The microphone awaits the best man's speech opening lines.

Best man speeches: funny, but not stand up comedian please

Undoubtedly the job of the best man speech is to make people laugh, entertain and celebrate the groom in a really funny way – if you’re in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. American best man speeches tend to have the humour/sentiment balance tipped much more in favour of the sentiment, but there is still comedy.

The humour part ot a best man speech isn’t there just for the sake of it. Without funny lines and observations it would be just sentiment and have no balance whatsoever, and listening to a grown man say how much he loves his friend without pausing for 5 minutes would be excruciating for all concerned. There needs to be contrast, there needs to space, and the comedy provides that.

Most best man are reluctant comedians. Many have it within them but the idea of standing up and making a room full of people laugh is understandably right up their with completing their tax return. This is actually a good thing, because it means you’re much more likely to exercise control, judgement and thought over what you’re going to say. You have empathy with the guests and understand that not everything you might find amusing will necessarily translate. This level of understanding will mean that your speech will hit the mark on all counts. You’re not left wondering why nobody laughed, because you thought about it, and worked out how to make it funny.

However, this leaves the considerable chunk of best men who believe that for one day only, they’ve actually turned into a semi professional stand up comedian. They are a dangerous breed, left unchecked and unregulated to inflict their questionable sense of humour on unsuspecting relatives. In this case what you get is either an embarrassing pastiche of Michael Mcintyre, or even worse, a fully paid up member of the Jimmy Carr fan club.

I have a well developed sense of humour, it’s just about one of the only things that I think I’ve got licked, and when it comes to smut, innuendo and graphic sexual content to get laughs, I find these about as funny as a punch in the face. However, my comedic preferences have nothing to do with it, it’s all about the bride’s, and this is a family occasion with many disparate groups with hugely varying backgrounds, so you have to play it safe. Forget verbal jousting with the crowd and your mic, you’re simply taking the spotlight off the couple and trying to out in in yourself, and it’s just not done. There’s a good reason why mums-to-be keep their good news to themselves until after the wedding, and fabulous looking women don’t wear white when they attend – nobody should be competing with the bride.

You don’t have to leave your comedy career aspirations at home, you just have to know when and how to deploy them, and for your edgier material this just isn’t the place. Don’t forget though Peter Kay discovered himself after giving a best man speech, so it could be the start of something beautiful.

Looking sharp and feeling confident always helps a Best Man Speech, but nothing beats a little preparation.

Best man speech – what to say, when there’s nothing to say?

The great thing about being a man is that you can bumble along in life and not really take that much interest in your surroundings, for about the first 30 years. Generally speaking we are a bit self obsessed up until that point, wondering what career to go for, how to get it, and how to make someone like you enough they want to spend the rest of their lives with you. It all means that we don’t tend to focus on the detail very much. Ask any normal man between the ages of 25 to 35, and none of them will be able to tell you what any of their friends’ jobs actually involve. And why should you? There’s nothing worse than someone running you through the plot for a film…except running you through what they do for a living.

Let’s also not forget that for most blokes this period of self discovery from teenage years to early 30’s usually involves a lot of shared experiences that can never be shared with granny, or anyone else for that matter. Very few familial relationships are ready for the nitty gritty of Vegas, and certainly no wedding speeches are either.

So, what does a best man talk about when there’s nothing appropriate you can talk about, and the bits you can talk about are unbelievably boring? This is the situation that nearly everyone finds themselves in, and it’s up to you to make the mundane funny. Firstly focus on what you do know about the groom – his hair colour, hobbies, likes, and dislikes. All of those things may on the surface seem pretty boring but if you open them up a little, there’s comedy gold to be had. It doesn’t take much to make the boy with above average sized ears and captain of the chess club’s transition to Tony & Guy stylist, something hilarious.

You’re looking to describe his journey from bumbling idiot, to the person who’s been lucky enough to convince someone way out of his league to marry him….and it’s that journey which is the funny part. What has he done in the last 20 years that would lead him to the life partner of his dreams. Did his plan to become an actuary and dazzle women with big sums work out? It’s all there, you just have to let your creativity and imagination run a bit wild. Of course where they met, how they met and what’s in it for the bride can all provide comedy ammo…and obviously, I’m being sarcastic. The lovely young bride didn’t really marry Dave because she loved his careful approach to money…but you get what I mean.

So stress less about what you don’t know and work on how you can make what you do know funny.

Father of the bride speech when you’re not the father

There are a few reasons why the bride’s father doesn’t make a speech, and none of them are particularly pleasant. Unfortunately the most common one is that he’s passed away and that in itself brings about some really difficult elements to the day. The least common type of scenario I write for is two young couples with two intact sets of parents, it just doesn’t happen. If the bride’s father is no longer with us, then it normally either falls to an uncle, a wife or a son.

Usually it’s the son that steps into this role, and it’s a really tough speech. Not only is it your job to kick things off and celebrate your sister, but it also your job to talk about your dad, and that can prove almost impossible for the toughest of us. My advice is to keep that section very efficient, don’t turn it into a mini eulogy, but instead include your dad in a really positive, and if possible, funny way. This speech is going to need humorous punctuation like no other, so have something about your dad that will make others, and especially your sister, laugh.

The essence of this ‘father of the bride speech‘ is no different for whoever gives it, and that means you’ve got to get the speeches rolling in a really engaging, entertaining and creative way. You’re there to celebrate your sister/daughter/niece and the person she’s become and also celebrate the marriage and welcome the groom into your family. As I’ve mentioned the usual trap here is to talk too much about the person who should have been giving the speech. The wedding day is about one person only: the bride. Most brides find it incredibly difficult to deal with the loss on such an emotional day, and this is meant to be a joyful and uplifting day, so I would keep the words about your dad to around 120 maximum. And of course, that includes a toast to absent family and friends

If you’re the brother making the speech it should have a little more a Maid of honour/best man speech feel about it, more jokey and entertaining, because hopefully that reflects the relationship you share. Nevertheless you must remember to celebrate her achievements and accomplishments, and also don’t forget to include your mum. A father of the bride speech is usually given on behalf of the bride’s parents, so give your one of behalf of the family. Your mum needs a massive ‘big up’ in this speech as the wedding day will prove unbelievably hard for her. If your parents were divorced, then this really doesn’t change anything, unlike a regular father of the bride speech. When people die, feelings soften and if there was any animosity, then it should have all evaporated by now.

Above all have some fun with it. It’s a really tough speech and if you can do it and make them laugh and your family proud, then it’s a feeling that’s with you for life.

Standing up to the hecklers

A booze assisted groom speech?

We’ve seen many reports over the last few months that tell us how much more we’re drinking thanks to COVID-19 and the roll over lockdowns. It seems as though most of Britain has little idea of what to do with their endless pyjama days than roll out of bed, straight over to the cocktail cabinet and start drinking to forget. Usually this means drinking to forget that one day this will all be over and they’ll have to go back to work like normal people and can no longer go on 3 month fully paid benders.

So, alcohol is more hardwired than ever into our day to day DNA. Before you know it, you won’t have made a decision, cracked a joke, told a story or tried to work something out, without being a little three sheets to the wind. As time goes by you’ll be pouring tequila on your cornflakes and won’t be ready to start the Netflix all dayer unless you’re well on your way, pass out in the afternoon and then wake up for an Amazon Prime evening powered by Blossom Hill.

It comes as no surprise then, that so many grooms are attempting to write their groom speeches in lockdown whilst getting gently plastered watching Cash in the attic. Alcohol makes people giggly, in the right amount it can make for a really fun evening, hell, some of it even tastes nice, but it rarely make you a better writer. Judgement, taste and accuracy all go out of the window after a few sharpeners, and that leads to a downward spiral. By the time you’re on the last paragraph names, basic platitudes and any form of punctuation will have all been disposed with, just so you can get to the fridge and maintain your personal ABV.

This is a dangerous route, and one that quickly comes into focus when you look at it the next day and are presented with something that looks like a cross between Egyptian cave drawings and a note from the IRA. However, what is worse, what is much worse and irretrievable, is actually giving your speech whilst hammered. So many people are on this trajectory, far more than normal, and the consequences are always catastrophic.

Each year a huge chunk of grooms, through absolute fear, oil the cogs with booze and then become a rambling, emotional mess, unable to focus and usually just come to an abrupt halt, or are taken down by some kindly relative. There looks like being many more of them in 2021, and please don’t become one of them.

It’s a really special speech, and to cock it up by being hammered is unforgivable. A couple of gentle beers is fine, but trying to add extra pizzazz to your performance through excess drinking is route one ot disaster. No one will like you for it, least of all your brand new wife, and these things tend to stay long in the memory. Chin chin.

The Groom speech…it’s not just a groom speech

Over the years I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people dismiss the groom speech as just a groom speech. For some reason they like to relegate its importance, thinking it’s just a case of standing up thanking everyone you have ever met in your life, and many who you haven’t and also throw in the bloke who drove the car, the ladies who did the flowers and Dave for being the MC. The groom speech is much more than this…it’s probably the most important speech you’re ever going to make.

Firstly we need to talk about thanking people. Never in the history of humankind, barring two world wars, have we ever needed a little boost through recognition and thanks. However, the groom speech is not the place. Yes, if friends and close family have gone the extra mile to help out, then you must give them the ‘big up’, but all others will have to be content with the fat cheque you sent them for their services. I have one rule for a list of people you should thank, and that is: if you paid them, they should be thanking you, not the other way around. You might think that the wedding planner is your new best friend, but this time next week, they won’t remember who you are. Forget them. Far too many people at weddings have a misplaced sense of loyalty for those relationships forged in the white hot heat of wedding planning and they are only ever temporary, fleeting dalliances. Save your thanks for the people who really matter.

Secondly, this is the only time you’re ever going to have the opportunity to say lovely things out loud about the people who are, and have been, important in your lives. To dismiss the groom speech as just a groom speech, is doing a great disservice to the magnitude of that opportunity. Parents work a lifetime to give their children the lives they wished they’d had, and if you don’t publicly acknowledge their sacrifice and hard work, you’ll be kicking yourself for evermore.

Of course, it’s also your opportunity to say exactly how much your lovely new wife means to you. All being well this opportunity will next arise several decades later at one of your anniversary bashes, so you need to make sure it’s as original, powerful and efficient as possible, and that last point is key. Far too many grooms eat up valuable time and words by saying exactly the same thing in about 3 different ways. Nail something in a really neat way and move one, don’t think that saying it in triplicate is going to add impact, it won’t.

So, it’s never just a groom speech, it’s a 24 carat, solid gold chance to let everyone know what they’ve done to play their part in the person you’ve become and the occasion of the day. Make the most of every minute because fingers crossed, it won’t be happening again!

All the guests are laughing as the Best Man delivers his speech

Best man speeches – the order of the day

The running order of speeches at a wedding is really important, and something that is frequently overlooked. Where you sit in the line up of speakers dictates what you should be saying, how you open the speech, and also how long your speech should be. And this is why so many best man speeches get it wrong right from the kick off.

The best man speech generally comes at the very end of the proceedings, and this is so important to remember when it comes to the start of your speech. So, before you speak the father of the bride has welcomed and thanked everyone, the groom has welcomed and thanked everyone, and chances are these days that so have the bridesmaids and mother of the groom. This is just really poor planning. A succession of people standing up and saying exactly the same thing is completely pointless and counterproductive. The last thing a best man should do is begin his speech by thanking and welcoming everyone – not only has that been extensively covered, but it’s also not your wedding.

A great best man speech should start with a simple introduction and then into the story of the groom. However, if you are making this speech in Australia things are a little different. The groom speaks last at an Australian wedding, and for some reason this is creeping in a little to UK weddings as well. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but it will affect the way you reference the groom if he hasn’t spoken yet, so make sure you know where you sit. Also I alluded earlier to the number of speakers, and this is crucial. These days, especially in the US, multiple speakers are the growing norm, and that affects a best man more than anyone. If you are a best man making your speech after 5 people have made theirs, then you’re already on borrowed time. The guests are well past their attention span deficit reserves and want to get on with things, so you have got to be really efficient and on the money. There’s no time for rambling introductions, lengthy stories and endless anecdotes. This is what American best men are really good at: short, effective and powerful speeches that do what they do in the most efficient way. Make everything count, avoid repetition and keep an eye on the time.

For every extra speaker above the Nato standard of father of the bride/groom/best man, I would knock off at least 30 seconds to your speech, maybe more. If you are two best men, then you really have to reign things in, particularly in you’re making separare best man speeches. The hardest position to find yourself in is the last best man speaking following another best man speech. If the other guy was really funny, you’re toast; if the other guy was awful then the guests have already had enough. So, speak to the groom, find out where you sit in the order of speakers and use that information to make your best man speech the best it can be.

Looking sharp and feeling confident always helps a Best Man Speech, but nothing beats a little preparation.

Best Man speeches: get your vaccination here

At the moment with the world in what seem like a terminal tail spin, you often hear pundits, politicians and those that mainly breathe through their mouth, declare that these days there is no normal. There’s a growing appetite, probably to cover the tracks of stupendous incompetence, to suggest that anything goes because of things like schooling now becoming optional, grown men more content to sit at home in their pants than go to the office, and every time you reach for a tin of beans at the supermarket you have to undergo some kind of cross between a Mexican standoff and a Balkan shoulder dance in order to avoid other humans.

Yes, some things will probably change permanently. In the past we used to secretly laugh at tourists from Tokyo wearing face masks in public; this will of course end. Sneezing on a train will almost certainly become punishable by hanging, and children being able to count without using their fingers will see them branded as gifted. However, for the main part life will continue as before. We have been hardwired to behave as we do over thousands of years, and a virus is not going to permanently undo that in the space of 12 months despite what many journalists love to tell people. We will still go to the office, we will once again kiss people when we see them and football fans can get cheek by jowl on the terraces and give each other a good wallop. It’s tempting to suggest that we will now be treading a new dawn, that everything that follows will be different, but it won’t. Two world wars changed many things forever – the pace of technological development was off the scale, cultural and social norms were broken, and the Germans decided to focus of football and cars, but many of those changes took many decades to fully present themselves.

So, in light of the fact that only a vaccination can save us, it seems that most best men should get their speech vaccinations at the same time. The rules for best man speeches haven’t changed whatsoever, and so it’s worth making sure your choc full of antibodies against bad taste, poor judgment and catastrophic attempts at comedy. In short here is your Oxford style best man speech jab – it only needs one shot, won’t make your head spin, and pretty much hasn’t killed anyone…

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Resist the urge to talk about yourself at all costs
  3. Don’t use internet ice breakers
  4. Don’t forget to talk about the bride
  5. Don’t thank anyone
  6. Don’t welcome anyone
  7. Forget talking about the groom’s love life
  8. Avoid back to back endless stories
  9. Forget props – you’re funnier than they are
  10. Make the ending a powerful tribute

With these sentiments coursing through your body, you’ll be fully immune to all the usual pitfalls that most best men succumb to, plus you’ll enjoy the day and become a public speaking superhero…not quite a keyworker, but not far off.

a best man in black tie and white button hole smiles as he makes his speech

Don’t let your best man speech spoil your Christmas

That may seem like an overly dramatic thought, but every single summer I speak to best men who tell me that whilst they were sat eating their Christmas dinner, their mind flashed to the best man speech they had to make in 5 months time. Yes, it gets that intense.

Making a best man speech is a massive departure for most guys out there. Some are used to standing up and talking to groups of people through work, but very often this doesn’t help that much as a wedding speech takes them way out of their comfort zone. They’re fine talking about facts and figures around work which they know inside out. Trying to make a room full of people laugh is a completely different ball game. Quite often guys will say to me that they’re not that bothered if it’s not funny, and if I could possibly make the speech last about 3 minutes, then so much the better. On both counts, that’s not going to work.

Not only are guests at the wedding expecting you to make them laugh, and that’s a role you have to step up to, but the humour acts as a perfect balance for the more meaningful things you’re going to say. If you plan to talk affectionately about the groom for the full duration of the speech, then be prepared to lose a whole chunk of the guests whilst they collapse into the wedding buffet with emotional exhaustion. And when it comes to length, you can’t just belt out a 3 minute best man speech because that’s going to look like you’re not taking this opportunity seriously enough, or even worse you’re terrified…and being terrified is not a good look for a grown man, especially when everyone is behind you.

I completely understand that this is a daunting prospect but all it requires is proper preparation and planning, so that when you do stand up you know it’s going to be a hit. The best way to mitigate those fears is to start working on the speech as soon as you can, and only then will you be able to relax safe in the knowledge that you’ve got this covered. In idle moments the brain’s very own screen saver of ‘best man speech alert’ will appear and smother all other thoughts. It’s important that you realise that this is entirely normal and that all other best men out there are experiencing the same periodical trauma episodes.

Resolve to get this started the very first week of January, and keep going until you have a working draft at the end of the month. The you can revisit it, edit and tweak until you’re 100% happy. So, enjoy your Christmas, forget the pressure and instead embrace it, because when you’ve nailed a really great best man speech it’s an unbeatable feeling that says with you for life.

Still popping the question on Christmas Eve?

There’s no doubt about it, Christmas Eve is one of the two biggest days for popping the question. It shares the limelight with close bedfellow New Year’s Eve, and the only thing that separates them is one week and the fact that most people can’t remember doing it when they wake up on January 1st. This year will have extra significance. Not since Leeds UTD left the top flight in 2003, have so many people wanted the year to be one to forget. Expectant couples full of hope and excitement will want to kick off 2021 in the best possible way, with the life changing decision to share the rest of their lives together. But under the current circumstances should you do it?

Well, forget Tier 4, social distancing and talking into a face mask, by the time you’re actually celebrating your wedding, Coronavirus and all it entails will be a dim and distant memory. From the extensive surveys carried out with venues throughout the UK, there isn’t a space any day of the week, right through 2021…and 2022. The fact that so many 2020 weddings got bounced to next year meant that 2021 was fully booked back in August, and I mean rammed. We know of people who tried to book any weekend in August with the same venue they had to cancel with, and there was nothing until 2022, by the time they’d deliberated and got back to them in October, that had become 2023.

The harsh reality of the situation is that if you’re popping the question on Christmas Eve 2020, then you could be looking at a 3 year wait if you’re being ultra specific about venue and date. In the last 10 years there has been an explosion of venues with farmers and large house owners realising that £15k for a weekend’s work beats milking cows or running your own bath. Until this year that had very quickly led to a glut of venues, with many more established places seeing a drop in bookings thanks to a market groaning under the weight of choice. However, for the next few years at least, things have changed.

Don’t let this stop you. If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that established convention isn’t necessarily where it’s at. I wrote for many clients whose hugely expensive and impressively decadent weddings had been swapped for 30 people in a friend’s garden, and they all loved it. So, pop that question, because we all need good news like never before and if you can’t wait 3 years, then let your imagination run wild. It doesn’t have to be an incredible hotel, mega reception and 10 years worth of debt to pay off. If you can guarantee you’re making your groom speech to the people who really matter in your life, then that’s all that matters.

A groom wears a pink rose button hole with his grey three piece suit and white tie

Start writing your father of the bride speech 30 years in advance

I have to accept that as handy speechwriting tips go, this one is going to be only really useful to those people who have just become fathers, and let’s face it: they’ve probably got other things on their mind. The only problem is, when it’s your turn to make that all important father of the bride speech, you will embrace the same age old problem that all guys do in your position…memory loss.

I write speeches for fathers across a range of careers, social set ups, confidence levels and ability to stand up and speak, but they all have one thing in common: they can’t remember a thing. When you’re 8 you can never understand why a grown up can’t remember what you had for tea last Saturday, or that amazing episode of Power Rangers, and that’s mainly because they spend most of their time standing at the top of the stairs wondering why they were coming upstairs in the first place. Yes, memory starts to go right about the time when it would be most useful if it didn’t. Up until about the age of 14 nothing much happens that’s worth remembering, after that exams, careers and filling out house insurance forms mean you’ve got to remember all kinds of things like when you bought the house and if your locks a triple double mortice thingies.

So, what happens is that with two weeks to go, fathers of the bride, most of whom can’t remember coming into the room, sit down and try to remember stories one liners etc from 30 years ago. Which, of course doesn’t work. The harder you try, the less likely it seems to happen, and so what you end up with is a very generic and passionless speech.

You could start writing those things she says and does now. You say to yourself ‘I’ll remember that!’ but you never do. Life takes over and the time your daughter accidentally insulted the vicar disappears into the ether. Ideally you’d start doing this when she was growing up, but that would be weird and you’d probably forget where you put the notes anyway. So, when your daughter announces her engagement, get yourself a notepad, carry it everywhere, and when something pops into your head, jot it down. It may not sound like fun, but it’s a lot easier than standing up and watching the tumble weed.