Choosing your Best man

Best man speech from a child

As we’ve seen in years gone by there are some things that children are great at that grown ups find difficult, like pickpocketing, and cleaning the inside of chimneys. On the whole though, adults do things better, just by virtue of the fact they’ve been around longer, know the score and understand how life works. Children on the other hand don’t. They struggle with remembering what day comes after Wednesday, think the summer holidays are 2 years long and find tying shoelaces right up there with algebra. And that’s not surprising because most of their waking moments are spent thinking about gob stoppers, worms and pretending they’re not tired.

So, why would you think it was a good idea to ask a person whose cultural references are Minecraft, Peppa Pig and The Shopping Mall Cop, to write your best man speech? I work with really experienced professionals from the City, very talented engineers, incredibly confident artisans, and they all have the same thing in common: they’re absolutely bricking it about making a best man speech. Making a room full of people laugh is difficult at the best of times, throw in the fact you haven’t got any stories, have anxiety issues and last cracked a joke about 5 years ago, and it all gets a bit much.

So, this is where asking a child to make a best man speech can actually work out, because they have no idea about the weight of comedy expectation and can deal with it very much in the same way as the Nativity play – which is to talk to their feet very quickly. Yes, they might not have sussed out that they’re in the comedy role but most children’s modus operandi is to get the performance over and done with as quickly as possible, and that means belting it out like a Vickers machine gun whilst keeping their head firmly bowed.

Of course, you will get some super confident kids, the type that attend drama schools and talk about their artistic ambition, unfortunately this type of child is usually so self obsessed, making people laugh isn’t really on their list of to dos.

I’m going to say that the speeches should be left for the grown ups and the kids can play another role. If you’re not looking for a super funny, entertaining speech and just a few oohs and ahhs, then by all means ask your 7 year old son to stand up and say a few words,. However, chances are he’ll be bricking it too, and when you’re 7 you don’t tend to share your anxiety issues, you just actually brick yourself. I would even go further. I have never spoken to anyone under the age of 30 that enjoyed making a best man speech, and more than that – actually did a good job. I think the most dangerous age to ask someone to be a best man is between 21 to 29. They’re guaranteed to have zero confidence and also guaranteed to try and find some at the end of a pint glass.

Stick to that gnarly old mate in his 30’s, a few grey hairs and a knowing outlook on life, and more importantly one that’s going to keep bathroom accidents in his pants to a minimum.

COVID Best Man Speech – Death by analogy

As if this year hasn’t been bad enough with wholesale misery, impending financial doom, soaring unemployment, legions of school children who can’t spell GCSE, and some old people dying with a nasty cough, we have now reached an all time low: the ubiquitous analogy.

It seems that government ministers cannot go three sentences before they feel the need to deploy an analogy in order to make attempting to understand their catastrophic mismanagement a little more fun. Before you know it, you’re not thinking about COVID-19, you’re imagining a football match where the players are germs, the goalkeeper is Boris Johnson, and the result is that he saves the world by stopping giant knobby balls with tentacles on them from going in his goal. In fairness to Boris, this isn’t that far removed from his every day life, except that he’s pretty much hopeless at stopping his giant knobbly balls from going anywhere they want to.

People may say this is ministers being helpfully creative when it comes to explaining a complex and ever changing situation…it’s a bit like trying to cross a junction when the traffic lights are out…Actually it’s got absolutely nothing to do with how the virus is communicated to us, and everything to do with the way it’s being communicated to ministers. At university you can do any degree you like from Pop music to studying the socio economic effects of the introduction of Pumpernickel bread in modern Westphalia, however, there is no degree course in running the country. This means self obsessed morons are left to their own devices when deciding what to study in order to make the really big decisions, and usually that means taking PPE at Oxford or Cambridge.

For the top job of prime minister, this allows you a basic smattering of educational nuggets that ensures you don’t make a complete tit of yourself at state dinners, but for all those other major roles, it’s pretty disastrous. Matt Hancock has no option to start using analogies to describe the virus to us, because he gave up science after GCSE, and so when Witty and Valance had to teach him about it, it was clearly a case of using oranges and fuzzy felt books. Now government ministers have no option but to use analogies because that’s the way it was described to them…almost like a football match where Boris has been playing like Millwall and then in the last 10 minutes decides to become Ajax.

The worrying things is, the analogy has been given such a new lease of life that we’re all bloody doing it now. There was somebody on the radio the other day suggesting that the campaign against the virus was a bit like running a bath, and the water is only up to halfway. Just tell us the fight against Covid is halfway there and I promise you, most people with a pulse will understand. So, whatever you do in your best man speech, please avoid dropping the analogy bomb at all costs. At best it’s going to be incredibly weak, and at worst you’re going to sound like a government minister way out of his depth executing an exercise in reputation damage limitation.

Champagne glasses are held aloft by guests at a wedding as the groom makes a toast to absent friends

Groom speech…thanks…a lot!

It’s not often that you’re asked to stand up in front of room full of people and say lovely things about them, in fact when it does happen it usually means they’re either leaving their job, or have just died. So, the groom speech presents itself as an amazing opportunity in life – a unique opportunity – to thank all the people who have helped to get you to that point.

Great, right? Well, yes it is, and you should seize it with both hands, but this needs to be so. much more than a list of thanks yous. Week in, week out, when we haven’t got a global pandemic, grooms around the world just stand up and roll out a list of thanks. There is nothing more tedious, or indeed pointless than thanking a load of people en masse. By the time you’ve got to third person everyone has stopped listening, and by the end of the speech guests will be fully immersed in renewing their home insurance and booking flights for next year’s summer holidays.

You need to thank people, but it must be done in a really creative and hopefully funny way. A groom speech without humour can prove emotionally torturous, and if you want to engage guests as to why these people mean so much to you, then making them laugh is a great way to do that. Plus it acts as the perfect balance for all the more meaningful things you might like to say. Nobody wants to sit down and listen to a grown man ride an emotional roller coaster for 8 minutes, in some tear jerkingly sodden monologue. This is an entertainment based speech, and you should never lose sight of that…not of you want it to hit the mark.

So, think of the role those people have played in your life, and then either bring some funny memory to contrast with the man you’ve become, or use something about their character to have a laugh. Maybe it’s the sports team they support, maybe it’s the fact they’re not on the golf course for the first time ever…maybe it’s because of their sense of style…or not. There’s comedy to be had in something that bonds you, you just have to find it. Whatever you do, don’t start thanking the caterers, or the florist, or the guy with the cars. I never thanks a paid service, as they really should be thanking you, and unless you want this speech to take on epic proportions, then leave them out. Imagine how weird it’s going to be in 5 years time when you think about the time you spent lauding your new best friend the wedding planner in your speech, because I can guarantee, that will be the last time you ever heard from them.

Father of the bride speech- kicking things off

Every wedding speech has its own demands and expectations – the groom speech has got to be heartfelt, the best man speech is there for the entertainment, and the father of the bride speech celebrates the bride in a combination of the two. However, the added cherry on top for the father of the bride, is that you’re up first. This extar pressure is not to be sniffed at; I have seen plenty of very successful and talented career men go to pieces at the thought of kicking things off, so you need to be prepared.

So, how to tackle it? Well, it’s all about the start. I would avoid the cliched ice breakers as they’ve all been heard a million times and weren’t that funny to start with. The last thing you want to do is say something where you were hoping people might laugh, and you’re met with a stony silence, because after that what you’ll experience will be the longest 10 minutes of your life.

My advice is to have some fun early on with your new son in law, nothing edgy just exploit one of his character traits or passions for a few laughs. Football teams are always good value as there’s comedy gold hard wired into most teams fans DNA. If you support opposing teams , then so much the better. If sport isn’t an option, what about where he comes from? England/Scotland, North vs South, red rose white rose…there’s plenty of fun to be had with locations, you’ve just go to put your thinking cap on.

If you don’t really have that sort of relationship with your son in law, then obviously your daughter is next in line – I only suggest using your son in law because it gives the speech better balance. So, in much the same way think about what fun you could have with your daughter…maybe she;s got a dodgy sense of direction…maybe she’s quite good at pranging cars…all that can feed in to great ways to kick things off.

If that’s drawing a blank, then plunder the world, of current affairs. Back in the day Scottish Independence featured a lot in wedding speeches, so did Brexit, although as I’ve said in other posts I’m resolutely refusing to eniton COVID, in fact I have trouble even writing it. That’s something we all want to forget, and if someone at the wedding has lost someone through the disease, then it’s going to get awkward.

Whatever you do, don’t go for this old chestnut…’Fornication…fornication…for an occasion such as this…’ It might work but it’s not really worth the gamble, and I’m really not sure how funny somebody shouting out sex is.

Groom speech second time round

Very recently I ticked another first in the world of All Speeches Great and Small, by being asked to write a groom speech for someone I had already penned one for about 7 years ago. It should come as no surprise to me that not all the relationships I play a tiny part in don’t go the distance, and I’d like to think it wasn’t anything to do with the speech. I’ll put my hand up when I’ve got it wrong, but the brand new wife getting married whilst having an affair isn’t one of them.

So, what should a groom speech feel like second time round? Well, the elephant in the room is of course the other marriage, and deciding whether to mention it or not. I have always maintained that it’s a no go zone – the wedding day is really all about one person: the bride, and she doesn’t want very public reminders that this isn’t your first rodeo. Having said that, the guy I wrote for recently was adamant that it should be in the speech in a funny way…and also the marriage before that one. I was a little reluctant but being convinced that the bride had a robust sense of humour, I worked in some funny lines here and there, and it actually went down really well. So, I’m going to revise my stance on that one – it’s your call to judge whether your new wife is going to see the comedy in the situation, and if she’s the sort who will, then go for it.

Second time round usually means that there will be children involved, and this is where it can get really tricky, especially if your new partner has children too. Your children, whatever age, need to feel included and wanted on the day, the last thing you should do is skim their part and give the impression you’ve moved on…or even worse start eulogising your new step children. There can be a temptation to go light here if your children and your partner aren’t on great terms. Avoid that temptation, or you’ll have plenty of time to regret it. If you have a challenging relationship with your step children, and that’s not unusual, embrace the challenge and use the speech as a starting point for a new start.

The groom speech is an amazing opportunity to stand up and lovely things about the people who are, and have been important in your life. Seize that opportunity with both hands.

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

Best Man Speeches – what to avoid in 2021

Best man speeches have always been comedy minefields…there is so much that can go wrong when Dave from IT support turns into a stand up for the afternoon, in fact so much so, that the entertainment becomes just how wrong he can get it. The best man speeches landscape is littered with the smoking corpses of guys who went for it, and ruined their lives in the process.

I have been told so many stories about best man speeches that went wonky, I’m almost losing count, but there are some I will never forget…like the guy who drank all afternoon, got up to make a non existent speech, knocked a full bottle of red wine over the mother in law…and after insulting a few people was asked to leave…the wedding. What about the best man who thought it was a good idea to ask the wedding guests to guess the weight of the bride in profiteroles…a bride who wasn’t the smallest in the world. And let’s not forget the well oiled young man who ended his speech by asking if the bridesmaids would like to pleasure him…guess what? They didn’t.

So, what’s changed for 2021? Well, it doesn’t matter how far we travel from the very first best man speech that was written, the usual cliched ‘jokes’ are never very far away. So, as we’re vaccinating ourselves against COVID, why don’t we agree to vaccinate ourselves against genuinely shit best man gags?

Ok, so if you’re thinking of using the line ‘it’s an emotional wedding, even the cake is in tiers’…stop…if you’ve sketched out a speech that includes ‘this isn’t the first time today I’ve stood up from a warm seat with a piece of paper in my hand’…cease…if you’re tempted to deploy ‘the groom’s life changed forever that day when he met the very special person he was going to share his life with: me’…enough already! 2021 is going to provide us with a year of reinvention and empower radical thinking like never before, so let’s embrace that. There were the best man speeches before COVID, and there are the best man speeches after COVID.

If you’ve included in your speech something you’ve heard before then that’s not good enough. If you look at it only from the principle that if you’ve heard it so will others, and therefore laughing at it is going to be challenging, then that’s enough of a reason. If you’re honest with yourself and admit it wasn’t funny to start with, then that’s all the reasoning you need.

Also forget talking about COVID. So many people are asking me to put ‘funny’ lines in their speeches referencing COVID, and I’m not that keen. Chances are the room will be full of people that have had their lives smashed against the rock of the pandemic, and at the very least this wedding offers some form of escape and entertainment that’s been all too lacking in their lives. Forget the Coronavirus and forget best man speeches cliches, and the world will be a better place.

The groom and his groomsmen toast with a beer bottle each

Best man speeches of the future

There is a temptation to think that Coronavirus will forever change the people we are and how we interact with each other. Very early on in the pandemic, a media that just didn’t have anything to write about – nothing it was good at anyway, decided that we’d all be living in the middle of nowhere, working from home and walking about with fish bowls on our heads for the rest of our lives.

This is of course nonsense. Speak to anyone normal who’s been working from home for the last 9 months, and the one thing they want more than anything is to get back in the office. Being at home when it’s a balmy summer’s day and the pub is just a short walk with the dog is one thing; working from home when it’s a grey November, rain sodden day that barely gets light, and you’ll be craving a sushi bar in no time.

It’s also been suggested that weddings will never look the same again. Never will we see 120 people sitting on the floor in a chain pretending to row, wearing far too much of their dinner and other people’s hats…that it’s a goodbye to wholesale massed debauchery. This is of course, bollocks. We all want nothing more than to get back to normal.

The suggestions earlier in the year that weddings could reinvent themselves is slightly missing the point – weddings are forever reinventing themselves. Thirty years ago I don’t think a week long stag do was a thing, I don’t think candles in jam jars existed, couples didn’t have their own websites and weddings didn’t generally last for 3 days and involve a hog roast.

So, the idea that best man speeches are going to be a thing of the past is also total rubbish, usually perpetuated by the kind of people that think standing up once in your life and saying something is akin to DIY open surgery. It’s not. Yes, many people struggle with the idea of public speaking, but if you prepare, and preparation is everything, then nailing a really great best man speech is a completely unbeatable feeling. Hearing the laughter and applause is such a departure from your everyday life, that it should be viewed as an unmissable, once in a lifetime opportunity, rather than something to be phased out.

Forget the imminent evolution of weddings. Look forward to your best man speech like never before, because now more than ever people really want to laugh and enjoy themselves, and you’re the guy to do it!

Groom speech: you are now the main event

Having heard about the empty threats to cancel Christmas ever since I was a young boy, it now seems the impossible may well happen, and that our favourite party of the year could be canned. Science people who have no understanding of life outside a lab, and ministers with PPE’s from Oxford who try and talk knowledgeably about viruses, have decided that the most expedient way to destroy human life is to remain as separated as we can until all that’s left is a smoking, charred landscape with a few McDonald’s.

It means that weddings when they come back will probably do so in a series of stages. The summer rules on weddings were an embarrassment to humankind and one day the person who created them will end up in some gulag breaking rocks with their cast iron thickness. No singing, no wind instruments and hymn books are to be self isolated for 2 days – this makes the one about a fish feeding 5000 people look fairly reasonable.

It all means that there will be a greater focus on the speeches, because when it comes to entertainment, that’s about the beginning and the end of it. Your groom speech will be the shining beacon of fun, comedy and sentiment, and so now more than ever, you need to smash it. As bridesmaids won’t be bounced around the dancefloor by uncle Dave who started drinking about 2 days ago, this is where guests will come to get their enjoyment, so it needs to be more than just polished…it needs to be funny.

Never, in the last 60 years, have we needed a laugh more than we do now. Even in the Second World War, the pubs were open, you could go to the movies and dance and sing. So, make sure your groom speech hits the comedy really early on and thread it right through the entire speech. The guests will love you for making them laugh, when in reality very few of us have anything to laugh about. And what’s more, they’ll remember that effort for many years to come.

Best Man Speech – The COVID question

Now we are on the cusp on recovery, thanks to a vaccine injecting hope into the world for the first time since anyone can remember, it will soon be time to think about wedding speeches again, and for many that’s about as welcome as a head butt.

Well, like it or not, your best man speech will be coming up to greet you all too soon, and the days of laying on the sofa in denial watching Netflix for hours on end, will be a dim and distant memory. Of course, against the backdrop of a global pandemic, there will be an overwhelming temptation to maybe mention Coronavirus in some funny way. You’re very likely going to be making a speech that should have been made about a year ago, and so in a bid to give a nod to all the catastrophe that Covid has caused, you might want to have some fun at its expense.

There is of course a problem here, and that’s mainly the one about death, insanity and the other people we share the planet with. I’ve had a good think about this, and as far as I can see there’s very little comedy to be had with the Coronavirus, well, none that you could say at a wedding. Yes, teachers have all got amazing sun tans, thousands of kids can do incredible tricks on their BMX but can’t spell their own name, and it turns out the one thing we all can’t live without is bog roll. Every hedge, grass verge and gutter is decorated with the PPE remnants of a national virus party, and self obsessed, myopic, dimwit parents are getting asymptomatic children tested and then shutting down whole year groups.

No, there is nothing funny about it whatsoever. Yes, you might have a laugh about it in your speech, and then realise that the groom’s 109 year old granny pegged out with a cough in August, but that’s not really the problem. It will simply remind us of a time of panic buying, unbridled hysteria, and a complete dereliction of common sense. If I were you. I’d just forget it.

Father of the bride speech – son in law issues

With all the jolity that surrounds a wedding, most people take it for granted that beneath the yummy design touches, the carefully crafted favours, and the string quartet, almost certainly lie a few issues. The bride will probably have had one or two falling outs with her bridesmaids, families will squabble about invites, and the groom will have issues with the caterers.

However, there’s one far more permanent relationship issue that regularly crops up, and that’s the one between the father of the bride, and his future son in law. For whatever reason it might be – job, football team, accent of manners…the bride’s father isn’t guaranteed to like the guy his daughter is marrying, and that really doesn’t matter apart from one very important moment: the father of the bride speech.

For the rest of your lives, you can avoid each other, but what do you say in a speech, when what you’d really like to say would probably result in a full scale riot? Well, unsurprisingly less is more in this situation, because the longer you try to talk about the groom, the more likely it is you’re going to say something inflammatory. You’ve also got to remember that most people will be aware that there’s no love lost, so the last thing you should do is wax lyrical about what a great human being he is. That tactic can cause an edgy discomfort that lingers long, and in the worst case scenario it could be seen as extreme sarcasm, which again should be avoided at all costs.

The best thing to do is touch lightly on the subject of the groom, say how happy your daughter is, and how excited she is about their future. That way you’re projecting it from her point of view, and you’re not loading yourself up with disingenuous sentiment. Whatever you do, don’t avoid mentioning him altogether. I’ve had this request a few times, and it could easily end in disaster, because by clearly omitting one of the most important people of the day, you’re throwing a spotlight on to them in a really stark way.

Keep it light, and don’t use it as an opportunity to score points. This day is all about your daughter, and if you can show just how happy you are for her – even when you’re not – it’s something she will never forget…for all the right reasons.