For many men the idea of giving a Best Man’s speech sends them into a cold sweat; the fear of not being engaging enough, funny enough or downright interesting enough, renders the whole situation as one big nightmare. On top of that you’ve got to find an appropriate way of complimenting your close friend and his bride without it sounding all a bit weird. Little wonder so many men dread the experience.
It is, however, very easy to get right and it all hinges on the quality of what you’re saying. There’s no replacement for a well written and adequately rehearsed speech. Once that’s in the bag you’ll be presenting it to the easiest crowd you’ll ever come across: usually a little merry, always up for fun and in a blissfully happy mood.
To settle any nerves, we asked expert speech writer Adrian Simpson for 10 tips on how to write the perfect Best Man’s speech.
The cardinal sin here is to talk for too long. Everybody is eagerly expecting your take on the groom and his life to date but nobody loves him that much they want to hear a full twenty minutes on the subject. A good length is about 7 minutes or around 1200 words. Any less than this and the guests will be wondering why he gave you the gig.
In my experience there is no place for constructed jokes in a wedding speech. No matter how dull you think his life may have been there will always be a funny way of painting the picture, sometimes it just takes a bit of thinking about. Delivering a joke you found on the internet will almost certainly corrupt the delivery and unless you’re a part time stand up comedian saying it with conviction is about as tricky as it gets.
Many Best Men forget that unless they’ve managed to make a spectacle of themselves at the church, quite a few of the guests won’t know who they are, or how they know the Groom. So, at the start of the speech give a brief outline of who you are and what your connection is.
Start at the beginning. It may sound obvious but I’ve heard a lot of Best Man speeches where the speaker delivers a complete jumble of anecdotes from various points in the Groom’s life. A speech that’s easy to follow will have the crowd on your side and waiting for the next nugget. Confuse them and you’ll be wondering why there is a sea of expressionless faces in front of you.
There is never, ever any place for profanity in any wedding speech. No matter how salty you think the guests’ language might be, no matter how progressive their sense of humour appears, swearing or any kind of inappropriate rudeness will never work. Wedding crowds are always an eclectic mix and you’ve got to pitch it so that the Grandparents and kids won’t be offended. Look at this way: there are plenty of stand ups who never swear and they make money from being funny.
Don’t go mad. One or two anecdotes is fine, they help jog things along and give an insight into who the Groom really is but it shouldn’t be an anecdote-fest. Endless tales of escapades can wear thin pretty quickly, so mix one or two up with observational comments on his career, dating and passions in life, to make it much more easily digestible.
Start gently and then work into a crescendo. Nobody is expecting you to be the next Peter Kaye but everyone has the capacity to be funny if they really try, and this is why if you’re not used to comedy writing, you’ll need time to think about things. You’ll always have a really funny bit to say so leave that to just before the end, as this is the part most guests will remember. In the introduction you can have a gentle snipe at how or where you met and then build a few more of those as you go along. As with many speeches, the humour is also found in the delivery.
8. Read Aloud
Writing words to be read and words to be spoken are very different things, so make sure you get it right. Always print out a copy of your speech and read it out loud – any word repetition or jarring phrases will instantly fall out and then you can go back and correct. If you read from the screen you will always miss things.
9. Your Own Voice
Never set out to write a speech in the style of anyone but yourself. If you’ve cut and pasted things from the internet they’re going to stick out, so if you’re intent on borrowing stuff, think of the way you’d say those things. Remember: he’s asked you to give the speech, not Google.
10. The End
This is the bit when the joking stops and you say something fittingly moving about the guy who’s just got married. There’s one thing that’s key: be honest. Think of a time when he’s really helped you out or been there for you and think what qualities does that mean he has? Why do you have him as a friend? Keep it to the point and not too slushy, and you’re on to a winner.