Let’s be honest: being the best man at a wedding is an unbelievable honor. The groom has picked you as his right hand man (or woman!) on this very special day. Quite literally, you will be standing right next to him as he says his vows in front of his friends and family.
Why did he choose you?
Who can say? Perhaps you were a clear-cut decision: best friends since your moms met in the maternity ward all those years ago. Or maybe you’re old college buddies, who have been through so much that you know what the other is going to say even before he opens his mouth. Perhaps you were chosen from a bunch of pals, after the groom read this article on How to Choose Your Best Man…
Either way, you’re here now. You’ve got a ton of responsibilities to perform both in the lead-up to and during the big day. From organizing the most incredible bachelor party that your imagination (and budget!) will allow, to safely getting the all-important rings to the wedding ceremony. But the one thing that is probably weighing most on your mind is the best man speech.
Not to add more pressure, but the best man’s speech is one of the most talked about things from a wedding. Nail it, and you will go down in folklore; mess it up and… well, that’s not going to happen, since you’re reading this!
Unless you are part of the 10% of people that love speaking in public, you’d probably rather have root canal than write and deliver a speech in front of your best buddy’s closest friends and family, as well as his new wife, of course.
To help you on your mission to make a truly memorable (for the right reasons) best man speech, we have compiled a list of helpful rules & tips…
12 Top Tips for a brilliant Best Man Speech
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Unless you’re a member of The Groundlings or SNL and can deliver a killer impromptu speech on a dime, then preparation is key. While it might seem cooler to just get up there and wing it, the odds are that you are going to get lost in a thought… and… then… you… are… going…to…uhm… Wait! Where was I?
Being embarrassed is awful. Being embarrassed on behalf of someone else is 1,000 times worse. People will shuffle uncomfortably in their chairs as you stare blankly at the ceiling trying to think of something to say…
So prepare. Write your speech down. Then refine it. Then say it aloud in front of a mirror. Then refine it some more. When you think it’s ready, go through it with someone you trust who knows the bride and groom too. They’ll be able to flag anything inappropriate and/or suggest how it might be improved.
Smile, and the world smiles with you
Remember to smile.
Inside you may have a swarm of angry butterflies attacking your guts, but on the outside you will radiate happiness and calm.
Ever since we were knuckle-dragging cave-dwellers, humans have (consciously and unconsciously) been mimicking each others’ moods. You know how it is: if one person is feeling morose it will bring the whole mood down for everybody. And vice-versa if someone is happy. This is because we are social animals and look for empathy to reinforce our sense of security.
The moment you pick up the microphone you become the leader of the pack. Everyone is watching you to tell them how they should be feeling. If you step up looking worried or nervous, then the audience will feel the same; however, if you get up there with a Cheshire cat grin the whole place will be teeming with smiles before you’ve even begun!
Get off to the right start
Grab the audience’s attention by saying something fun, e.g.:
Some of you may not know me – my name is ____ and I am here to tell you how fantastic the groom is. How handsome he is. How he’s the ultimate… <turn to the groom and hold out your speech> Hey buddy, what does this word say? I can’t read your handwriting
<Groom’s name> knows that public speaking isn’t my favorite thing to do, and kindly offered me some free advice. He said: “Don’t try to be witty or charming or funny. Just be yourself.” So here I am!
Hasn’t this wedding been amazing? I really have to compliment the happy couple on their taste: <bride’s name> looks sensational, the venue is incredible, and what a brilliant choice on the best man!
Starting the speech off with a quick, easy laugh breaks the ice perfectly and will give you confidence.
Give a little strategic recognition
Be sure to thank all the other speakers. It’s a simple and easy gesture that shows a little class.
Also, and without overdoing it, you should be sure to mention a few other people in your speech – recognizing how much work went into the event, and how spectacularly it paid off. The groom will no doubt (or at least should!) cover this in his speech, but there is no harm in showing that you appreciate it too:
I’d like to quickly give thanks for all the incredible work both families put in to make today happen. It’s been a wonderful day and on behalf of all the guests, we are thrilled to have been asked to witness the coming together of <bride’s name> and <groom’s name>.
Remember to pause after this, because there will no doubt be a few cheers, some applause and perhaps even a couple of “hear, hears”!
Avoid inside jokes
Nobody likes to be on the outside looking in. If you and three of your buddies have a great yarn about the groom either share it in its entirety, or else save it for another time. Saying something like: “well, at least it wasn’t like in Cancun, am I right? Haha” may get some guffaws from a few, but everyone else will be bored, or worse: annoyed!
But feel free to give the groom a (gentle) tease!
A couple of funny stories at the groom’s expense are brilliant. In fact, you are expectedto pull the groom’s leg a little. However, make sure to keep the language clean, the anecdotes PG and the punchline something everyone can enjoy.
If you’re not sure if something crosses the line just follow the old refrain: if in doubt, leave it out. You can always tell the tale again in another setting, when you know your audience won’t take offense.
The best go-to areas are tales from when the groom was growing up, or if he has a certain quirk. Perhaps he doesn’t realize it, but he talks to himself when he’s doing chores. Or maybe he used to wear his superhero pajamas beneath his regular clothes when he went to school, just in case…
Just remember, get everyone in on the joke.
The bride is only to be complimented
This is her special day. Perhaps one she’s been dreaming about for years. Making her feel anything other than wonderful is unacceptable.
If, however, you can tell any grandma-appropriate anecdotes about how the bride and groom met, or what they were like as a couple, then these would be most welcome.
Know what is best left in the past
All exes are off-limits. His, hers, yours, everybody’s. Nobody wants to go there.
Ultimately, while you want to give the groom a bit of a ribbing; he should also come out of your speech looking like a hero – someone the bride is proud to call her husband.
Say hello for those who can’t be there
As you’re preparing your speech, be sure to ask the groom if there is anyone in particular who cannot make it that he or the bride wishes could be there… Then, using your best sleuthing skills, track down this person and ask them if they’d like to say anything during your speech.
You can then pass on these messages to the bride and groom, making the day even more special!
Go easy with the Liquid Courage
It’s one thing to have a glass of something to calm the nerves, but don’t overdo it. All that hard work will come to naught if you’re a dribbling mess come speech time. Don’t let your moment of indiscretion be the one thing everyone remembers from an otherwise perfect wedding.
Don’t forget the toast!
This is your crescendo. The crowning moment of the evening when you get to lead all the guests in congratulating the happy couple. Stand up, raise your glass and celebrate!
Remember, everyone wants you to succeed!
Think about it, the best man’s speech is the part everybody looks forward to. This isn’t a work presentation when your every word is being analyzed; it’s the comic relief after all the serious ceremonial bits!
When you stand up and take the mike, tell yourself that everyone wants you to succeed. The audience wants to laugh. They want to cherish this wonderful time they are sharing with the newlyweds. You’re among friends: put on your biggest smile and go out there to have a good time!
As best man, you play a hugely influential role in how the wedding is remembered. Not least, because your speech is going to be a highlight of the day. If you follow the rules above you can’t go too far wrong. Just remember to be inclusive, don’t talk too fast, and – above all else – enjoy it!
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