Being anointed the best man can fortify a bromance like nothing else, but also brings some hefty responsibility. While the pre-matrimony perks may include buying rounds of shots in Vegas and getting paired up with the maid of honor, the most vital duty awaits on that day of celebration.
Having been to over 50 weddings in my lifetime, I’ve found that the real differentiator isn’t all the odds and ends. At some point songs, food and flowers all kind of feel the same. No one is going to remember the amazing cut of beef, how lush the hydrangeas were, or the groomsmen gifts that were given. What makes a difference are those human moments that make us pause.
Stage fright is real. Those that are comfortable going up in front of hundreds of people and launching their words with eloquence is not natural to most. Public speaking is a skill that isn’t easy to master, but if you put some structure around it, prepare and follow a few key tips, you can pull it off like a champ.
We checked in with our pals over at Vow Muse,whose practice puts pen to paper in writing killer best man speeches for their customers. They shared what they saw as top tips to make sure you wow your crowd:
Plan in advance.Despite how quick you are on your feet, the key to a good speech is putting some thought into it. This isn’t a chicken scratch on the back of an envelope kind of deal. A good speech takes a little thought process. With all the other activities you’ll be involved with, bachelor parties, etc., finding the time during the calm is crucial. The advice here is three months before the wedding. Let it simmer a bit and allow your creativity a window as opposed to pulling something off on the fly. Spontaneous can be good sometimes, but not when it comes to a great speech.
Make a killer speech “first impression”Meaning set the tone in the first couple lines. It will grab the audience and get momentum started early. Don’t let the crowd drift. Reality is that most don’t expect a great speech because they’re hard to come by, so put some pop in early. Whether it’s a one-liner or roast, get it started on the right foot.
StorytellingFind one good story that pulls it all in, and ham it up. Play the heartstrings, get some knees slapping. That story that typifies your groom perfectly, ideally pulling in your friendship with him. Everyone loves a great story.
AuthenticityDon’t force it, don’t feel scripted. This can be an issue if you over prepare. You want natural. The words should be what you “feel” not what you memorized.
Self-DeprecationEveryone likes a guy that can make fun of himself, it makes you relatable and down to earth. So throw a couple barbs at yourself, it’ll make the groom look even better. It’s his day, amp him up. There will likely be a lot of aunties and uncles in the audience that doesn’t know you, make yourself likable and a great reflection on the groom.
Find the timing sweet spotToo short, and it feels like you didn’t think about it. Too long and the crowd develops ADD and starts getting hungry. The team at Vow Muse has often thought 5 minutes lands right in the zone of everyone wanting more, but just enough. This can range a bit on the nature of the wedding, a
Don’t over roast and definitely don’t roast the bride to beIt’s not your place and no matter how good your relationship with her, it’s her big day and the ladies tend to idealize the magic moment. They’re not going to find it hysterical if you tell the crowd how she put on her freshman 15. If you’re going to go with a roast, keep it to the groom and be gentle. No one needs to know how he passed out in his own excrement 10 years ago.
Do a few dry runs, ideally with a willing audiencePractice makes perfect and no matter how many times you do it in front of a mirror, it won’t be the same as having eyeballs on you. Half the challenge here is often having 200 sets of eyes on you, not just the delivery.
Jot it down, if for nothing else, to visualize the speech.What most don’t realize is that the exercise of writing helps us retain. Then you’ll have a little reference guide to comfort you in case you any temporary amnesia set in.
Be animated and be clear.They say communication is 93% tone and body language. Walk a bit, own the floor, vary your tone, have some highs and lows. To grip your audience, you need to mix it up and you need to enunciate like a champ. A mousey man does not grab a crowd. Keep the delivery well paced, run on speeches are hard to synthesize.
Don’t have more than 1 drink.Yes, you might think it will help with the jitters, but it will also kill the authenticity. Nothing says blubbering more than a slurred speech.
Writer’s often look for a muse to help them with their writer’s block. Scrap that concept with a good best man speech. What you need here is a recipe and a few key ingredients. It’s on you to splash in the spices that customize this speech dish to your couple, event and relationship.
You may think you are the next Andrew Dice Clay, but a great Best Man Speech is not the opening act of a comedy club. You need to understand your audience and find content that appeals to the masses. That crowd is bound to have quite a broad spectrum of humans, so keep it classy and ensure that the comedy stays somewhat PG. Stay away from:
It may sound funny in your head, but you have a lot of heads to appeal to.
Your speech can go in a variety of ways, but it needs to strike the delicate balance of funny and sentimental. Go too far either way and you come off as either a sappy mess or a clown. Now it’s on you to design a speech that is built around your groom’s style. Does your guy appreciate a roast or a barb? Does your guy appreciate the old memories? Mix it up appropriately so you get some laughs and you get some awes.
To kick it off, a great one-liner always makes a splash.
Let's face it, flowers, DJ's, etc, how much can they really differ? Florists and DJ's do thousands of weddings and you're just another. The one truly authentic piece is that speech. It showcases the personalities in the wedding and the bond between all in the wedding party. At the end of the day, that's why people are there.
We thought it would be great to start a blog where best men and future best men can do a little research on what really makes it work and differentiates. Having been a best man a couple times now and having been to a ton of weddings, I know the importance of what that moment means. Just a little pressure.
Here is a speech that has hit the web that knocks it out of the park. Again, the key point is authentic, original and genuine.
“Chris is the kindest pal anyone could ask for; a man whose philanthropy knows no bounds. ‘Generosity’ should be his middle name. He would do anything for me; in fact, he even wrote this section of my speech!”
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I have no problem admitting to you all that I’m extremely nervous right now. And as the people sitting near the front of the room can attest, it is actually possible to smell fear.”
“For anyone itching to hit the dancefloor, the band will start shortly after the final toast. Which reminds me, 20 years ago, Chris was told by a doctor that he would never dance normally again. When the band starts, you’ll see exactly what that specialist was talking about.”
“It really is impossible to praise the Groom too highly; in fact, while writing this speech, I found it impossible to praise him at all!”
“Chris was in a pub when he proposed. No, really, it was actually very romantic – he got up on one knee.”
"Chris was born on the 16th of October, 1978. My parents had wanted a girl... and let's be honest, they very nearly got one."
"Chris took his big brother role very seriously as a kid. He was determined to do what was expected of him. So he beat me up, blamed me for everything he broke, stole my stuff, sabotaged my plans and generally made life unbearable. Anyway, it's a great honor to be giving the best man's speech today... or as I call it, payback."
"I'll be honest; I always got the feeling that Chris was Mom and Dad's favorite because he could get away with anything. This one time, he brought this fat little smelly kid home from school with him and just marched him into the house. Mom was furious, but she did nothing to stop him. Then again, I suppose she had no choice. I did live there."
But this is the guy he is. Whether we’re on vacation or finding ourselves in difficult situations, Chris is a guy you can count on, and somebody who will always seek to make things better in any way he can.
So obviously somebody this special wasn’t going to stay looking out for his friends forever, and one day he met the very beautiful Melissa…and so we find ourselves here today.
Bring the bride to tears, your best friend to hiccups, and knock every other person’s freaking socks off when you follow these six simple steps for delivering the greatest best man speech, ever:
Step one: Don’t plan ahead so you’re good and nervous. That way, the second your buddy says I do, you can start to pregame like your college’s biggest rival is about to step onto the field. (Translation: Drink your face off.)
Step two: If you’re not staggering as you grab the mic from the DJ, you didn’t do step one right, so grab a shot to gulp on your way up. Once at the front of the room, take a deep breath and remember: this isn’t a tribute. This is a battle. A battle to determine who is the most badass, hilarious, self-absorbed best man ever.
Step three: Make sure you tell the story of that time in Amsterdam, circling the clock tower (or was the clock tower circling you?) on magic mushrooms. Bonus points for describing the various women you cat-called and anything that took place in a bathroom.
Step four: Mention an ex-girlfriend of his. Like the one who wore a cheerleading outfit everywhere, even though she wasn’t a cheerleader (or making an ironic statement - it’s just what she “felt most comfortable” in).
Step five: To make sure your speech is awkwardly long, ramble. Say “I love you man!” more than once. If you lose your train of thought, don’t worry. Fill in space by yelling, “The bridesmaids mostly look great!”
Step six: Mic drop. It never fails to be a classic way to propose a toast. Now sit back and enjoy the accolades.
You’ve caught on that we’re kidding by now, right? We’re sure you’ve seen this speech before, but that doesn’t mean you should emulate it for your friend’s wedding celebration. This sort of speech is not only avoidable but should indeed be avoided (at all costs even).
All that ribbing, roasting, and debauchery you may really want to mention? Don’t. Really. Even if it sounds funny in your head, and it’s really “you,” remember that this is a formal occasion where dearest friends and family have gathered to celebrate the love between two people, not reminisce about that time the groom dry-heaved himself to tears in the back of that gypsy cab. Instead, giving a speech that is planned, practiced, and well-executed will present you - and hence your friend-groom - as decent, respectable humans to this large group of people who are eager to raise their champagne flutes. Which is way more important on this particular day, trust us.
So how do you actually give the best Best Man speech? Well, we’ve got a simple six-step guide for how to put together, from start to finish, an awesome best man speech that will have people shaking your hand, clapping your shoulder, and (most importantly) not grimacing while you speak.
1. Give yourself a few weeks - if not a month or two - to write your speech.
Great speeches rarely write themselves on the spot, unless you’re a Toastmasters regular. You’ll want plenty of time to write the first draft, then a second draft, then a third draft (yes, this is normal for good writing).
Do not necessarily use the first thing that comes out of your pen - instead, write something without judgment, let it sit for a day or two, then return to it and work on it again. You’ll have new thoughts and ideas. Repeat this process.
2. Present your friend in a positive light (and don’t embarrass his bride!). Remember how protective of your now-married pal you felt when he started dating that lovely lady in white? Channel that feeling - the one that made you worry he’d get his heart broken (he didn’t! Winning!), the part of you that deeply cares about your buddy’s health, well-being, and happiness.
When you write from the more emotional side of your friendship, the speech will be heartfelt, sincere, and much more “you.”
Pro tip: Topics you might want to touch on include reasons your friend will make a good husband (back it up with examples!), why the bride is lucky to be marrying him, and what love means to the couple.
And remember, just because you’re not roasting the guy doesn’t mean this can’t have a bit of humor. Add in a few funny (but mostly innocent) anecdotes here and there to keep the mood light and the audience smiling.
3. As you edit, consider length - and keep it around five minutes. Five minutes, plus or minus two, is the average length of a good best man speech. Going under three minutes can feel a bit abrupt to guests, and going over seven is frankly, well, boring.
Note, however, that if you are extremely nervous about speaking in front of a crowd, or there is some other reason you’re set on keeping things brief, too short is better than too long. Stay within your capabilities to make sure you’re as cool, calm, and collected as possible.
In order to make sure you stay within an acceptable time limit, keep word count in mind. Most people read at around 150 words per minute - which means you want to write a 450-1050 word speech.
4. Ever heard the joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”The answer is practice, practice, practice. And that’s just what you should do. Here’s how:
5. While practicing, pay attention to your body language. There’s a little more to a good speech than just good words. Decent public speakers slow their usual speaking cadence so they can be understood, look up from their page to pan the audience, and don’t fidget.
Keep these thoughts in mind as you practice (and of course, ask a friend for feedback on this, too!).
6. Do not have more than one drink before you give your speech. Giving a best man speech is like a mullet. It’s business in the front - before the speech - and party in the back - after it’s done. Drink your face off after your speech. If you’re nervous, try taking a few deep breaths, having a sip of water, and stepping into the bathroom for a moment alone.
But wait, there’s more… see below for a bonus seventh step!
7. Ok, the big question: is it ok to read from a paper or card (or cell phone) when giving aspeech? The answer: heck yes. It is so much more important that you feel confident, prepared, and that you get it right (by reading off you're prepped and practiced piece of paper) than it is for you to be all President-of-the-United-States memorized. (And, actually, even the commander-in-chief is reading from a dang teleprompter, he’s gotta stay on message too!)
Remember, if you practice beforehand, you won’t be stumbling over the words you’ve prepared, and having them in front of you will simply ensure smooth sailing. Now, go forth, speak of appropriately bromantic things, and give one heck of a best man speech!
Stuck on where to start? Consider this outline:
I. Introduce yourself, state how you know the groom, and say something nice about the bride.
II. Try to open the audience’s eyes to the groom YOU know - talk about your friendship and what he was like before meeting his bride.
III. Discuss what the groom was like after meeting his bride. How did he change? What was he like in love?
IV. Wrap up with either advice or a short discussion of what love can do for people.
V. Toast! Vow Muse is Angie Sommer and Alicia Ostarello, two women who have been helping grooms (and other members of the wedding party!) with wedding writing since 2010.