re not putting on a show. You’re simply talking about your best friend and the love of their life, two people that you’ve probably spent a lot of time with. In the end, it should just flow and come out easily. Imagine you’re just telling a story to a group of friends because really, you are.
Stay true to yourself.
Stick with who you are and how you would normally act around your friends. Don’t try to be funny if you’re usually not the comedian in the bunch, or super sentimental if you’re usually the more lighthearted friend. Your friends will definitely be able to tell, and your toast won’t seem genuine in the end. You’re not performing. You’re there because you know someone and care about them, and you’re sharing that with a bunch of other people. Even a great best man speech is not supposed to steal the show. If somebody says, ‘That speech was nice but almost forgettable because we were so focused on the bride and groom’ that’s a win. You don’t need to be the star.
Don’t rely solely on humour.
While a few jokes sprinkled in can be a great tool for loosening up the crowd, don’t make these the meat of your toast—especially if comedy doesn’t come naturally to you. Let me put it this way—there’s such a thing as too many bad jokes, and that number is about one. The more you treat it as an open mic night, the less happy everyone involved is going to be. You don’t need to go in thinking, ‘How do I get invited back next week?’.
Keep things positive.
I’ve seen best man speeches where someone thinks, ‘Oh, my job is to roast the groom.’ Unless the groom and the bride specifically told you that’s your job, that’s not your job. The way to think about jokes is that you don’t want people to be laughing at the groom or at the couple. You want people to be laughing because they suddenly know the groom better than they did before.
Make sure it’s appropriate.
My general rule for wedding speeches is: If you have to ask yourself, ‘Is this appropriate?’ it’s not. And if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t know, ask a friend. If they give you that slightly horrified look, listen to that look. Refrain from mentioning anything that you wouldn’t want your grandma or boss to know.
Get a second opinion.
Remember: you’ll be delivering this toast in front of an audience (as if you could forget, right?). So it doesn’t hurt to get some feedback on what you’re planning on saying. If you’re the kind of person who has a track record of going a little too far with your surprises, you should be self-aware enough to run this by a third party may be another close friend or a friend of the bride
The best thing to do is practice with a friend. Anybody giving a big speech rehearses beforehand. If you’ve already gotten good feedback from field-testing your remarks with a smaller group, then you’re going to come out on the wedding day comfortably knowing you have a good speech. It’s that uncertainty that can be scary when you’re up there speaking.
Keep it short
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.’ I would say five minutes is the absolute maximum. Three minutes is fine. There’s no question that if you’re reading this, you’ve sat through a speech that was too long. But when you start writing a speech, you almost never think, ‘Is this going to be too long?’
Limit your drinks
Being one drink in works for some people, but being more than one drink in is never a good idea. At that moment when you’re like, ‘You know what I need? Another couple of shots.’ That is never what you need
End with a toast!
End your speech with a cheer, but telling all the guests to toast the newlyweds and their union! Most of all, enjoy yourself. You’re talking about your best friend and their amazing new bride. So, have fun gathering all the stories, enjoy it and then party the night away!
Best Man Speech Dos and Don’ts
Goes without saying, but this is an instance where “I’ll just wing it” doesn’t work in your favour. Although you don’t need to memorize your best man speech, don’t save this one until the night before. A few thoughts jotted down on a napkin will look like you didn’t put any care or thought into your words (because, uh, you didn’t). A month or two out, but no less than a week, take some dedicated time to compose your thoughts. This will also allow you time to seek input and feedback from others (more on this below).
DO Research and Crowdsource
The best man speeches (with me?) are those that let the audience know a little bit more about the groom—in a good way—so try to include some funny and/or sweet stories from his childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood. Ask the groom’s parents, siblings, or other close friends for any great tidbits that you could weave into your speech for greater authenticity and dimensionality.
DO Be a Storyteller
As mentioned above, good stories make for a good speech. Take your listeners on a little journey about your friend and how we arrived at this day: what kind of person he is (as demonstrated by X anecdote from his past), how you know each other, how he met his partner, how their relationship grew, why they are such a great match, and what you hope for their future if you can weave in a little thematic joke or a narrative through-line, even better.
Tell a short (short) story, not a novel. No one wants to hear you digress about something unrelated to your key message, or worse, about yourself. Remember, this isn’t your show—this moment is about the newlyweds, so resist the urge to go off on a tangent.
DO Combine Humor With Emotion
A great speech includes a healthy mix of humour, sentimentality, good-natured ribbing, and sincerity. You want the groom, and the rest of the wedding guests, to feel both amused and touched by your words. If you’re naturally funny, include some clean jokes about the newlyweds that won’t hurt anyone’s feelings (jokes at your own expense are always a safe bet). If you always botch the punch line, it’s perfectly fine to stick to a straightforward message of warmth and congratulations.
DON’T Be Too Mean Crass, or Dirty
Making people laugh is good. Making people uncomfortable is not. I know I don’t have to remind you, but offensive, off-colour, or any mean-spirited joke at the expense of an individual or group is a no-fly zone. If you stop and ask yourself, “Should I say this?” that’s a good indication that you should just not. And if you normally swear like a sailor, watch your language and avoid profanity.
DON’T Tell Inside Jokes
If only you and the groom (or a small handful of other people) will understand what you’re talking about, then it’s probably not a good material to include in a best man speech. You don’t want to alienate your audience by making them feel like they’re not in on the inside joke. Stick to universal topics and be inclusive in your story- and joke-telling.
DO Keep It Clean(ish)
This one is obvious, right? The key here is to know your audience. Remember that you’re not just addressing the groom and groomsmen, but every single wedding guest—which might include ages 3-93. Joking about adult topics must be done subtly and in good taste. To keep things classy, be intentionally vague and keep the examples lighthearted. Don’t go into sordid detail, don’t share anything that could get anyone in trouble, don’t reveal anything truly humiliating in an embarrassing story, and avoid bathroom humour.
DO Address The Groom’s New Spouse
So that your entire speech doesn’t feel awkwardly lopsided, be sure to say some kind, sincere, and personal words to your best bud’s new partner for life. If you are also friends with him/her, even more reason to share an anecdote about why this person is great individually and doubly great for your friend. Remember that this special day celebrates a step they’ve taken together, so be sure to address them both.
DO Borrow Language
Not all of us were born with the gift of gab. If Wordsworth you are not, there’s no shame in stealing some great lines from the masters. Look up some quotations on love, relationships, or marriage to either guide your speech’s theme or to pepper in at the beginning and end for greatest impact. Writers and essayists like MLK Jr., Pablo Neruda, Shakespeare, or any of the Romantic poets are good places to look for inspiring quotations.
DON’T Get Tipsy
While it might be tempting to throw back a few after the “I dos” to loosen up for your moment in the spotlight, use common sense. Has consuming a bunch of alcohol in a short amount of time ever helped you be more articulate, quick on your feet, or sensitive to the passage of time? My guess is no. Wait until after your speech to take advantage of the open bar, because it will be clear to the crowd (especially the groom) if you are not in your best frame of mind.
DO Practice Out Loud
Nowhere is the phrase “practice makes perfect” more true than in public speaking. Besides familiarizing yourself with the material, you’ll be able to hear any mistakes, awkward phrasing, or weird timing when experiencing the words out loud. Practice reading your entire speech to a partner or friend before the wedding reception, get their feedback (and have the time you so you know if you need to add or cut), and practice again until you feel solid.
DO Speak Clearly
If you have a bring-down-the-house kind of best man speech, but no one can understand it, what good will it do? Make sure your one-liners zing and your heartfelt wishes bring tears by speaking loudly and clearly, enunciating your words, and appropriately using a microphone or any AV equipment that’s provided.
DON’T Dwell on Your Blunders
Every public speaker misses a line or trips up their words now and then. Rather than drawing attention to an error by apologizing profusely or joking about how bad a speech-giver you are, simply make a quick correction or skip over it and move on. Dwell any further, and your audience will get uncomfortable or lose confidence in you.
DON’T Just Read, Engage
While you certainly don’t need to memorize your speech, it’s public speaking 101 that just reading a piece of paper (or your phone) out loud without acknowledging the crowd is a no-no. Know your speech well enough so that you don’t have to look at it word-for-word. Take time to look around, make eye contact (especially when you’re addressing the happy couple), and pause for laughter or applause. Tricia-mccormack-photography
Being nervous is totally normal—but if your nerves are too apparent, they can distract your audience or put them on edge. A clear sign of being nervous is racing through your speech. Take deep breaths, use the above tips about audience engagement, and speak nicely and slowly. We promise it’ll be over before you know it.
DON’T Go Long
That being said, don’t be long winded or hog too much of the wedding reception’s previous timeline, or your audience will start wondering when they can get on the dance floor rather than pay attention to your eloquence. Stick to whatever time frame the couple recommended, or if you’re on your own, aim for 2-5 minutes.
DO End On a Sweet Note
No matter what else you say or do, end your best man speech with positivity. Giving a few words of congratulations on the marriage, happy wishes for the bride and groom’s future together, and a general toast in the groom and his partner’s direction are customary (for a reason) and always well-received.