How to nail your best man speech
Over the last couple of decades best men speeches have become OTT, clichéd and generally a bit embarrassing (for the best man, not the groom ironically). Poor quality templates, the rise of Powerpoint and Googled gags are all partly to blame.
The thing is, writing a great best man speech is pretty simple. Granted, we’re BBC scriptwriters by trade, so we’ve got a head-start. But even if you’re a bloke who uses emojis to communicate, we can help you craft a corker of a speech.
After writing hundreds of wedding speeches for best men around the world, we know the modern speech rules and the writing tips that will put your speech into the premier league. We also know how to make your speech hilarious without resorting to Googled gags. Read on!
*Of course, if you’re looking for a bit more hand-holding, check out our best man speech template or bespoke speech writing service. Yes, we’ll slog it out so you can concentrate (or recover from?) the stag do.
Best man speech etiquette
Don’t get laden down by old-school etiquette. Our Speechy rules come with High Street Gent approval.
1 – FOCUS – The focus of the speech should be a witty description of the groom. You want lots of laughs but your speech also needs to be a thoughtful acknowledgement of a friendship. This doesn’t mean you need to sing your mate’s praises for a solid eight minutes, it means having fun with his character quirks. His photographic memory of the Nando’s menu, his unusually short T-Rex arms – find the things that his friends & family recognise as ‘him’. Yes, it might seem like you’re taking the mick but that’s how most blokes show they care.
2 – BRIDE – The best man must compliment the bride and it helps if t his sounds sincere. If you don’t know her well, do a bit of research so you can say more than the usual platitudes. Can she put up a tent better than her husband? Has she turned him into a quinoa fan? Be original but remember one cliche is a must; all brides look beautiful.
3 – TELEGRAMS – Traditionally the best man reads out messages from friends and family who can’t attend but that’s becoming less common. Speak to the groom about what he wants to do about ‘the telegrams’ but try to avoid them if you can (generally they’re not very funny and, in the world of Skype & text, a bit pointless).
4 – BRIDESMAIDS – Some best men like to compliment the bridesmaids but it’s actually the groom’s job. Your choice really, but keep it short if you do.
5 – TOAST – According to Debretts the best man speech usually includes a toast to ‘Mr and Mrs [newlywed’s Surname]‘ and might announce the cutting of the cake. At Speechy we prefer to find a unique way to toast the newly-hitched- even if it’s just to ‘the coolest couple this side of the Hog’s Head’.
If you want to swot up on what everyone else is covering – check out Confetti’s Etiquette Guide. Only necessary if you’re the swotty sort.
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The 5 rules to writing a great best man’s speech
Rule 1 Dig Up The Dirt
Imagine you’re that bloke off Time Team – get digging and get dirty. Email your mates and ask for their favourite groom stories – times he’s been clueless / his quirky faults / embarrassing moments – you know the deal.
Ask the groom’s family for any classic tales from his childhood and find out if the bride is giving a speech. If not – get her on side to dish the dirt. She might relish having her say! Ask her how the groom could become a better husband. Find out what he does that annoys her. Surprise him (and everyone else) with your inner knowledge of his relationship.
Rule 2 Tell a story
Get this right and your speech goes into the premier league. Rather than just a collection of anecdotes and the usual stuff, creating a theme and building a narrative ensures your speech is crafted rather than just a cut and paste job.
The theme doesn’t need to be complicated, it might just be a retelling of your bro-mance and its tragic end when the bride came on the scene. Or it could your personal guide to how the groom works. Finding the right theme depends on the personality of the groom, but you need to crack it before you begin drafting your speech.
Rule 3 Less in More
You’re aiming for eight to 10 minutes for a best man speech (bit longer allowing for laughter and ad libs). No one ever witnessed a best man speech and said ‘if only it was longer’.
Even if you have a wealth of material, be strict with yourself. Once you write your first draft, edit it down to half the length and we guarantee it will be better. Ernest Hemingway said ‘The first draft of anything is shit’. This is not only true but reassuring.
People are generally more powerful when their words are punchy. It’s the same with jokes – keep ’em snappy.
Rule 4 Make It A Proper Tribute
Once you’ve got the embarrassing stories out of the way, a best man speech should be a heart-felt tribute to a true friend. Don’t resort to clichés about him being a ‘top bloke’ without providing the evidence that he actually is. Prove – don’t tell.
Pinpoint the things you genuinely like about him. Is he the only friend who shares your fascination with Elon Musk? Is he the one person who makes you feel better about your DIY skills? Is he still the mate with cool music suggestions? Remember to keep it NUT – Nice, Unique and True(ish).
Rule 5 Prepare to deliver
A confident delivery is half the battle. Check the acoustics of the venue & get a mic if necessary (so many speeches are ruined simply because the guests can’t hear them). Try to memorise the speech but don’t be afraid to use notes on the day (your brain will be scrambled). Talk slower than feel natural (makes you sound more confident) & leave pauses for laughter (sometimes people need a moment to ‘get it’).
Remember everyone wants you to do well so make sure you smile. It’s scientifically proven to be infectious. More delivery tips in our Wedding Ideas article.
Finding Your Funny
So we all know this is how you’ll be judged. Here’s the basic rules.
1- AVOID WEDDING ‘JOKES’ – Being funny isn’t about finding good jokes on the internet . Humour comes from real life, so don’t look anywhere else for your inspiration. You’ve got a ready made character that you can play with and even if the groom is on the straight and boring side, we guarantee there will be fun to be had. Yes, it’s more effort to create original humour but it’s actually not that complicated. There’s never an excuse for jokes about honeymoons in Bangor.
2 – IT’S FUNNY BECAUSE IT’S TRUE – Start by thinking about the things that make the groom unique. Everyone’s a nut-job in their own way, so what traits will his friends and family will recognise as truly ‘him’. Ask yourself lots of questions – what’s his worst habit (wearing skinny jeans), what’s his guilty pleasures (Dire Straits), what might he love more than his bride (Abduls kebabs) etc. Once you have good content to play with, the comedy will be much easier to find.
3 – CREATE A CHARACTER – Imagine the groom was the central character in a sitcom. What type of person would he be? The health freak who transforms into a kebab-eating monster after a pint? The workaholic engineer who still calls on his elderly dad to help him with Ikea flatpack? The family man who has a secret life in his shed? Once you find a basic premise, use anecdotes can help build on the character you’ve created.
4 – CALL IN HELP – Email mates to provide good anecdotes. Parents can often provide some cracking comedy (remember there’s rarely a father of the groom speech so there’s decades worth of untapped material there). It’s also worth seeing if the bride has any little insights into what living with the groom is actually like and what she hopes he’ll improve on over the years!
5 – KEEP IT SIMPLE – Good writing is all you need for a great speech. Powerpoint and props can often get in the way and stress you out.Keep your speech short and your jokes punchy.
Best Man Speech - Do's and Don'ts
Check with the groom – anything he wants you to do (other than not abusing him)? Anything he’d like you not to mention?!?
Practise your speech and film it on your phone – Watch it back, promise yourself you’ll do something about your paunch and spot where your speech can be improved.
Prepare to deliver – Make sure the groom has checked the acoustics of the venue and ordered a mic if necessary (you wouldn’t believe how many speeches are ruined simply because the guests can’t hear them). On the day, pretend to be confident. Make eye contact and remember to smile. It’s scientifically proven to be infectious and those scientists know stuff.
Talk slower than feels natural – It’s what those authoritative people do to make themselves seem more intelligent.
Feel free to use clever quotes – But make sure you credit the author or someone else will! Check out our Quote Inspiration guide.
Thank anyone – It’s not your day and it’s not your job.
Ignore the feedback of friends – It’s always worth testing your speech out on a mate but this also means you have to listen to them. If they don’t get a joke, don’t waste your time explaining it as you won’t be able to do that on the day.
Talk over laughter – You’ve worked hard for those laughs – don’t rush them. Always wait until the guests have settled down before continuing with your speech
Resort to ‘in jokes’- Remember there’s grannies out there. And a lot of people who weren’t on the Stag do and won’t find the story about Tika the waitress and her hairy chicken quite so funny.
Mention exes – Even if you have a wealth of material, sorry, rule still applies. Don’t mention exes.
Be afraid to use cue cards – Try to memorise the speech but don’t be afraid to use notes on the day (your brain will be scrambled).
A Bit About Speechy...
The Speechy team includes James, Heidi, Roger and Claire. Between us, we’ve been included in the Edinburgh TV Festival’s ‘Ones to Watch’ and featured in the BBC Hotlist. During our telly careers, we’ve worked with people such as Richard Hammond, Sharon Osbourne, Dan Snow, David Mitchell and Mel Geidroyc. Get us!
These days we’re the go-to experts for wedding speech advice – featuring in wedding bibles such as Rock n Roll Bride or Wedding Ideas Mag, or more mainstream media such as Radio 1 and Radio 2. Even Eamonn Holmes has wanted our advice on how to deliver a speech at his son’s wedding when we were on his show recently.
Of course, we love helping best men write amazing speeches and we don’t mind you taking credit for all our best comedy lines.