It’s always a bit of a strain to write a best man’s speech – but here’s some tips to hopefully help you out…
Being a best man is always a bit of a double edged sword – on the one side, it’s a great honour and you usually get fed first on the big day…but on the other, you have to organise stuff…Organise a group of men in the first instance, which is never easy and then write and deliver a speech to a room full of people, many of whom you’ve probably never met. The speech itself is always a bit of a daunting task so having done it a couple of times, I’ve created a list of things that may (or may not) help…
I’m no expert speech writer, far from it! I also don’t revel in a hundred pairs of eyes looking at me expectantly – but if this helps just one guy who’s bricking it the night before his best mate ties the knot then it’ll have been worthwhile.
So without further ado, quell those best man’s nerves and read on…
Create a document or mind map and dump everything you can think of to do with the groom into it. Don’t worry about fleshing out the stories or even thinking about how to make it funny – just put every amusing anecdote, fact or event down. Ask the groom’s other friends and family for ideas too – they will probably remember things you’ve forgotten or weren’t present for.
The Internet is a wonderful thing…There’s lots of sample best man’s speeches out there – but don’t be tempted to copy them word for word. It’s much more important to tailor your speech for your friend, the jokes in the samples are often old, been heard before and not relevant. It’s a good idea to read through them, copy and paste the best / relevant bits and dump them in your brainstorm document. Don’t limit yourself to sample speeches either – grab anything you think might be useful – quotes, jokes, poems and interesting facts are all good fodder.
Create a template for your speech. Don’t worry about what goes where yet – just think about how you’d like it to flow. You don’t want to give a rambling speech or one that jumps from topic to topic with no clear connections. Once you’ve got your template, start copying and pasting bits from your brain dump into the relevent slots
- Thanks (if required)
- Opening Joke
- Messages from absent friends (if appropriate)
- How you met the groom
- Groom’s early days
- Groom’s career
- How the couple met
- Groom stories
- Soppy wind up
Start formatting your ideas (now sorted into template sections) into a flowing dialogue. Adding in the filler words, expanding out the anecdotes and improving the flow from one item to the next. Try to make the speech conversation – it doesn’t need to follow full grammatical rules – begin a sentence with “So” or “anyway”, there’s no need to be too formal.
If you’ve got several anecdotes that that don’t merit a whole section in themselves (or are a bit inappropriate), try to group them together with a common theme and then tell them in quick succession. With a bit of luck, you’ll get “combo-laughs” as one punchline follows on from the next and the inappropriateness may get masked…
I can’t stress this enough – the day is about the couple, not about you. Try to personalise anything you get from the Web as much as possible to make it relevant. The one thing that you and the rest of the audience has in common is the couple – maximise this wherever you can. The other thing to stress here is that the speech shouldn’t be too humiliating (IMO). There’s plenty of advice out there that seems to centre around how much you can destroy the groom….but why would you? It makes everyone feel uncomfortable and doesn’t really achieve anything – except possibly a bet with the usher about whether you’d dare mention whatever it may be.
Run through your speech at least a few times and don’t just do it in your head – read it out loud, preferably with some sort of audience – maybe your partner and a couple of pets. They’ll be bored of your jokes and the pets will probably fall asleep or walk off but it’s invaluable to get used to delivering it in front of people (/animals). Speak slowly and clearly, don’t rush it and remember to relish the punchlines – don’t just rush onto the next sentence.
Time yourself while you practice. I think a good speech length is between 5 and 10 minutes, but your groom may have his own ideas – so check with him too. Remember that’ll it take longer on the day as you’ll have to (hopefully) have to wait for the laughter to die down after your jokes (I did say “hopefully”!)
I don’t think there’s any need to memorise your speech – you might forget bits or get caught off guard. So I’m all for at least some prompting cards if not the full speech written down. If possible, I’d print them out on card and cut them up into bite size pieces so if you get lost it’s easy to find your place. If you have to print the whole thing out on one piece of paper, I’d at least separate it out clearly by section to aid your navigation. This should help with the next point…
Stand up to deliver your speech, if possible with your back against a wall so you’re facing out towards your audience. Don’t bury your head in any notes, refer to them but look up at regular intervals and try to look at different sections of the crowd at different times.
Many weddings have the speeches before the meal – which is great as it means you can do the speech and then relax with your food. But whichever way round they do things, it’s always good to have a couple of drinks to relax yourself before the speech….Note the use of “couple” – don’t get hammered, as you’ll trip yourself up, stumble over words and take more than your fair share of the attention.
Remember you’re delivering to the ultimate receptive crowd – they want you to do well. Relax, and once you’ve got your first laugh you’ll start to take it in your stride. Don’t be afraid to adlib if the moment grabs you, don’t be put off by someone shouting out comments – if possible, ride with them and joke along. Don’t be afraid to apologise to the groom after a bit of a ribbing – it makes the whole thing look more natural. If you look like you’re enjoying it, the crowd will come along with you.
An Example Best Man’s Speech
I suppose I can’t really do this without an example – so here’s the last one I did, for a friend who conveniently has the surname Royle – it’s certainly no stand up act, but it got me through and was well received on the day…
Good afternoon everyone, I hope you’re all enjoying this very special day so far. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Paul and it’s my great pleasure, to be James’ Best Man today.
After all, it’s not everyday, you get to be best man at The Royle Wedding.
Of course, Best Man is very much a relative term, if you take a look at his other men, you might consider me more of a “best of a bad bunch” man… and even that’s debatable.
That said, this speech isn’t about me, it’s all about James and the love of his life…which as we all know, is the beautiful, witty and sometimes pornographic…
World Wide Web.
Of course, he has other, more wholesome interests too, including a very weird fascination with rocks – but in the 27 years I’ve known him, I’ve had exactly zero experience of those – so I’ll just concentrate on the more nefarious stuff.
I say “nefarious”, but his natural worry-o-meter is set so high he’s had to bypass it by spending most of the time he’s out with us in a perma-drunken haze.
This is especially true if it involves tents or a barge. Luckily for this speech, at least 17 of the aforementioned years have been spent mostly camping or barging – so there’s plenty to talk about
I should take a moment to mention how difficult it is to call him James. As you may have gathered during the day, his real name is Chuck…or Chuckles, Chucky, Chuckitychips, chucklebunny or any of a number of variations. The story behind the name is fairly mundane but it always reminds me of a night out many years ago when he’d been a little ill and then forgot to get off the last train home with the rest of us. He was literally sent to Coventry, dirty and confused with only his wits to save him… They didn’t… After a few hours of bumbling around in scary underpasses, Mummy was called in to the rescue.
Anyway, when Chuck asked me to do this speech, I started, as many do, by doing some research on the Internet. After a few hours I‘d found some really good stuff, but then remembered I was supposed to be writing a speech.
A couple of appropriate things I did manage to find were the literal meaning of “Chuck” – which ironically enough stems from the phrase: “free man”.
So I guess we’ll have to find him a new nickname from now on.
The other was the origin of a best man’s duties.
These included serving as armed backup for the groom in case he had to kidnap his bride away from disapproving parents.
Now, I’ve brought my arms and Chuck often talks about backups, but to be honest I don’t think we’d have got very far trying to abduct a kick-boxing, regular runner like Michelle.
Luckily we’ve got this far in the proceedings, so we shouldn’t need to try.
So, back to Chuck. He’s always looked good on paper – Cambridge educated with a good job, his own house and teeth and of course an excellent set of friends.
However, it’s only when you meet him in person that things start to waver…His rational, scientific and straight-talking outlook can sometimes be confused with a complete lack of tact. And although never his goal, he has been known to makes girls cry, boys angry and animals run for cover. So much so, that a new phrase “A Chuckism” is now used to describe any well-intentioned but poorly executed comment.
I look forward to some of these later on…
With that in mind, it’s quite amazing that Michelle stuck with him at all. They met at a house party, where, once they’d been introduced, they proceeded to ignore everyone else while they got to know each other and then retreated to the bedroom for some fun. Fun, in this instance, consisted of watching Return of the Jedi. An unconventional first date in many ways but one that cemented their relationship. I do actually have some marriage advice from our green alien friend: “Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.”…read into that what you will…
Since that fateful night, it’s been a whirlwind of activity of which a few changes in particular stand out for me:
Behaviour – Chuck’s much better behaved these days, not in a “I won’t run away from a barge trip” kind of way – but there’s certainly far fewer Chuckisms.
Interests – His hobbies no longer solely consist of ordering dubious packages off the Internet. These days he could equally be found scuba diving, watching formula one, or even eating food that doesn’t purely consist of processed cheese, white bread and tomato ketchup.
Pets – Often regarded as an inefficient use of a person’s resources, at least in Chuck’s eyes. But now, for at least 3 days a week he’s very much a “dog man”.
Broadened Horizons – Chuck’s renowned for his fear of being too hot, but now he’s happy travelling to countries far and wide. These days, you won’t catch him, like we did a couple of years ago at Glastonbury, using a fat stranger’s shadow as a source of shade.
So he’s a good man, a good fiance and a good owner – but he has been known to suck the fun out of a thing. One of his heroes, Charles Darwin, once said,
“I am turned into a sort of machine for observing facts and grinding out conclusions”
and this reminds me of Chuck.
In particular, his infamous response to the comment: “The Sun has got his hat on” to which he replied “There’s little chance a billion cubic miles of fusing hydrogen nuclei could ever wear a hat”.
Fun…well and truly sucked…
On a serious note, Chuck has been a great friend through the years and has helped me out of fair few scrapes. In particular, he exemplifies such qualities as:
Bravery – He recently dressed as an 8 foot penguin to fight off another, slightly bigger, penguin. He lost the fight but retained his dignity by dry humping the other penguin’s belly in the pre-match hug.
Leadership – Imagine the desperation of a man considering going for toilet break (not the good kind) in a wheelie bin… in broad daylight…next to a nursery. To refrain, is to lead by example
Kindness – Rather than letting a 9 year old girl win a sand dune climbing race, it takes a kindness to teach her her own limitations and half kill yourself in an effort to win
Restraint – Shortly after the penguin fight, he found an outlet for his frustration. Rather than doing something silly like picking a fight with a stranger, he channeled his anger by jumping repeatedly on his phone in a crowded Waterloo platform – in the style of a John Cleese classic.
Moving forward into married life, I think they’ll compliment each other perfectly:
Chuck, you’re very lucky, you leave here today with a partner who is loving, funny, likes Star Wars and who cooks the best ribs with mac and cheese I’ve ever tasted.
Michelle, you’re very lucky too, you leave here today having gained…A beautiful dress, some flowers and something akin to drunk puppy.
Now it only remains for me to get you all on your feet with charged glasses…
I’d like you to join me in toasting the new Royle couple.
James and Michelle.
I didn’t want to dwell on what not to do, but here’s a brilliant example: