Most people would suspect that when it comes to choosing your best man, the groom goes for his long time oldest best friend, and in a lot of cases this is perfectly true. However, as somebody who speaks to dozens of best men every week this strategy can leave the best man with a real headache and in need of a speech writer.
As the groom thinks hard about who to ask his mind will of course go back to the beginning and therein lies a sentimental temptation. The memories of you both together in shorts putting worms in jars, burn brightly and by virtue having been in his life the longest you are therefore best laced to comment. The problem with this is that very few people remain welded together from the age of 7 upwards. You’ll go to different, schools, colleges, work and live in different places. So, you’re an expert on his life up to the age of 16 and then after that it’s a bit of a blank. He’ll have great friends from more recent formative times, where alcohol, foreign travel and dating make for far more engaging stories.
Every day I’m contacted by guys who say that apart from maybe one anecdote at school they really don’t know the first thing about the groom at all. I recently wrote a speech for a client living in the Middle East who hadn’t spent any time with his friend since they were about 18 and here he was making the speech at the age of 34. The talent of the speech writer is making what facts you have come alive without the temptation to include hackneyed jokes or clichés. There are always ways to make things funny but they just need thinking about and if you haven’t seen the guy for 16 years then you’re going to need to be pretty creative.
Of course the other problem is that there are going to be other more recent friends there who will have great stories and observations, and will be sat back wondering why you haven’t mentioned about his holiday to Botswana 3 years ago. The Best Man always feels the pressure but under these circumstances the guys I work with really struggle and it’s not surprising, it takes all my experience as a speech writer to be able to crack it. I've had examples of speeches that clients have sent me who are in this position and they are desperately bereft of any structure, wit or indeed content, and quite frankly my sympathy is with the best man.
So when you’re thinking about choosing your Best Man, you’ve really got to be thinking along hard practical lines and not err on the side of sentiment. Who is going to have the best chance of making a really great speech? That person is almost certainly somebody from the last 10 years of your life, somebody you’ve lived with, holidayed with and shared a few hard times. And with that in mind it’s very unlikely to be the boy you collected conkers with 25 years ago.