The Best Man's speech at the wedding reception is the key speech, the one that people look forward to and the speech that they will recall afterwards. Being the Best Man at a wedding is an honour bestowed upon you by the groom, as his most trusted friend - it doesn't happen very often in a whole lifetime, so not many people are experienced when it comes to giving best man's speeches. Don't worry about it, it's not as bad as you may imagine. The ideal timing for each of the wedding speeches, including the Best Man's speech, is about seven minutes (which is about 1,000 spoken words), so you're dilemma is likely to be what to leave out, not how to fill the time. With some preparation you can deliver a memorable speech and who knows, you could actually enjoy it!
The golden rule - Plan Your Speech. Work out what you're going to say, and in which order you're going to say it. The best speeches always have planning, forethought and preparation. Make a list of those items that you will include in your speech, you can sort the order later but this will give you the structure of what you'll say at the time. The Best Man should include the traditional elements in his speech; thanking the groom for his toast to the bridesmaids, congratulating the bride and groom and read the messages sent by those unable to attend the wedding. The concluding point of the Best Man's speech is his toast to the bride and groom.
In addition to the customary points, the best man's speech will contain a number of personal elements. These can be kind observations about the married couple, anecdotes relating to your knowledge of the bride or groom, interesting facts about the couple, quotes from people that have been involved in their lives so far (teachers, friends & neighbours, workmates, etc.) who normally have an amusing, perhaps mildly embarrassing, tale to tell. Other great sources of material for the Best Man's speech are horoscopes (where you can read out the personality and draw comparisons), old news items from around the date that each of them were born / engaged / married, etc. (relating to significant events that took place on these dates), name definitions of each of the couple's names (compared to their characters).
If you have the time and facilities you could use a few props (enlarged amusing newspaper headlines, amusing photographs of the groom's childhood, etc.). We are reminded of one Best Man's wedding speech (stunt?!) that included him having 'planted' a number of keys with selected female wedding guests of differing age groups. During his speech, he reassured everyone that the groom would be faithful to the bride and was no longer available as an 'eligible bachelor' - at which time he asked if anyone who had been given a key to the groom's apartment would they return it. The ensuing stream of about ten ladies, ages ranging from 18 to 80, "returning" their keys raised a great laugh and a few eyebrows!
When you have made a list of items you want to include in the speech, sort your list into the order that you want to cover them. The speech should start by thanking the groom for his toast to the bridesmaids and congratulating the bride and groom on their marriage. The final item of your speech should be the Best Man's toast to the newly married couple. The content in between these two points is very much a matter of your own personal choices.
Your list of items for the speech will have given you an idea of what you want to say and include, sort this into the order that you would like to cover them, to allow your speech to flow from one point into the next. Under each of the items that you have listed, write down what you would like to say on each point, this can be short notes to aid your recollection or detailed wording of exactly what you want to say.
When you are composing your speech, bear in mind that you are the Best Man at the wedding, not a hired comedian. Your speech should be light hearted and can be amusing - and you may have a very funny tale to tell or joke to include - but it's more important that you have sincerity in what you say. Forced humour will be obvious to the guests and can even create the impression that you didn't really have anything personal to include in your speech. Humour should not sacrifice respect and good taste in the Best Man's speech, remain mindful of your entire audience and try to steer clear of anything that some of the guests may find offensive.
A rehearsal before you deliver your speech will help you to iron out any parts that you're not completely happy with as well as boosting your confidence. You can practice alone, possibly in front of a full-length mirror, or present your speech to a close friend or relative who is likely to give you constructive help and suggestions. If you tape or video your rehearsal of the speech you'll be able to calculate the pauses that are needed and to polish the emphasis of your words.
Unless you are a very experienced public speaker, we don't recommend that you try to deliver your speech from memory. Working from notes or a set of small cue cards (number the cards so that they don't become mixed up) is ideal - you should achieve a natural delivery and will be prompted to include everything you wanted to say. If you honestly feel that the only way you can survive is to read your speech verbatim, then do so, the other guests will be very understanding and thankful that they don't have to make a speech.
When you stand to deliver your Best Man speech, make sure that everyone can see you and that you can be heard clearly. You will probably be nervous, almost everyone is! The adrenalin that you feel will help to enhance your speech, but try to keep it in perspective - you have a warm, understanding, audience who empathise with you, you've been chosen to be the Best Man by two people who think a great deal about you, so enjoy the short time that you are centre stage and just go ahead and tell the story that you have prepared. If you are really nervous and stressing about the few minutes that you will be speaking, don't be afraid to say so upfront, you can even make an amusing reference to it like "The last time I wore a suit and felt so nervous I was standing before a magistrate", or "I had prepared this fantastic speech, got my teeth fixed and now my mouth won't work!" It breaks the ice, gives a light laugh, gains the audience's support and helps you to relax a little.
While you're delivering your speech glance around the audience, making sure that you look towards the bride and groom regularly. Don't speak whilst you're looking down at your notes, pause for a moment, glance at your next note, look up and then continue with your speech. Manage the silence of pauses in your speech delivery, remembering that the silence will feel ten times longer to you than the reality is to your audience.
When you need to pause in your speech it's a good idea is to use the "two second" rule - where you stop speaking, smile, and then in your mind count slowly "one …and …two …and", then continue speaking (if your audience is still laughing or applauding, wait for this to subdue before you continue). By allowing these small interludes of silence, you'll look confident and it will help to relax your audience.
Don't rush through your speech. Speak slowly and clearly and try to remember to project your voice. If you speed up your delivery, it may sound like you're commentating on a horse race and most of your audience will be unable to follow what you are saying.
The ideal timing for the Best Man speech is about seven minutes, which means that you will give about 1,000 words. If you look at the words on this page (approx. 1,500 words), your speech will contain fewer words than you see here - so if you were to read this one page aloud, pausing for ends of sentences and paragraph breaks, it would take longer than your planned and rehearsed speech on the wedding day! …so it's not that bad eh? Don't worry about giving the Best Man speech, with good preparation, practice and rehearsal you'll gain enough confidence to deliver a great Best Man's speech. Just wait for the compliments afterwards!
The speeches given by the best man should be personal and unique. There are many places that will assist with preparing the best man speech, give you snippets of humour to include and inform you of the most suitable content. Overall the speech given by the best man at the wedding should come from personal experience and be given from the heart. The best man can include more humour in his speech and draw on personal anecdotes concerning the bride or groom (or both), but the level of restraint in the content needs to be reflective of the couple's wishes and of the wide range of guests present - humour should not sacrifice respect and good taste in the best man's speech.
The wedding speeches should be of personal and unique content, covering the formal requirements of each speaker, include personal experiences and - only if you feel comfortable - an element of light humour or anecdotes. Each speak should conclude with an appropriate toast.
Information on weddings, speeches, best man speech, groom speech, and all things preparing for the wedding, wedding breakfast and your reception can be found in our web site.