Two Best Men
How do you solve the problem of multiple best men?
What used to be considered maverick and unusual is very quickly becoming the wedding day norm all over the world : multiple best men. And unless you both give it some proper thought it can all too easily unravel into a lengthy, protracted and difficult entertainment experience for all concerned.
Where to start?
Well, the first thing you have to work out is if you’re doing a speech together – a two hander, or you’re going to make two separate sequential speeches. By far and a way the best method is for you to give a joint two handed speech. It means you don’t repeat content, nobody doubles up on gags or areas of the groom’s life, and crucially it means that nobody has to make that last speech.
If you’re making separate speeches the guy who goes on last has a very tough job – the guests have reached their limit and just want to get on with the fun, and if the best man before you has really nailed it, you’re in for a long afternoon. It’s not unusual for each best man to speak for over 10 minutes and that means nearly half an hour of best man speech…and that’s way too much.
However, there will be times when separate speeches are the only option and in that case it’s essential to make sure you give yourself every opportunity of success.
Deciding that separate speeches is the best idea…
Sometimes separate speeches is the only way to go and it’s usually for one or more of these reasons:
- There is no time to practice with the other best man
- You have wildly different ideas of what works and what doesn’t
- You really don’t know the other best man
- You have less than 2 weeks to go until the wedding
Trying to force a joint speech is a really bad idea if the other guy isn’t keen. It will only lead to resentment and a very difficult experience. If that’s the case then there’s only one piece of advice you need to bear in mind, and that’s : GO FIRST!
The first guy on has a much easier time of it, and if you’re not in contact with the other best man and he hasn’t consulted you, then you need to make sure it’s your material that sounds original and interesting. If he then subsequently speaks about areas of the groom’s life and jokes you’ve covered, then it’s only going to affect his performance. It may sound a little mercenary but it’s your best man speech and you have to look after yourself if there’s been no interest in working together on it.
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how to make a joint speech work
A joint speech should work like a good double act – you bounce form one speaker to the other with each best man taking about 3 paragraphs at a time. You don’t want the change overs to be any more frequent than this otherwise you’ll be forever handing over the microphone and it will seem really disjointed.
All you are doing is telling the story of the groom in the most funny, entertaining way possible, just a like a lone best man. You should never fall into the trap of thinking you actually are a double act and start asking each other pre planned questions about the groom and then answering them – like Morcambe and Wise, because that comes across as really awkward. Talk to the guests not yourselves, so avoid saying things like “do you remember the time Dave when the groom…’, it just doesn’t work.
The most basic and essential advice here is: practice. It might sound obvious but there’s no replacement for running through it a few times in the weeks before the wedding.
The length of multiple best man speeches
A regular Best Man Speech should be a stand up to sit down time of no more than 10 minutes for a UK/Australian speech, and slightly less for a US speech. Having two Best Men doesn’t double that, and you really have to keep an eye on your timings.
- A Joint Best Man Speech – this should come in at around the 13 minute mark or so with change overs, so you’re looking at around 1600 words. The guests will always have a certain attention span and you really need to bear this in mind when you’re making the speech, no matter how funny you think it might be. Quiet often joint speeches can unravel into 30 minute epics and you want to avoid this at all costs, nobody remembers them for the right reasons.
- Sequential Speeches – If you’re speaking separately then your speeches should be a stand up to sit down time of around 7 minutes, so that’s a talking time of around 6 minutes or so. The worst possible scenario is for the first speaker to ignore timings and speak ad nauseam… nobody will be the slightest bit interested in the last speaker because they will have all died of boredom. If you find yourself in that position, then keep it short and on point, and reference the fact that as the first speaker did such a great job you’re here just for some well earned toasts – have some spontaneous fun with it…it’s the only way!
What to do if the first best man steals your thunder?
If you have no contact with the other Best Man and you find yourself in the dreaded second speaker slot, that’s bad enough, but things can get an awful lot worse if he then takes all the stories and observations you were going to make in your speech. So what do you do?
Well, the best advice is not to get in this position in the first place. On pain of death try to get him to send you a copy of his speech, or at the very least bullet pints as to what he’s going to be speaking about. However, if that doesn’t happen and you suddenly find yourself about to stand up and say exactly what he;s been saying, definitely have a plan B option.
The Best Plan B
- You should stand up make a theatrical ripping up of your current speech. Don’t look angry, just pleasantly resigned to the fact that you now have no formalised speech to make!
- Make reference to the fact that the first best man should probably have returned your calls when you were writing your speech and toast the other best man.
- Have a story, any story about a time when you were in difficulty and the groom helped you out – relate that to your current difficult position.
- Toast the happy couple.
- And sit down.