Ben Maffin of maffin.co.uk states that the Best Man’s Speech is generally some sort of a speech given after the meal at the wedding reception. The reason you may wish to give one can be as varied as the friendship, love, respect, a celebration of life or just because you want to recount the good times.
In many respects writing a Best Man’s Speech is similar to writing a good eulogy at a funeral. There are certain simple ground rules which you want to either do or avoid. Of course, once you’re on your feet in front of the audience there’s nothing stopping you from saying what you like – but bear in mind other people’s feelings. It’s a lot more gratifying having someone tell you how lovely the speech was, than getting something horrid off your chest.
What to do
Be nice; consider what you are writing as a celebration of the Groom or his achievements. Think about the audience and the person who is getting married (and who they are marrying)!
An older person will have a wealth of life behind them with which to draw stories whereas a younger person may not have achieved as much. This is no real obstacle when writing, as although there may be few details in someone’s life you have to play with it is likely that they are a loved one or friend so you may wish to talk about your POSITIVE thoughts and feelings.
It is important to type your notes up and save them, though as we will go through later you will not be reading them verbatim (sorry, but you just can’t) as you would a eulogy.
Keep the timing under 10 mins. No one will be listening after then unless you’re a professional speaker and have this down to a fine art.
What not to do
Be bitter. If the circumstances as to the wedding are controversial or you do not really agree with the marriage do not mention this. Do not use your speech to get back at anyone or try and have the last laugh. It’s just not what a Best Man’s Speech is for, chances are no one will thank you for it and your triumph will be short lived.
Do not mention other relationships, stay away from any drug use or violent stories.
If you’re not too sure what is, or is not appropriate consider how the bride’s mother would react if you sat in her lounge and gave the speech to her one to one. I found that one really worked well.
You are likely to be delivering the speech from the top table and without a microphone (if you do have a microphone make sure it is working before you start).
The key to a successful delivery for most people is practice. If you’ve used any long words or those hard to pronounce make sure you’ve practiced them aloud. Even better, leave them out and go for something else.
There is however no shame in standing in the bathroom going through the speech though you should ALWAYS do it aloud. It is not good enough simply going through it in your head, no matter how much you try and kid yourself.
A big tip here is DO NOT GET DRUNK before making the speech. It’s okay to have one drink, but save any heavy sessions until after you’ve finished.
The Delivery Notes
The BEST Best Man’s Speeches are delivered without reading off an A4 piece of paper. Do not read them verbatim – this is what school children do. No matter how nervous you are reading word for word makes you look nervous and your audience will respect you less.
Always TYPE up your notes in full before the event though just in case. Double line spaced in case you HAVE to read them out.
Ideally you want to use ‘cue’ cards which you will have hand written. Make sure the text is large enough to read from arms length. Remember that you will probably be stressed enough as it is without the added pressure of trying to find your place on a densely compacted narrative, or even worse notes you cannot read.
An example of a cue card I have used is located in this link. They are Concord Ruled Record Cards 5 x 3″
Do no rush the Best Mans Speech. There is never any rush. Take your time standing up when the MC introduces you, take your time getting your notes out and pause before starting. I would also look at your audience before starting as well, as it will connect you with them.
Always have three copies of your notes. One inside a jacket pocket, one inside a trouser pocket (or handbag) and one with a member of the audience who’s close by and will not give any of the delivery away and spoil the surprise.
Sitting Down and Actually Writing
This sounds like a weird thing to say, but until you start writing the speech you won’t actually have a speech. Sit down a good few months before the wedding and start drafting. It’s boring but do it. Try and find somewhere quiet where you cannot be distracted by a TV or Xbox 360 (I used the library).
Avoid using too many cliché quotes and steer clear of Best Man Speech books. Chances are half the people in the room will have heard the jokes from previous weddings, and remember the Groom speaks before you… if he’s been lazy (and Grooms are invariable when writing their speeches) he’ll have gone straight to the books and copied the quotes. You don’t want to try and tell the same jokes as him… they probably weren’t funny the first time, second time round you’ll drop like a lead balloon.
As with all speeches and writing in general the structure is key to successfully communicating what you want to say. Generally everything has a start, middle and an end. This may seem obvious but if you consider how this affects what you need to say and when, it is a great help.
Sometimes actually getting started is the hardest part of the whole process and having these three ‘idea bins’ (start, middle and end) to pop thoughts into make it a lot easier.
The start of any speech should set the tone of how the rest of the piece is to be delivered. This could include a somber start or even a joke. Just remember to try and get the tone right for the audience you are giving the speech to.
A good starter is stating the facts. Do not be crass, a simple line about who is getting married and why you are all there is perfect (see example above for my first cue card). Remember it can take a couple of sentences to get into the swing of a speech and keeping it simple at the beginning will help self confidence. It will also mean that the audience does not have to listen to complicated ideas or stories from the very start. As with the reader, it can take the audience a few moments to tune into what you are saying.
The middle should be the major part of the Best Man’s Speech. This is where you get to stretch your metaphorical legs and deliver what you need to say. By this time your easy starter will have got you in the groove and your audience will be listening.
The Middle – Breaking it up – Narrative Linking
While the middle can be seen as the largest part of the speech, it is still best to break up the writing into easy, bite sized pieces.
Probably the most logical way of doing this is simple chronology. Most people’s thought processes use a simple time line to follow events. A to B to C. Start in the person’s early years and progress through. Avoid jumping about from one time to another as this will confuse your audience and probably you as you read it out.
There is nothing wrong in including funny stories as long as they are not too rude or would offend someone. Some of the finest speeches use visual aids (make sure they are not worth anything). A good example of this is when a bride’s father was giving his speech and he told the audience that his daughter had had a few serious relationships in the past but these were behind her, and if any of her gentlemen friends in the room had house keys to pop them in the jar at the front.
One by one half the men in the audience stood up and popped the father’s house keys in the pot.
Of course this was all staged, and the bride took it in very good humor but it is a perfect example of preparation and actions speaking louder than words.
It is possible to make up stories and fit a joke around them changing the characters.
By using other people and linking in this way you will find it will open up a larger wealth of stories and situations which you can talk about.
This is the time to wind down the stories and end on a positive note. ALWAYS end on a positive note. Why? Because the end is usually the bit people remember. It is the bit they will have in their minds when you sit down and it is the bit they will associate you with.
This means keep it short, to the point and… you guessed it positive.
Round off the end of the Best Man’s Speech with a toast, “To the Bride and Groom”. Sit back and lap up the applause and if you’re lucky (or not depending what they look like) the attention of the bridesmaids.
Pulling it All Together
There are very few people who can write a speech in one draft. It usually takes LOTS of drafts and in many ways it is good to take a bit longer. Try and leave the speech for a few days before returning to it with fresh eyes. This way you will be able to see if something does not flow right or make sense. Sometimes it is advisable to read your piece in front of a confidant. This is a matter of personal choice. It can be quite hard to do but excellent practice!
Remember to take criticism on the chin if you go down this route. It’s not easy.
Maffin.co.uk reminds the reader that writing a Best Man’s Speech should be fun and it is a fairly simple affair if you follow a structured approach. It can be enlightening and the reason I have written this is because the Best Man’s Speech I wrote gave me a great deal of satisfaction after seeing the smiling faces of those I read it to. It also gave the audience something to consider and an easier opener to talk to people I didn’t know afterwards.
Lastly it is worth remembering that by the time it is your turn to give the Best Man’s Speech most of the guests will have had a tummy full of food and wine. They’ll be in the mood for a laugh and probably will not treat you too harshly if you get something wrong… and if you do it’s not the end of the world.