The Best Man speech: expert advice on how to write and deliver a Best Man speech you’ll be proud of
So you’ve been chosen to be your best mate’s Best Man. Congratulations! Time to go crazy planning the stag do, right? Well, yeah. But you have another, far more important thing to worry about as well: the Best Man speech.
Photo by Yellow Door Photography
“Piece of cake,” you’re probably thinking. “All I’ve got to do is take the piss out of [insert Groom’s name here] for a few minutes and tell him he’s punching well above his weight with his new wife. Easy.” WRONG.
Contrary to (unfortunate) popular opinion, a good Best Man speech comprises far more than a few cheap jokes you found online and an embarrassing story involving the Groom and a stripper in Las Vegas. Actually, it shouldn’t comprise any of the aforementioned elements.
All you need to do is read through the transcript of the Best Man speech at Pippa Middleton’s wedding for a perfect example of how saturating a wedding speech with crass comments can end in disaster.
Although a really, truly funny Best Man speech can be a great addition to any wedding, it’s far more important that you tick the necessary boxes with your speech.
Make a few jokes and rib the Groom a bit, by all means. But you also need to ensure that you say some more heartfelt things about him, say plenty of flattering – but not lecherous – things about the Bride, and remark on how wonderful the day has been.
Don’t screw this up
This is the last of your Best Man duties, and quite possibly the most significant one (besides not losing the rings, of course). Think of it this way: it’s going to be part of the wedding video that your best friend and his wife show their children one day. So don’t screw this up.
Feeling the pressure now? Good! You should be. But you’ve come to the right place. Luckily for you, we’ve consulted the experts on how you can make sure your Best Man speech is absolutely perfect and have compiled all their best tips right here in one handy article.
Photo by Yellow Door Photography
Best Man Speech Structure
First thing’s first: work out what to say in your speech and when to say it. It’s all very well saying the right things, but if they’re jumbled up, your speech could quickly become hard to follow. Try following a structure a little something like this…
This should go without saying, but we’re still going to say it. It can be easy when you’re nervous to speed right past telling everyone who you are.
Plus, even though you’re the Best Man, it’s not necessarily a foregone conclusion that everyone will know that. (Unless the wedding is particularly small or you made a startling ass of yourself earlier in the day.)
Take this opportunity to begin your speech calmly and to introduce yourself formally as the Best Man. You can also quickly introduce the Bride and Groom and make a comment about how you know the Groom.
“I try to make [the introduction] personal by usually introducing the Bride and Groom and within the first five or six lines I then crack some sort of joke about them. The jokes must be personal, though.” – Robert from My Wedding Speeches
Using a generic one-liner as a speech opener is a fantastic way to start off on the wrong foot.
Besides the Bride, you probably know the Groom best out of everyone in the room, so this is where you get to talk a bit about his personal history.
Act like you’re introducing him to someone for the first time and you really want that person to like him. Make some jokes at his expense, by all means, but your speech should not be about destroying the Groom, Adrian of All Speeches Great and Small points out:-
“This is by far the most common way Best Men come unstuck. They think that they’re not doing their job properly unless the groom has been thoroughly embarrassed and emotionally tortured.”
So what should you do instead? Just stick with the classic ‘make sure you’re laughing with him, not at him’ strategy.
You can also elaborate a bit more here on how you met and became such close friends. Or, if you’re family, you can joke about how you ended up being forced into one another’s lives but ended up like each other.
The most important thing here, all the experts agree, is to not waste too much energy trying to be funny, especially if it doesn’t come naturally.
“I know Best Man jokes are meant to be funny, but try to be sincere as well as comical.” – Robert (My Wedding Speeches)
How he’s changed
This is where you can start to bring your speech forward into covering present day.
“A great Best Man Speech is simply a really good story,” says Adrian (All Speeches Great and Small)
So, as every good story has a clear arc, this is a good place to talk about how the Groom has changed in the time you’ve known him.
You can discuss the Groom’s career here or perhaps how the path you two always saw your lives taking didn’t lead where you thought it would. There is the option to be a bit sentimental here about how much he’s grown, especially if he’s been through one or two major life events, or you can continue to be light-hearted.
Again, though, the emphasis should be on honesty. You shouldn’t make up events just so they fit into a joke you want to tell, because it won’t be funny. Often, the most comical anecdotes are the most painfully true ones.
Image by Shootinghip
This can lead you quite easily on to…
His dating history
Now, before we go any further, we must warn you to exercise caution when it comes to this topic. If the Groom has any particularly problematic exes, leave them out.
Similarly, if there were any girls his parents might not have known about, now is not the time to tell them! And, for the love of all things holy, do not reminisce about any of his exes whom you found attractive. You don’t need this to be the day that you end up on the Bride’s bad side.
In fact, mentioning exes altogether should be considered the ultimate taboo topic for your speech, according to literally every speechwriter interviewed for this article.
“[Mentioning exes] is especially important to stay away from if the Groom has been divorced,” – Robert (My Wedding Speeches)
Instead of naming anyone specific, tell some funny stories about when he was woefully unsuccessful at pulling a girl in a nightclub, or about how girls would dump him the second they saw how untidily he used to keep his flat. You can end this with a funny line like, “So how he’s actually gotten someone to marry him, I will never know.”
The blushing Bride
Photo by Yellow Door Photography
Your comments about the Bride should be nothing but thoroughly complimentary and flattering without being creepy. It’s great if you find her attractive, but this is not the right time to let her know. (There’s never a right time to let her know, actually, so just get that out of your head now.)
“Always tell her how lovely she is and talk about what sort of person she is rather than making it superficial,” – Robert (My Wedding Speeches)
Staying away from remarking entirely on her looks will go a long way to making her feel that you value her as a person.
Talk about how she’s changed the Groom – for the better, obviously. Don’t start whinging about how you and the Groom never get pissed together anymore because she doesn’t like it, no matter how true that might be. Reiterate the fact that she looks beautiful and that the Groom is a lucky man and you’ve pretty much done your job in this area.
And if you do have a decent relationship with the Bride, it might also help to speak to her about the speech, suggests Oliver of I Am The Best Man:-
“Not only will she have good material, she will also be able to fill you in on the important biographical information about their relationship that you might not know.”
This is where you can start to bring in some funny stories about your relationship with the Groom over the years – and even about your relationship with the Bride if you two have become close. Talk about how it’s clear that she’s made him a better person and has had a hand in massively improving his life.
This needn’t be sappy, however. If you have some genuinely funny stories to tell about what a mess the Groom used to be or an experience the three of you shared together, you can include them here.
Don’t go on forever, though, and make sure that the underlying message is about how positively the newlyweds have impacted one another’s lives.
When it comes to deciding which stories to share, take advice from Patricia of BestManSpeechWriter.com:-
“It is the funny anecdotes and personal stories that make a speech unique to the Best Man and the friendship he shares with the Groom. The trick is figuring out which stories are appropriate to share and, most importantly, which should be left in the past.”
This means staying well away from anything that could be considered too risqué or #NSFW. Don’t forget who will be in your audience. Plenty of friends of the newlyweds who are your age will be there, yes. But there will also be parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and little cousins present.
“Jokes about sex might be good between friends, but they don’t belong in a speech,” says Oliver (I am The Best Man)
This is still a common pitfall of Best Man speeches though, so be careful that you don’t take the same wrong turn.
Tradition dictates that, towards the end of his speech, the Best Man impart some marital advice on the happy couple. Take this with a pinch of salt.
If you’re already happily married then sure, go ahead and say a few words about what you think has made your marriage a good one. But if not, don’t suddenly pretend to be some sort of marriage guru. It won’t add anything to your speech and it’ll come off as disingenuous.
Similarly, don’t lean on a generic joke, inappropriate comment, or stock line like, “Just say ‘yes dear’ to everything and you’ll be fine.”
“I would avoid giving ‘hilarious’ advice, if at all possible,” echoes Adrian (All Speeches Great and Small)
It’s really never as ‘hilarious’ as you think it will be. Trust us. So, either take the opportunity here to poke fun at yourself for not being married yet or just skip this bit altogether.
This should be the most straightforward part of your Best Man speech and doesn’t need to be longer than a couple of lines. Toast the newlyweds, wish them love, health, and happiness, and down the rest of your bubbly. It’s over. You can breathe now.
Best Man Speech Tips & Tricks
Timing is everything
This ought to go without saying, but long wedding speeches have never contributed to a good wedding. No matter how funny or heartfelt you’re planning for your speech to be, your audience’s attention space is extremely finite. They’ve more than likely already been hitting the bar, and probably want to get back to drinking as soon as possible.
Exactly how long is too long is up for debate, and the pros I spoke to have slightly differing opinions. Whilst Oliver of I Am The Best Man advises around 10 minutes, Adrian of All Speeches and Robert of My Wedding Speeches advise 5-7 minutes, and Patricia of BestManSpeechWriter.com says you can make do with as little as 3 minutes. Take from these opinions what you will, but definitely keep it to under 10.
Writing an over-long Best Man speech is a common mistake, according to Oliver:-
“People get over excited when it comes to content. They underestimate or forget that they’re the last person of [at least] three and they try to crowbar in too much. If you go on for too long, you’re just going to lose people.”
Joke websites are not your friends
We will make this abundantly, alarmingly clear: packing your Best Man speech with jokes you found online is a TERRIBLE idea. It does not matter how funny you think they are when you’re reading them to yourself on the toilet. Don’t. Do. It.
The audience will know within seconds that that’s the technique you’ve gone with. Generic jokes never sound natural and will come off as obviously scripted. They also never illicit anything better than groans, especially from the newlyweds.
The Groom has picked you to be his Best Man because he loves and trusts you. Don’t make him regret his decision.
Practice and edit
Knowing your Best Man speech through and through is hugely important. It’ll make sure your delivery is smooth and that last-minute stage fright is less likely to get the better of you. Have index cards on hand to remind you of your main points, but don’t rely on them completely.
One surefire way to make sure you at least know the direction of your speech is to memorise your first line, a middle line, and your last line verbatim. This way, if you blank out or lose your place on your index cards, you’ll at least have some idea of what comes next!
You shouldn’t be afraid to edit, either. Practice a few times in front of friends and, if a certain line (or 5) consistently fails to get a laugh, throw it out.
“A lot of people write a speech in isolation and won’t get any feedback on it and are then surprised that their jokes fall flat on the day. Getting feedback is really important and will help you to figure out what’s funny and what’s not funny. –
Oliver (I Am The Best Man)
Remember to breathe
Breathing is one of the human body’s automatic functions and, in most situations, is impossible to forget to do. For whatever reason, though, all sense tends to leave some people’s minds when they’re faced with the task of public speaking, and one can actually forget to breathe.
If you’re a nervous public speaker in the slightest, it’s important to constantly remind yourself to take breathers during your speech. These will give you natural pauses and time to collect yourself, especially if you’ve stumbled over any words. And don’t worry, no one will notice! Those few seconds it takes to take a deep breath and a sip of water may seem like an eternity to you, but it’ll feel completely normal to the other guests.
Laughter is the best medicine
Photo by Yellow Door Photography
It’s perfectly natural to be a bit jittery prior to giving your Best Man speech, but as all of the experts I spoke to agreed, knowing you’ll be giving a funny speech can be the best reassurance.
“Telling jokes goes hand-in-hand with gaining confidence. You want to know you’ll be able to deliver a speech that’s funny and worthwhile,” – Oliver (I Am The Best Man)
Of course, you may not be naturally funny, and that’s OK too!
Add at least a couple of jokes to your speech in order to get the audience on your side and to make them laugh a bit – it’ll be a good ice breaker if nothing else. “We believe that every speech should contain humour,” says Patricia. “But the amount of humour we insert into the speeches we write is very much tailored to our client.” Lesson learned: be funny, but only as funny as you feel genuinely comfortable with.
So, to all the Best-Men-to-be out there, I hope this has given you the guidance and reassurance you need to write and deliver a Best Man speech you can be proud of. And, if at all in doubt, go ahead and check out the speechwriters mentioned here for more advice, templates, and even complete speechwriting services!