It’s a known fact that most grown men would rather wrestle a tiger in their underpants than stand up in front of a crowd of people and speak for five minutes. This is understandable as, apart from our own families, many go out of their way to avoid any form of spoken communication with anyone not in their ‘circle’. Whilst commuting we prefer to inspect our shoes or pretend to be asleep and in supermarket queues we stand there fixated on the contents of the trolley we’ve just filled. Now of course we have smartphones that can fill every single second of our waking hours. If somebody you don’t recognize looks like they might want to talk to you, just pop out the iPhone and check up on the weather in Jeddah.
For the time being, however, wedding speeches are going to require people to stand up and speak out loud. Chances are if you’re somewhere in your 20’s or 30’, you haven’t had to do this for many years and even then it was probably for some misdemeanor. And that’s maybe part of the problem: we associate public speaking with being in trouble. Standing up in class, standing up in court, standing up at a wedding reception; it’s all the same sort of thing.
Now you might be thinking that in order for it not to be a Route 1 pathway into therapy that every single detail of the speech must be taken care of. You’d be right. Sort of. There is no substitute for a killer speech with plenty of practice; some good lines, clever observations, a bit of mush and then you’re outta there. If the microphone is playing up, if most of the guests can’t see you because of that brick pillar or if you decided to speak whilst most of the guests are still stone cold sober. Then you’ve had it.
There is one banana skin that could be a real blessing in disguise: the wedding speech hecklers. You will always get a heckler at a wedding and usually it’s the ‘wedding clown’. This tends to be one of your uncles unleashed from his domestic routine, fuelled by complimentary booze and almost certainly wearing his wife’s hat half way through the meal. He feels the world has a right to know just how witty he can be and/or just what a knob he thinks you are. But the great thing about these people is, they’re great for a put down and if you can manage that, then whatever you have to say afterwards is going to be treated as gold.
Have some generic ammo in your pocket. Those that start heckling are likely to be older guests, but these will work nicely for anyone
Sorry, do you need help visiting the bathroom?
Oh, hello there **** how is the drink problem?
As I said at the beginning welcome to all those we love and care about. And you ***
Yeah, my mum never liked you. She was right.
…You get the idea. Make it confident and witty you’re not trying to destroy the person just have some fun with them, so do it with a smile on your face. When you land it your confidence will soar and you’ll practically waltz through the rest of the speech.
Quite simply they’re the magic dust to sprinkle on your performance. Expect them. Dispatch them. Revel in the glory.
Yes he’s either spent years following you around, borrowing your things being annoying, or he’s been the younger kid that you used to get to do dangerous things to see how much he could hurt himself, and now the ultimate conclusion of that relationship is he’s made you Best Man. Most guys have mixed feelings about being the best man and usually the only thing that can give it a negative spin is the speech. I talk to many guys all over the world each week and I’ve never met one who was looking forward to the speech – the expectation for an entertaining, funny and engaging speech can be understandably daunting. The problem with writing one for your brother is that you may have lived in the same house, but not hung out together, or you’re so close that trying to work out what you’d like to say and make it funny can seem almost impossible. The upshot of these two scenarios is exactly the same: you don’t have anything to write about, but don’t worry there are ways around everything and your best weapon should be creativity.
The first thing to remember is that this is a celebratory, entertaining speech about your brother. It is not a CV is spoken form, it is not a list of accolades and accomplishments, and it’s not an application for him to join Mensa. The bottom line is that all you have to do for the most part is make people laugh in and around the subject of your brother; some will know him intimately and some will have never met him, so the comedy needs to be really accessible and easily digestible. The biggest hurdle facing all best men is that they simply don’t have anything to write about for a whole variety of reasons, so forget about what you can’t write about and start concentrating on what you can. Make a list of bullet points regarding your brother, these can be anything from his hair colour to his hobbies, include nicknames, his passions, what he doesn’t like and use that as a starting point. once you have that list you know what you’ve got to work with and can then work out how to piece it all together.
At this point you’re probably thinking “I need some stories!”…but you’d be wrong. The biggest misconception about writing a best man speech is that it should just be a string of anecdotes recounting inglorious moments of the groom’s past, which in fact couldn’t be further from the truth. Landing a really good story relies on having a killer punchline and when telling it to a large audience really needs a seasoned raconteur to complete its delivery. In short: it’s bloody hard to land a story in a speech, and it’s where most best men fail. The problem only gets worse as the first story hasn’t worked and so your confidence evaporates and the audience’s confidence in you similarly disappears, and so the subsequent stories you’re about to tell don’t stand a chance.
So forget stories, yes that’s right – forget them. This should come as welcome news to those brothers that don’t have any stories or those awaiting delayed responses from friends promising to come up with the goods. You don’t need them. At the very most you can use some of the story in condensed form and just use it as punchline. So, for instance instead of telling us in real time the story of the groom going to the supermarket wearing underpants on his head, you can just refer to him as ‘the type of delusional young man, whose very public cry for help of wearing underpants on his head was completely at odds with his chess club membership”…or something like that, but you get the picture.
All really great best mans speeches should be a creative romp through the life of the groom. It doesn’t matter if you glue it together with fantasy here and there, what you’re really looking to achieve is not a collection of stories, but one big story, which is great for brothers because you’re in the unique position of being there right from the beginning. So the best idea is to take those list of bullet points and then find a way of weaving them all together into one big comedic observation.
What did he look like as a baby? How did he behave when he was little? And how can you compare that to the man he has become? Once you start to pick up threads like that you can work out how to travel from the young boy you grew up with to the present day groom, exploring whether he still has those flaws and passions, and exploiting it all for comic effect. What you have to do here is let your imagination run wild, don’t be constrained by the facts – you’re not looking to paste in Googled jokes but if need to make up a few things in order for a conceit to work, then go for it. People just want you to make them laugh, so it really doesn’t matter if he never wanted to be Prime Minister or a spaceman, if pretending that he did makes it easier to have some fun with the fact he’s ginger or likes Boyzone, then you simply have to do it.
By writing it this way you’re avoiding the worse possible scenario which is trying to get stories from friends of his in order to bolster your arsenal of literary weaponry. By all means use nuggets of what they’ve sent you – it usually takes ages to arrive and is invariably sketchy at best – but by making it one big story you’re not going through the painful and tricky process of recounting other people’s stories which is always a hiding to nothing.
Another thing to remember is that you’re not simply saying how lovely his brand new wife is, you’ve just gained a new member of the family and a brand new sister in law, so that needs to be fully recognised in your speech. It doesn’t matter if you really don’t know her, or aren’t that keen on her, you need to extend a warm and loving welcome on behalf of your family, and let her know how wonderful she looks and how lucky you all are to have her. However, you don’t need to go into detail about her family and her parents etc – the groom will have just spoken about them and almost certainly toasted them, so avoid repetition.
I usually only reserve some time in the brother’s best man speech for parents if there has been a bereavement, and only then if the groom has asked you make a reference. The focus of the day is the bride and all spotlights should be fully trained on her, so if the groom’s speech makes reference to a deceased parent and a toast, then best man should avoid, as it will begin to shift the focus away form the happy couple and the celebratory day that it’s meant to be. Apart from that scenario there isn’t any need to talk about your parents in the speech as the groom should have thanked them in his speech, so avoid going over old ground. If you are going to say some words about an absent parent do it towards the start of the speech, keep it light and try to find some humour in the subsequent paragraphs.
If your brother has children from this relationship, a former relationship or is gaining step children, then don’t forget to mention them in the speech and say what a great dad he is as well, and lovely kids they are…even if you don’t mean it!
Nothing beats a really great speech, and of course practicing it is key to really doing it justice on the day, but how can you be sure you’ve got the performance spot on? Most guys will line up family, friends and even pets, on whom they can inflict the fruits of their creative labour. There is, however, a huge problem with this approach and that’s mainly if you appoint somebody as a critic, they usually revel in the role and start pulling the speech apart for the sake of it. Perfectly great lines and conceits are cut because somebody’s partner didn’t like it, or hadn’t heard of Guantanamo Bay.
But what if there was a service whereby you could rock up, practice your speech in front of similarly nervous Best Men, have a professional speech writer guide you on performance and content tweaks, and then go home safe in the knowledge that you don’t have to share it with anyone else until the big day? Well, here it is: The Best Man Speech Clinic.
Every Monday evening in a place they call London Bridge, for two whole hours you can hone your delivery and fine tune your speech with my expertise and share your hopes and fears with other guys in exactly the same situation as you. All it costs is £45, and for that you get a selection of classically flavoured crisps and a couple of beers, which you can either enjoy gently through the session or nail them all in one for a huge but short lived confidence boost.
Just complete the form below quoting Best Man Speech Clinic and we’ll book you in and give you the details.
Come along and make your speech the best it can be. Whichever way you look at it: it’s going to be interesting!