So you’ve been chosen to be your best mate’s best man. Congratulations! It’s 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.
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.
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.
Expert advice on how to write and deliver a best man speech you’ll be proud of
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! But, you’ve come to the right place. Luckily for you, we’ve consulted experts on making your best man speech absolutely perfect and have compiled their best tips.
Best Man Speech Structure
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. Not everyone will know that you’re the best man (unless you made an 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.
Robert, from My Wedding Speeches, tells us, “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.” Using a generic one-liner as a speech opener is a fantastic way to start off on the wrong foot.
You probably know the groom better than a lot of people in the room. Therefore, it is up to you to talk a bit about his personal history. 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.” Instead, make sure you’re laughing with him, not at him.
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 each other’s lives.
The most important thing here is to not waste too much energy trying to be funny, especially if it doesn’t come naturally. “I know best man speeches are meant to be funny, but try to be sincere as well as comical,” says Robert (My Wedding Speeches).
How he’s changed
At this point, 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).
You can discuss the groom’s career here or perhaps how life hasn’t gone how you’d always planned it. 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. Don’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.
His dating history
Now, before we go any further, we must warn you to exercise caution when it comes to this topic. Know your audience and how they, particularly the groom’s parents or the bride, will react.
If the groom has any particularly problematic exes, leave them out. Similarly, if there were any girls his parents didn’t know about, now is not the time to tell them! And absolutely do not reminisce about any of his exes whom you found attractive.
In fact, mentioning exes altogether should be considered the ultimate taboo topic for your speech, according to literally every speechwriter interviewed for this article. Robert says that “mentioning exes is especially important to stay away from if the groom has been divorced.”
Instead of naming anyone specific, tell some funny stories about when he was woefully unsuccessful at pulling in a nightclub. Or, about how girls would dump him the second they saw how untidily he kept his flat. End this with humour like, “So how he’s actually gotten someone to marry him, I will never know.”
The blushing bride
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,” says Robert. Stay away from remarking on her looks and it will go a long way to making her feel valued.
Talk about how she’s changed the groom – for the better, obviously. Don’t start whining about how you and the groom never get drunk 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.
If you have a decent relationship with the bride, you should speak to her about the speech. Oliver of I Am The Best Man suggests that, “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.”
At this point, you can bring in some funny stories about your relationship with the groom over the years; even about your relationship with the bride if you two have become close. 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 the underlying message is about their positive impact on each other’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.”
In other words, stay well away from anything that could be considered 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. This is still a common pitfall of best man speeches, though, so be careful you don’t make this mistake.
Tradition dictates that, towards the end of his speech, the best man imparts some marital advice on the happy couple. However, take this with a pinch of salt.
If you’re already happily married then by all means say a few words about what you think makes marriage great. But if not, don’t suddenly pretend to be some sort of marriage guru as it will come off as disingenuous.
Similarly, don’t lean on a generic, sexist joke, inappropriate comment, or stock line like, “Just say ‘yes dear’ to everything”. “I would avoid giving ‘hilarious’ advice, if at all possible,” echoes Adrian (All Speeches Great and Small). So, either take the opportunity here to poke fun at yourself for not being married yet or just skip this bit altogether.
Hopefully the most straightforward part of your best man speech, the toast only needs to be a couple of lines. Toast the newlyweds, wish them love, health, and happiness, and down the rest of your bubbly.
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 is extremely finite. They’ve more than likely already hit the bar, and probably want to get back to drinking as soon as possible.
Exactly how long is too much is up for debate, and the pros we spoke to have slightly differing opinions. While Oliver advises around 10 minutes, Adrian and Robert advise 5-7 minutes, and Patricia says you can make do with as little as 3 minutes. Take from these opinions what you will, but definitely keep it to fewer than 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.”
Avoid joke websites
It doesn’t matter how funny you find the jokes when you’re reading them to yourself on the toilet, packing your best man speech with jokes you found online is a TERRIBLE idea.
Generic jokes never sound natural and will come off as obviously scripted. They also never illicit anything more than groans, especially from the newlyweds.
The groom picked you to be his best man because he loves and trusts you; don’t make him regret it.
Laughter is the best medicine
That being said, it’s perfectly natural to be a bit jittery prior to giving your best man speech. However, as all the experts we 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,” says Oliver.
Of course, you may not be naturally funny, and that’s okay too!
Add at least a couple of quips to your speech in order to break the ice 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.
Practice and edit
Knowing your best man speech through and through is hugely important. It’ll make your delivery smooth and last-minute stage fright is less likely to get the better of you. Write index cards to have on hand to remind you of your main points, but don’t rely on them completely.
Memorise your first line, at least one middle line, and your last line. This way, if you blank out or lose your place, you’ll 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 falls flat, delete it. “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,” advises 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. However, for whatever reason, when they’re faced with the task of public speaking, one can actually forget to breathe.
If you’re a nervous public speaker, 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 will feel completely normal to the other guests.
So, to all the best men out there, we hope this has given you the guidance and reassurance you need to write and deliver a best man speech you can be proud of. We have more speech advice for the groom and the father of the bride!