The Best Men podcast, hosted by Jason Manford and Steve Edge, recently featured an episode dedicated to the art of delivering unforgettable best man speeches.
They were joined by Speechy’s founder, our very own Heidi Ellert-McDermott, who shared valuable insights on crafting the perfect speech. The Speechy team are comedy writers by trade and have written for BBC shows like Dead Ringers and the BAFTA-winning Horrible Histories, so hopefully we have a few useful tips to share.
In this blog post, we’ll delve into the podcast’s highlights and extract some key takeaways to help you nail your best man speech.
One of the first points emphasized in the podcast was the importance of keeping the best man speech under 10 minutes. Jason Manford stressed, “The length is a big issue for a lot of people and it’s gotta be under 10 minutes. Hundred percent.” The hosts agreed that brevity is key.
The recommended word count was under 1300 words, which Heidi deemed sufficient to convey everything you need to say. ‘Noone’s ever listened to a speech and said, I wish it was longer.’ said Heidi.
And as Jason says, even professional comedians recognise the value of keeping a performance punchy… ‘When you first start standup comedy and you start getting booked to do comedy clubs, what’s the length of the spot? Five minutes. Five minutes, seven minutes tops if the promoter thinks it’s going well.’
Even when Jason and Steve gave speeches at each other’s weddings, they managed to keep it to less than five minutes.
LESSON – Keep it to ten mins or under
“Get the Laughs”
Laughter is a powerful tool in engaging the audience and making the speech memorable. The hosts advised best men to aim for humor without trying to turn the speech into a comedy show. ‘Lots of best men secretly want to go viral but that’s not the point’, says Heidi. The goal is to entertain and create a lighthearted atmosphere.
Heidi was also clear about the sort of comedy you want to include in the speech– ‘No googled gags or any of the awful wedding jokes.’ Instead, she recommends looking at the groom’s personal quirks and eccentricities rather than the internet for your humour.
Steve points out, however, that sometimes the old gags can be subverted for comedic effect.
‘At Jason’s wedding, I said the day’s been so emotional even the cake… is crying (rather than it being in tiers). It worked for all the comedians in the room.’
And Jason adds that a wedding audience can actually be tougher than a comedy gig. ‘When you’re doing standup comedy, generally your audience is roughly the same sort of people. They’re the sort of people who go to standup comedy. And they’re between 20 and 50 maybe.
At a wedding…Eight to 80, isn’t it? I mean, you know, you’ve got little nephews and you’ve got Nana. There’s so many people to think about audience-wise.’
Heidi agreed it’s essential to avoid ‘anything that makes people cringe or offends the grannies.’ She points out that another trap a lot of best men fall into is playing to the stag do but stressed stag do stories should be avoided at all costs, saying stag do anecdotes are all a bit predictable … ‘ You’re all expected to get S*&% – faced, and act like muppets’.
The podcast also includes whether or not to include old photos as part of your speech but Heidi reckons Powerpoint speeches have had their day. And, as Steve and Jason say, once you’ve set up a projector, you’re committed to using it throughout the duration of the speech. ‘It’s a complication you don’t need’.
LESSON – Keep the humour original and suitable for everyone
“The Power of Personal Connection”
Choosing the right best man is essential. Heidi shared a useful tip: “If you’re a groom thinking about who your best man should be, think about the ones that are married.” They already know the dos and don’ts of a good speech and they also have a partner who will no doubt get involved in vetting their speech.
Heidi also emphasized that the best man doesn’t necessarily have to be the funniest person the groom’s mates with; they should be the one who will put in the effort to make the speech special. Being funny down the pub is very different to delivering a witty speech.
The hosts agreed that best man duties can be divvied up so one mate can be in charge of the stag do, another can look after the rings and act as a witness and the most-trustworthy friend can take on the speech.
LESSON – Your best man doesn’t need to be your best mate
“Themes and Storytelling”
The podcast highlighted the importance of thematic coherence in a best man speech. The hosts suggested incorporating a theme or narrative that ties the speech together. This could be based on the couple’s story, the groom’s personality, or shared experiences. By weaving a common thread throughout the speech, you create a more impactful and memorable presentation.
“Getting the opening lines is kind of the most crucial bit. Once you’ve got that, it hopefully should flow from there.” – Heidi
Make a conscious effort to include elements that resonate with everyone, such as anecdotes about the couple’s journey, their shared experiences, and your own reflections on their relationship.
LESSON – Creating a narrative hook puts your speech into the premier league
“Remember To Be Nice”
Throughout the podcasts, both Steve and Jason emphasize that the best man speech needs to be a genuine, thoughtful tribute to the groom as well as being funny. ‘And a best man speech should also include the bride – as so many of them just go straight into stories about when the groom was a knobhead when he was younger.’
Heidi agreed, best men need to make more of an effort with the groom’s other halves. ‘It can’t just come down to the fact she (he) looks good!’
LESSON – Remember the day is a celebration of a couple
“Deliver like a Pro”
A well-delivered speech can captivate the audience and leave a lasting impression. Practice your speech multiple times to become familiar with the content and flow. Maintain eye contact with the audience and remember to smile.
‘In terms of the delivery, something that I really don’t like is people reading off tech. I prefer old-school paper rather than a phone or something like that,’ said Heidi. Jason agreed it looks overly casual and gives the impression ‘you’re not even bothered printing it out.’
Heidi also revealed the simple piece of advice every speaker needs to remember on the day. ‘Something I need to remind people to do whenever I coach them in delivery is simply to… smile! It’s amazing how they quickly forget and it’s such a simple trick to make the audience feel more relaxed and smile back at you.’
LESSON – Practise, smile, and take notes!
Jason discussed the ideal timing for best man speeches. Jason and Steve both opted to have the speeches before the meal so they could relax but Heidi suggested splitting the speeches between the courses as it can help maintain the audience’s engagement and energy.
She suggested having the father of the bride speak before the meal, followed by the groom or bride after the main course, and finally, the best man after dessert. This staggered approach keeps the momentum and adds a sense of anticipation.
LESSON – No hard and fast rules regarding speech scheduling but consider splitting them up if you have more than a couple
“Do’s and Don’ts”
Other tips we gleaned from the podcast…
- Avoid Offensive Content: Refrain from discussing topics that could potentially offend or divide the audience, such as politics, sensitive personal matters, or offensive jokes.
- Steer Clear of Exes: Any references to ex-partners are generally inappropriate and may make the couple or the audience uncomfortable.
- Don’t Overdo Inside Jokes: While personal anecdotes can be charming, avoid overusing inside jokes that only a few people will understand.
- Stay Positive: Focus on celebrating the couple’s love and journey. Avoid negativity or criticism, as this is a day of celebration.
- Acknowledge All Attendees: Consider the diverse guest list and incorporate elements that resonate with various age groups and backgrounds.
- Embrace Themes and Stories: Build a narrative or theme for your speech to give it a cohesive structure. Incorporate stories that reflect the couple’s relationship.
- Practice, Practice, Practice: Rehearse your speech multiple times to boost your confidence and ensure a smooth delivery.
Best Men Podcast
Every episode of the Best Men podcast is genuinely entertaining as well as informative. Heidi features in Episode 4 – Speech Therapy!
The whole series is packed with advice (and what mistakes to avoid) and covers everything from arranging stag dos to coping off with the mother of the bride! Listen now.
And, of course, if you need help with your speech, check out how the Speechy team can help you.