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Best Man

Your Best Man Speech

Over the last couple of decades, best men speeches have become OTT, clichéd and generally a bit embarrassing (for the best man, not the groom ironically). Poor quality templates, the rise of Powerpoint and Googled gags are all partly to blame.

The thing is, writing a great best man speech is pretty simple. Granted, the Speechy team are TV scriptwriters by trade (writing for shows like Mock the Week and Dead Ringers), so we’ve got a head-start.

After writing hundreds of speeches for best men around the world, we know the modern speech rules to put your speech into the premier league. We also know the techniques us scriptwriters use to create original  humour without resorting to cheesy ‘jokes’ or alcohol. That’s why we were asked on to BBC Sounds ‘Best Men podcast with Jason Manford. We’ve got all the advice you need, so read on…

* Of course, if you’re looking for more than ‘advice’, check out our best man speech template,  speech edit service or bespoke speech writing service. We’ll slog it out so you can concentrate (recover from?) the stag do. We’re rated ‘Excellent’ on Trustpilot for a reason

 

1. Be yourself

Don’t feel you need to go posh just because you’re wearing a suit. No need to address everyone as ‘ladies & gentleman’; a ‘well hello everyone’ will suffice. Obviously don’t swear if there are children present, though a few bloodies, bloomings and bollocks can add an acceptable edge.

2. The Groom's partner

The best man must compliment the groom’s partner and it helps if this sounds sincere. If you don’t know them well, do a bit of research so you can say more than the usual platitudes. Can they put up a tent better than their husband? Have they turned him into a quinoa fan? Be original but remember one cliche is a must; all brides look beautiful.

3. 'Telegrams' or messages from absent friends

Speak to the groom about what he wants to do about ‘the telegrams’ but try to avoid them if you can (generally they’re not very funny and, in the world of Zoom & Whatsapp, completely blooming pointless).

4. Bridesmaids

Some best men like to compliment the bridesmaids but it’s actually the groom’s job. Your choice really, but keep it short if you do.

5. Toast

According to Debrett’s the best man speech usually includes a toast to ‘Mr and Mrs/Mr [newlywed’s Surname]’ and might announce the cutting of the cake. At Speechy we prefer to find a unique way to toast the newly-hitched- even if it’s just to ‘the coolest couple this side of the Hog’s Head’.

Finding your funny

So we all know this is how you’ll be judged. Here are the basic rules.

Being funny isn’t about finding good jokes on the internet. Avoid any articles like this basically – Best Man Jokes. The jokes will illicit groans not giggles.

You’ve already got a ready-made character that you can play with and even if the groom is on the straight and boring side, we guarantee there will be fun to be had. Yes, it’s more effort to create original humour but there’s never an excuse for jokes about even the cake being in tears or honeymoons in Bangor.

The only acceptable excuse for including a ‘classic wedding gag’ is to subvert it. When Speechy’s Heidi was on BBC Sound’s Best Men podcast, comedian Steve Edge revealed he’d included ‘it’s been such an emotional day, even the cake’s crying’ in his best man speech for Jason Manford.

Start by thinking about the things that make the groom unique. Everyone’s a nut-job in their own way, so what traits will his friends and family recognise as truly ‘him’?

Ask yourself lots of questions – what’s his worst habit (skinny jeans), what’s his guilty pleasures (Dire Straits), what might he love more than his bride (Abdul’s kebabs), what’s odd about him (his unusually short T-Rex arms).

Once you have good content to play with, the comedy will be much easier to find.

Imagine the groom was the central character in a sitcom. What type of person would he be?

The health freak who transforms into a kebab-eating monster after a pint? The workaholic engineer who still calls on his elderly dad to help him with Ikea flatpack? The family man who has a secret life in his shed?

Once you find a basic premise, use anecdotes can help build on the character you’ve created.

Good writing is all you need for a great speech. Powerpoint and props can often get in the way and stress you out. As Heidi says, ‘Once you’ve committed to the projector, you’ve got to keep using it throughout the speech which can really restrict the content and tie you up in knots’. And really, once you’ve seen one mullet, you’ve seen them all. Photos rarely get the belly laughs you want.

Instead, concentrate your efforts on good writing. Keep your speech short and your jokes punchy. As Jason & Steve point out ‘When you’re starting off on the comedy circuit, you get a MAXIMUM of five minutes on stage. When you get really good – you get seven’.

One great joke is better than a dozen average ones.

Check out Boris Johnson’s wedding speech as imagined by the Speechy Team.

Five speech rules

So we all know this is how you’ll be judged. Here are the basic rules.

First step in writing your speech is to make sure you have blooming great content. You might think you have loads of good stories already but there will be better out there, so get digging and get dirty.

Email your mates and ask for their favourite groom stories – times he’s been clueless / his quirky faults / embarrassing moments – you know the deal.

Tap up the groom’s family for any classic tales from his childhood and find out if the groom’s partner is giving a speech. If not – get them onside to dish the dirt. They might relish having their say!

Ask them how the groom could become a better husband. Find out what he does that annoys them. Surprise him (and everyone else) with your inner knowledge of his relationship.

The majority of best men resort to the classic ‘reasons the groom is an idiot’ as their narrative hook but dude, make some effort.

Rather than just a collection of anecdotes and obvious punchlines, build a narrative, a proper story, and make sure your speech is crafted rather than just a cut and paste job.

The theme doesn’t need to be complicated, it might just be a retelling of your bro-mance and its tragic end when the bride came on the scene.  If the groom’s now a vaguely respectable teacher,  reveal the alarming things he’s taught you over the years (snorting Sambuca etc). If he’s a wannabe musician,  chronicle his life through musical eras. Or use Yoda quotes to give him marriage advice if he’s a hardcore Star Wars fan.

Finding the right theme obviously depends on the personality of the groom but crack it, and you’re half way there.

You’re aiming for 8 to 10 minutes for a best man speech (a bit longer allowing for laughter and ad-libs). It sounds short but no one ever witnessed a best man speech and said ‘if only it were longer’.

Even if you have a wealth of material, be strict with yourself. Once you write your first draft, edit it down to half the length, and we guarantee it will be twice as good.

Ernest Hemingway said ‘The first draft of anything is shit’. This is not only true but reassuring.

People are generally more powerful when their words are punchy. It’s the same with jokes – keep ’em snappy.

Once you’ve got the embarrassing stories out of the way, a best man speech should be a heartfelt tribute to a true friend.

Don’t resort to clichés about him being a ‘top bloke’ without providing the evidence that he is.

Prove – don’t tell. Avoid using too many adjectives. Give specific examples of these qualities in action.

Pinpoint the things you genuinely like about him. Is he the only friend who shares your fascination with Elon Musk? Is he the one person who makes you feel better about your DIY skills? Is he still the mate with cool music suggestions?

Remember to keep it NUT – Nice, Unique and True(ish).

A confident delivery is half the battle.

Make sure the groom has checked the acoustics of the venue & there’s a mic there if you need it (so many speeches are ruined just because the guests can’t hear them).

Try to memorise the speech but don’t be afraid to use notes on the day (your brain will be scrambled). If you’re using paper, opt for thick A4 but only print 3/4 of the way down so you can maintain eye contact with your audience. You could also use a tablet to read from (it avoids paper-shake and looks less casual than reading it from your phone).

More delivery tips in our Wedding Ideas article or in our Delivery Blog. 

Speech Do's

Check with the Groom

Anything he wants you to do (other than not abusing him)? Anything he’d like you not to mention?!?

Practice and film it on your phone

Watch it back, promise yourself you’ll do something about your gut and spot where your speech can be improved.

Have back-up notes on the day

Give a spare copy to a trusted mate in advance (or email it to your phone).

Talk slower than feels natural

It’s what those authoritative people do to make themselves seem more intelligent.

Smile

Remember everyone wants you to do well so make sure you smile. It’s scientifically proven to be infectious.

Feel free to use smart quotes

But make sure you credit the author or someone else will! Check out our Quote Inspiration guide.

Speech Don'ts

Don't thank anyone

It’s not your day, and it’s not your job.

Don't ignore the feedback of friends

It’s always worth testing your speech out on a mate, but this also means you have to listen to them. If they don’t get a joke, don’t waste your time explaining it as you won’t be able to do that on the day.

Don't talk over laughter

You’ve worked hard for those laughs – don’t rush them. Always wait until the guests have settled down before continuing with your speech.

Don't resort to 'in jokes'

Remember there are grannies out there. And a lot of people who weren’t on the Stag Do and won’t find the story about Tika the waitress and her hairy chicken quite so funny.

Don't mention the ex

Even if you have a wealth of material, sorry, the rule still applies. Don’t mention exes.

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