Writing the best man speech can be a daunting task. For many people it will be their first – and quite possibly last – significant experience of public speaking, and this can really heap on the pressure when you’re trying to sum up a friendship, entertain strangers and mercilessly rip the proverbial all at the same time. Not to mention the fact that underpinning all of this is the unspoken rule that the best man speech should be one of the major highlights of the wedding reception. People expect big things.
Got a sweaty undercarriage just thinking about it…?
Figured you might. But never fear. Fortunately, wedding speeches are so steeped in tradition that you’ve got years of other people’s experience to fall back on. There’s little to gain from straying too heavily from the format (unless you’re spectacularly confident about it), which makes it a good idea to kick things off by following a few easy, universal guidelines drawn from what has worked in the past.
When it comes to the content of the speech, keep it simple, keep it honest and keep it relatively clean. Don’t try too hard to cram it full of wise-cracks, especially if you’re not accustomed to addressing large groups of people, otherwise you’ll be in danger of coming across as a ropey stand-up comic.
To nudge you on your way, I’ve outlined the basic structure of a best man speech I gave a year or so ago (there are a hundred ways to skin a cat, of course, but this worked pretty well for me)…
Thank the hosts
Rather than bulldozing into your speech with a wincing one-liner about wedding night nooky, try kicking off by very simply thanking the hosts. This’ll get everyone on your side and is far safer than going for broke with an audience who haven’t had time to warm to you yet. If you’re speaking at a particularly traditional wedding (as I was), you may be required to thank specific people at this stage. I was charged with thanking the groom, on behalf of the bridesmaids, for his kind words about them. This won’t apply in all cases but, either way, it’s worth checking with the groom and/or the father of the bride in advance so you don’t commit any faux pas on the night.
This is the bit that normally starts with ‘for those of you who don’t know who I am’. By this point in the evening most people will know you’re the best man, but herein lies your opportunity to properly introduce yourself. Lay your cards out on the table. Get a bit cheeky, do your best to make the bridesmaids swoon, and drop a hint or two about what’s to come. Being a best man is not only an honour, it’s great fun, and this is your opportunity to properly enjoy it. But always err on the side of charming rather than sleazy.
Say some general words about the couple
You’re all here in this room because of the happy couple. Make a nod to that and say a few general words about the bride and groom, specifically why they’re so right for each other. Truth is, you can’t go wrong with saying nice things about the bride (provided you don’t go too far, which can sound disingenuous), because this’ll mean that by the time you start ripping into the groom everyone will already have decided that you’re a bloody good bloke as opposed to being a smarmy piss-taker.
Tell their story from your point-of-view
This worked well for me because I was intrinsically involved with the couple coming together, and I had a whole bunch of anecdotes that went along with it. This might not be the case with you but, if it is, it can be a golden opportunity to provide a different point-of-view on their love story – one spiced with humour as well as nostalgia. If the story involves members of the bride’s family, mention them too. People like to feel included. Oh, and chuck in a few more compliments about the bride if you can. She’ll like that.
Tell the story of your friendship
By this point you’ll have said enough about the bride and everyone else to focus fully on you and the groom. You’re sixty-percent of the way home, you’ve warmed up the crowd, so now it’s open season on respectfully humiliating your best mate. Tell the story of how you became friends, using this (if your friendship dates back long enough) to also bring in some school and/or university anecdotes to give a picture of his awkward but meaningful adolescence. I personally ended this section with a few carefully-chosen words spoken directly to my best mate, which to be honest could have just been me and him in a room by ourselves. If you get this right, there won’t be a dry eye in the house.
Round the speech up
At this point, bring the speech back round to the fact that, as important as your friendship has been, it was meeting the bride that really changed your best mate’s life. Round it up with a tribute to the happy couple and an acknowledgment that you’re now all an integral part of each other’s lives.
Toast the new couple
Finish by toasting the new Mr & Mrs Smith. This doesn’t need to be funny or clever, just sincere.
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There are obviously many other structures you could follow, and there may be things you’ll want to talk about in your speech that I didn’t cover in mine. However, if you kick off by ticking these boxes, you’ll at least have somewhere to start from.
Now all you need is a stiff drink and balls of steel, and you’ll be ready to go. 😉