Moving on from my earlier articles on wedding speeches – a general overview, plus some tips for the father of the bride (or whoever performs this role) – let’s now take a look at some ideas and guidance for the best man’s speech.
What are the best man’s “must haves?”
He thanks the bridegroom for his speech and – on behalf of the bridal attendants – for his toast. He talks about the groom, and his relationship with him. He then reads out any telemessages and cards that have accumulated, and ends by proposing a toast to the bride and groom.
The following is how your best man’s speech can work out – and it would also make a sensible running order for you to use.
For a list of ALL our articles on wedding speeches for everyone from groom to granny, click here.
Don’t forget, too, that the traditional best man’s speech is supposed to be the most entertaining of the day. However whether you make your speech funny or not depends on you, your personality, and your own style.
1. Thank the right people. Assuming your speech follows that of the groom or bride/groom combo, thank him/them for his/their speech and for proposing a toast to the bridal attendants. Although in theory the traditional best man role is to thank on behalf of the bridesmaids, be sure you include any ushers/groomsmen, pages, flower girls, etc.
2. Share how you know the groom (unless he is a close relative). Now you need to link to why you’re up there in the first place, by saying how you came to know the groom. Obviously if you’re related to him quite a few people will know that already, but if you’re a friend from elsewhere, a work colleague, etc., you should explain how you came to know each other and what great friends / colleagues you have become. If he is your brother / son / father / uncle / nephew / cousin, share some stories from early years.
3. Tell some funny jokes, but only if you feel comfortable with them. This is the point in the speech where the best man will usually tell some funny stories about his relationship with the groom, shared experiences, shared disasters, etc. You may want to use some jokes, perhaps personalized – in which case you’ll find a very handy tutorial all about how to do this here.
4. Share some stories that show good things about the groom. On the other hand you may prefer to think back to occasions in your relationship which are not necessarily funny but otherwise are of interest. You might recount an experience when the groom did something incredibly brave and heroic – perhaps worked through several nights to (successfully) win back an important client … climbed a dangerous rock face to raise money for charity … rescued a kitten by climbing up a tree in a high wind … entertained a group of fellow holidaymakers with magic tricks when the bus taking you all to a ski resort broke down for four hours … etc. Needless to say whatever anecdotes you recount must focus on the groom’s positive qualities, and must not focus in any way whatsoever on sexual activities, no matter how far back in the past the stories go.
5. Read out messages, telegrams, emails, etc. Now bring everyone back to the present day and if there are any telegrams or emails to read out, do it. In the past it was fashionable for the best man to read out spoof telegrams that poked fun at the bride, groom and their families but that seems to be out of favor now – possibly because telegrams no longer exist per se and emails are very commonplace. However, there is now an emerging fashion for “retro telegrams” and there are several companies offering that service, like this one in the UK. Google “wedding telegrams” to find services in your country.
6. Bring the speech back to the bride and groom, today, and their future. Here, it’s time to wrap up, saying how proud and happy you are to see the groom marrying such a wonderful partner and wishing them every happiness in the future. Often the best man will offer some humorous advice on how to have a successful marriage but some people feel this part of the traditional speech has become something of a cliché. My own feeling is that the main advice you should give is advice that’s serious and from the heart – for example if you have been happily married for many years, share your own tips. You can add in a couple of jokey lines before that if you want to, but focus on the serious – it’s valuable.
7. Propose the final toast to the bride and groom. You could perhaps end on saying that you doubt whether the bridal couple need more than a little advice because you’re certain they are destined for a wonderfully long and happy life together …. Leading into something like “and to celebrate that, ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses to that …. To (names of bride and groom.)
What if the best man is a woman?
Here’s where the fact that you are woman can make a difference, no matter how devoted their entire bridal party is to equality. Obviously a great deal depends on exactly what your relationship with the groom actually is. If you are his mother or sister you’re on fairly safe ground but if you know him as a friend or ex-girlfriend, you will need to be tactful.
Whether we girls like it or not, you as a woman speaker will not get away with the naughty innuendos that a male best man might. The last person you want to upset is the bride, and if there’s even the faintest hint that you might be connected with any naughtiness on the groom’s part in the past, she may feel slightly irritated. (Put it this way: I would!) I know that’s unfair and unequal but we’ve just got to get over it. Weddings are not the right occasions to try breaking new ground in feminist or gender issues.
Watch this space here on HTWB because soon I will be sharing more on how women can powerfully deliver delightful wedding speeches…
Any final thoughts?
Only as I always say in relation to all social speeches: these are not TED talks or Oscars acceptance speeches. You don’t have to wow the audience and get it eating out of your hand; these people are your friends and family and are on your side, no matter what. By all means research and prepare your best man speech carefully, but don’t get so worked up about it that you fail to enjoy the process. Relax, be yourself and that will be all that’s needed.
And another thing I always say to wedding speech makers … stay off the alcoholic drinks until after you’ve given your speech. the odd small glass beforehand won’t hurt but any more than that can be a disaster. You may think a few drinks will loosen your tongue but all they will actually do is loosen your brain. Don’t take the chance; you can always catch up later…
Good luck! And if you found this article helpful, please share it.
All the answers you need about wedding speeches and other presentations:
“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well
“Wedding Speeches For Women” … available on all the Amazons in print or Kindle.