I’ve now been a best man three times. When you tell people that you’re going to be a best man, people (especially those who have been one) like to offer advice. It’s a tough task, because it is the most important speech of the wedding and is the one which the audience is expecting to be funny. But there’s this balance between what’s acceptable to say and what isn’t. All of my speeches have been well received, at least members of the congregation came up afterwards to say they were and congratulate me on them. At Dave’s wedding the photographers who weren’t aware of my story had to be consoled afterwards.
So this is my humble advice, from someone who really doesn’t think he’s a natural public speaker.
- Prepare prepare prepare prepare. You should have plenty of warning that you’re going to be a best man. Start early, write down stories, after a while a few will come back to you. Ask around for other stories too from parents and friends. Don’t be afraid to edit or not even use their stories at all.
- Try and get a theme going through the speech. With Matt’s speech I drew on his love for his six pack and kept referring back to it. The story of the rise and fall of it was all in there, finishing with it being burnt off by the equatorial sun.
- Keep it raw. By this I mean write and speak from the heart. It does not need to be too laddy. After all you’re best man because you’ve not just been through the fun times but you’ve got them through the bad times too.
- Try to get a topical joke in. I managed to include a line about Brexit..
- Practice, especially on a wife or girlfriend. Georgie had much more of an idea about what would go down badly and what would go down well. There’s absolutely no point upsetting the bride or anyone else at that matter.
- Try to fit in lines about other mates, after all they have been a big part of his life too. They’ll appreciate it and everyone likes a mention.
- Mention the stag do and get a cheer from the attendees in the audience.
- Try to add a last minute joke about the day. In Matt’s speech I started by a explaining actually what you secretly want as a best man is for all the speeches before you to go badly. I voiced my disappointment, that all the other speeches were very good. Even Matt’s groom speech where I knew he’d left it slightly to the last minute.
- Watch some other best man speeches on YouTube. Obviously you don’t want something that is too generic or formulaic but there’s some key things to mention. i.e. Bride/bridesmaids looking beautiful etc.
- Personally I think it shouldn’t be too long. Aim for 10-15 minutes.
- Don’t think it will be easy, this may be your only chance to be a best man. So do it justice. Also potentially a good speech might inspire one of your mates to ask you again. It’s likely to be your only chance to show you’re that witty comedian you always thought you were.
- Date a speech and language therapist. This is a very niche piece of advice. But Georgie has been very helpful.
- Don’t over practice, and try and ab lib a bit. Personally I have my trusty iPad to hand. Better than paper, as it allows for last minute changes and clear and large text. I learn a speech to the point where a quick glance at the text reminds me enough, so I can do my best to keep my head up facing the audience.
- Know the audience, get to the engagement party, stag and rehearsal. It’ll help you get to know where to draw the line. Plus you may uncover new material.
- Completely irrelevant to me but try and not drink too much.
- I always start nervous with speeches. Try to not be. The audience wants you to do well.
- I’m not a natural at this but try to enunciate properly, speak slowly and leave time for pauses.
- Talk a bit about the groom’s life, Matt made it particularly easy due to his heroics in Leytonstone as he was the young doctor who compressed a stabbed victim’s neck in Leytonstone tube station earlier this year. Matt deliberately walked back into the tube to investigate and help out putting himself into harms way. His Mum berated him for being so foolhardy afterwards and kissed him for being so brave. Many grooms won’t have such a dramatic story for you to tell, but think about it and try and draw on something unique to them.