There are many things I don’t do well. For example, I can’t wrap a gift without it looking like a Frank Gehry building. My Christmas presents actually make people sad. But there are a few things I do well, and one is that I know how to write a best man’s speech for a wedding.
I have given three best man’s speeches. The first one went OK; I learned from it. The last two—judging by the compliments I received and continue to receive—went over well. As a result, occasionally one of my friends will ask for advice on how to write a best man’s speech, as my buddy Jordan recently did.
Here you go, Jordan. This is everything I know about how to write a best man’s speech. I was going to email this, but I’ve sat through enough bad best man’s speeches to know that this information needs to exist beyond an email exchange. Best Men of America, please take note.
Best man’s toast
Remember that your best man’s speech is actually a long toast; it must end as such. Don’t think—as many best men do—that you can tell several embarrassing stories about the bride and groom and then raise your glass and expect your toast to resonate. It won’t. With your humor, charm and grace, you need to earn the moment you toast.
What to talk about
Focus on what makes the bride and groom unique as a couple. Make this a theme. Once you have a theme you can select 1.) What touching anecdotes and funny stories to include 2.) What quotes, song lyrics, poems or religious verses to share (if you want to include those things) 3.) What not to include, such as that time you and the groom filled your RA’s room with cottage cheese.
Write the speech beforehand
A good best man’s speech is like anything else. Hard work is usually rewarded. Write many drafts and rehearse them all in front of a mirror, editing as you go. You can tell when a best man is giving a first draft speech. It sounds like he wrote it during the appetizers, which you can tell he did because he repeatedly mentions mini leek tarts.
Practice your best man’s speech
Speak it out loud over and over. Memorize it. My guess is that if you practice your best man’s speech 20 minutes a day for three days before the wedding, you probably won’t need index cards. (But bring them anyway.) By memorizing the best man’s speech, you can make eye contact with people in the room. Looking at your audience brings a speech to life. Remember, your audience includes tipsy bridesmaids.
Mention parents and grandparents
No one ever mentions the parents and grandparents. Be the best man who does.
Don’t give the best man’s speech from The Wedding Singer
More best man’s speech mistakes
– This is not a roast. Funny stories are welcome, as is gentle teasing, but if you think something might not go over well, or if it sounds like something Jeff Ross would say, or you picture the bride kneeing you in the groin after saying it, cut it.
– Don’t try to write jokes. If you’re honest, the humor will come to you as you write. Also, no inside jokes that only four people in the room will get. Don’t exclude. Include. Everyone wants to love your speech.
– Stay sober. Two beers will not loosen you up. They will make things harder and throw off your timing. You practiced sober, so execute sober.
– Resist the urge to make the speech about you. This isn’t about you, Anne Hathaway.
– Resist the urge to make the speech about you and the groom. A lot of guys make this mistake. You can mention your history with the groom, but don’t make it the majority of your speech. I speak on behalf of everyone at the wedding when I say, “We don’t care.”
– Do not reference anyone’s sex life, especially the bride’s. No stories about how you remember when they started hooking up. Half the people in the room—including the bride—will never forgive you for this, and you might actually get kneed in the groin.
Keep it under two minutes
You should be able to say everything you need to say in less than two minutes. The only exception I would make to this is if you have an interesting story about the couple that symbolizes their relationship perfectly and takes time to tell. But it better be good.
If you look like you are enjoying yourself then the audience is more likely to enjoy whatever you are doing. Remember, it’s not you who is getting married; it’s the sucker sitting next to the bride. (Don’t say things like that during the toast.)
Many guys don’t know how to take a compliment. If you nail the best man’s speech (and you will, Jordan, because you’re a funny guy with a good heart), people will compliment you. Accept these compliments gracefully. If someone goes out of his way to say something nice, pay him the respect of accepting the compliment and thanking him. None of this humble “It was OK” or “It’s no big deal” stuff. It’s disrespectful to the person paying the compliment. Most people appreciate seeing someone do something well.
Or you can forget everything I said and try something crazy like singing your best man’s speech…
Good luck to you, Jordan, and good luck to the rest of the Best Men of America.
Make us laugh. Make us cry. Just don’t make us wish the groom had chosen someone else as his best man.