For many, the role of best man sinks in in three stages...
Someone thinks you’re the best. Nice.
You’ll have to help out with the set-up. Niggly, but doable.
You’re doing the best man speech. Riiiiiight.
While you may have thought you’d left any possibility of public speaking behind you (after leaving school and/or choosing a job that requires no power-points, presentations or eye-contact), when wedding season rolls around, the risk becomes all too real.
Gentlemen, please don’t panic. We’re here to walk you through some of the basics (with a couple of short summaries at the end for anyone who doesn’t have time to read the whole blog because THE WEDDING IS TOMORROW AND YOU’RE MEANT TO BE HELPING WITH THE MARQUEE BUT YOU HAVEN’T EVEN STARTED YOUR SPEECH YET) to help put your minds – and the minds of any anxious grooms - at ease.
For God’s sake, start early.
Remember all those times you said you wouldn’t leave your essay to the last minute, but did anyway, and somehow scraped together a staggering 51%, despite producing a sweaty, panicked mess of copied-and-pasted library references? This isn’t like that. No one wants their best man delivering a shaky C– on such an important occasion. Start thinking about it well in advance and jot down notes and ideas whenever they come to you so you’re not starting from scratch when you eventually sit down to write it.
Swim between the flags.
Think you’ve got a ripper story to share with the crowd, but doubtful if the groom wants it made public? Before you make any rogue executive decisions – please ask. We don’t know the story (we’re sure it’s very funny) but if you’re worried about it, it’s likely to be a no. And even if you don’t have any specific stories in mind, it still pays to check with the couple if there’s anything they’d like you to steer clear of. Ask how long they’d like you to speak for, who’s in the audience (children? Exes? Very Catholic grandmas?) and always, always remember the occasion. It’s a beautiful celebration of undying love, not a 21st.
Talk amongst yourselves.
Chat to anyone else doing speeches to make sure you’re not crossing over too dramatically with jokes and stories.Their speech ideas might even stir up a few zingers of your own.
Unless you’re one of the rare few who thrive under off-the-cuff pressure – we suggest you lock in a couple of run throughs. Practicing will do wonders for your on-the-night confidence, so read your speech over and learn it as much as you can. And, if someone will listen to you, let them - and take note of their reactions. However, if they don’t laugh hysterically or weep into their tea, that’s ok. A one-on-one reading in your lounge is very different to a happy, tipsy, emotionally-heightened crowd.
The (Basic) Speech Structure.
Name, relationship to groom, done.
Thank the family + mention the smoking hot bride/groom/bridal parties. Think bridesmaid dresses, the cut of the wedding gown, the beautiful wedding venue, the wedding speeches you have to follow…it’s all worth a mention.
Reflect on your relationship with the groom.
Talk about things like how you met (uni? Primary school? The womb?), what you first thought of each other, and what your relationship is like. You’re obviously very special to this person, so put your intimate knowledge to good use.
Talk about the groom.
Here’s a good place to touch on his personality traits with anecdotes and stories to help explain them. Touch on his life so far, and some of the great and not-so-great (but still appropriate) things about him.
Talk about the couple.
When did their relationship start? How did it start? Who made the first move? Be wary of feelings here – there maybe details that aren’t ok to share. The fact that they got together at a toga party when she had a long-term boyfriend and he was so drunk he fell off the stage? Not for sharing. The fact that you went to use his laptop (after they’d been dating for two weeks) to find ‘when is it too soon to say ‘I love you’?’ in his recent search history? Delightful. Share away.
And talk about what they’re like as a couple, what they love doing together and what they bring out in each other. If you don’t actually know their partner, talk about how the groom has changed since meeting them. Safe areas include eating habits, punctuality and general improvements in hygiene. Dangerous ground includes gambling, strippers and ‘he hasn’t changed at all – he’s just better at not getting caught’.
Say nice things.
Everyone wants to hear nice things about themselves. Everyone. Make room for plenty of kind words between the jokes.
Raise a glass
and wish them well. Job well done.
While you’re practising (and eventually performing) there are some key delivery elements to remember.
Unless you’ve learnt the entire speech by heart (or you’re a rogue off-the-cuffer, as mentioned above) you’re going to need to think about notes. Make sure they’re clear, well-spaced and in the correct order. And, for the more organised among you, we suggest printing multiple copies to avoid disaster. Slip one in your pocket, give one to someone trustworthy and bury one in a plastic bag behind the portaloos. You can never be too careful.
Get a laugh in at the start.
This will give you a chance to breathe and will boost your confidence – not to mention the confidence of your audience.
Incorporate the crowd.
Give the couple’s families a shoutout early in the piece. This will help to engage the audience and set a friendly scene. Got a couple of big names in the mix out there? Use them (shamelessly) to create atmosphere and draw people in.
Eyes up, slow down.
Having practised your speech so many times, you should know your own content really well. Look up to deliver key lines, and if you’re worried about losing your place, hold your thumb by the next line, just in case. Look over at the couple when saying all the lovely things about them. And most importantly – slow. Right. Down. You’re going faster than you think.
Leave room for reactions.
Pause for laughs / gasps / tears (you’re going to get these, we promise) to give everyone time to absorb what you’ve said, before moving on to your next pearler.
Don’t get drunk.
Until after the speech. This is your chance to do something great – don’t ruin it with slurring and a red wine stained shirt. Crowds love composure.
And finally – because we’ve used the word multiple times – we want to mention that ‘appropriate’ does not, in any way shape or form, mean boring. It just means making sure no one in the crowd feels uncomfortable, upset or physically ill. A wedding is the best possible platform for a speech – people are happy, bubbles are flowing and the whole crowd is ready to fall in love with your speech (and possibly you, if you play your cards right), so give the people what they want and make it a best man speech to remember – for all the right reasons.
For people in a rush …
Some questions to get the wheels turning
- How did you meet?
- How did they meet?
- When did they first start dating?
- When did you find out about the relationship?
- How are they similar and what are their main differences?
- What is most important to both of them?
- What do they enjoy doing together?
- What do you like most about the groom?
- What do you like most about their partner?
- What is an (appropriate) story about either – or both – that only you know?
- Introduce yourself
- Reflect on your relationship with the groom
- Talk about the groom
- Talk about the couple
- Say nice things
- Raise a glass
Pro-tips / key pointers
- Start early
- Keep it clean
- Ask permission (not forgiveness)
- Organise your notes
- Have jokes for everyone
- Keep it funny and light-hearted – it’s not a stag-do roasting
- Steer clear of all things sexual/feral/illegal
- Limit your drinks
- Slow down, look around and don’t forget to breathe