Weddings: the “best man’s” speech – by a woman

Here we take another look at how a woman can replace a man in a traditional wedding speech – in this case, the best man! There’s no reason in the world why you can’t have a “best woman” at your wedding instead. But when it comes to the speech you need to make minor adjustments to the traditional content…

Let’s start by breaking down the elements of the traditional “best man” speech:

  • Thanks the bridegroom for his speech
  • (Thanks) on behalf of the bridal attendants – for his toast
  • Talks about the groom
  • …and his relationship with him
  • Reads out any emails and cards that have accumulated
  • …ends by proposing a toast to the bride and groom

Now, should the “best woman” follow exactly, or not?

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Thanks the bridegroom for his speech – PROBABLY

I only say “probably” because you could well be thanking the bride and groom for their joint speech, rather than his alone. This is something that will (or should) be established at the planning stage.

Thanks on behalf of the bridal attendants – for groom’s/bride’s toast – YES

This assumes that the groom or bride/groom combo have followed the traditional path and ended his/their speech by proposing a toast to the bridal attendants.

Talks about the groom – YES

With all the focus on the bride that has taken place in the “father of the bride” speech – assuming there is one – now it’s the groom’s turn. This is an important part of the “best man” role.

…and his relationship with him – YES, BUT CAREFULLY!

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. Wedding speeches are not the right media for breaking new ground in feminist or gender issues.

Reads out any emails and cards that have accumulated – YES

This is a traditional element of wedding speeches, but of course there may not be any. However it’s quite likely that there will be a few cards and emails from absent friends and it can be fun to read them out. It also opens up possibilities for some light-hearted jokes (see below.)

…ends by proposing a toast to the bride and groom – YES

This is particularly relevant if you are the last speaker up on the day. I know that the father of the bride speaker toasts the bride and groom as well, but it is their day after all!

So how would the “best woman’s” speech work out?

The following would make a sensible structure and running order for you to use. And don’t forget, the traditional best man 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.

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, pages, flower girls, etc.

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.

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. Here you will need 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 coach 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.

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 favour now – possibly because telegrams no longer exist per se and emails are very commonplace! In fact depending on how you work things out at the planning stage, if the father of the bride (or whoever is giving that introductory speech) is going to mention absent friends and family it might make more sense for him/her to read out greetings sent by the people he mentions.

And 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.

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.)

This article is adapted from my book, “Wedding Speeches For Women,” available in the UK here, and in the USA here.