How to ace that Best Man’s speech

Planning Now, I love speeches at weddings. I think they’re one of the nicest parts of the day where people who really love the newlyweds express that love, in all its personal and individual glory, to a room of other people who really love the newlyweds. I get all teary-eyed, even if I’m not super-close to the couple in question.

However, not all the tears brought on by Best Man speeches have been happy tears… and if seems that it’s this particular speech, rather than parents’ speeches or a toast from the couple themselves, that seems to bring forth embarrassment, shock, hurt and anger. Cue a bemused Best Man who, as the title suggests, only wanted the best for his friend and to write the best speech the world has ever heard and probably only followed well-meaning advice and convention.

(Please note that I’m using ‘Best Man’ here as a [I’ll be the first to admit] lazy umbrella term for anyone who’s a bride’s or groom’s wingperson and who, therefore, is probably going to be expected to give a funny and personal, yet non-offensive, speech of approximately 7.34 minutes’ length.)

So, here are twelve helpful pointers to help you write and deliver awesomeness that’ll prove that there can be no challenges to your Best-ness. All hail.

Get personal.
Now is the time! When do you ever actually tell your mate just how devastated you’d be without them? When do you actually tell them all of their good qualities, or how happy you are for them? It might seem hard to contemplate spilling your guts in front of a room full of people, but actually you’ll probably never find a kinder audience (provided you follow the rest of the pointers, anyway!).

Don’t wing it.
It’s just not cool, you guys. It’s a big deal and you have been entrusted with delivering a centrepiece of the day. You don’t have to read word-for-word off a beautiful handwritten scroll but you do need to at least have a skeleton framework of what you want to say. On the day, your nerves will thank you for this too.

Don’t mention exes.
You’d be amazed how many people do, but don’t be that guy. You might have hung out with them for years when they dated your friend, but they’re in the past now, and the wedding day is about the couple and about their future together.

Play safe.
If you’re not sure how something will go down, axe it! It’s really not worth the risk of including it. 95% of people at one wedding I attended laughed over the Best Man’s recount of when he heard the couple’s first sexual encounter through the thin walls of their shared flat, but unfortunately, both sets of parents of the newlyweds were in the other 5% and have, ever since, been frosty towards that guy, even though the wedding happened over five years ago.

Big up your friend’s partner.
It could be that you’re so close to both partners that you’re actually acting for both of them, and that’s great. However, many of us still go with the tradition of having different attendants from our partner. And that’s fine – but even if you’re mainly supporting just one person in the wedding, make sure you give a nod of appreciation to their partner. How you first met can be a great addition, or a fun story about when the three of you spent time together.

Chuck in a story.
Stories are great. Listeners love a story – after all, we’re all used to hearing them and following them to a conclusion. It doesn’t have to have a beautiful moral, be full of literary genius or have a complex narrative. In fact, keeping the story short is a good way to ensure everyone stays with you. However, do, if you can, end on a note that conveys why your friend is such a good person / why the couple are such a good match.

It’s not about you.
It’s good to set the scene by saying how you know both partners, but remember what the day is for, and stick to focusing on the couple. It’s fine to express gratitude for your friend being there for you in the hard times, but try to avoid the temptation to go into what those hard times were.

Ditch the toilet humour.
I love a good poo joke. However, I’ve been to enough weddings to know that using one in a wedding speech is a risk not worth taking. There’s just no need, and there is a lifetime of opportunities ahead of you in which you can tell such jokes to your heart’s content (tell them to me, if no one else will listen!).

Most demographics of wedding guests are quite broad, meaning not only do you risk offending some guests, but a mixed reception to a joke will make your confidence plummet, which will make it harder to deliver the rest of your speech.

Add a quote or two.
Don’t make your whole speech a series of quotes, but the odd phrase that really sums up the feel of the day is a really nice touch. TV catchphrases and in-jokes, however, will go the way of lead balloons. You’ve been warned.

Zip it on bad behaviour.
This is certainly something that so many speech makers needed to heed but did not. Sigh. And, to be honest, I can’t blame them as it seems to be considered part of the territory of Best Man speeches. Okay, funny but mildly embarrassing for your buddy? Fine, although best if the story goes somewhere rather than just making your friend go red.

If it’s to do with sex, cut it. If it’s to do with illegal stuff, keep quiet. If it involves other romantic partners, even random one-off snogs, just shush. Ignore this one at your peril, my friend!

Stick to your time limit.
Part of the beautifully diverse mess of modern weddings is that we’re moving away from the traditional three-pronged speech structure of groom/father of the bride/best man. This can, however, lead to more and more people giving speeches, which I think is a totally good thing, but timings become more important because if everyone goes over by a bit, that adds up to a whole chunk of behind-schedule-ness in the day.

So respect the limit, aim for a bit under your limit to allow for laughter on the day, and practise your speech in front of a supportive but brutally honest person.

End on a high.
Make it honest, and try to avoid out-and-out overdone cheesiness, but make sure your final few sentences have impact and are positive, and don’t forget to toast – work out what your toasting words will be ahead of time, too.

You can’t go wrong with ‘to the happy couple’ or ‘to love’, but you can get a bit more inventive here too, if you wish, and link it to things that the couple finds important. How about ‘May your socks never shrink in the wash, and may your butter never get crumbs in it’? No? Okay, but you get what I mean.

Have you delivered a speech at a wedding and lived to tell the tale? Tell us how you did it!

Tags: best man, speech, planning,

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