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BEST MAN SPEECH - WHERE TO BEGIN?
Well, the first thing to remember is that being the Best Man is actually supposed to be a pleasure and a privilege, but in the run up to the wedding it’s fair to say that most Best Men aren’t exactly feeling the love.
The chances are that you’re ether worried about public speaking, worried about how to write it, or worried about being funny enough…more than likely a combination of all three.
Whilst the pressure is on, it’s nowhere nearly as crippling as your brain might have you believe: everybody is looking forward to you speaking, everyone wants to laugh and everyone is wishing you to do well.
If you’re wondering where to begin the answer is to keep it simple, light on detail, light on anecdotes and steer clear of edgy humour. Don’t bore everyone rigid by talking about what a Best Man does etc And remember with Wedding Speeches less is definitely more – ten minutes and you’re done.
HINTS AND TIPS
- Alcohol – a little is a good idea to steady the ship. Too much is the worst idea you’re ever going to have.
- Microphone – use one. All wedding venues have dreadful acoustics. Don’t make life difficult for the guests, let them hear you.
- Practice – don’t try to memorise the speech or you will go insane. Keep reading it and then boil it down to prompt cards.
- Length – never under five minutes, never over ten.
- Humour – it’s not Saturday Night Live. Keep things daft but not edgy and you’ll have everyone laughing.
- Toasts – don’t mention the bridesmaids, don’t thank anyone. It’s your job to be funny, nothing else. A toast to the happy couple at the end.
- Shaky Hands – even super confident guys wobble on the day. If you’re reading out from sheets, attach them to a clipboard to hide the shaky hands.
- Girlfriends – now is not the time for a quick review of the groom’s love life.
How to structure your speech
The first thing to do is is simply introduce yourself and establish a connection with the audience. The basic act of speaking into the microphone and saying “Good afternoon everyone…” will instantly relax you. The very idea of standing up and speaking to a crowd seems alien to most of us, but once you realise they’re on your side then you can settle a little.
THE SET UP
Ok, you’ve introduced yourself, the nerves are slightly calmer, the guests know who you are and are braced for the comedic onslaught. If you hit them with a cliched line, you’re immediately on the back foot, so now’s your chance to surprise them with something funny but original – if you can do that they will love you for it. This is what I call the Set Up.
So, you’ve introduced yourself, established the groom, and now it’s time to reveal how you know each other. Not only is this a great opportunity for another gag but it can also better explain some of the content that’s to follow. In other words If you’ve only known him for the last few years and haven’t got that much to say, you can always say you’ve had to rely on a lot of guesswork.
Ok, so I said no stories, but you can use elements from them to make the speech work. Take the good bits, the punchline and work out how to make them sing without the boring details. If you’re going to use a story make sure it’s done and dusted within 100 words or you’ll really be making things difficult for yourself.
PRESENT DAY GROOM
Ok, so here you can give a nod to any educational and career successes that he might have had, but keeping it light at the same time. You shouldn’t get too profound until the very end. So, what I like to do here is have a little fun what what his hobbies are, and what his career is.
I’ve loosely termed this dating as it’s really just a funny look at how they met. You never list his dating experiences, and you certainly never mention former girlfriends.
You just need to keep this really simple. Don’t go into detail about first dates and precisely how they met, because the groom will have just covered that in his speech. All you need to do is say how beautiful she looks, and how much better the groom’s life is for having her in it.
This is where you can get a little more meaningful and sentimental if you wish. Just say what a great friend and/or brother he’s been and how much he means to other people. Then end with a toast to the happy couple, and you’re done.
how to avoid getting it wrong
- The Stag weekend – you might still be buzzing form a weekend in Krakow, and have made some interesting new friends and gained life changing experiences, but it’s incredibly dull to listen to. Mentioning the stag weekend will make a handful of guys laugh and just come across as boorish and exclusive. The aim of the game is to make everyone laugh.
- Fake Telegrams – This one is the perennial favourite of the best man who has completely run out of things to say, and is about as funny as a punch to the head. Delivering a fake email message from the Ping Pong Strip Club in Bangkok is one of the oldest and most unfunny inserts into any best man speech.
- Bridesmaids – some best men, buoyed up by a little alcohol and a disproportionate sense of bravado feel inclined to mention the bridesmaids in a lewd and disparaging way. We are now living in the modern world and offering to become their latest conquest is always route 1 to disaster.
- Alcohol – this isn’t to be avoided but used in extreme moderation. Drinking for self confidence all too often results in catastrophic consequences. A couple of drinks in the run up is fine, but any more than that and your performance will be badly affected.
- Swearing – most weddings are family occasions for all ages, so swearing is absolutely not acceptable. It’s quite possible to be really funny and emphasise a point without resorting to the F word, and doing so will only ever make you look crass and inappropriate.
- Sexual Innuendo – this is another common howler of a mistake. Intimating any form of sexual performance, be it in the past, or indeed involving the bride later on, is a complete no-no.
- Ice Breakers – these are the scripted gags from the internet that have been round the block a million times and are designed to warm up the crowd. The only thing is they’re never funny, and so delivering an age old joke that won’t get a laugh is possibly the most counterproductive way to start your speech.
- Being The Best Man – this speech is about the groom not you, and so I couldn’t care less about how you felt when you were appointed or what you’ve had to put up with. It’s always just filler material for people low on content or imagination.
- How they met – you have to bear in mind that you’re coming after the groom, who will have almost certainly covered this area. The last thing you want to experience as best man is seeing chunks of your speech covered by others.
- Ex Girlfriends – yes, it may seem obvious to many of you but this is by far and a way the most common error made in Best Man Speeches. The wedding day is really about one person: the bride. Mentioning former love interests, no matter how flippant you think it might be, will only seek to upset her. It never works in any way, shape or form. Don’t go there.
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The length of the best man speech
The length of the speech is absolutely critical to its success. Talk for less than 5 minutes and it’s going to appear that you really couldn’t be bothered or haven’t taken it seriously. Talk for any longer than 10 minutes and nobody will be listening to a word you’re saying and their overall resentment will grow with every passing minute.
The length of the speech should be somewhere in the region of 1300 to 1400 words, and you need to read it at slow steady pace. If you’re reading that number of words in anything under 6 minutes you’re absolutely belting through it. The trick is to achieve a ‘stand up to sit down time’ of 10 minutes, and that means a talking time of around 8 minutes. If you practice at home, people always speak more quickly when they’re rehearsing it, and your talking time is around 10 minutes, then with laughter applause and heckles that will easily become a 15 minute speech on the day, and that’s far too long.