Written by Paula Jones Last updated: September 15, 2006
To put together a winning best man’s speech, here’s a practical guide to everything you’ll need…
Preparation is where it all begins, so we open up the many available avenues of research to help you start compiling and building on your speech material. That material needs to be suitable, of course, to make sure that your words don’t start a fight or upset granny. We look in detail at what to keep and what to chuck. Remember: if in doubt, leave it out!
Timing, delivery, pace… as every stand‐up knows, how you say it is just as important – perhaps even more important – than what you say. From eye contact to stage fright, we advise on how to deliver like a pro.
Your wedding speech toolkit also covers some of the more daring weapons in the best man’s armoury, such as comedy props and speech games.
Preparing your speech
Preparation is at the heart of a good speech. Scribbling down a few words the night before the big day is not going to work. Keep your speech on the back burner of your brain as soon as you know you are going to be best man and start really working on it a few weeks before the wedding.
It’s an unfailing rule: the more prepared you are, then the more confident you are about giving your speech, and then the more your audience will enjoy it. And the more you’ll enjoy it too.
Remember that your speech will be expected to include:
Thanks to the groom for his toast on behalf of the bridesmaids and for any gifts that were presented.
Comments on the bride and groom – you could mention how great they look today or why they’re so compatible.
Compliments to the groom. Brides always get a lot of the attention at weddings and your speech is a good chance to redress the balance a little.
Amusing anecdotes about the groom’s misdemeanours in the past and/or jokes at the groom’s expense.
Putting it all together
Decide what kind of speech you want to make before you start putting it together. You could:
Make a speech on your own.
Make a joint speech with the ushers, other friends or the chief bridesmaid.
Perform a stunt and/or use props.
Adopt a well‐known format to comic effect. For example, you could write a mock school report for the bride/groom and base your jokes around that.
Use a home video, slides or invent funny telegrams.
Don’t think about your speech as one big lump. Break it down into headings and decide what you’re going to say in each one ‐ eg how you met the groom, wedding preparations, how bride and groom got to know each other. Then look at all the elements you’ve got, and see which is the best order to fit them together.
As you prepare, make sure you have:
A notebook so that you can start jotting down ideas as they occur to you.
A tape recorder so that you can practise and time your speech.
Friends and family to listen to your speech and give you ideas.
Any necessary props.
A copy of the latest draft of your speech to carry round with you, so you can work on it whenever you have a spare moment. .
Good research can turn a mildly amusing speech into an uproariously funny one. Nothing beats the excavation of a cringe‐inducing anecdote or photo from the groom’s early years that he was clearly hoping no one could possibly remember – and may even have forgotten about himself.
As best man, you probably know the groom very well, but you may not know much about his family life or schooldays – times people enjoy hearing anecdotes about. So start your research early so that you have time to gather everything you need.
The best sources of stories about bride and groom are, of course, their friends and family. Siblings, cousins, mates and colleagues probably all have some great anecdotes to tell. As soon as you know you’re doing a speech, send out emails asking people who know the happy couple for any funny/touching stories they think you could include. Or invite everyone out for a drink, bring your tape recorder along, and let them reminiscence away. You’re sure to come away with some great material.
Every picture tells a story
Photograph albums are a great source of speech material too. Old pictures, or the stories behind them, can be hilarious. If there’s a snap of the groom or bride pulling a face in a school photo or looking cute as a toddler, get it blown up to display on the night, and work it into the speech.
For instance, a picture of the groom as a five‐year‐old enjoying a donkey ride at the seaside can be used as an illustration of his lifelong affection for the gee‐gees, while a snap of him as a naked tot at bathtime can show how much he’s always loved water sports, for example.
Not everyone at the wedding will have known the bride and groom for long. Using photographs of them as tiny children can help to bridge the gap between friends and family. It also gives you licence to comment on their childhood hobbies, eccentricities, fashion sense, etc… and make comical comparisons with the grown‐up people they are today.
What the papers say
Are there any newspaper cuttings about the happy couple? Perhaps he appeared in the local paper in his days as top goal scorer for the under‐nines football team, or she was a prize‐winning Girl Guide. You could use this type of material to illustrate how much they’ve changed… or how much they haven’t, as the case may be.
You could also look at the news for the year the groom was born and work it into your speech. For example: ‘The year 1969 was the year Neil Armstrong took a small step for man and a giant leap for mankind by walking on the moon, and coincidentally, was also the year Paul took his first steps…’ If you can find a photograph of the groom and incorporate it into the article, so much the better.
PCs can be used to create newspaper mock‐ups and you could use a Sun headline such as ‘Gotcha’ to accompany a picture of the couple getting engaged. Get the picture blown up as large as possible and display it while you’re making your speech.
Written in the stars
Zodiac signs make for great speech fodder. Use them to compare the characteristics/vices of the sign the groom was born under to the way he actually is. If, for instance, his star sign says he’s generous and brave, but in fact he’s notoriously thrifty and a bit of a coward, you’re well away.
For example: ‘Geminis are meant to be communicative and witty, with a reputation for being the life and soul of the party. Well, I guess that’s one way of describing James on his stag night…’ Or: ‘Richard’s such a quiet, gentle guy that many people don’t realised he’s a Leo, which is, of course, a fire sign. But I can assure you that as far as Helen is concerned, he’s burning up with passion.’
Books that discuss star sign compatibility can also provide some funny lines for speeches, as can reading out the horoscope for the day. It doesn’t need to be a real one, just make up something to suit the occasion, for example: ‘My horoscope says today is a day for pure relaxation – wonder what went wrong there then?’
By any other name…
There’s often mileage in the meaning of the names of the bride or groom: ‘Apparently, the name Gary means “spear carrier”. Well, I don’t know about a spear but he certainly carries a torch for Kathleen’. You could also compare the meanings of the couple’s names.
Stars in their eyes
Think of a famous person that the bride or groom shares a name with and compare them in terms of image, job, clothes etc. For example, ‘Tom Cruise may have made his millions and worked with most of Hollywood’s major directors, while our Tom has made a few quid and enjoys a pint of Directors. However, I think he’s the more fortunate guy, cos’ Tom Cruise didn’t have much luck with Nicole, but our Tom has got Isabel and their love is something money and fame can’t buy.’
Whatever they like…
You don’t have to stick to jokes about football teams ‐ hobbies and interests of all kinds can be the basis of lots of stories. However, you might not be as familiar with the groom’s obsessions as he is. In this case, the Internet is a great source of information.
If the one of the happy couple is a huge fan of any singer or celebrity and their obsession is well known, you could use it in your speech. For example: ‘Roger has always been a major Elvis fan and when he met Rachel he was certainly All Shook Up. He almost moved into Heartbreak Hotel when he thought she wasn’t interested…’
Make it work
Working life and old bosses can be a source of great material. If you’re not a colleague of the bride or groom, get in touch with their workmates past and present and ask them for any good office anecdotes. Just make sure they’re not too in‐jokey so that everyone will understand them.
Ha ha ha
Jokes, jokes, jokes – every best man wants them. As well as your own, renting comedy videos and films, asking people for their favourite gags and looking for funny lines on the Internet can also provide you with inspiration.
If do borrow jokes, you will need to personalise them, rather than just throw them into the speech. The next sections of this book are full of examples of how to do this. Go for quality rather than quantity: a handful of well‐polished witticisms will do you better service than a scatter‐gun approach involving a hundred ill‐digested one‐liners.
Old schoolbooks, school reports and university notes can also provide material. Ask one of the groom’s family to get them down from the attic and take a look. If there’s a school report saying how your high‐flying friend and groom will never amount to a hill of beans, or a funny essay they wrote when they were ten, it could be amusing to read it out.
If you’re worried about any aspect of your speech, talk it through with someone who’s been there before. Talking to someone with experience will calm your nerves and give your confidence a boost. They survived the ordeal, after all! And if they still have a copy of their speech, ask to see it. They can also advise on how to source material, where they got their ideas from, and how they put the whole thing together.
You can also learn from their mistakes, rather than making your own. They may have unwittingly stumbled on a sensitive subject, for example, or their speech may have over‐run or been too short. Ask them what were the bits that really worked, and what were the things that could in retrospect have been improved on. Finding out how not to do it can be a great help in making your own effort a success. And, if they are willing, ask them to read your speech after you’ve written it – for some last‐minute expert advice.