Ultimate Guide to the Best Man Speech
Introduction: What is a best man speech?
A best man speech is an opportunity to show everybody in attendance how good your groom is at choosing a best man. At least, that’s what I think. It’s your chance to make a toast that will impress a room full of people and live up to the expectations that your groom or bride has for you. It is nerve-wracking, gut-wrenching, butt-clenching stuff, but it’s also a chance for you to put forward the best version of yourself. To be the toastmaster that all your friends and family, strangers in the room know you can be. Above all, a best man speech is not as scary as you think.
The Toast Structure & How to Map Out Your Best Man Speech
One of the most important things to get a hold of with is best man speech structure. I know, I know, structure’s the boring bit of writing, for more people, but when it comes to addressing potentially hundreds of people in a room, you need to know your toast structure, to make sure nobody at the back is busy planning their own suicide out of boredom.
An important thing to think about is highs and lows. Variety is integral in this kind of writing. It’s vital that you get people exactly where you want them, nice and comfy, like, and then completely change the tempo, sentence length, content, mood, tone, etc. Nothing’s more effective. So, though there is no cookie cutter, template A, B, C, D structure to take and use as a golden bullet, there are things to be aware of.
If you’ve just spent a full 2-3 minutes ripping into your groom about the time he shat himself in Portugal and then locked himself in the hotel room and had to scrub the stains out of the jeans because they were the only ones he brought with him and ended up missing about 60% of the Mucho Flow Festival (as an example), then it really catches people off guard if you take the soonest opportunity after the laughs have faded to meander that idea into something touching and thoughtful that sets his actions in a different light.
Or, on the reverse side, you’ve just spent a moment talking about how beautiful the bride looks tonight and how, from the very first time you saw them together, you just knew that one day you’d be at their wedding. Just as the last ‘awwww’ is sighed, you might want to break that with “But to be fair I didn’t think I’d be quite as pissed as I currently am”.
Another thing to consider with toast structure is forming a narrative. Most assume that a best man speech is just a collection of embarrassing stories, puns, dad jokes and ribbing the groom……. I mean, it’s a lot of that. Sure. But it’s also taking your audience on a journey. Start at the beginning of your friendship, early memories, then thread that through to a few of your favourite memories or eras together and bring that through to the here and now. The present that you and everybody find yourselves in.
How wonderful for a roomful of people to follow your story through to, what feels like, its conclusion, which is you there with your best friend and his new wife on the happiest day of their lives. They’re sharing the culmination of your years of friendship with you, so bring them in.
What to Say in Your Toast
Now. Most importantly. The words. What to say in a best man speech? How make sentence good words happy toast? Good question. The answer is, disappointingly obvious: it depends on what you want to say. But don’t let that put you off, it’s a better tip than you might think.
What I mean is what do you want to say? What’s an idea that you want to bring up? Imagine someone is asking you the questions: what? Why? How? And write down your answers in the plainest English you can. Completely in your own tone of voice. For example. What? What’s he like? Is he kind? Yes? “John is kind”. Is he funny? Yes? “John is funny”. Is he stupid? Yes? “John likes Mrs Brown’s Boys”. Whatever you come up with, that’s your starting point.
Next question: Why? Why is that the case? Why is John kind? “because he always wants to help people”.
How? How do you know? “He helps his elderly next door neighbour bring in her shopping.” Now, is there an opportunity for a joke there? Is that all he helps his elderly next-door neighbour with?
“John is kind. He’s just one of those people who will always do his best to help anybody out if they’re in a bind. In fact, he doesn’t shout this from the rooftops, but he always helps his elderly next-door neighbour bring in her shopping, isn’t that lovely? That’s just the sort of guy he is. She offers him cash, but he insists that he never takes payment… Not in the form of money, anyway… I judged him for taking advantage, but fair enough, she is fit. And she’s here today-I’m joking! The mobility scooter wouldn’t fit through the door.”
That’s 100 words right there, purely from one little nugget of an idea. And it’s up to you how bawdy you want to get with it, you can tone it up for shock value or pair it back to highlight your wit. But it really is as simple as that a lot of the time. Just by following what? Why? How? We’ve managed to draw so much out.
Speaking of 100 words (as we were), this is a big question for most. How long should the toast be? Now, I’ve been to quite a few weddings and the length of the speech can make quite a difference. Even if it’s really good, it’s like we have an in-built attention span. Not to mention the arse can only take so much sitting still in one go.
So, what’re you thinking? 20 minutes? Please no. 15? Lower. 10? Getting there…! I think the sweet spot is between 5-10 minutes, or 1,500 words. Most people veer towards 10 and that’s fine, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the length is going to score you more toast points! Length of time of speech doesn’t translate to effort, length of time put into the speech is effort. And trust me, a crowd of hungry, tipsy weddinggoers will much prefer a pithy, 7/8 minute long quality speech to one that’s 7/8 minutes of quality and 10 minutes of dutiful obligation.
Considerations for Potential Wedding Reception Guests
Now, while best man speeches are, of course, meant to be near the knuckle, fun and perhaps even bordering on bawdy, you should always acknowledge your audience and who’s there. Not that each and every person’s feelings must be taken into consideration, but just have a think about some of the key players. For example, has there been a personal tragedy within the inner circle? If so, probably veer away from jokes that might touch on that. Are there children present? Maybe tone down the swearing. Old people? Mention the war. You get the idea.
If you and the groom share a sense of humour that’s maybe a bit risqué, then that’s totally fine, but don’t hammer home at any opportunity. Put tailored in jokes that only he will get, but don’t leave the rest of the room feeling uncomfortable.
The main thing is just to be mindful. Best man speeches are relatively unique in that you will be spending the rest of the day with these people, so just try not to say anything that might alienate you from a crowd.
How To Deliver A Great Speech With Practical Tips on Pronunciation and Gestures
Now. We’ve covered the basics of how to write a good speech. That’s half the battle. Now how do you deliver a good speech? Although it’s possibly the trickier side of the deed practically, theoretically it can be boiled down quite simply into a few key points.
You’ve spent a while on these words, so make sure you throw them out to people. If you’re nervous because you’ve gotten too used to your speech and your confidence is shot, I guarantee you people would rather hear a speech full stop than hear uttered murmurings. So, no matter what, throw your words out with some gusto.
Don’t try to draw attention to your mistakes if you trip up on a word or stammer. People often make a tiny trip into something so much more significant and noticeable by doing that thing where they intentionally make a stammering sound like “bulululbulublub”. Please don’t do this. Nobody remembers the slip ups, they remember the laughs and the sentiment, I promise you.
Your face is your 2nd biggest weapons after your words, so make sure you use it. Turn your head around often to engage with new faces in the room. The more people you give individual eye-contact to, the more people will be kept engaged and the more will even develop more of an emotional bond with what you’re saying. Smile, use your eyebrows, laugh when the crowd laughs (when appropriate), it will help humanise you and all these actions will certainly come across as endearing.
You will have the speech in one hand and a mic in the other. Most people do, anyway. It gives a barrier between you and the audience, which can feel safer, it looks right and doesn’t come across as over-confidence. But! You can still gesticulate, and you should. Any opportunity to paint a picture with your hands is one you should take. If something is small, show how small, big? Show how big. Cast your hand out, now and then, across the crowd, refer to individuals in the mass of people. Give your words the best chance to be engaged with.
Take yours. The moment you start rushing, everybody else is playing catch-up and that’s when the engagement levels drop. Take your time, don’t be afraid to enjoy the words, sometimes. Tell your story and tell it well, keep them guessing, let them wait. It’s only about 10 minutes, it’ll be fine. As long as you’re engaging and you’ve written your best, they will want to hear you. That’s how you give a good speech.
Conclusion & Final Words of Wisdom
Final words of wisdom for best men’s speeches? Enjoy it. It’s classic isn’t it? Just enjoy the process of doing an exercise you don’t often get to do and being the centre of attention for a moment. Even if you don’t ordinarily enjoy the idea of everyone’s eyes on you, you can today because it’s your job. So, make yourself enjoy it.
You have the opportunity to be spoken about in a fantastic way for the rest of the day and possibly every time someone retells the story of the night “oh and the speeches were amazing!”. What an honour!
You have been selected by your best friend as the most worthy person of creating a moment in their wedding that people won’t forget. That’s not pressure, that’s a privilege. So, I say again, enjoy it!
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