How To Write & Deliver A Great Best Man Speech

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Most of us will end up being a best man at some point. Delivering the speech that comes with the job can be daunting, but if you’re prepared, it can be one of the highlights of the day. We asked Tom Bourlet from The Stag Company to share his tips on how to get it right, from writing the jokes to standing up in front of the crowd…
Photography THOMAS WILLIAM/UNSPLASH

Choose Your Style

“One style of speech doesn’t suit everyone. It all depends on your personality, your relationship to the bride and groom, and the audience. Best man speeches usually fit into three categories: funny, sentimental and reflective. The best type of speech will combine all three, but it’s okay to focus on one. If you class yourself as a bit of a joker, feel free to weave in jokes and keep stories light if you have good rapport with the other guests at the ceremony. If you don’t, however, don’t go overboard otherwise you’ll come across as too familiar. Sentimental speeches tend to focus solely on the bride and groom, their relationship, and the journey in the run up to the big day. This is a good choice if you want to tackle it sensitively and showcase what a great couple they are. Lastly, reflective is a good choice if there are people missing from the wedding like late relatives. Here, the tone should be more serious to pay tribute to those individuals.” – Hal Davies, speech writer at Hitched

Nail The Opening Line

“A great best man speech usually starts with a bang and ends with a big payoff. The opening line is all about setting the tone. Fail to nail this and you've lost your audience before you've even started. Generally, a top joke puts everyone in the right mood. There are a few ways to approach this: traditionally you'll be speaking after the groom, so a light joke or insult about his speech or at his expense is always a winner. However, if you're speaking after the bride's father, steer clear of that and go down the self-deprecating route – a line about how nervous you are is a great way to get in an early laugh and get the audience on your side. You want a great ice breaker, but don’t lead with your best joke, as people might still be talking and not everyone will be concentrating. You want to gather their attention and get them ready for what’s to come.” – Tom Bourlet from The Stag Company

Introduce Yourself

“It might seem a little obvious, but always introduce yourself. Obviously, the bride and groom know who you are but at a big wedding, there's a decent chance many of the relatives and more distant friends might not. So, breaking down how you all know one another is a great way to add some substance and context. This is also a fantastic opportunity to pay some compliments to the bride and the bridesmaids. Something about how beautiful they look is a great way to set the bride and her family at ease.” – Tom

…But Remember It’s Not About You

“You're at the wedding on behalf of the groom. You'll be talking about your relationship with him, but keep in mind that this is about him not you. Your relationship with him  is a great chance to regale the audience with funny anecdotes, maybe about how you met. But never share stories that are crass or too embarrassing – and the jokes shouldn’t be at the groom’s expense. You're here to make him look good, not roast him, so throw in a few lines about what a great guy he is.” – Tom

Think of the speech like a story. There should be an engaging beginning, middle and end. You need to make the guests feel at ease, entertain everyone in the room and provide context.

Make It A Story So Everything Flows

“Think of the speech like a story. There should be an engaging beginning, middle and end. You need to make the guests feel at ease, entertain everyone in the room and provide context for people who don’t know the couple as well as you. Once you’ve set the scene, share a few stories – but be careful not to embellish too much – and round off with notes of gratitude, words of appreciation, and a final toast. Read it aloud to make sure everything flows together. You might need to add or take away a few lines during the editing process to keep it short and concise, so don’t skip this part as words on a page are very different when translated into spoken word.” – Hal

Avoid Clichés

“Try to be original. Never open with something like ‘The last time I stood up in front of a room of people I was found guilty’ or ‘My name is Tom and I'm an alcoholic… wait, wrong speech’. The same goes for tasteless jokes about the wedding night.” – Tom

Don’t Forget Thank Yous

“Highlight the effort that's gone into the day and make sure you pay particular attention to the contribution from the bride and groom’s parents – after all there's a decent chance they paid for it. If you're talking about the particulars of the day, an off-the-cuff observation about the ceremony or the menu, for example, makes your speech seem less scripted and more improvisational. At this point, you should add some stories about the couple and their relationship – something along the lines of how amazing she is and how she's made the groom happier than ever. If you have stories that are likely to turn on the waterworks, this is the time. Things not to mention include past girlfriends (or partners), arguments, or the stag do.” – Tom

“Don’t feel like you have to include it all. A sentence or two of gratitude is more than enough. Thank yous can be quite boring for most guests, so don’t spend ages dragging it out, which can come across as insincere. Instead, highlight only the important guests.” – Hal 

End It On A High

“The end of your speech should summarise everything you've covered. This makes it a great chance to call-back to some earlier jokes for a few more laughs. Leave your best jokes until now to ensure everything ends on a happy note. Offer some advice to the couple, wish them all the best and ask the audience to raise a glass to them. The best toasts are short and sweet.” – Tom

When you’re happy with it, practise it in front of someone else a few times. It might read well when written down, but you have to work on how you deliver it, so the jokes land perfectly.

Don’t Memorise The Speech

“Learn from my mistake of trying to memorise it all. While it’s good to know what you’re talking about, it’s more important to sound clear and confident, rather than reciting words you’ve learned. As a general rule, start your speech six months before the wedding, so you can write down any funny anecdotes or jokes. The speech might look very different a few months before as it gets fine-tuned and jokes are replaced or improved. When you’re happy with it, practise it in front of someone else a few times. It might read well when written down, but you have to work on how you deliver it, so the jokes land perfectly.” – Tom

Take It Slow

“When people are nervous, they tend to talk quickly, which can make it harder to hear the punch line. If people don’t hear the punchline, they won’t laugh, which will make you even more nervous. Take a few deep breaths and slow down. You can always take a sip of your drink between sections. Also, remember to pause for laughter – don’t go straight into your next line, as people may not hear it. The laughter will boost your confidence and allow you to carry on with more gusto. Just make sure you haven’t had too much to drink throughout the day, but a quick one a few minutes beforehand can help tackle nerves.” – Tom

Don’t Put Too Much Pressure On Yourself

“There’s a lot of pressure on the best man during any wedding – as well as the speech you’ll have various duties throughout the day, so you don’t want to over complicate things. The day is for you to enjoy too, so don't set expectations for yourself too high. People are expecting a few laughs, not a stand-up show. So, if a joke or two falls flat, forget about it and move on. Half the people here are your nearest and dearest, so they won't care, and the other half won’t be judging harshly either.” – Tom

For more information, visit TheStagCompany.com and Hitched.co.uk

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