Rose Bourke from website, The Best Best Man offers some top best man speech advice and everything you ever wanted to know about writing and delivery. Follow these tips to give a best man’s speech that goes down in history.
Image courtesy of Sarah Young
The best speeches start by thinking about the audience and what they want to hear. A wedding is a time when people of all ages come together– from five year old flower girl to 95 year old great-granny. That is what makes the best man speech such a challenge. If you were writing a film for this audience, you would be aiming for a PG rating.
Luckily you are not writing a film script. A best man speech should be just three to four minutes long. That’s only about 420 to 550 words. You want to make each word count.
Always start by introducing yourself and acknowledge the honour of being asked to be a part of this special day. Thank the bride’s and groom’s families for all the effort that has gone into the wedding. Then thank the groom for giving you the chance to talk about him, without interruption, to a whole room full of his family and friends.
Explain how and where you first met the groom. We want to know what he looked like as a six year old wearing his DangerMouse tee-shirt. Then tell a brief funny story or two about the groom. Tell us about his bad taste in music, his incompetence at sport, his embarrassing habit of playing air guitar after a few drinks at the pub, or about his ability to look tough just long enough to get himself safely out of trouble. Never ever mention past girlfriends and never include anything sexually explicit. (Yes, the R18 wedding speech happens.)
Then move on to talking about what you like and respect about the groom. You are his best man, so you know what makes him a good man and an excellent friend. If there are sporting or professional achievements that tell us something about his character, tell us about them. If he was there for you when you went through a rough time, we’d love to hear that. If he is given to random acts of kindness, and cannot see an old lady crossing the street without rushing to help her (whether she wants to be helped or not) mention that too. We want to know why you, his best friend, think he will be a great husband and father.
Compliment the groom on his amazing luck in finding someone as special as the bride. Tell us what the groom said to you about her when he first realised he was falling in love. Tell us a little about what she has done for him, and about what you see as their strengths as a couple.
Finish with a toast. Wish your friend, and his bride, a long and happy life together.
Write your speech a week or so before the wedding and practice it a few times. If you’re lacking in inspiration, check out our bestbestmanspeech.com speech creator for some ideas. On the day of the wedding, stay sober until you have given your speech. Then you can relax, knowing you’ve done your best, to be the best best man, and give the best best man speech.
15 top tips to make sure your best man’s speech goes as smoothly as possible from the moment you’re on your feet…
Don’t try to begin your speech when there are lots of distractions. Wait until the audience has stopped applauding the previous speaker, the tables have been cleared and the coffee poured, so that you have everyone’s undivided attention.
Timing is crucial when it comes to speeches. However brilliant yours is, and however good a speaker you are, five minutes is more than enough. People enjoy listening to speeches, true, but they want to get on with talking and dancing too, so keep it short. Rambling speeches are a mistake. Make sure yours has a firm beginning, middle and end. Steer clear of shaggy dog stories in favour of short, pithy jokes and asides. When it comes to speeches, less is definitely more.
Eye to eye
Make eye contact when you’re making your speech ‐ just not with everyone at once! Speak as if you were talking to one person and focus on them. You can look around the room if you want to, but focus on one person at a time. The trick is to imagine that you’re simply chatting to someone.
Don’t look down
Even if you decide to learn your speech off by heart, you will need to have some notes to refer to in case your mind goes blank in the heat of the moment. However, don’t make your speech hiding behind a quivering piece of paper or constantly staring downwards. Look down for a moment, look up and speak. Get into a rhythm of doing this throughout your speech.
When people get nervous, they tend to swallow their words; this can render a beautifully written speech nearly inaudible. You don’t want to deliver your speech only to find that no one could actually hear what you were saying, so check that you’re audible by arranging beforehand for someone at the back of the room to signal when your voice isn’t carrying.
Another way to combat the mumbling menace is by breathing properly. Take deep, rhythmic breaths. This will pump oxygen into your blood and keep your brain sharp and alert.
Set the pace
Gabbling is another thing people tend to do when they’re nervous. To stop yourself talking too fast, write the word ‘pause’ at intervals through your notes or, if you are using cue cards, insert blank ones that will automatically cause you to slow down. If you do lose your place, it’s best just to make a joke of it.
Move on swiftly
Pause briefly after you make a joke to give people a chance to laugh, but keep jokes and anecdotes short so that if one doesn’t work you can move on quickly to the next. If your joke dies, don’t despair. Turn the situation to your advantage by inserting a quip such as, ‘Only me on that one then’ Or look round at an imaginary assistant and say: ‘Start the car!’ ‘Rescue lines’ like these can earn you a chuckle from a momentarily awkward silence.
Being best man and making a speech is supposed to be fun ‐ so make sure you don’t look utterly miserable when you’re doing it. Smile! Think of something that makes you laugh before you start speaking to get yourself into the fun mood. Body language is important too, so adopt a relaxed posture ‐ no crossed arms or fidgeting ‐ before you begin.
It’s only natural to be nervous. If you find that you’re really scared when you begin, don’t panic. Make a joke out of it instead. Lines like ‘This speech is brought to you in association with Imodium’ or ‘I was intending to speak, but my tongue seems to be welded to the roof of my mouth’ should raise a laugh and will help to get the audience on your side. One completely bald best man started off on a high note by remarking: ‘As you can see, I’ve been so worried about making this speech, I’ve been tearing my hair out.’ There’s no shame in admitting you’re a wee bit scared.
Opening lines are important, because they grab the audience’s attention and get you off to a good start. Something like: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, they say speeches are meant to be short and sweet, so thank you and good night,’ should help you to begin in style.
All in the mind
Instead of seeing your speech as a formal ordeal, think of it as being a conversation between you and a lot of people you know and really like, or as a way of wishing two good friends well. Thinking positively about your speech will help you to deliver it with confidence and make the task seem less intimidating.
To help calm your nerves beforehand, imagine your speech being over and everyone applauding. Imagine how you’ll feel when you can take a deep breath and relax, knowing that the moment is over and you can now really enjoy the rest of the evening. Visualising everything going well will help to give you confidence.
They’re on your side
Remember that weddings are happy occasions and all the guests want to see everything go well, including your speech. The audience is on your side, they’re all rooting for you, so make the most of it and use their goodwill to boost your confidence.
Give it meaning
Think about the meaning of your speech while you’re making it. Concentrating on the message you want to convey and the meaning behind your words will help you to make your delivery more expressive, rather than just reciting your notes.
Round it off
End your speech with a toast. This will give it a focus and provide something to work towards. After you make your toast, you can sit down when everyone else sits down, signifying a definite end to your speech.
With your speech in the bag, here are some words of wisdom to help make sure you do a great job on the big day
Practise, practise, practise
‘The more I practise,’ said golfing legend Gary Player, ‘the luckier I get.’ Ask Tiger Woods or David Beckham how they became the best in their profession and they’ll tell you it’s all down to practise. Whatever you levels of confidence and competence at the moment of taking on the speech job, putting time into your prep will reap serious improvements.
Use your partner, your family or close friends as guinea pigs, running through the whole thing with them at least a couple of times. This will give you a chance to iron out any wrinkles in the text, hone the delivery of your punchlines and change anything that really doesn’t work.
Remember whose day it is
You’re not the star of the show, the bride and groom are. Remember that, as best man, you’re supposed to be playing a supporting role, not taking centre stage. Obviously you want to entertain people but, if you do so at the expense of the bride and groom and their enjoyment of the day, you’ll have failed in your duties, however many laughs you get from the crowd.
Don’t get drunk
For many people, having a few drinks when you’re nervous is a good way of relaxing and calming the nerves. As you watch the rest of wedding party tuck into the wine, you may well be tempted. They’re getting sozzled, so why shouldn’t you?
Try and resist that temptation at all costs. Have a glass of wine with your meal but leave it at that. One glass too many will only diminish your judgment and you could find yourself telling that embarrassing – worse still, offensive – joke without realising what you’re doing. Reward yourself with a good drink – after the speech.
Keep to the script
Ideally you’ll have put your speech ‐ if not verbatim then in note form – on to prompt cards. Use them to keep your speech flowing and to make sure that you don’t miss anything important out. But, equally importantly, make sure you don’t start adding things in.
If the speech is going well, your confidence will soar and the adrenaline may make you think that you should spice a perfectly good, well‐rehearsed speech up with additional material. The safest bet, unless you are a really experienced performer, is to stick to what you’ve practised.
No one knows what you’re going to say in your speech. So if, for whatever reason, you skip a section, lose your place or simply dry up – don’t worry. Most people won’t know that you’ve gone wrong. Simply pause, find a place on your prompt cards where you can get back on track and carry on from there.
Speak up, slow down
No matter how good your material is, and no matter how well you’ve rehearsed your gags, if your audience can’t hear you, they’re never going to laugh. The most common mistakes a best man can make are to mumble, talk to the floor and/or talk at a million miles an hour – worst, of all of these at once! Speak up and slow down, and you’ll be fine.
Never heckle hecklers
No one in the room wants to see the best man fail to make a great speech. But, when the nerves are jangling and the adrenaline is pumping, being interrupted by someone in the crowd can seem like the rudest thing you’ve ever heard in your life. You may be sorely tempted to tell the clever dick to keep their thoughts to themselves. Don’t.
If someone heckles you, roll with it. Some people like to join in with the speeches at weddings and almost certainly don’t mean any harm. More often than not the things people shout out are very funny. Laugh along with them and you’ll find it helps you to relax.
Getting the best man speech delivery right
No matter how good the material for your best man’s speech, if you can’t deliver it well, you’re in trouble. Here’s how to make your delivery perfect…
It ain’t what you do…
As anyone who’s made a successful speech will tell you, it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it. And, as best man, you want to make sure the way you deliver and present your speech does justice to your carefully chosen material. Here’s how.
Practice makes perfect
Reading your speech out again and again before the big day is essential if you want to perfect your delivery, make sure your material is suitable ‐ and find out if your jokes are funny. Your speech should appeal to everyone from your friends to your maiden aunt, so try to rehearse in front of a variety of people. Test it out on people who will give honest, constructive feedback. They will also be able to tell you when you’re mumbling, or rambling or just going on too long. You should also record your rehearsals on tape. That way, you will be able to see where there’s room for improvement and how you are for time – aim for five minutes, as a rough guide.
Your speech comes last, so you’re going to spend some of the reception waiting to ‘go on’. How you fill your time will affect your delivery.
Although it’s very tempting to down a few too many glasses while you’re waiting to speak ‐ don’t. Being tipsy could affect your delivery by making you slur your words and causing you to be unsteady on your feet. Too many drinks might also lead you to decide that that risqué story about what the groom got up to at the rugby club night out, which you cut out of your original speech, really should be in there after all.
Listen and learn
Listening to the other speeches will help take your mind off your nerves and help to put you into the fun mood. Having a few laughs will relax you and make the time pass more quickly until, before you know it, it’s your turn.
Have a banana
Many professional performers swear by the trick of eating a banana about 20 minutes before they start speaking. Doing this, they say, will give you a quick energy boost and help to steady your nerves.
Think of your speech as a gift to your friends. It’s an honour to have been asked, so see your words are a token of your appreciation as well as your own special contribution to the special‐ness of their special day. Above all, enjoy yourself. If you’re having a good time, and are speaking with goodwill, you cannot fail to warm all your audience too.
Wedding speeches – they’re an essential and traditional ingredient to a wonderful wedding day. When wedding speeches are amazing humorous and heart-felt, their words and sentiments will be remembered long…